Home Entertainment “Growing Up Milwaukee” documentary hits HBO Max

“Growing Up Milwaukee” documentary hits HBO Max


Starting today, 20th Annual American Black Film Festival winner Tyshun Wardlaw’s newest documentary Growing Up Milwaukee is available for streaming on HBO Max.

The documentary follows the day-to-day lives of three Black Milwaukee teenagers, Marquell, Tiana, and Brandon, over the course of two years as they struggle to navigate school, home life, and the ever-present danger that looms over Milwaukee’s Black population.

Milwaukee native, Founder and Executive Producer for Wardlaw Productions, and the director of Growing Up Milwaukee, Tyshun Wardlaw noted that the motivation to make the film came from the notion that “behind every statistic is a story.”

“I saw the need to be able to tell the stories of what was happening behind the statistics in Milwaukee,” Wardlaw said. “Unfortunately, we know that we have staggering statistics in the Black community … The worst place for Blacks to grow up or to live is Milwaukee, from education to incarceration to economic disparities….I wanted to look at it from a youth perspective. I wanted to make sure that I highlighted the youth in the city, because I felt that it was imperative because they are the future of the city.

“Everybody’s going through something. The trauma, the pain, the suffering that these youth are dealing with day in and day out, was just unbearable and it’s like, ‘wow, they’re making it through it,’” Wardlaw continued. “I wanted to show like collectively, this is Growing Up Milwaukee. This is what they’re dealing with.”

The documentary also features testimonials from community leaders and experts including Co-Founder of Flood the Hood with Dreams Muhibb Dyer; Clarke Street School principal Daryl Burns; Milwaukee County Distrct Attorney John Chisolm; Executive Director for Urban Underground Sharlen Moore; Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Director David Muhammad; Milwaukee County Director of Health and Human Services Mary Jo Meyers; retired commuity activist Margaret Hennigsen; former administrator for Milwaukee Public Schools Derek Brewer; Executive Director for Operation Dream, Inc. Marco Morrison; and psychologist Kweku Ramel Smith, PhD.

The concept for Growing Up Milwaukee started four years ago, and filming began in 2018. After completing the editing process at the beginning of 2020, Wardlaw moved on to the process of distribution.

“I pitched to several different networks. I didn’t have an agent, but I reached out as the producer and director of the film to let them know that I was done with the film. I would love to share a screener of the film, and they’re responding, left and right,” Wardlaw said. “I received several responses, which is a good thing to have, which isn’t normal that an indie filmmaker will have several different options.”

After weeks of receiving offers from different networks, Wardlaw closed the deal with HBO to stream Growing Up Milwaukee on their new platform, HBO Max.

After weeks of receiving offers from different networks, Wardlaw closed the deal with HBO to stream Growing Up Milwaukee on their new platform, HBO Max.

“I’m truly grateful as well for HBO Max for giving me the opportunity to showcase my work for putting it on that national platform,” she said.

In August of last year, Growing Up Milwaukee premiered at the American Black Film Festival. Wardlwas was also one of three Cream City Cinema Jury Award winners in the 2020 Milwaukee Film Festival.

Wardlaw also added that her main goal for Growing Up Milwaukee “was to go to distribution.”

“There was no other thought in my mind, I didn’t even know how it was gonna turn out, but that was my goal, and I feel like it ending up at HBO was just accomplishing what I set out to do from the beginning,” Wardlaw explained. “I knew because of the nature of how relevant [it] still is, not knowing that Black Lives Matter was gonna take off in 2020, not knowing that everything was going to happen, but I knew that I needed to move and I needed to move now.”

Growing Up Milwaukee is available for streaming now on HBO Max, which costs $14.99 per month.