StoutStories: Jonathan Wheeler, Part II

M.F.A. Design filmmaker wins Copper Quill at Red Cedar Film Festival.
Abbey Goers | August 1, 2019

Jonathan Wheeler, a local teacher and artist, is mastering the art of filmmaking in his Master of Fine Arts in Design at UW-Stout. His affinity for sculpture and building allows him to incorporate all types of media into his works. From writing his screenplays to building his own set and props to creating costumes, sound effects, and music, Wheeler is immersed in the filmmaking process.

Being a “voracious consumer” of all things science fiction, Wheeler’s art is also influenced by historical and current events. The future where humans are subjugated by machines is a common sci-fi trope, but for Wheeler, there are echoes in real life. In his film "SPiN," Wheeler imagines one version of this future.

"SPiN" Awarded at Local Film Fest

A view of the Mabel Tainter Theater stage from the balcony.
Mabel Tainter Theater / Jonathan Wheeler

"SPiN" received the Copper Quill for Best Midwest Roots at the Red Cedar Film Festival held July 25-28, 2019 in downtown Menomonie. The Midwest Roots category required a film to have been shot or have a director, producer, or screenwriter residing in the Midwest.

With 31 films representing directors from nine different countries, Wheeler was honored to have "SPiN" screened at the festival.

"I felt fortunate to be a part of the festival," Wheeler said, "but to receive recognition for my work was an unexpected honor that will reverberate in my creative endeavors in the years to come. I am grateful."

Wheeler received his award from Peter Galante, founder of the Red Cedar Film Festival and Professor of Video Production at UW-Stout. As the founder of the festival and a former professor of Wheeler's, Professor Galante is always pleased to see his students excel in their art.

"I would like to believe that I had some small influence in their success, but perhaps that is wishful thinking," Professor Galante joked.

But Wheeler recalls it was in Professor Galante's Digital Cinema course that he first found his artistic freedom. By encouraging Wheeler to make what he wanted, Professor Galante gave Wheeler the validation he needed to pursue filmmaking.


Child with mossy orb in SPiN
Scene from "SPiN" /

A Singular Experience

Wheeler was able to attend the festival which had screenings at both The Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts and Wilson Park. His first visit to the historic theatre, Wheeler was impressed by the iconic beauty of the venue.

"Being able to watch my film in such a singular space made a real and lasting impact on me as an artist," Wheeler said.

The screening at Wilson Park reminded Wheeler of the drive-in theaters of his youth. The mild summer evening made the experience of watching films about the Midwest memorable for him. Wheeler is thankful for those who dedicated their time and effort to bring the festival to Menomonie. 

"They are the real cultural heroes," Wheeler said. 

During the post-screening Q&A, the audience had many questions about the making of "SPiN." Professor Galante noted the audience was particularly curious about the Cosmonaut suit and where Wheeler created his sets.


StoutStories: Jonathan Wheeler, Part I

MFA Design student invites you to take a SPiN through his imagination.
Continue Reading
STOB through screen.
Scene from "SPiN" /

The Appeal of "SPiN"

"SPiN" stirs thoughts of other worlds, the afterlife, metamorphosis and transcendence. Its many dual images cause for reflection of meaning; youth versus adulthood, nature versus industry, silence versus sound, light versus dark, and freedom versus obligation.  

“The best way to know something is to study its opposite," Wheeler explained his use of dual images in the film. “Picasso once said that every artwork is a self-portrait. After two decades of being a grown-up, I have recently begun to explore the interests that I once held so dear as a child. My film represents the relationship between myself as a grown-up and the memory of my childhood."

Wheeler's talent for filmmaking has kept him busy over the summer. He is in the midst of directing another film, "Arcology," which expands on lessons he learned in making his last two sci-fi stories.  

"There will be robots," Wheeler promised.  


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