Compete to be “America’s Next Producer”

IF YOU’RE A PRODUCER with what you feel is a dynamite reality show idea, “America’s Next Producer,” wants to meet you Feb. 24, from noon till 4 p.m. at the Ambassador East Hotel.

Magical Elves, executive producers of “Project Runway” and “Top Chef,” is seeking contestants to showcase their talent on the new series for the TV Guide Channel.

Casting producer Danielle Harrington says, “One visionary will emerge from the pack to win the ultimate TV production deal, including $100,000 cash, a production office in Hollywood, and a first-look deal with TV Guide Channel.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re an industry veteran or just out of school, “America’s Next Producer” wants to hear from you.

FEATURE PRODUCTION IS HEATING UP after the deep freeze of the past months with two more features planning to shoot here this spring.

Actor Michael Keaton makes his directorial debut in director of “The Merry Gentlemen,” scheduled to start shooting here March 6 for eight weeks. Newcomer Keith Kupferer co-stars with Keaton.

George Tillman and Bob Teitel are planning to film Dreamworks’ “The Siege of Fulton Avenue” here, although it’s set in Rye, N.Y.

A KEY POSITION AT HI-TIDE MEDIA was filled by <.b> Carrie Holecek VP/ production/executive producer, who returns to the Midwest from L.A. She was formerly VP/production and business development at L.A.’s Post Logic Studios. “I am ready to dive into the Chicago market,” she says.

During her 12 years in L.A., she headed Company 3’s features department, and worked at Technicolor DI and EFilm. Earlier, Holecek worked in Minneapolis at Fallon and Campbell Mithun Esty.

IT’LL BE ESSANAY NIGHT at the Prop Thtr Feb. 25 when Jules Tomko and Wayne Kubacki host employees for a performance of “Sounds of Silents: The Essanay Years.”

In fact, Essanay bought out the 65 seat theatre for the occasion.

“Sounds of Silents,” with multi-media and classic film recreations, is a celebration of the birth of the movies and its early days of Chicago’s famous Essanay silent film studio whose illustrious celluloid stars included Charlie Chaplin, Wallace Beery and Gloria Swanson.

Paul Peditto, a Columbia College screenwriting instructor, is the playwright, Shannon Evans and Scott Vehill directed. The show runs Thursday through Sunday.

CUTTERS added award-winning Nadav Kurtz who had started his career as an assistant there in 2000 before spending five years at Outsider. Among his credits, Kurtz edited and co-produced Malik Bader’s “Street Thief.” Last summer he directed an original stage play and a short film.

At the same time, Cutters hired L.A.-based Peter Tarter, for its Santa Monica office. Most recently Tarter freelanced with Jigsaw.

FORMER DDB STAFFERS have started their own ad agencies. Veteran creative Don Pogany’s is called Sticky, and Vinny Warren and Norm Bilow’s is named The Escape Pod.

ELECTRONIC ARTS AND DEF JAM INTERACTIVE are sponsoring a Def Jam:Icon? tournament Feb. 23, with guest hip-hopper Young Jeezy the Brickyard, 6451 W. Diversey.

THE ENERGIZING REVIVAL of the “The Buddy Holly Story” at the Mercury theatre was directed and choreographed by the multi-talented Janet Louer, a DePaul drama teacher and acting coach.

Josh Solomon, a gifted guitarist who will grow into his acting chops ? he’s only 21 ? has recorded an album “Josh Solomon and the Empty Pockets Celebrate Buddy Holly.” Producer was Leo Burnett music director Ira Antelis, who has composed musicals of his own in the past.

DIRECTOR ROBERT TOWNSEND will return to his native Chicago this summer when he teams with producer Pemon Rami and writer /director Carl Seaton (“One Week”) to film “Of Boys & Men.”

Angela Bassett will co-star with Townsend.

Executive producers are Shebeta Carter and Maisha Parsons of Anointed Harvesters Films.

Townsend and Rami first worked together in 1975 Chicago-made “Cooley High,” which launched Townsend’s long and successful career. “Cooley High” was directed by Eric Monte who recently returned to Chicago under the auspices of Rep. Ken Dunkin.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ILLINOIS! will resume after the moratorium is lifted March 5. Since instituted in 1999 by former treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, LCI funded 16 movies, which in turn fulfilled its goal of providing jobs and adding to the tax base.

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