CMA Digital Studios (CMADS) has created a potentially life-changing opportunity for filmmakers and content creators in Illinois.
The opportunity is open to all Illinois-based artists and, according to a press release, CMA Digital Studios is “encouraging YOU to apply!”
The $50K per show is just a small part of the package.
“All five of these webseries will have the potential to develop their own audience,” says CMADS partner and cofounder, Ted Reilly. “My bet is that authenticity will sell.”
Since 2015, Reilly has been connecting films and funding as the Executive Director of Chicago Media Angels, a group of accredited investors “who all have an appetite to invested in any commercially viable content.” A former investment manager at Goldman Sachs, he has been professionally involved in the film industry since 2009, when he executive produced the documentary, You Are Here.
CMA Digital Studios is a management company that grew out of Chicago Media Angels in 2018. It was founded by Reilly and his partner at Chicago Media Angels, Kelly Waller.
The inspiration for the Content Initiative sprung from Reilly’s experience with Public Housing Unit, an award-winning TV pilot that he co-created and co-executive produced with Angie Gaffney and Patrick Wimp.
Gaffney is a producer and founder of Black Apple Media, a company that has developed numerous features, series and shorts. Wimp, who is co-owner and Creative Director at the production house Digital Hydra, wrote the script for PHU. Both are among the 13-member committee that will review the submissions.
Besides nabbing a shelf full of trophies and the ongoing attention of a few major networks, the process of making Public Housing Unit taught Reilly some crucial lessons that he hopes to share with the Content Initiative’s participants.
“Trying to shop a 48-minute episode pilot to investors is a very difficult thing to do,” he says. “So we had the idea to bundle five shorter pieces together, which still qualifies for the Illinois tax credit.”
In addition to $50,000 and Reilly’s wherewithal, each of the selected webseries will receive CMADS’ support in research, legalities, and publicity.
“The total funds raised for the project exceed $250,000,” he says. “There will be substantially more that will go into marketing.”
Black Apple Media will be the exclusive production partner across the state. Located at Stage 18 — the film incubator within Cinespace Studios — Black Apple literally operates at the center of Chicago’s production community.
According to Gaffney, this adds far more value than any individual or company could offer.
“People always ask, ‘what does it mean to be an incubator,’” she explains. “Inherently, we’re starting to see the process through this initiative. Working with the same people every day, the exchange of ideas comes easier.”
Synergizing the resources of the Chicago film and production industries is a major goal of the initiative.
“The legitimizing factor is not necessarily me or Black Apple, but the selection committee and the artistry and creativity of the community,” she continues. “We wouldn’t be doing this and spending this money if we didn’t believe in everyone and what everyone has to offer.”
As far as the content is concerned, she emphasizes “unique voices” telling complete stories.
“The submissions should be designed for the webseries format, with a beginning, a middle, and an end,” she explains. “But ultimately, content is king, and great stories and great characters will be the driving force.”
Upon completion, the selected projects will reside on the-el.network, a digital magazine launched by CMA in 2018 and dedicated to showcasing authentic Chicago voices in media, art, and culture.
To submit your work or learn more about the Content Initiative, click here.