Behind the scenes with the Chicago IFA’s Angie Gaffney

Angie Gaffney chaperones a lot of dreams in the Windy City. As Executive Director of the Chicago Independent Film Alliance — an organization recently formed by combining the Independent Filmmaker Project with Stage 18 — she helps people achieve their goals, and their goals are to make movies.

Or short films. Or pilots. Or web series. Or video content. Or whatever else the production world is cooking up these days.

The stuff requires a lot of know-how, fortitude, and ingenuity.

If Gaffney has not done exactly what a certain job requires, she can probably find someone who has. She has earned dozens of film credits as a producer and dozens more as assistant director, production manager, actress, and a bunch of other stuff.

“If I make an indie movie every two to three years,” she says, “I’m a happy woman.”

It’s a great way to reinforce the thing that she really loves, which is to support the people who put themselves in the middle of the often nerve-racking and occasionally glamorous job of making movies while strengthening the film community along the way.

ALSO READ: Stage 18, IFP/Chicago form Independent Film Alliance

To that end, Gaffney will be hosting a panel about the Chicago Media Standards for the Midwest Film Festival’s Film Fair at the Cultural Center tomorrow and, earlier this month, gave Reel Chicago a sneak peek about how the Chicago IFA will help filmmakers in the future.

ALSO READ:The Chicago Media Standards are a win for everyone

Behind the scenes with Angie Gaffney
What are you working on these days?
The big news is the IFA. I’ve been in meetings since 9 o’clock this morning, and now I’m happy to be in my office, with my feet up, for the half hour I’m talking to you.

If I make an indie movie every two to three years, I’m a happy woman. Right now I’ve got two features in post: Jack Newell’s Monuments is a comedy, Annika Marks and Rich Newey’s Killing Eleanor is a dark comedy. I’ll also be hosting a panel on behalf of IFA about the Chicago Media Standards at the Midwest Film Fair this month.

Why did you feel the need to join Stage 18 and the Chicago IFP?
Stage 18 and IFP have been working together for a few years, and it’s always been complimentary and friendly. In 2017 and 2018, we collaborated on programming and realized that we’re really serving the same constituents by providing resources, programming, and support for indie filmmakers. We can be stronger together and make a much more focused impact on the indie film community in Chicago.

How will this hybrid better serve the indie film community?
Our focus is on doing less better. We target the intersection of art and commerce in the indie film community here in Chicago: the intersection of creativity and the business of filmmaking.

We aim to ensure that filmmakers and producers have the support they need to develop their projects. We incubate the person, not the project, by providing the resources and tending the fertile ground for them to succeed and grow. Our focus is on delivering really high quality programming and resources.

What are the nuts and bolts details (membership, location, etc.)?
We’re remaining in the offices that Stage 18 occupied on the lot at Cinespace Studios. Membership dues will be announced within the next month, and they will be very affordable. We’ll be offering different options: memberships that include an office space, and memberships that are event and community based.

What role are you assuming for the organization?
This morning, I started off with a big strategy meeting with Betsy Steinberg (current Director of Strategic Initiatives at IFA; former Director of the Illinois Film Office and Executive Director of Kartemquin Films). Then, I took calls for three hours and did some personal development over my lunch hour.

I’m meeting with filmmakers this afternoon, where I give advice and support, etc. Tonight, I’m headed to DePaul University to support a class practicing their film pitches.

It’s exactly what I love, and hopefully exactly what is needed, to grow a film community in Chicago; I’m talking to filmmakers and working to help provide the resources that are necessary to build a successful new age film community in Chicago. It’s beyond physical production. Striving for a community and an economy that has jobs and resources necessary to finance, produce, and package independent films.

What were the most common needs and resources that Stage 18 fulfilled and provided to its members?
Three things: Development, access, and community, in that order, because the industry access doesn’t matter if you don’t have yourself and your project organized appropriately to take the next step. We’re offering support to help filmmakers thrive. Access to people and industry members that aren’t here in the day-to-day Chicago film economy.

And community, especially community, because the sh—t is really hard. No one is going to succeed as a filmmaker, content creator, or entrepreneur on their own, and stay sane in the process. We want to ensure everyone has the people-support they need to tell incredible stories.

What stories do we have enough of and what do we need more of?
I am always enthusiastic to support whatever story a person wants to tell, as long as its authentic to them. I think we have only scratched the surface in terms of the stories that are out there and the people who are involved. There’s such a rich, diverse plethora of content and voices here in Chicago, beyond the cop-dramas that populate the cable networks.

While that is part of the narrative, I’m really curious about how can we tell new stories and champion the diverse fabric of Chicago. Everyone’s story deserves to be heard, and I want to make sure that, as an organization, we can support all of those individuals – not just the ones who traditionally have had the resources to make it to the top of the pile. What are the stories out there that we haven’t found yet?

What are the exciting things happening in Chicago’s Indie Film community?
I recently saw The Last Shift at Sundance. That was a really wonderful, nuanced story about two characters coming together from different walks of life, and learning to communicate with one another. It was really cool to see that type of humanity and nuance on a big national stage, and it featured a lot of really incredible Chicago crew members. I’m also very excited about Work In Progress!.

What other organizations are you working with?
We have formal partnerships with organizations in the works, and we are actively making sure that we’re not building redundant or repetitive needs that don’t serve the industry as a whole. We look forward to sharing more details soon.

What did people say about Chicago in Sundance?
The most refreshing takeaway for me this year is that there was a budding community of Chicagoans. Perhaps it’s a bit of a new generation on the narrative side, and there’s definitely a strong community on the documentary side. It’s really cool to feel that that community is there and growing, and I look forward to seeing it expand in the coming years.

What do people think of Chicago?
Everyone is friendly and respectful towards Chicago – its clear the city itself is well-liked. However, I don’t think everyone knows the plethora of talent here. At IFA, we’re working really hard to expand that narrative and spread that word on a national level.

For more information about the Chicago IFA, click here.