The ribbon-cutting ceremony for Chicago Filmmakers’ new Edgewater home featured dedications, activities, and hors d’oeuvres on Saturday April 28. It was an exciting chapter in a story that has and will continue to run for years.
The event began with heartfelt introductions from Founder Sgharon Zurek and Executive Director Brenda Webb.
“Chicago Filmmakers has been in the neighborhood for over twenty years,” said Webb, who founded the Reeling Film Festival during her time with the organization. “But it’s really different when you own a building.”
Since 1973, Chicago Filmmakers has been a nonprofit organization dedicated to offering instruction, collaboration, and support to filmmakers of every age and level.
“We’re all grown up,” Webb added, “and while we will continue to serve our constituency — which is the citywide community of independent filmmakers and film-going lovers — we are proud that now we have a civic role in our community.”
The program moved on with congrats from Chicago Film Office Director Rich Moskal, Chicago Fire star Chris Stolte, Alderman Harry Osterman, and Illinois Film Office Director Christine Dudley.
Then the guests mingled into the renovated, two-story brick former firehouse that is now Chicago Filmmakers’ dream come true.
Among them were Chicago International Film Festival Managing Director Vivian Teng, Chicago Underground Film Festival Founder Bryan Wendorf, Media Process Group co-owner and award-winning documentarian Bob Hercules, Chicks That Pitch founder Erica Mauldin, Über Critic Patrick McDonald, and a whole lot of firefighters who seemed truly psyched that the organization moved into one of their former Engine Companies.
Chicago Filmmakers’ new facility includes a large monitor in an open viewing space on the first floor, and a production studio and post-production suite on the second.
Besides nibbling from an expansive buffet and sipping champagne, people were invited to take part in a live taping of a scripted television show, complete with cameras and a director.
“Chicago Filmmakers has always been cool,” says Moskal. “But for them to have such a beautiful, permanent home … it’s a testament to not only their longevity but also to their role in creating a film community in Chicago.”
Indeed, the structure may be new; but the people who will use it have been together for years.
Salvatore Consalvi became active with the organization nearly a decade ago, when his career as an environmental geologist led him into filmmaking.
“I returned from deep field work in Antarctica with four years of footage and had no idea what to do with it,” he says. “So I came here and started taking classes.”
While working on what would become his first documentary, Consalvi met Bridget Timmerman, a fellow student who invited him to collaborate on an interview with an Oglala Lakota Medicine Man named Sidney Hasnohorses.
During the interview, Consalvi learned that, years ago, the U.S. Government had essentially “taken all the Lakota’s horses” through legislation known as The Pony Act and afterwards “changed the name of Sid’s ancestors to Hasnohorses.”
Consalvi was so impressed with the Medicine Man that he decided to extend the project into a feature documentary. Chicago Filmmakers has become the film’s fiscal sponsor.
“Now people can donate to the film,” explains Consalvi. “Chicago Filmmakers is a 501(c)(3) and they manage the money that comes through.”
The firehouse faces busy Ridge Ave. traffic in front and tranquil Edgewater streets out back. For Joseph Louis — who has “made probably 400 movies” as an instructor for students at Chicago Filmmakers — this location is perfect.
“We used to venture into downtown Andersonville all the time, and there are just so many ways to shoot the same locations,” he says. “Here, we get to do the same thing, but we have a brand new facility — way more square footage, way more diversity of environments — and there’s more for the students to actually photograph and use in their movies.”
Among those taking advantage of his experience is April Gary, a writer, performer, and filmmaker who recently moved to Chicago from L.A. She intends to make a film out of a play named, Tapestry, A Modern Tale in Ancient Times.
“It’s about this ancient woman,” explains Gary. “She lives ten lifetimes, so it’s ten different people, in different parts of the world, and she tells this history story.”
Louis is helping Gary with “all the components of filmmaking.”
“Meeting the right people, understanding the players, getting the right crew, getting the funding,” she says. “Joseph is helping me make this come to life.”
Gary wrote Tapestry as a spoken word poem. It has since become a musical that has played in both L.A. and Chicago. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, she recited the opening lines:
“I’ve created for you a quilt of time.
Its pieces are stitched with history’s threads.
I’ve sewn together lost stories of old and legends you’ve never read…
To learn what happens next, stay tuned to Chicago Filmmakers.
Check out Reel Chicago’s photo album of the ribbon-cutting celebration here.
Contact Editor Dan Patton at firstname.lastname@example.org.