High Level Video owner Chip Eberhart revisits his House Music roots in doc “Unusual Suspects”

Chip Eberhart is out to set the record straight about the music he helped create.

Eberhart, who runs the post house High Level Video, was one of the pioneers of Chicago House Music in the 1980’s as Chip E.

Now a commercial and music video director, editor and DVD author, Eberhart decided to revisit his musical roots after seeing the BBC documentary “Pump Up the Volume: A History of House Music.”

“They tried to write themselves into the story, when clearly House Music is a Chicago story,” Eberhart recalled. “I said, somebody is going to have to get the story right, and I guess it’ll have to be me.”

Eberhart’s authoritative retelling of House Music history, “Unusual Suspects: Once Upon a Time in Chicago House Music,” has its U.S. theatrical premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center Aug. 21, after a free screening Aug. 19 at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Eberhart grew up in the post-disco, nascent pre-house club scene of the early 80’s. “Disco had just been killed by Steve Dahl, but Italy hadn’t heard that disco was dead,” Eberhart said.

“They were sending us this Italian disco that was more synthesized electronic dance music. We DJs were picking up on that. We saw how through electronic music we could keep the feel of disco going.”

In “Unusual Suspects,” Eberhart showcases his musical contemporaries whose innovations transformed dance music culture worldwide, from House legends like Steve “Silk” Hurley and Frankie Knuckles to numerous less-known luminaries.

“I made a decision early on to divest myself from being in the movie because I didn’t want anyone to think it was the Chip E. story, although I was an integral part of it,” Eberhart said. “It was more important to me that the unsung heroes who don’t usually get mentioned, the unusual suspects, have their five minutes of fame.”

Eberhart, who shot and edited, integrates associate producer Kimmie Smith’s interviews with rare archival footage of clubs like the Warehouse, the Power Plant and the Music Box where House Music was born.

Eberhart and Smith founded Chicken Lunch Films to produce “Unusual Suspects.” The doc has screened at independent theatrical bookings in Brussels, London and Glasgow. It played to a standing room only crowd last January at the HotHouse. Eberhart said he’s weighing a few distribution offers, and expects a DVD release this fall.

He first got into editing to package the hours of amateur auto racing footage he’d been shooting in the 90’s, and founded High Level Productions five years ago. With two employees, High Level provides creative editorial for film, video, commercials, music videos and concerts, and DVD authoring for film and music. Clients have included James Brown, Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and 2Live Crew.

Eberhart is former president of the Chicago Final Cut Pro Users Group and still sits on the board. He’s president of the DVD Association Chicago chapter and a member of the Association’s international board. He’s at work on a feature screenplay he plans to shoot next year with DP David Moravec.

Email chip@time2jack.com.

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