CFWC to host 50th Anniversary Industry Mixer Nov 6th

Community Film Workshop of Chicago (CFWC) in collaboration with Melanated in America, will kick-off a yearlong celebration of its 50th Anniversary with an Industry Mixer.

Saturday, November 6th at Harriet Harris Park, 6200 S. Drexel Avenue, from noon-2pm.

Prolific novelist and activist James Baldwin once stated, “Not everything is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.” This quote speaks to the foundation that the Community Film Workshop of Chicago (CFWC) was built upon 50 years ago. 

Founded in 1971 by the Community Film Workshop Council of New York, the American Film Institute and the Office of Economic Opportunity, the Chicago Workshop was headed by the late Jim Taylor, who recognized in the 50s and 60s that the motion picture industry was not in the business of hiring Blacks. CFWC is one of the two surviving workshops established in the 1970s. 

Known as ‘JT,’ Taylor embraced the entire media community and offered 16mm film training for minorities and the disadvantaged. In the rigorous 12-week production class, each student produced two short films. The Community Film Workshop established an environment where people of color and women, news camera operators, editors, producers, and the technical crews on television, commercials, feature films, and independent media projects got their start. 

Taylor mentored three generations of photographers, filmmakers, media technicians, cultural workers, arts administrators, as well as teachers and college professors in Chicago and nationally. His disciplined and nurturing style anchored the core values of the organization. 

The resiliency of the organization was undergirded by the leadership of Taylor and Margaret Caples, Taylor’s wife and CFWC’s Executive Director. Caples continues her late husband’s philosophy of hard work, creativity, and personal accountability. CFWC’s programs attest to Caples’ commitment and stewardship to the community. 

“Jim’s vision for the Workshop was for it to be an institution that not only educated and advocated for People of Color to get jobs in the film industry, but to enable them to produce and distribute their own films. That is why he established Cinema Video Concepts to help CFWC graduates develop experience, a portfolio and produce their own films. 

“Despite the resistance from the outside sources, Cinema Video Concept laid the foundation for many graduates to preserve and succeed in their film, art, advocacy, teaching, mentoring and lifelong careers,” shared Caples. 

For 50 years, the CFWC, often referred to as ‘The Workshop,’ has successfully implemented summer youth programs, citywide career days, visiting artist programs, equipment/facility access grants, co-sponsored a national media arts conference, and co-sponsored neighborhood film festivals, including, “Self Portraits: Minorities in Film.” These festivals were the forerunner of many of the existing ethnic-specific film festivals. 

Core to the Community Film Workshop’s programming has been its intensive hands-on training program: 

  • • For 26 years, Youth In Motion has given 8,000 youth (ages 14-18) the opportunity to create group videos. 
  • Diverse Voices In Docs is a professional development and mentoring workshop for documentary filmmakers of color, co-founded by Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop. This is the tenth year of the program. Over 100 fellows have completed documentary features, series and short docs, entered 75 festivals and received 40 awards. 
  • Reel Black Filmmakers’ workshops have included rough-cut and premiere film screenings, project collaborations and presentations from Chicago’s African-American film professionals. 
  • • CFWC is a community partner in the Digital Storytelling Initiative of the Reva & David Logan Center for the Arts and the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. CFWC developed the Production Institute in 2019. The aim is to provide skills enhancements and engagement of South Side artists telling stories of the rich life and culture of the South Side and its institutions. 

Derek Grace, founding member of Reel Black Filmmakers and lead instructor for the Digital Storytelling Initiative, has been instrumental in enhancing the skills of talented South Side filmmakers. 

“Over the course of only three years, 30 filmmakers have produced 30 unique stories about the South Side of Chicago. I’m proud of their level of commitment and determination. I’m pleased that they worked collaboratively at every phase of the production process to ensure that their voices are heard. I anticipate that these filmmakers will continue to enlighten us with culturally rich and diverse stories.” 

The Workshop’s spirit created a collaborative environment that acknowledged respect for the culture and individual creativity as evidenced by Gordon Quinn, founder and artistic director of Kartemquin Films. 

“When we began to think about what became Diverse Voices In Docs, I immediately suggested the CFW and Margaret to be our partner. Margaret and Jim and the CFW have been a force in Chicago media for 50 years, and many of the diverse professionals in our field got their initial training at the CFW,” Quinn reflected. 

Quinn added, “Margaret has also been a leader in media policy issues that serve our community. She was the first Chicago representative on NAMAC (now The Alliance), served on the first board of Chicago Access Corporation, and has helped to lobby and fight for arts funding and diversity in both commercial and public media. The CFW is a Chicago treasure.” 

Saturday, November 6th at Harriet Harris Park, 6200 S. Drexel Avenue, from noon-2pm. Registration is required. To register, go to:

CFWC will conclude its 50th anniversary celebration in September 2022. For a complete calendar of events and additional information on CFWC:

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