Front-Line Footage: Wisconsin Filmmaker on His Viral Protest Videos

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Protesters bang drums and shout slogans inside the state Capitol Monday, Feb. 21, 2011, in Madison, Wis. Opponents to Gov. Scott Walker's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers are taking part in their seventh day of protesting. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

As the battle continues in Madison, a local filmmaker has released a sequel to his first video to give an up close and personal look at the demonstrators.

Filmmaker Matt Wisniewski, by day a media specialist at the University of Wisconsin, was just one of the crowd when the protests started. “Originally I went because of the cuts in my pay that are coming,” he tells NewsFeed. But after seeing the enthusiasm of the protesters, the 23-year-old pulled out his camera and took some shots to show friends. As it turns out, hundreds of thousands have viewed his videos. “I haven’t figured out how to handle it yet,” he says with a chuckle. “I’m getting two e-mails a minute from people around the country and the world – even from Egypt.”

(More on NewsFeed: See the first video from the front lines)

But even with camera in hand, Wisniewski hasn’t lost sight of the original reason for the protests. He, along with the thousands of others he films, continues to fight against Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts which will cut pensions and raise insurance rates for public employees, to fill a $3.6 billion budget hole. Walker also wants to strip state workers, like teachers, of their right to collective bargaining, meaning they would not be able to negotiate for pensions and benefits, only salary.

Wisniewski provides us with a view from the capitol that media outlets just can’t capture. “I want to show the true face of what’s going on in Madison,” he says. And in putting the pictures to a song that fits the mood, the spirit – the video helps us all feel what the protesters are feeling. His first video featured the aptly titled “Rebellion” by Arcade Fire. And this time around, he’s set the scene to Mumford and Sons’ “The Cave,” with strikingly appropriate lyrics for the battle. “But I will hold on hope,” the folk singers croon as Wisniewski shows weary picketers, in their second week on the front lines, fighting against Walker’s cuts.

(More on See who’s really to blame for the Wisconsin teachers’ crisis.)

Why a musical approach? Wisniewski is also a part-time wedding videographer. “And that’s how I’ve always sort of done my wedding videos – I am good at capturing emotions on camera,” he says.

But as the protests stretch on, supporters from around the country and the world continue to prop up the protesters. “There’s an entire hallway of the capitol filled with fruit, pizza, subs,” Wisniewski says. “People care about each other here.” Well-fed and energized by the thousands of others, not even a weekend snowstorm could send the picketers home. “It’s not really that bad for a Wisconsin winter,” he admits. Even as teachers begin to head back to work Tuesday, it’s clear the bravado of the demonstrators is unwavering. Will they carry on long enough for Wisniewski to put together part three?

(More on See what it’s like to sleep on the Wisconsin capitol floor.)