THE ENTERTAINERS is an award-winning feature documentary about six piano players striving to win the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest. For thirty-five years, piano players from across the world have strapped on their bow ties, arm garters, and straw boater hats and descended on Peoria, Illinois to battle for the title of World's Greatest Old-Time Piano Player.
With humor, passion, brilliant showmanship, and an unsurpassed devotion to ragtime music, these competitors vie for the glow of victory, for escape from the trials of their everyday lives, and for the revival of the first distinctly American popular music.
The 91-minute movie has been an audience favorite all over America! It premiered in April of 2012, winning Audience Awards for Best Documentary at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival and the Wisconsin Film Festival in its first week. It followed that up with Audience Awards at the St. Louis International Film Festival and the Hardacre Film Festival, as well as awards for Best Documentary at the Landlocked Film Festival and Best Entertainment Documentary at the ArcLight Documentary Film Festival. It has screened at more than two dozen festivals and venues across the country.
Visit The Entertainers official web site at www.TheEntertainersMovie.com.
ADAM SWANSON, from the small town of Shenandoah, Iowa, is rapidly becoming known as one of the world’s foremost performers and historians of ragtime and early American popular music. Although only in his early twenties, he has been a featured performer and lecturer at ragtime and jazz festivals across the United States.
Adam is the youngest winner of the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, held in Peoria, Illinois. In 2007, he appeared alongside the late John Arpin at the Bohém Ragtime and Jazz Festival in the Republic of Hungary and has also toured Switzerland. Adam has played for renowned Disney/Hollywood composer Richard M. Sherman (Mary Poppins, etc.), as well as noted film critic and historian Leonard Maltin.
Adam made his New York debut in Carnegie Hall at the age of nineteen, where he performed with multi-platinum-selling artist Michael Feinstein. Recently, Adam has recorded albums with legendary 1950s piano star Johnny Maddox, pianist Frederick Hodges of the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, former rock star and ragtime entertainer Ian Whitcomb, and even a western swing album. Adam performs every summer in the Diamond Belle Saloon at the historic Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado.
Adam has studied piano with Waleed Howrani of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a graduate of the Moscow State Conservatory and in college under the tutelage of Dr. Lisa Campi, a graduate of the Eastman School of Music.
Adam is also an avid rail-fan, collects antique sheet music, records, and piano rolls. His CDs are available at CD Babym. You can find more on Adam and his appearances at www.AdamGSwanson.com
Adam began competing at the World Championship in 2003 in the Junior Division, winning in 2003, 2004, and 2006. He placed second in 2005. He was moved up to the Regular Division in 2007, placing 5th, and he become the youngest to ever win the contest in 2008.
ETHAN USLAN (pronounced "Yoo-slin") is one of the hottest names on the ragtime/traditional jazz scene today. The first place winner of the 2007 World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, Uslan has performed on NPR's A Prairie Home Companion as well as various concerts and festivals nationwide. Uslan studied classical piano as a child in South Orange, N.J. and later majored in classical piano performance at Indiana University. All the while, Uslan secretly harbored a ragtime addiction and complimented his classical piano studies by learning to play like Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, and George Gershwin.
After college, Uslan found his way to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he has enjoyed playing all over town, including with the Charlotte Symphony. In addition to giving concerts and accompanying silent movie screenings, Ethan has served as adjunct visiting lecturer of music at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. He has recorded three CDs as well several silent film scores on DVD. When not playing piano, Ethan enjoys reading mystery novels and spending time with his wife and two sons.
Ethan has competed in the World Championship since 2005, winning in 2007 and advancing to the finals six times.
You can find out more about Ethan at his web site, www.UslanMusic.com.
FOUR ARROWS, also known as Don Trent Jacobs, was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1946, continuing a Scot-Irish, English and Cherokee lineage. He learned his style of music from his grandparents and uncle and from the bars of Gaslight Square. If you could believe the late Becky London, author Jack London’s daughter, Four Arrows learned the old songs as a reincarnation phenomenon. Apparently Jack told her when she was fourteen that “when he came back” he would want to play the old songs -- songs that happen to be the same favorites Four Arrows learned.
Four Arrows (Wahinkpe Topa) is a name give to him by the Oglala Lakota People in a sacred relative-making ceremony. Four Arrows is a Lakota Sun Dancer and former Dean of Education at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Four Arrows (aka Don Trent Jacobs, Ph.D., Ed.D.) is also the author of twenty acclaimed books, an equal number of chapters, and more than a hundred articles on topics ranging from wellness and critical thinking to Indigenous worldview and education. He was an alternate for the U.S. Gold Medal Olympic Equestrian Endurance Event, and he is the recipient of the Martin Springer Institute Moral Courage Award for his activism. He lives in a remote fishing village in Mexico.
FAYE BALLARD first became interested in ragtime music when she heard Les Cripe (piano player for the Harry James band) play at a Shakey's Pizza Parlor in Decatur, Illinois. Les was kind enough to take her under his wing and taught her how to play "Maple Leaf Rag" and showed her a few of his other numerous piano tricks.
Faye first competed in the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, at age 12, in their very second contest in 1976, where she had the honor to compete against the contest's first champion, Joybelle Squibb. While Faye came in second to Joybelle, she loved the contest and competition and kept coming back. There was no Junior Division in the contest at the time, so Faye got to compete against other great champions like Dorothy Herrold and took advantage of the learning opportunity to perfect her craft.
Faye has been a five-time finalist in the competition and finished as high as 2nd place in 2007. Faye elected to retire from the competition part of the contest after the 2010 contest in order to take over as the contest coordinator starting in 2011.
When not playing her piano, Faye enjoys her full-time job as an Office Support Specialist for the University of Illinois College of Nursing and spending time with her cat, Cora. She also enjoys performing at festivals, such as the Scott Joplin Festival in Sedalia, Missouri and doing performances at various functions at the University of Illinois and for Champaign, Illinois's Mayor, Jerry Schweigheart.
"PERFESSOR" BILL EDWARDS learned half the Scott Joplin catalog and most of Elton John’s by the age of 15 and spent the majority of his secondary school years in front of a piano. After college, Bill moved to Durango, Colorado, and had a six-year career at the Diamond Belle that helped shape his style and repertoire. There the nickname "Perfessor" was given to him one night in reference to early ragtime piano players. (The spelling reflected the often-modified pronunciation of their official title "Professor".) The name stuck instantly.
Bill earned a music degree in Durango from Fort Lewis College and then moved east to the Washington D.C. area in 1986. He played eight years at the Fish Market restaurant and has worked with or opened for many well-known artists, including Dave Brubeck, Al Hirt, Mel Tillis, and Jo-Ann Castle.
In the mid-1980’s, the "Perfessor" began appearing at the World Championship. He has consistently placed in the top five, winning the title in 1991. His continued enthusiasm for this great forum for performers of all ages and abilities has kept him involved in many facets of the contest, including providing some of the definitions used in the rules and conducting seminars on history and craft. Bill has also made appearances at dozens of other traditional jazz and ragtime events around the country.
Since 1984, Bill has amassed an impressive repertoire of recordings, most of which are still currently available. They cover everything from traditional classic ragtime to early popular song, and even a blues collection. He has also amassed a collection of original ragtime compositions, including an award-winning rag in 2001 titled The Necromancer (used with other pieces of Bill's in the 2004 feature Ghosts of Edendale), his 2002 award winner "The Wiener Schnitzel Rag", and his first original syncopated piece from 1985, "The Hanon Rag". The future holds more ragtime for the "Perfessor" and his fans! Visit his website at www.PerfessorBill.com.
JIM BOSTON was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1955 and spent all of his childhood in the Hawkeye State. After an elementary school Suzuki-method "false start" on the piano he didn't touch one again until he attended Iowa State University. In 1976, after an attempt to enter that school's talent show failed, he wandered inside Lord of Life Lutheran Church on the edge of campus...and found a Haddorff upright from the early 20th Century. He figured since it was an old piano, why not learn some old songs? He started messing around, and in no time at all, he was hooked.
For the next 17 years, he went to different churches in Ames, Des Moines, and the next two cities he'd call home -- Omaha, Nebraska, and Sioux City, Iowa -- seeking practice time on older uprights in church basements. He had no real musical direction until he found out that the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest was very much alive. (He had remembered that in college he'd seen a news report about the contest's reigning champ, Dorothy Herrold.)
So, in 1993, Jim started competing at the contest. He finished dead last. But other contestants encouraged him to stick with it. He did and became a Regular Division finalist in 1994. When he moved to Omaha in 1997, he began performing at one of the city's nursing homes, ran off a nine-year stint playing at the Omaha Children's Museum, and regularly competed in Iowa's Old-Time Country Music Festival, becoming a seven-time finalist, most recently in 2007.
In 2005, Jim helped organize the Ragtime to Riches Festival, held at first in Council Bluffs, Iowa, but now at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The next year, he founded the Great Plains Ragtime Society. When he's not into music, Jim is a machine operator at an Omaha plastics factory. His hobbies include sports, computers, history, trivia, and reading...to say nothing of blogging. (You can find his musings at Boston's Blog.) Jim's one of the most enthusiastic supporters of ragtime and old-time piano around...and he'd love to come to your town and demonstrate why.
Sample the Track List:
1. The Chevy Chase - Sue Keller - 3:24
2. St. Louis Blues - Ethan Uslan - 2:34
3. Pork and Beans - Faye Ballard - 2:55
4. The Entertainer - Brent Watkins - 4:09
5. Maple Leaf Rag - Adam Swanson - 3:01
6. Peg O' My Heart - Four Arrows - 3:06
7. Row Row Row - Bill Edwards - 3:25
8. Porto Rico - Bill Edwards - 4:07
9. Eatin' Chocolates - Brent Watkins - 3:11
10. Some of These Days - Ethan Uslan - 4:09
11. The Lion Tamer - Faye Ballard - 2:56
12. Royal Garden Blues - Faye Ballard - 1:40
13. Too Much Mustard - Bill Edwards - 2:51
14. I'm Sorry I Made You Cry - Four Arrows - 3:03
15. St. Louis Blues - Four Arrows - 4:09
16. Peoria - Bill Edwards & Ethan Uslan - 3:28
17. Take Your Girlie to the Movies - Jim Boston - 3:32
18. Higher Ground - Truth Be Told - 2:21
19. Solace - Sue Keller - 2:54
20. Bill Bailey - Adam Swanson - 3:40
21. The Entertainer - Ethan Uslan - 3:17
22. King Chanticleer - Adam Swanson - 3:45
23. Canadian Capers - Adam Swanson - 3:44
24. Carolina Tar Heel - Ethan Uslan - 2:45
In 2006, a group of unlikely professionals ranging from copywriter to medical physicist set out to make an independently produced and financed feature film. With a one-line story idea and their ironic sense of humor, they stuck their heads together and wrote, rewrote, and rewrote again the mystery/comedy, Illegal Use of Joe Zopp.
The seven members of Wut Wut Alma, friends from their youth in Chippewa Falls, Wis., began the production by casting their hometown as the shooting location of the movie. They rounded up a ragtag group of talented crew members and auditioned local and regional actors to cast the over 40 speaking parts and 150 extras needed for the Zopp script. While continuing to work their day jobs, they each pitched in money and raised more from friends and family to feed the used-car-sized budget.
But what they didn’t have in cash, they made up for in elbow grease. When production began in July, they set out on an uninterrupted, 35-consecutive-day shooting schedule. Spanning 50 locations throughout the community -- in businesses, municipal buildings, homes, and graveyards -- they chipped away and shot the nearly 200 scenes in the movie. Their families hosted and fed the cast and crew. They plowed through 14-hour days, fueled by laughs and the blossoming friendships with all the "new" members of the Wut Wut family, the cast and crew.
When the dust settled, they emerged with nearly 40 hours of footage. With a year and a half of editing, reshooting, and sound mastering, they pieced together their ambitious creation: a 110-minute quirky mystery/comedy. With its bizarre characters, thick-as-peanut butter plot, and ironic sense of humor, Zopp was finally ready to be uncorked to an audience.
Best known for its pure water, tasty lager, and a spot mention in the crappy blockbuster film Titanic, the charming west-central Wisconsin town of Chippewa Falls is located ninety miles east of Minneapolis, Minn., nestled in the serene valley of the Chippewa River.
Historic streets crawl through Chippewa (pronounced chip-WUH) Falls’ enchanting downtown district, which includes the award-winning Main Street (which, of course, is called Bridge Street). In 1997, Chippewa Falls was honored by Time magazine as one of the nation’s Top Ten Small Towns, thus granting license to refer to itself as such indefinitely.
To the members of Wut Wut Alma, Chippewa is more than a tidy, Midwestern town where once a year people gather their inner tubes and coolers of beer, throw them in the river and just, you know, float. To Wut Wut Alma, Chippewa Falls is home. All seven of its core members spent large portions of their formative years within its city limits, tearing up the YMCA basketball courts, coasting by in school, and stealing hood ornaments for no conceivable reason.
Wut Wut Alma’s have chosen to live in other cities throughout the country, but found it important to return home to shoot Illegal Use of Joe Zopp.
August 21, 2008 - Micon Cinemas, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
When Joe Zopp's out-of-touch parents squander the proceeds of his finest invention, he skips town, vowing never to return. Seven years later, while leading a life of anonymity, Zopp runs into an old classmate who tells him that everyone back in his hometown thinks he's dead, forcing him to return to unravel the mystery of his own death.
Rating: This picture is not rated by the MPAA.
Run Time: 110 minutes
Original Format: High Definition 1080i50
Camera: Sony HVR-Z1U
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Budget: Less than the price of a used Corolla.
Zopp was shot on location in Chippewa Falls, Wis., from July 31, 2006 to September 3, 2006. Additional shooting took place in Eau Claire, Wis., Chicago, Ill., and Toledo, Ohio.
purewater high swallows
micon cinema moviegoers
parkgoers of toledo's
toledo street act pedestrians
native bay and
funeral and parade mourners
sound editing &
animation & effects by...
breakfast lunch & dinner...
assistant casting director...
makeup, costumes &
boom operators, grips &...
sound and music...
rambo gomez pettigue
¡we did our own stunts!
With their incredible generosity and their extraordinary talents, we were able to pool a lineup of some of the finest independent rock, pop, folk, and hip hop artists for the music soundtrack of Illegal Use of Joe Zopp. The true emotions and energy of our film are embodied by these artists who hail from Seattle to New York, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and we even got a few "dohs" and farts from Florida, thanks to "Zoppalong", the song that kicks off it all. Everyone here is worth a Google and a purchase on iTunes.
1. Zopp-A-Long by Joe Terrana
2. Zopptastic Theme and Variations in G Major by Jason Robert Nelson
3. What's Her Name by Jamie Nelson
4. Feel Good Hit by Tendership
5. Please Come Back To Me by Jeff White
6. Still Alive by Michael Perry and the Long Beds
7. Sturdy Chairs by Quarterstance
8. Lazy Suicide by Megafaun
9. Terror by Mark McElwain
10. 12 Pack Abs by Jamie Nelson
11. Anywhere But Here by Meridene
12. Roll Over by Jason Robert Nelson
13. Powerhouse by Speshul K
14. Throwing Stones by Overred
15. Back To The Basics by The Crest (featuring Mic Virus)
16. Booty Booty Booty by Speshul K
17. Love Myself by Razorblade Sunshine
18. Houseguests by Skeletons With Flesh On Them
19. Betrayed by Off-Killter
20. Heart Shaped Box by The Crest
21. Set Him Free by Fine
22. The Order by Jason Robert Nelson
23. Space Between The Blades Of A Fan (demo) by Skeletons With Flesh On Them
24. Space Between The Blades Of A Fan by Skeletons With Flesh On Them
25. Everybody Is Our Savior by Skeletons With Flesh On Them
26. Death Assembly by Skeletons With Flesh On Them
27. Ike Stole My Pantaloons by Jason Robert Nelson
28. Frozen Hell by Off-Killter
29. Stacy Dahl by Maudlin
30. The One About Leaving by Cranes and Crows
31. A Test by Meridene
32. Bein' In Love by Skeletons With Flesh On Them
Ignoring low-budget logic, we whipped up a script with forty speaking parts and about fifty locations and then set out to convince people to spend their summer vacations in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin in the heat of August for no pay and a spot on Nick’s parents’ couch.
Having never auditioned or auditioned anyone else before, we spent the spring of 2006 soliciting headshots and resumes and important tidbits like, “Can Corey Walton do a British accent?” (Yes, his North London is better than his Glasgow.) And, “Does Corey Walton need a British accent for his role in Zopp?” (Not in the least!)
And when we met the dozens of Wisconsin and Minnesota actors looking for their next juicy role, we, frankly, had to make some tough calls for the good the movie. Can baby-faced Matthew Glover sport facial hair? (You’re goddamn right he can.)
But unlike in the real world, looks and experience got you only so far with Wut Wut Alma. Our hunt became a personality search, to find people we liked. Mike Cook wrote us a letter pretty much begging to be in our movie. It was sincere. That's the kind of thing that won us over.
When they showed what they could do with our script, the selection process became more like: "Hey, I want to spend a few days this summer with THIS person making our movie." And the roster got filled with hardly an effort or debate. And they delivered! And they were funny! The cast is undoubtedly one of Zopp's main strengths.
Wut Wut Alma Moving Pictures is an independent movie collective with its heart based in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, but with its members scattered about the country like a bunch of hobos and gypsies.
Wut Wut Alma has been making moving pictures of various lengths, subjects, and coherentness since 1999. But it was in 2004 that its founding members -- Scott Brown, Sarah Rykal, Paul Hogseth, Seth Hedrington, Nick Holle, Emery Skolfield, and Joe Ott -- rallied together to brainstorm their first feature-length film, a comedy that became Illegal Use of Joe Zopp.
In 2006, armed with a massive script and loads of gusto, the seven joined friends Colleen Lindl, Ian Lindl, and Derek Keyeski (cinematographers), Kate Murray (script supervisor), André Egli (actor, crew, editor), and, later in post-production, Jason Robert Nelson (sound), and many, many others to plan, shoot, and bring Zopp to life. The movie premiered in 2008.
That same year, the seeds were planted for a new project about ragtime piano players and the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest in Peoria, Illinois. Some of the Zopp crew -- Nick, Seth, Paul, and Derek -- joined the driving force behind the documentary, co-director and producer Michael Zimmer, along with producer Brent Watkins and producer and editor extraordinaire Charlie Stickney to make The Entertainers. And after its release in 2012, it became a film festival fan favorite and winner of six festival awards.
Click the pictures to learn more about us and our collaborators.
Sense of Humor
For general inquiries, opinions, hellos, concerns, beefs or to book Wut Wut Alma for your child's birthday party, please e-mail us using the form above. Be sure to send a valid e-mail address so that we may respond in the embracing and timely fashion that we are known for.
Wut Wut Alma Moving Pictures
PO Box 22
Chippewa Falls, WI