Philanthropists to help fund worthy docs in progress

Paula Froehle and Steven Cohen

Chicago filmmakers’ fiction and non-fiction projects will get a boost from Homegrown Chicago, an initiative of the Chicago Media Project, which aims to connect philanthropists with social issue “impact” documentaries.

Homegrown Chicago kicks off Sept. 11 with the screening of Serving Time, director Gary Sherman and producer Phil Koch’s in-progress documentary about Tocco chef Bruno Abate’s culinary training program at Cook County Jail.

The Chicago Media Project was founded after the first Good Pitch Chicago was held here last October, to provide funding to worthy documentaries-in-progress.

It was initiated by Good Pitch Chicago planning committee members Paula Froehle, EVP/academic affairs, Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, which sponsored Good Pitch, and prominent attorney and political activist Steven Cohen.

Their goal is “to continue the groundswell of energy and involvement that was unusual for Good Pitch,” says Froehle.

CMP’s current membership of about 30 consists mostly of philanthropists with an interest in social issue documentary. It plans to grow to a maximum of around 75 members by next year.   

“We’re trying to create an intimacy with their philanthropy,” Froehle says, “to create a dynamic interaction with the support they give, and along with that provide them an opportunity to get involved in a piece of media that can really have a direct impact on society.”

The second Good Pitch Chicago will be held the week of April 13.  Application deadline is Sept. 5.

Many programs and initiatives rolling out

CMP on Oct. 14 rolls out its Justice Initiative and Fall Screening Series, with Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s The Newburgh Sting, about the FBI’s alleged entrapment of four suspects in a synagogue bombing plot in Newburgh, New York in 2009.

The first project funded through the Justice Initiative is Katie Galloway & Kelly Duane de la Vega’s The Return, about inmates released from California prison after voters approved a reduction in sentences mandated by that state’s draconian Three Strikes law.

On Nov. 18, Homegrown Chicago will screen Stephen Cone’s coming-of-age feature Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party, the first narrative film supported by Homegrown Chicago.

CMP’s Leg Up Fund will provide seed funding grants of approximately $5-10,000 to filmmakers of feature docs that might otherwise be difficult to get off the ground, because the filmmaker is less experienced, or the subject may be too controversial for more established funders to risk being the first money in.

And next year, CMP will start up Investing For Impact, a for-profit equity fund, allowing members to invest in a revolving portfolio of projects.

Second Big Table dinner Sept. 23

Last March Chicago Media Project hosted its first Big Table dinner, a more intimate version of Good Pitch. Reps from a single project or fund presented to a room of about 40 people.

The next Big Table, on Sept. 23, will include a pre-announcement of the MacArthur Foundation’s 2014-15 documentary grant recipients.  Then on Oct. 23 they’ll host Chicken & Egg Pictures and Britdocs on Nov. 6.