Free Spirit Media sharpens a thrilling Focus

L’Vaughn Taylor and Melissa 'Boom Boom' DuPrey

L’Vaughn Taylor and Melissa ‘Boom Boom’ DuPrey

The Chicago nonprofit’s
energetic fundraiser
brought media
pros together with
young artists for
an exciting night
at the Ivy Room

Free Spirit Media’s annual Focus event started out as a cocktail reception and turned into a rocking throwdown over the course of three hours last Thursday night. When it ended, the organization had collected over $100K to help hundreds of young Chicagoans gain a foothold in the film industry.

Music, food, drink, and conversation grew along the way.

Free Spirit Media is a nonprofit that helps Chicago students and aspiring filmmakers gain professional film experience. While connecting the participants with a select group of media companies, it creates nearly a thousand pieces of media every year.

The annual Focus event brings everyone together for a celebratory spring fundraiser. According to FSM’s Executive Director Jeff McCarter, it “serves as the unofficial summer kickoff for the media community.”



“This year’s is going to be the most extravagant Focus ever,” he told Reel Chicago last month. “Lots of lights and sounds, but also a diverse, beautiful Chicago scene.”

On Thursday, May 30, his description came to life.

The guests hailed from ad agencies and post-production companies like BAM Studios, Chicago Recording Company, Cutters Studios, DDB, Hootenanny, Leo Burnett, Optimus, Panavision, and Quriosity Productions.

Guests at Focus 2019
Guests at Focus 2019

They were complemented by current FSM participants and alumni who have joined the ranks of media makers like the Block Club and film suppliers like Chicago Studio Mechanics Local 476.

The party began in a leafy green space tucked behind Tree Studios, a red brick facility built more than a century ago to house artists visiting Chicago.

Bars on either end served beer, wine, and cocktails. A buffet in the middle stocked a steady supply of pulled pork, barbecue ribs, grilled root vegetables, and truffle mac and cheese.

After an hour or so, Chicago-based performance artist Melissa Boom Boom DuPrey beckoned everyone to move into the adjacent Ivy Room for the fundraising portion of the soiree. Addressing the garden party from a second-floor window that overlooks the garden, she set a passionate, delightful, and hilarious mood that carried into the main event.

Jeff McCarter and Quriosity Productions Executive Producer Qadree Holmes at Focus 2019
Jeff McCarter and Quriosity Productions Executive Producer Qadree Holmes at Focus 2019

Joined by reporter Maya Horton and filmmaker L’Vaughn Taylor, both FSM alumns, DuPrey turned the donation process into a party unto itself. Telling jokes and personally thanking donors on a stage in the Ivy Room, she gave a warm voice to the scoreboards throughout the venue keeping up-to-date totals of the funds being raised.

FSM Board President and Northern Trust Bank Executive Stacey Bolton also got in on the fun. Explaining why the Chicago institution supports Free Spirit Media before the program’s auction and raffle began, he energized the crowd with a contagious level of charm and charisma.

The music and dancing resumed when the onstage presentation concluded. The food and drink never stopped.



Send your event updates to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton,