Following his 2011 Bill T. Jones: A Good Man, Bob Hercules of Media Process Group will have his second American Masters premiere Dec. 28 when his documentary Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, about the pioneering, 55-year-old ballet company that has been based in Chicago since 1995, screens on the national PBS series Dec. 28 at 8 p.m.
Hercules and Joffrey artistic director Ashley Wheater will hold Q&A after a screening Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St, co-presented by Ch. 11.
“Ch. 11 has really gotten behind it to promote it locally,” Hercules says. “I’ll be on Chicago Tonight before the broadcast, as will Ashley Wheater.”
Mandy Patinkin narrates the doc, which Harold and Erica Mann Ramis, Jay Alix, and Una Jackman produced
Joffrey premiered in an innovative 40-theater simulcast by Ira Deutchman’s Emerging Pictures of its festival debut last January at Lincoln Center’s Dance on Camera Film Festival. The filmmakers took live questions via Twitter in a Q&A broadcast after the screening.
Producer for marketing and distribution Jon Reiss of Hybrid Cinema rolled out an art-house and festival tour that took Joffrey to some 100 theaters. “I’ve learned a huge amount from watching John promote the film,” Hercules says. “They reached hard into the dance community to get people excited so when it screened it would have advocates to promote it locally. It was an amazing experience to see how films can be distributed in a new way, and you can accomplish a lot more on your own.”
Hercules is applying the lessons of the Joffrey release to the marketing and distribution plan for his narrative feature debut Waiting for the Clash, loosely based on his own experience as a DJ at the University of Michigan in the late 70s. Hercules wrote the script with Jeff Rodgers and hopes to shoot in spring 2014 on a budget in the low millions.
On Nov. 16, Hercules and co-director Dan Chace premiered their documentary Perseverance: The Story of Dr. Billy Taylor, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Taylor was an All-American running back for UM in 1969-71 before falling into crime, addiction and homelessness—ultimately recovering, earning a doctorate in education and founding the Get Back Up substance abuse treatment center in Detroit. Perseverance will screen in January in the Film Center’s Stranger Than Fiction documentary series.
Media Process Group, the production company Hercules owns with DP Keith Walker, “had a tremendous year,” Hercules says, continuing their long relationship with Oprah Winfrey as a principal field crew for the OWN Network’s Oprah’s Next Chapter, with recent shoots including Justin Bieber at the United Center and David Letterman at Ball State University.
They’re also in post on a Chicago Symphony Orchestra TV spot featuring conductor Ricardo Muti, part of a three-years-and-counting deal with the CSO that has Hercules also directing content for the orchestra website. “I love the artistic process,” he says, “so it’s a perfect fit for me.”