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

Leo Castillo in “Skate or Die”

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.

“Faced with the realities of his injury, Leo began to forge a path to adulthood. From spearheading the construction of a skate park in his Little Village neighborhood to teaching his own after-school skateboarding class at a local high school, Leo sought out ways of turning a youthful passion into a productive future,” Ahmed writes. “But with each step forward, Leo’s troubles remained one step behind.

As of filing time Monday they had raised $18,000 of their $35,000 Kickstarter goal, with nine days to go. Ferguson recently sold his feature doc about comedian Hannibal Buress, A Week to Kill, to Comedy Central. Ahmed writes for the New York Times.

Jenny Strubin in The Alley CatMARIE ULLRICH is in production on The Alley Cat, a feature drama that follows Jenny Strubin’s bicycle messenger character from Ullrich’s accliamed short Faster! on an underground night race that spirals out of control. Former Resolution Digital Studios AP Kathryn Henderson is producing.

After raising just over half of their $35,000 Kickstarter bid before time ran out, Ullrich and Henderson snagged an investor to cover bare bones production costs. They’re still raising additional funds on IndieGoGo.

KARTEMQUIN FILMS received a $3,000 Media Pioneer Award from the Benton Foundation, for the production company’s ongoing advocacy on behalf of documentary makers. 

Gordon Quinn, Kartemquin artistic directorBenton cited Kartemquin’s efforts to maintain an exemption for documentarians under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which otherwise would restrict producers’ right to rip copyrighted media for use in creating new nonfiction content.

The award also recognized their successful campaign to reverse PBS’s rescheduling of doc series POV and Independent Lens from Tuesdays to Thursdays, which conflicted with many stations’ local content.

Kartemquin presents their advocacy work at the University Film and Video Association conference Aug. 8-11 at Columbia College and the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture’s conference in Minneapolis, Sept. 6-8.

JUSTEN NAUGHTON’S lifeguard comedy RIFFRAFF, produced by John Otterbacher of Orange Chair Productions and David J. Miller of Mindlight Films, is now available on iTunes and CinemaNow. Ben Wells, Robert Belushi, Chryssie Whitehead, and Katie O’Hagan star as lifeguards during a debauched summer on North Avenue Beach.

 Internal StagesKAI-DUC LUONG NEW VIDEO INSTALLATION Internal Stages, premieres Aug. 5, 5-9 p.m. at the new TerraSounds School of Music & Arts, 924 Waukegan Road, Glenview.

 The installation comprises five videos embodying the five stages of grief. Live music by Aleks Di Roma. Luong has directed music videos for Marissa Nadler, Chat, and Damien, and produced videos for Progress Illinois and Service Employees International Union.

Luong is a Cambodia-born, Chicago and Paris-based filmmaker, whose 2008 feature Someplace Else screened at festivals including Hawaii International.


TROY PRICE’S  SHORT DRAMA  A Wish Your Heart Makes screens Aug. 9 in a benefit for the child protection charity Kids Have Hope. Brian Smolensky’s script dramatizes the fantasy life of a kidnapped and abused girl. Producer Kristin Broadwell stars with Julianna Damm, H.B. Ward, Barret Walz, Smolensky and Alexis Toone.

A Wish Your Heart Makes also screens at the Central Florida Film Festival, Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in Ocoee, Flordia.