2019 Chicago Underground Film Festival

CUFF opens June 5 with ‘Empty Metal’ and closes June 9 with “Dollhouse: the eradication of female subjectivity from American popular culture’ The Chicago Underground Film Festival has built a reputation for innovative, exciting, and provocative cinema since it was founded in 1993. Known as “the world’s longest-running” celebration of its kind, CUFF will expand … Continue reading “2019 Chicago Underground Film Festival”

Chicago Underground Film Festival 2018 lineup

CUFF adds second screening of “Industrial Accident,” the opening night film about Wax Trax! Records that sold out hours after going on sale After selling out the initioal opening night screening in less than an hour, the 25th annual Chicago Underground Film Festival has added a special encore presentation of INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT: The Story of … Continue reading “Chicago Underground Film Festival 2018 lineup”

?Life outside the mainstream’ theme runs through Chicago Underground Film Festival, Aug. 15-19

The 14th Annual Chicago Underground Film Festival returns with “exceptionally strong documentaries, the usual lineup of cult films, and quite a bit of sex in the features,” said CUFF founder and festival director Bryan Wendorf.

CUFF runs Aug. 15-19, moving this year to non-traditional venues in Wicker Park: the Chopin Theater and Elegant Mr. Gallery.

“One trend in the films is people making unusual lifestyles, choosing live outside the mainstream,” noted Wendorf.

Five Chicago features, two Sundance selections in Chicago Underground Film Festival Aug. 18-25

A heavy dose of hard-hitting politics joins the staples of transgressive and experimental cinema at the 12th Annual Chicago Underground Film Festival, which runs Aug. 18-25 in its new home at the Music Box Theatre.

CUFF 12 includes 13 narrative features, nine documentary features, 18 narrative shorts, 29 documentary shorts, 89 experimental shorts, and six animations.

DOC CHICAGO: mini-conference by and for Chicago Doc filmmakers

After a year’s hiatus, DOC CHICAGO returns to bring Chicago-area documentary filmmakers together to learn from each other, exchange ideas, and connect. The free hybrid mini-conference runs Friday, Nov 5 – Sunday, Nov 7. Friday afternoon’s sessions and Sunday’s grant writing workshop will be held online, while an in-person gathering will take place on Saturday, … Continue reading “DOC CHICAGO: mini-conference by and for Chicago Doc filmmakers”

Full Spectrum official presenter of Chicago Underground Film Fest

Full Spectrum Features will be the official presenter at the 28th Annual Chicago Underground Film Festival this year in order to program more diversity, equity, and inclusion to represent a wider range of artists and voices, including women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ filmmakers. Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF), the the world’s longest-running underground film festival, will … Continue reading “Full Spectrum official presenter of Chicago Underground Film Fest”

57th Chicago International Film Fest announces competition juries

The 57th Chicago International Film Festival announced the esteemed members of the juries for its competitions, featuring acclaimed filmmakers and industry luminaries from around the globe. Juries shall award Gold and Silver Hugo Awards in the following competitions: International Competition; OutLook; City & State; and Short Film Competitions.  The International Competition Jury will award the Gold Hugo … Continue reading “57th Chicago International Film Fest announces competition juries”

Chicago International Film Festival announces full lineup of 57th edition

The Chicago International Film Festival announced the full lineup of its 57th edition, running October 13 – 24, 2021. This year’s Festival expands across the City, with screenings at AMC River East 21, Music Box Theatre, Gene Siskel Film Center, drive-in screenings at ChiTown Movies in Pilsen, and neighborhood pop-up screenings at Bronzeville’s historic Parkway … Continue reading “Chicago International Film Festival announces full lineup of 57th edition”

The Chicago International Film Festival announces Opening Night film

The Chicago International Film Festival announced the opening night film at its Opening Night at the Drive-In presentation, and more highlights of the 57th edition, running October 13 – 24, 2021. This year, the Festival expands to venues across Chicago, including AMC River East 21; the Music Box Theatre; and the Gene Siskel Film Center; … Continue reading “The Chicago International Film Festival announces Opening Night film”

Full Spectrum Features announces selections for Chicagoland Shorts

Full Spectrum Features (FSF) announces the films and filmmakers selected to take part in Chicagoland Shorts Vol. 7, an annual short film collection featuring boundary-pushing, emerging filmmakers from around Chicago. The world premiere will take place at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Thursday September 2 at 7PM. Chicagoland Shorts Vol. 7 includes:“35” by Eseoghene … Continue reading “Full Spectrum Features announces selections for Chicagoland Shorts”

Entering the festival circuit? Here’s some smaller film festivals we love

Our friends at KitSplit put together a list of some of the smaller film festivals that we love, with a focus on those that have deadlines coming up. In doing their research, they noticed something funny – no one is talking about which film festivals are good for industry newbies & up-and-comers. We don’t all get a … Continue reading “Entering the festival circuit? Here’s some smaller film festivals we love”

Underground Donut Tour begins in Chicago’s West Loop

The Underground Donut, America’s Best Donut Tour, is adding another delicious version of their highly rated Chicago tour. Specifically, showcasing the amazing donuts in Chicago’s West Loop or Restaurant Row. The Underground Donut Tour has been in business for 6 years now with locations across the country including Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, Portland, Seattle and, most recently, Boston. 6 years in business and now 6 … Continue reading “Underground Donut Tour begins in Chicago’s West Loop”

Film Independent Spirit Awards announces nominations

Film Independent announced nominations for the 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Not just another pretty face on the awards circuit, the Spirit Awards are the primary fundraiser for the nonprofit Film Independent’s year-round slate of programs, which cultivate the careers of emerging filmmakers and promote diversity and inclusion in the industry. Film Independent President Josh … Continue reading “Film Independent Spirit Awards announces nominations”

Reeling: Chicago LGBTQ+ Int’l Film Fest award winners

Reeling announces the winners of the 38th annual Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival. The festival was held virtually this year from September 24 to October 7 and the event included 39 programs with films from 21 countries. The festival featured 31 Q&As with filmmakers which have been recorded and can be viewed here. We would … Continue reading “Reeling: Chicago LGBTQ+ Int’l Film Fest award winners”

Full Spectrum Features supports diversity in Indie Films

Asian Americans know that having talent and skills in the entertainment industry is [not nearly] half the battle. Every film needs financing; whether it’s raised through private investors or loving family members and crowdfunding, movies are expensive.  Therefore, a huge part of the industry isn’t the actors on set, or the gear they use, but the … Continue reading “Full Spectrum Features supports diversity in Indie Films”

Hawley and Amoaku help film industry move forward

Newly installed office-holders explain their plans for keeping Chicago and Illinois on the path of success The thriving regional film industry is only going to get better, according to two of its recently appointed top leaders. Illinois Film Office Executive Director Peter Hawley and Director of the Chicago Film Office Kwame Amoaku described their visions … Continue reading “Hawley and Amoaku help film industry move forward”

2019 Chicago Film Festival Symposium

Event will unite nearly 40 festivals to “better understand our collective work as an industry” The first-ever Chicago Film Festival Symposium will bring together Chicago-area film festival stakeholders for an industry-wide discussion addressing shared challenges and opportunities. Continental breakfast, lunch, and cocktail reception are included with the $20 registration fee. Learn more and register here. … Continue reading “2019 Chicago Film Festival Symposium”

Chicago’s Asian Pop-Up Cinema, March 12 – April 24

Consolidated series presents premieres, partner screenings, special guests and sixteen films, from across the Asian continent Non-profit pan-Asian film organization Sophia’s Choice today announces Asian Pop-Up Cinema – Season Eight, the spring film series presenting sixteen films from across Asia, running March 12 through April 24, 2019. The schedule represents a consolidated schedule, with more … Continue reading “Chicago’s Asian Pop-Up Cinema, March 12 – April 24”

Festivault brings a world of films to remote screens

New technology aims to offer thousands of films that might otherwise disappear after screening at regional festivals Chicago film entrepreneurs Saj Adibs and Hamzah Jamjoom are bringing film festivals to viewers around the world through a new web application called Festivault. Festivault allows users to screen select film festival programs on individual laptops, tablets, and … Continue reading “Festivault brings a world of films to remote screens”

Programming films from the underground

The power of Bryan Wendorf’s taste has grown to a metropolitan scale since he co-founded the Chicago Underground Film Festival 25 years ago.   Following up on an idea that he hatched in 1994 with Jay Bliznick, a coworker in a video rental shop, Chicago Underground Film Fest (CUFF) co-founder and programmer Bryan Wendorf picks … Continue reading “Programming films from the underground”

Reel Women: Emily Esperanza, Filmmaker

Emily Esperanza is a filmmaker and artist whose passions lie in discarded aesthetics, liminal spaces, guerrilla approaches, and unconventional narrative. An advocate of rebellious voices in cinema, Emily is the founder and a co-curator of WRETCHED NOBLES, a Chicago-based immersive monthly film/video screening shorts program. Co-produced by Full Spectrum Features, Emily’s new film, Make Out … Continue reading “Reel Women: Emily Esperanza, Filmmaker”

Millennium Park Summer Film Series

Beginning June 5th, the Millennium Park Summer Film series will enhance the Tuesday night screenings that have become one of Chicago’s most beloved outdoor traditions. According to a press release issued by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), the movies will be “programmed in collaboration with a local independent film festival … Continue reading “Millennium Park Summer Film Series”

Chicago Filmmakers’ housewarming celebration

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for Chicago Filmmakers’ new Edgewater home featured dedications, activities, and hors d’oeuvres on Saturday April 28. It was an exciting chapter in a story that has and will continue to run for years. The event began with heartfelt introductions from Founder Sgharon Zurek and Executive Director Brenda Webb. “Chicago Filmmakers has been … Continue reading “Chicago Filmmakers’ housewarming celebration”

Chicago Underground Film Fest offers a taste of 2018

Opening night Julia Nash’s Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records Chicago premiere   Closing night Lori Felker’s Future Language: The Dimensions of VON LMO Chicago premiere   [Editor Note: The “Industrial Accident” screening sold out shortly after this story was published, but CUFF organizers are working to schedule another. Stay tuned to Reel … Continue reading “Chicago Underground Film Fest offers a taste of 2018”

The celestial inspiration of FCB Chicago’s “Looking Back”

FCB Chicago’s award-winning short film for the Clark Street Bridge School of Writing, Looking Back, is an inspirational trip into creativity. With galactic visuals and sparse music, it compares the Voyager II space probe’s exit from our solar system to a child’s first day at school: both craft and student turn around for one last … Continue reading “The celestial inspiration of FCB Chicago’s “Looking Back””

McNaughton-Rooker horror film gets a new life at 30

When 85-minute low-budget indie “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” — an art film masked as an exploitation film and shot in 16mm — was released in fall of 1986, its chances of theatrical success seemed unlikely.

The cards were stacked against it. Everyone connected with it was unknown. The budget was so low that family and friends were brought on as actors using their own possessions. And its highly-restrictive MPAA X-rating limited its commerciality.

Ad Community Shorts Night screens 15 films Oct. 1

The 3rd annual Advertising Community Shorts Night Tuesday at the Midwest Independent Film Festival, Tuesday, Oct. 1, presents the work of 15 filmmeisters from ad and marketing agencies, post/production houses, still photographers, Second City and Steppenwolf, from Chicago, Madison and Detroit.

Earlier this month a jury of knowledgeable souls from various aspects of visual media production judged an imaginative collection of entries from one to 16 minutes in length.

Alshaibi’s “Profane” bows at Boston Underground

USAMA ALSHAIBI’S button-pushing feature “Profane,” starring Manal Kara, as a devout Muslim dominatrix, has its U.S. premiere March 26 and 29 at the Boston Underground Film Festival. 

Alshaibi made the personal Iraq documentary “Nice Bombs” and is working on the Kartemquin doc “American Arab.”  

Charges are pending in a March 6 incident in which Alshaibi alleged that he was beaten and called racial slurs after wandering into a party in Fairfield, Iowa, where he moved last summer.

Christy LeMaster new director of IFP/Chicago

TAKING OVER THE REINS of the Independent Feature Project, Chicago’s 25-year old hub of indie filmmaking is Christy LeMaster, who has run IFP’s recent and successful fund-raising galas. She succeeds Ryan Jewell, who returned to his native Oklahoma City for family reasons.

LeMaster, who has a Masters in English from Truman State University, has a background in programming film festivals, starting with the True or False doc fest in Columbia, Mo.

Sundance parties welcome Chicagoans

CHICAGOANS AT SUNDANCE expected this weekend at Park City, Utah include Fox TV’s Robin Robinson and Ch. 7’s Sylvia Perez, providing TV coverage of the festivities; Julee White, NBC director of strategic sales and marketing; RDS’ Megan Ross; Kevin Farley, brother of the late Chris; the IFO’s Betsy Steinberg and Todd Lizak, Mesirow Financial’s Les Coney and Christina and Mike McGrath of Lexis McGrath.

Price of lunch exchanged for short films

Sundance and CineVegas programmer Mike Plante bought lunch one day for a filmmaker friend. “Instead of owing me lunch, why not make a film for that same money?” Plante writes in his blog.

Plante and the filmmaker wrote out a contract on a napkin, and so was born “Lunchfilm,” a growing collection of some 50 short films made for the price of a midday meal.

Plante has screened “Lunchfilm” programs at Sundance and at venues across the country. Now embarking on its second national tour, “Lunchfilm” makes its first Chicago stop Jan. 15 at Chicago Filmmakers.

Acting siblings return to Chicago

Hollywood actor Casey Siemaszko grew up deeply immersed in Chicago’s Polish community, performing with his parents’ Polish dance troupe. And Siemaszko’s father Konstanty fought for the Polish underground in World War II.

Siemaszko made a fitting return to his hometown Friday night for the opening of the 21st Polish Film Festival in America, at the AMC River East 21 theatre.

Good L.A. reception for Chicago sales team

DURING THEIR FOUR WHIRLWIND DAYS in L.A., a Chicago sales contingent saw 19 producers, several with possible projects for the state, says Local 476’s Mark Hogan. He was accompanied by Teamsters 726’s John Coli and IFO director Betsey Steinberg on their latest sales mission.

Any new projects heading our way?

September a film festival feast for fans

September is going to be a bonanza month for film festival fans. As of now, seven uniquely different fests are scheduled throughout the state, and others surely will be announced later.

Most of the film events take place during the third week of September, which includes the first day of autumn. Here’s how they line up:

Sept. 10-13: Now under the auspices of the IFP, the 16th annual Chicago Underground Film Festival again will be combined with IFP’s Filmmakers Summit and be held at the Gene Siskel Center.

25 local films screen at CUFF, Oct. 29-Nov. 2

UIC professor and two-time Independent Spirit Award nominee Jennifer Montgomery’s “Deliver,” is one 25 local films featured in the Chicago Underground Film Festival Oct. 29-Nov. 2.

The 15th annual CUFF showcases 120 films from Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan and hosts the 17th annual IFP Filmmakers Summit, all taking place at the Viaduct Theatre.

Montgomery was long fascinated by John Boorman’s classic “Deliverance,” but troubled by its portrayal of gender roles.

CUFF’s outr? films debut under IFP aegis

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Chicago Underground Film Festival and its first year under the aegis of IFP. To underscore the artistic merger, IFP’s Filmmakers Summit is now part of CUFF’s presentations.

Out of the 1,200 worldwide entries received, 120 of the best of these will be showcased Oct. 31-Nov. 1 at the Viaduct Theatre.

All this week at CIFF: Spotlight Illinois films

Locally-made features by Carl Seaton, Joe Swanberg and Tom Gustafson, a feature doc about an underground rocker, and 10 shorts shine in the Spotlight Illinois section of the 44th Chicago International Film Festival.

The 14 locally-made films screen on different days throughout the festival, now through Oct. 29, at AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois.

Executive producer Robert Townsend stars in “Of Boys and Men,” the third feature by Columbia alum Seaton (“One Week”), shot on a reported $650,000 budget.

IFP aiming to form strategic partnership with
15-year old Chicago Underground Film Fest

The Independent Feature Project/Midwest has made no little plans. Foremost among them is the possible acquisition of the 15-year old eclectic Chicago Underground Film Festival, plus expanding the number of screenings, workshops and networking events.

To help achieve these goals, IFP’s board added five new members to increase the board size to 25 members.

“We have branched out and brought in ideas from experts beyond the film world,” says IFP executive director Elizabeth Donius, noting the new members’ expertise includes public relations, development and arts management.

12 Chicago Filmmakers 2008 classes start Jan. 8

Oscar-nominated Bill Siegel, who co-directed and produced “The Weather Underground,” will teach Chicago Filmmakers’ most popular class, “Developing the Documentary,” during its winter 2008 instructional program.

Siegel’s feature doc, the story of the radical activists and politics of the ?70s, won top prizes in four major festivals, and was nominated as best feature doc by the DGA and the International Documentary Association.

“Of Boys and Men” filmmakers top IFP Summit,
3 days of panels, pitching and parties Oct.19-21

Fast on the heels of its smashingly successful fund-raising gala comes IFP/Chicago’s 16th annual Midwest Filmmakers Summit the weekend of Oct. 19.

“We’re just recovering from the gala,” good-naturedly moaned IFP executive director Elizabeth Donius who, with development director Colleen O’Neill and staff put on one kick-ass event.

A full house of 300 guests jammed Salvage One Friday, Sept. 28 to party, meet other indie filmmakers, bid on a slew of neat auction items, and leave IFP approximately $20,000 richer to use for programs throughout the year.

Alshaibi personal Iraq doc “Nice Bombs” will be the opening night film at CUFF in August

Usama Alshaibi’s return to his native Iraq after a 25-year absence forms the heart of his new feature documentary “Nice Bombs.”

“Nice Bombs” will have its world premiere as the opening night film of the 13th Annual Chicago Underground Film Festival, which runs Aug. 17-24.

An Iraqi native who grew up in the U.S., Alshaibi hadn’t been to Iraq since his childhood, when he returned after the U.S. invasion, with his father and his wife, fellow filmmaker Kristie Alshaibi.

Screenings, Festivals, Events, Etc.

LAUREN FISCHER is hitting her stride as a recognized screenwriter. On Aug. 31 her “Wish I Might”?winner of the 2005 IFP/Chicago-Chicago Scriptworks contest?will have a staged reading by Chicago Scriptworks at the Cultural Center.

“Wish I Might” is the story of two teenaged stepsisters and the one wish that will either bring them together or tear their family apart. It’s also a semi-finalist in the 2005 PAGE International Screenwriting Awards.

Festivals, Competitions, Screenings, Etc.

CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL early deadline is May 1. For short projects under 60-minutes fee is $40, longer and feature length entries pay $80. Fees increase by $10 from May 1-May 31. Festival takes place Oct. 27-Nov. 6. Best of Fest prize is $2,500. See www.cicff.org, or call Kathleen Beckman, 773/281-9075 for entry forms.

THE 12TH CHICAGO UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL, being held this August, is accepting entries through May 1, late deadline June 1.

Sundance marks upward trajectory for Benzfilm; feature “Polish Bar” slated for fall production

Ben Berkowitz and Ben Redgrave are fresh from a Sundance Film Festival that saw them make strides on their diverse feature projects.

At Sundance they attended the launch party for Duly Noted, Inc., the new Hollywood independent production company founded by Effie T. Brown (Jane Campion’s “In the Cut,” HBO’s “Everyday People”).

Now Brown is producing “Polish Bar” for Berkowitz to direct from a script he wrote with Redgrave. They are co-producing through their Benzfilm Group, with a Chicago shoot slated for this fall.

Chicago’s loss is L.A.’s gain as director Willy Laszlo sets out to conquer comedy

Comedy genius Willy Laszlo says he had the time of his life in Chicago. He had creative freedom. He had a good full-time day job. He worked hard. But he was always broke.

“So why not work hard and be broke in Los Angeles,” he rationalizes. And everyone who appreciates his vast talent agrees the move was long overdue.

Laszlo, the prolific writer/director of a remarkable 40 comedy shorts over an eight year period, quit his Comcast job, wrapped his last Chicago comedy, bid goodbye to his family, friends and supporters and headed for L.A. in mid-November.

Z Fest director Alshaibi’s sexually explicit debut film premieres Sept. 25 at Film Center

Z Film Festival program director Kristie Alshaibi’s debut feature, the explicit and experimental “Other People’s Mirrors,” has its world premiere Sept. 25 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Alshaibi stars as her recurring alter ego Echo Transgression, a schizophrenic woman who seeks trascendence by obeying hallucinated directives to violate a series of 12 sexual taboos. She created Echo in 1996 and has featured the character in a series of video, web, photo, performance and fiction pieces.

Local feature of suburban dread has local debut at Chicago Underground

Local underground auteur James Fotopoulos screens his suburban gothic feature “The Nest” in its Chicago debut at the Chicago Underground Film Festival Aug. 22.

Fotopoulos continues his trademark minimalist terror with “The Nest,” in which he builds an atmosphere of mounting dread through sound design and surrealistic images in a young couple’s new apartment.

“There really wasn’t any inspiration,” Fotopoulos insisted. “Things just collage together over time and then I shape them together and get them out. Anything around me can trigger it.”

Telling Truth in Chicago:
A Survey of Local Docmakers, Part II

This is the second in a two-part survey of local documentarians, who they are, their background and credits. Ranging from national leaders like Kartemquin, Towers and Kurtis Productions, to small to mid-size companies, they capture public imagination and affect social change by telling true stories.

Bob Hercules

Looking for a movie tonight? Catch one of these non-traditional film series

Chicago boasts one of the biggest and most vibrant independent film scenes in America, in terms of both production and outlets. To prove the point, Chicago is experiencing a boom in non-traditional screening series.

In addition to a growing roster of annual film festivals, established and fledgling organizations host screenings scattered around the city at theatres, nightclubs and other venues.

CUFF initiates Sloppy Seconds series with film by ‘Spielberg of Digital’

The new Sloppy Seconds screening series from the Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF) kicks off Feb. 4 with Todd Verow’s pioneering digital feature “Little Shots of Happiness.”

Running every other Wednesday in the 100-seat Viaduct Theater, Sloppy Seconds features highlights from the festival’s 10-year history. Eventually it will showcase films that haven’t appeared in the fest.

Doc exploring artistic vs. corporate expression premieres at Underground Film Fest

Before the recent spate of allegations about the adverse health effects of their products, Kraft Food Holdings had another adversary, in the unlikely guise of Wicker Park cartoonist Stu Helm.

In 2002 Kraft sued Helm over his use of the name King Velveeda. The company asserted that Helm’s art tarnished the wholesome image of their Velveeta cheese products.

Networking in Chicago, part two

by Joan Tortorici Ruppert

Bulletproof Film heads to Vietnam for veterans’ reconciliation doc

Carmine Cervi (pictured) and his Bulletproof Film partner Ilko Davidov will shoot in Vietnam this August for their documentary “Teaching the Vietnam War: Reconciliation and Memory.”

Full Spectrum Features announces Unbound Sound expanded cinema

Full Spectrum Features (FSF) announces Unbound Sound, an expanded cinema event co-presented with Comfort Station Logan Square and in partnership with the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Supported by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Unbound Sound builds on the well-loved tradition of presenting movies with the accompaniment of live music. Updating this … Continue reading “Full Spectrum Features announces Unbound Sound expanded cinema”

The return of ‘Destroy Your Art’

Five filmmakers scheduled to annihilate work that has never been seen before or since on August 10 Next Saturday night, five Chicago filmmakers will literally “take a torch” to their work after premiering it in a North Lawndale warehouse. Destroy Your Art is “an annual immersive event that marries film and performance art for a … Continue reading “The return of ‘Destroy Your Art’”

CIMM reboots to deliver year-round movies + music

Legendary Chicago fest kicks off year-round agenda with the May 29 premiere of Manu Delago’s “Parasol Peak” followed by a live gig at Martyr’s After spending a decade as an annual film and music festival, Chicago International Movies + Music (CIMM) is transitioning to operate year round throughout the city. The upgrade begins with the … Continue reading “CIMM reboots to deliver year-round movies + music”

David Winer launches Fancy Mountain Music & Sound

”The goal is always to help the narrative and to feel something. When you do, it’s lovely stuff.” David Winer On November 12, veteran musician and composer David Winer launched Fancy Mountain Music & Sound, a Chicago-based company serving the advertising and film industries. With decades of experience creating music for live, studio, commercial, and … Continue reading “David Winer launches Fancy Mountain Music & Sound”

IFP welcomes new Exec Director Gregory Collins

Raised in Kenya with over fifteen years in the film industry, Collins brings extensive experience and international perspective to organization’s future   (Chicago — 26 June 2018) IFP Chicago, a non-profit that supports filmmakers at every stage of production and presents the annual Chicago Underground Film Festival, today announces a new phase of leadership as … Continue reading “IFP welcomes new Exec Director Gregory Collins”

“Geek Lounge” leads comedy lineup at May’s MIFF

Larry Ziegelman’s funny poke at geek culture will be one of several short films and web series screening at the May 1st Midwest Independent Film Festival 2018 Comedy Shorts Night. The evening begins with a panel discussion about crowdfunding. According to acting MIFF director Mike Kwielford, a handful of filmmakers will get real about what … Continue reading ““Geek Lounge” leads comedy lineup at May’s MIFF”

Karabas, “Real Prayers,” “Make Out Party,” and more

RSA Films promotes Chris Karabas to executive producer Before the promotion, Chris Karabas was the Midwest representative for RSA Films. In his new role, Karabas is expected to utilize RSA Films’ resources to branch out into multiplatform storytelling – especially social media. Previously, Karabas worked for Shafer Antelis Music in the early 90s, was a … Continue reading “Karabas, “Real Prayers,” “Make Out Party,” and more”

CUFF’s “Untapped Fundraiser” at Lagunitas Taproom

On Monday night at Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Chicago Taproom, the Chicago Underground Film Festival’s “Untapped Fundraiser” will kick off a series of events in celebration of CUFF’s Silver Anniversary. Featuring a raffle, a cash bar, a few words about this year’s poster, and the groovy twang of Chicago musical quartet Fran, the evening is tailor-made … Continue reading “CUFF’s “Untapped Fundraiser” at Lagunitas Taproom”

Vince Vaughn finally sells his Mag Mile penthouse

VINCE VAUGHN IS GONE from Chicago, that is, he finally sold the three-story penthouse atop the Palmolive Building at 919 N. Michigan for a total $12.1 million, a little more than he originally paid for it and after splitting it into three different units.

Lake Forest native Vaughn bought the penthouse in 2006 for $12 million while he and Jennifer Aniston were in Chicago filming (and also dating) the rom-com feature “The Break Up.”

New Stage 18 Production Partners meet with members

Stage 18, Chicago’s Film and Media incubator at Cinespace, co-founded by Angie Gaffney, introduced its new Production Partners Program — 16 companies that provide resources and discounts — to its 40 members last Friday night at AbelCine’s showroom at Cinespace Studios.

During the evening, the nonprofit once again delivered on its commitment to building Chicago’s independent film and narrative content community.

10th anniversary for cross-cultural Paco Collective

PACO COLLECTIVE this week celebrated its 10th business anniversary, evolving from an Hispanic-focused multicultural marketing agency to a cross-cultural agency with such major clients as ComEd, the Chicago Bears, the Chicago White Sox and Blue Cross Blue Shield among others.

Founded in 2006 by marketing expert Ozzie Godinez, CEO and innovative creator Pablo Acosta, CCO, the agency is now one of the fastest-growing minority-owned agencies in the Midwest and employs more than 40.

May 10 fundraiser for ‘ChiTown’ basketball doc

A FUNDRAISER FOR CHITOWN, a documentary-in-progress from New York-based reality TV show director/producer Nick Budabin (Cake Boss, Kathy Griffin), who started shooting when he spent time here in 2011 producing “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes,” will be held Thursday, May 10 at The Joynt, 650 N. Dearborn, from 6-9 p.m. 

Ron Lazzeretti’s feature opens Lake County Fest, March 17-31

WRITER/PRODUCER RON LAZZERETTI’S Something Better Somewhere Else is the opening feature of the lean, stripped down 8th annual Lake County Film Festival, March 17, and running through March 21 at the College of Lake County in Grayslake.  

Former Draftfcb creative director and Merry Gentleman writer/producer Lazzeretti’s feature is a collection of bittersweet comedic shorts loosely connected by the theme of people fumbling to connect with each other.  

It screens Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at noon.

Keefe produces fridaynitebYtes web comedy series

JOE KEEFE of Long Tail Media Group is producing fridaynitebYtes,  a streaming comedy sketch series targeted to tween-and-teen internet users. The members contribute their sketch ideas and a professional cast and crew creates a show based on their ideas.

“This is where young members can contribute to upcoming episodes and learn comedy and production skills,” says Keefe, the founding executive producer of Second City Com he says.

Directorial debut for composer Gina Fontanini

GINA FONTANINI, a film composer and music supervisor who worked at Studio Chicago/Music Industry Workshop, is making her directorial debut with the feature “Follow the Leader,” shooting in Chicago, New York and Prague this summer.

Fontanini worked with writer Christina Koustenis on the screenplay, based on Czech-born artist Misa Verbeek’s experience growing up in Czechoslovakia and immigrating to the U.S. as a young woman.

“Follow the Leader” is a coproduction of Fontanini’s La Gi Productions and New York music house Third Rail Productions.

“Something for everybody”

Roger Ebert will make a special guest appearance at the closing ceremonies of the Naperville Film Festival, one of ten film festivals being held in Chicago and Downstate this month.

Altogether, around 500 independent films — narratives, horror, drama, documentary, animated, experimental, to suit every film buff, including many by local filmmakers — will be showcased.

And to cap this indie film month, the Independent Feature Project will hold its annual Film Gala, Sept. 26, to raise funds for programs and events to support local independent filmmakers.

IFP board gives Lynn Steadman interim executive director status, at least through end of the year

Lynn Steadman has a busy two months ahead of her. The newly named interim executive director of the Independent Feature Project/Chicago is working on two big, important and almost back-to-back annual events.

Steadman has been named the provisional successor to Elizabeth Donius, who resigned in early August after four solid years of building one of Chicago’s oldest film organizations.

“I will try to become more involved in the community,” said Steadman, who had been with IFP as assistant executive director since March, 2007.

Executive director Donius to leave IFP in August; board now accepting resumes for her position

The IFP is in search mode for a new executive director to succeed popular, energetic Elizabeth Donius who leaves Chicago August 15 to move to Connecticut.

The IFP board is accepting resumes for from candidates with both film and non-profit organization experience to fill the position, which Donius has held for the past four years.

Donius says she is proud of accomplishments during “the period of growth” she helmed.

Usama Alshaibi’s personal Iraq doc, “Nice Bombs,” lands March premiere airing on Sundance Channel

USAMA ALSHAIBI’S “Nice Bombs” will have its broadcast premiere this March on the Sundance Channel. Producer Ben Berkowitz negotiated the deal with Sundance and also with Seventh Art Releasing for the documentary’s summer ’07 theatrical run.

“Nice Bombs” chronicles the journey of Alshaibi, his wife and father after a 20-year absence during the early days of the U.S. occupation and Alshaibi’s conflicted feelings about the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Alshaibi’s personal Iraq doc “Nice Bombs” due for summer theatrical run from Seventh Art Releasing

Usama Alshaibi’s personal Iraq documentary “Nice Bombs” will get a theatrical release in markets including Chicago and New York this summer through Seventh Art Releasing.

“The deal is for all North American rights, all media,” said producer Ben Berkowitz. “It will include broadcast and DVD following the theatrical but we cannot go into details now.”

Berkowitz produced “Nice Bombs” with Usama’s wife Kristie Alshaibi, and Ben Redgrave, Berkowitz’ partner in Benzfilm Group.

Walking 60 feet above the Chinese desert: Deborah Stratman on her amazing “Kings of the Sky” doc

Deborah Stratman didn’t speak the language or know anyone in the Western Chinese Taklamakan desert when she went there alone in 2001 to shoot her documentary “Kings of the Sky.”

Without a translator, the UIC film teacher spent four months on tour with a circus troupe led by Adil Hoxur, the leading practitioner of Dawaz, the traditional tightrope-walking style of the Uyghur Muslim ethnic minority.

In “Kings of the Sky” Stratman paints an impressionistic portrait of Hoxur and his art, symbols of cultural and nationalist pride for the oppressed Uyghur.

REELSCREEN: News & Notes – 08/13/04

WHEW, OPRAH STAYS PUT. The tension’s over as to whether she would or wouldn’t opt out of TV and Chicago at the end of her current contract. But we can relax. Oprah is not going to hang it up after all. Her newly-signed contract will keep her on TV through 2011 ? and assure continuing jobs for the nearly 300 people who work on the show.

By 2011, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” will have been on a full 25 seasons. And they say there’s no indication that the 25th season will be the last.

REELSCREEN: News & Notes – 07/26/04

IN PRODUCTION. “Batman: The Intimidation Game” rolls into town July 26 for three weeks ? “The Amityville Horror,” directed by Andrew Douglas starts shooting Aug. 2 at locations around Lake Geneva, Kenosha and Silver Lake, Wisconsin. It stars Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George as the ill-fated homeowners George and Kathy Lutz.

State Street Productions’ “Roll Bounce,” directed by Malcolm D. Lee continues filming here until Aug. 20. It was originally set in San Diego but the location changed so it could be filmed here.

CAFM to hold “2020 Holiday Hurrah” party on Zoom

Multiple raffles, Zoom Breakout Rooms, and prizes for your most creative holiday attire are all on tap as the Chicago Acting In Film Meetup NFP (CAFM) wraps up the year with a film industry party, fundraiser, and networking night.  The 12th Annual CAFM Holiday Hurrah (on ZOOM!) happens Monday, December 14, 2020 from 7:00 p.m. … Continue reading “CAFM to hold “2020 Holiday Hurrah” party on Zoom”

DePaul’s Eltanal & Khatami chosen for IFP fellowship

DePaul School of Cinematic Arts announced that Assistant Professors, Ronald Eltanal and Alireza Khatami, have been selected for the prestigious IFP Episodic Lab fellowship program for their project titled, Tenure. The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) announced today twenty-six feature projects and series selected to participate across three labs over the next month: The IFP Filmmaker … Continue reading “DePaul’s Eltanal & Khatami chosen for IFP fellowship”

CAFM says “Hurrah” for 2019

December 9th Film Industry Holiday Party and Fundraiser at Carbon Arc features networking, raffle prizes, silent auction, “Winter Weekend Getaway,” and more Tasty food, cool prizes, and dancing are on the menu as the Chicago Acting In Film Meetup (CAFM) celebrates 2019 with a film industry party, fundraiser, and networking night all rolled into one. … Continue reading “CAFM says “Hurrah” for 2019”

A sneak peek at Billy Dec’s ‘Food. Roots. Philippines.’

Chicago’s award-winning restaurateur and media personality films a quest for family and food in Southeast Asia Billy Dec’s Food. Roots. Philippines. explores an ancient recipe for success on the other side of the world. Currently in post-production, the PBS project is a journey into the country, culture, and cuisine of his ancestors. The Southeast Asian … Continue reading “A sneak peek at Billy Dec’s ‘Food. Roots. Philippines.’”

Tony Hawk helps spread “Concrete Dreams”

Chicago-made skatepark doc gains widespread distribution on legendary athlete’s YouTube channel Concrete Dreams, a documentary about public skateparks written and directed by Little Cabin Films co-founder Nick Nummerdor, has gained distribution through Tony Hawks’ RIDE Channel on YouTube. Concrete Dreams documents the decade-long struggle and ultimate triumph of Paulina Jimenez, a “suburban super-mom” who spearheads … Continue reading “Tony Hawk helps spread “Concrete Dreams””

“Kappa Force” to deliver punch at Logan on July 29

The new web-series features five sorority sisters fighting the patriarchy, one frat boy at a time   Kappa Force is a satirical web series about a crime-fighting sorority that takes on the evil El Douche of Sigma Sigma Epsilon. Director Hannah Welever and writer/producer Addison Heimann’s Kappa Force is having its hometown premiere on Sunday, … Continue reading ““Kappa Force” to deliver punch at Logan on July 29”

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AFI Closes with tribute to Aaron Sorkin

The 50th annual American Film Institute Festival came to a resounding close last Thursday night with a moving tribute at The Chinese Theater for writer/director Aaron Sorkin and his new (and directorial debut) film, Molly’s Game. AFI programming director, Jacqueline Lyanga, kicked off the tribute with a moving speech. “As Sorkin embarks on this next … Continue reading “AFI Closes with tribute to Aaron Sorkin”

11:33 a.m. — Stage 18

There’s always something going on at Stage 18, and it’s usually pretty cool. Right now, the Public Relations director of Chicago’s Underground Film Festival is preparing to make a call for 2018 submissions, J Jack Productions is writing an inside scoop for the newsletter “Exposing the Crew,” and Digital Hydra is working on its latest … Continue reading “11:33 a.m. — Stage 18”

It’s that time again: Optimus Block Party on Aug. 2

OPTIMUS 18TH ANNUAL BLOCK PARTY is right around the corner on Friday, Aug. 2 (always the first Friday in August) bringing together clients, colleagues and friends for its annual summer afternoon-into-night of fun.  “Yes, we’ll have a special guest as always,” someone well known and unexpected promises Gretchen Praeger, VP/managing director of Optimus post, and one of the party planners. 

After 4 years, feature doc ‘Skate or Die’ in post

AFTER FOUR YEARS IN PRODUCTION and 100 hours of footage, director Ryan Ferguson and producer Azam Ahmed are in post-production on the feature documentary Skate or Die.  

The story is about Little Village skateboarding activist Leo Castillo, who turned to skateboarding as a refuge from gang violence, only to suffer a potentially debilitating gunshot wound.

Party launches Evanston’s Talking Pictures Fest

A PRE-FEST PARTY Feb. 23 launches Percolator Films’ 4th annual Talking Pictures Festival from 7-10 p.m. at the Hilton Orrington Hotel’s Indigo Lounge, 1710 Orrington Avenue in Evanston.  Talking Pictures Festival runs March 8-11.

In honor of International Women’s Day, the festival opens with Léa Pool’s timely Canadian documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc., an exposé on the saturated marketing campaigns and administration-heavy budgets of breast cancer advocacy group Susan G. Komen For the Cure. 

June screening schedule has something for everyone

FILMMAKERS AND FILM BUFFS will have no problem finding a festival, screening series or premiere offerings to their varied tastes this month.

SHOCK THEATRE’S new monthly series from the second Golden Age of Horror, the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, starts running the first Friday of every month, June 3, through December, at the new Wicker Park Arts Center. 

Ad community shorts on display Oct. 6

Eighty minutes worth of short films, from comedy to dreamy gritty docs produced by creatives at ad agencies and post/production houses, will be showcased Oct. 6, thanks the first-time link-up between AICP Midwest and the Midwest Independent Film Festival.

The first annual Advertising Community Shorts Night takes place Oct. 6 at the Landmark Century theatre.

Nine of the dozen shorts of varying lengths were home grown; other submissions came from Indianapolis, Southfield, Mich. and Minneapolis.

Inspired by Studs Terkel’s working class stories doc maker Daniel Kraus embarks on WORK series

While Daniel Kraus has made three features, he’s now concentrating on the cinema-verite documentary. The WORK series, as Kraus terms it, is inspired by the writings of Studs Terkel and his books on ordinary people’s occupations.

The second film in the WORK series, “Musician,” is about Chicago jazz genius Ken Vandermark as he composes, rehearses, and cobbles together gigs.

Kraus’ previous WORK doc, “Sheriff,” aired on PBS’ Independent Lens series and will be released on DVD by Facets in the fall.

Independent Production Roundup

PAULA FROEHLE is in production on her 2004 IFP/Chicago Production Fund-winning short “Up on the Rope.” Froehle is shooting on an elaborate set at Resolution Digital Studios, part of the Production Fund’s $100,000 in in-kind goods and services.

She’s the production program director at Columbia College and co-owner of the avant-jazz label Atavistic.

Froehle adapted the script, a love-story about a 12-year-old tight rope walker who has spent his entire life 10 feet off the ground, from a short story by Cristina Peri Rossi.

Independent Production Roundup

SPLIT PILLOW’S CHALLENGE 3.0, the group’s third annual collaborative filmmaking contest, runs Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30. Friday, each filmmaking team writes a short script in 12 hours in an assigned genre.

Saturday, teams exchange scripts and each team has 24 hours to shoot their film based on the script they’ve received. Sunday, teams exchange footage and each team has 24 hours to edit the footage they’ve received.

Independent Production Roundup

JULIA LING, who guested on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” has signed to play the lead role in Nathyn Masters’ Hong Kong-style martial arts pic “Silvergun Samurai,” slated to shoot on DV later this year. Ling joins a cast that includes Robert Z’Dar, Valerie Mikita, and Shawn Bernal. “Silvergun” is Masters’ followup to the apocalyptic thriller “The Fourth Beast,” now out on DVD from York Entertainment. See www.the4thbeast.com.

Grant funds half of post costs for Iraq doc; producer Alshaibi releases shorts DVD, readies final Z Fest

Fresh off receiving a major grant for his in-progress feature documentary “Nice Bombs,” Usama Alshaibi is releasing a DVD compilation of his short works Feb. 12 and preparing for what he said will be the final Z Film Festival this March.

In January the Creative Capital Arts Foundation awarded Alshaibi a grant covering “nearly half” of his projected $20-30,000 post-production budget for “Nice Bombs.”

“[The Foundation] encouraged me to apply for additional funding,” Alshaibi said. “They act as an executive producer of your project, following along and working closely with me.

Independent Production Roundup

PHIL DONLON’S Super 16mm short “A Series of Small Things,” which shot here last May, has its local premiere in a private screening Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Adler Planetarium’s Universe Theater, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive.

Doug Jones (“Hellboy”) stars in this 23-minute drama about the personal aftermath of a fatal hit-and- run. Producers are Dale Ingram, cinematographer Jim Andre of Film Branch and editor Steve Ordower of Rhythm & Light.

IFP awards production fund to Columbia prof Froehle for her short “Up On The Rope”

Columbia College production program director Paula Froehle has been awarded IFP/Chicago’s $100,000-value Production Fund grant to produce her experimental narrative “Up On The Rope.”

Froehle adapted the script from the short story by Cristina Peri Rossi. It’s a love story centering on a twelve-year-old tight rope walker who has spent his entire life ten feet off the ground.

Independent Production Roundup

KYLE HARRIS of Liberty Movies shoots the first third of his experimental narrative feature “The Patriarchs” Aug. 7-25. The first section follows a romance between an older gay activist and a young anarchist punk. “I’m interested in the intergenerational conflicts and desires between the previous, ‘ACT UP generation’ that’s lived through AIDS, and the younger queer generation working on anti-capitalist struggles,” said Harris, who teaches film and video at Columbia College and through the After School Matters program.

REELSCREEN: News and Notes

TEST SPOT GURU and Daily Planet founder Fred Berkover continues to ply his years of expertise with a new company partnered with Swell president Mike Topel. Tentatively named Stealth, the company is located on the 14th floor of NBC Tower, as is 59 Films, Ron Lazzeretti and Ed Amaya’s production company.

OCT. 4 IS THE DATE set for the IFO’s “Sweet Home Illinois” party for Chicagoans who now work in the L.A. film industry.

Cutting edge “The Cliffhanger” collaborative feature bows Nov. 17

Joel Paul Reisig in the collaborative improvisational feature “The Cliffhanger,” premiering Nov. 17