Dreaming Tree shoots HD “revenge remix;” expands teen web series to ten cities in 2005

Dreaming Tree Films continues its combination of heavy-hitting sponsors and teen apprenticeships with a city-funded feature and a major expansion of its Wrigley-financed “Fresh Films” online series.

Next summer the four-year-old Dreaming Tree will expand its “Fresh Films” filmmaking contest series to 10 cities, up from two cities last summer.

Streamed on Wrigley’s winterfresh.com site, “Fresh Films” pitted teen filmmaking teams in Connecticut and Iowa, mentored by Dreaming Tree, against one another in a sort of high school “Project Greenlight” without the studio meddling.

Dreaming Tree founder Estlin Feigley said the series has drawn “27 million web and PR impressions.”

Wrigley has invested $1.2 million in “Fresh Films.” Dreaming Tree is in sponsorship talks with Yahoo, Frito Lay and Pepsi, Feigley said. The online series has drawn interest from Nickelodeon’s teen network N, ABC Family and Telemundo’s Mundos.

“They’re looking at turning it into a TV series, but it’s still very much an online property,” Feigley said. “It’s drawing almost as much revenue online as a TV deal would and showing that the web is a profitable market space for these kinds of programs.”

“Fresh Films” is an extension of “Book of Stories,” a series of 25 teen-oriented “webisodes” that Dreaming Tree launched in 2001 and has streamed on the web sites of 25 TV stations, substantially increasing hits from younger viewers.

In February Dreaming Tree will start production on their HD “Shakespearean revenge remix” under the working title “A Rain of Blood,” funded by their annual $40,000 grant from the tech37 arm of Maggie Daley’s After School Matters program.

Feigley leads a team of professional department heads and ten pro actors, working with 50 students from Farragut and Sullivan high schools who will serve as crew and extras.

“We want to create a professional environment where the students are treated like true apprentices, in the traditional sense of the word,” said Feigley, who directed the 2000 Super 16mm dramatic feature “A Toll Bridge to Iowa.”

Regular Dreaming Tree screenwriter Saundra Mitchell of Indianapolis crafted the “Rain of Blood” script from pieces of “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” and other Shakespeare plays.

“In so many of Shakespeare’s plays he works on similar themes and explores them in different ways,” Feigley said. “In many ways Macbeth and Hamlet and Henry V are different shades of each other. It’s interesting to put them together as if they were the same person.”

The concept emerged from Dreaming Tree’s work with teens over the past several years. “The idea of glorifying revenge comes up a lot,” Feigley said. “Teenagers feel people are always doing them wrong, but when you really talk to them about it you realize they don’t want revenge, they want love.”

Feigley described a semi-contemporary feel for the picture, drawing stylistic inspiration from “Mad Max” and “The Matrix.” “We’ll be doing the Roger Corman thing where three guys and a bush make the Civil War,” he said.

Preston Brown Hoffar is taking over for producer Dave Trachtenberg, who’s moving to Los Angeles. DP is Phillip Jones. Art director, Meriam Salem.

Dreaming Tree is at 1807 W. Sunnyside #2E, Chicago, Ill., 60640. Cast and crew can mail headshots and resumes. See www.dreamingtreefilms.com.

? by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com

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