Borowski self-releasing “Holmes” doc on DVD; two other films in the works

John Borowski has self-released 1,000 signed and numbered DVDs of his hour-long documentary “H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer.” It details the life and exploits of the South Side doctor who stalked the 1893 World’s Fair and shocked the nation when his case came to light.

Tom Cruise’s Cruise/Wagner Productions optioned the adaptation rights last fall to Erik Larson’s 2003 Holmes book “Devil in the White City.” Borowski anticipates that the cachet of his own film will rise in value as the Cruise project develops.

“At that point I may make more money by keeping the rights rather than selling to a distributor ? then I’d have more leverage with Paramount ? maybe they’ll want to include my film as a special feature on the DVD” of the Cruise film, Borowski said.

Borowski is selling the 1,000 special DVDs through his Web site, then plans a first pressing of 5,000 more copies to be sold through retails outlets. He’s still considering whether to sell distribution rights or hang onto them in hopes of a better deal down the road.

He self-financed the six-figure “Holmes” budget through his Waterfront Productions and shot the film from 1999 to 2003, combining reenactments with still photos and news clippings.

It screened at the Chicago International Documentary Film Festival and won the best director prize at Chicago Community Cinema. A screening at the Michigan Avenue Apple store is slated for July.

Borowski’s current project is developing a $100,000 to $200,000 30-minute documentary with grant writer Bill Erbes for the Illinois library system. He plans to hire eight video crews to shoot at libraries across the state on Sept. 11, when the libraries will stay open overnight.

“The libraries have had problems obtaining funding and may be struggling to remain open,” he noted. “This will be a tool for libraries to show how important it is for them to remain open.”

Assuming they raise the necessary funds, the presently untitled piece will be distributed on DVD through the library system, and Borowski and Erbes aim for a PBS broadcast.

Borowski is also in development on his narrative feature debut, “Albert Fish: Cannibal,” a based-in-truth story of a 1920’s killer, planned for a fall or spring shoot.

“I’m trying to appease horror fans and fans of true crime,” Borowski said. “I don’t want to be pigeonholed as a serial killer filmmaker, but it’s a good idea to associate oneself with a project that many people know the content of. I’ve had people in Japan and Sweden e- mail me about Albert Fish and say they’ve heard of these stories, they can’t wait to see something new, something different rather than the kind of retreads Hollywood is bringing out.”

Reach Borowski at 312/494-5711 or see

? by Ed M. Koziarski,