12 accept $100K in grants for social change projects


Scene from MPG Educational Films’ “The Schools Project”

TWELVE WORTHY FILMMAKERS were awarded $100,000 in grants from The Chicago Digital Media Production Fund, in amounts ranging from $3,850 to $10,000, for projects designed to advance social change through online distribution to youth audiences.


The top $10,000 grants went to four filmmakers: The Schools Project by Bob Hercules/Media Process Educational Films, a series of cross platform pieces; Muslimahs in the City by Fahima Mohamood, a comedy web series about four Muslim women; Natural Life, Interactive Online Archive by Tirtza Even and Sex Offender Laws Impact Youth, a short film by Jo Anne Smith.


COLLIN SCHIFFLI’S debut feature Animals, premieres June 3 in the Midwest Independent Film Festival.  Shot in Chicago last fall, Animals won a special jury prize at SXSW.  Writer David Dastmalchian (Prisoners) and Kim Shaw star as an addict couple torn between fantasy and the harsh reality of their lives.  With John Heard.  Producers panel at 6:30 p.m., screening at 7:30. 


ERIN TURNEY, recent Columbia College Cinema Art+Science graduate, hosts a screening June 8 at Chicago Filmmakers for her upcoming documentary, A Tree Is More Than One Branch, set in Les Cayes, Haiti. Her project is a compilation of short documentary videos that showcase Haiti in a way that breaks the stereotype of the media’s portrayal on Haitian people and life.


BRIAN JUN (Steel City) raised $30,000 on IndieGoGo for his next feature In the Buck, shooting in his native downstate Alton this summer.  It’s about a young married couple who are denied access to fertility treatment due to the wife’s history of drug use.  With Raymond J. Barry.  DP is Corey Gegner. 


KELSEY CORNELL AND AL BENOIT are filming Our Place in Galena and Plano.  Emily Barber and Meredith Johnson play a young lesbian couple contemplating marriage in Indiana, where same-sex weddings are currently banned.  


CALEB THOMAS of 1Knights Productions started shooting the noir thriller Such Creatures in late May, funded by a successful $22,000 Kickstarter campaign.  Ryan Heywood stars as a mob debt collector who falls for a mysterious woman (Christiana Forsberg).  With Michael Goodman.  Producers, Kaitlyn Conley and Shelly Turrisi; screenplay by Eric Sieker and Micah WilliamsSimo Ezoubeiri edits. 


CYNTHIA APPLEBY is making the sci-fi horror short Sisters of the EastAndrea Bush, Justine Constantino, Haley Nellis, and Lis Riley star.  Appleby wrote the script with Anthony Roberson. 


JOSHUA DEAN of Reaper’s Reel Media shoots the slasher thriller Off the Air in September in Decatur and Shelbyville.  It’s about a punk radio DJ being pursued by a serial killer on the 20th anniversary of his last string of murders.


Dean stars with Stephanie Leigh Rose, Alyson Walton, Sheri Estes, and Tamika CollinsAustin Hinderliter wrote the script. 


SCHOLARSHIPS to further their careers were awarded to Carolyn Carney and Katie McGinnis in the vocal and dance categories, respectively, in the 3rd annual F.A.M.E. Event (Foundatio of Artists Mentored in Entertainment). The Foundation was founded by talent agency owner Lily Liu.