Creative incubator offers startups a BIG boost

New creative industry incubator 2112 and massive Fort Knox Studios, a recording and music rehearsal center, are hosting a panel discussion Wednesday, June 10 as their opening salvo to grow and unify the visual media industry.

The five-panelist discussion will focus on the current status of Chicago’s independent film scene, which everyone knows is out there, but is undefined.  Discussing the future — ways to elevate and organize the indie section — is where 2112 and Fort Knox intend to change the dynamics.

Fort Knox Studios was started three years ago by co-owners Kent Neilsen and Dan Mahoney, musicians and former entrepreneurs, who acquired the vast, 160,000-sq. ft. old Zenith television set factory in a North Side industrial park.

They now claim it’s “the world’s largest music production and rehearsal facility,” boasting 93 rehearsal suites that can be booked on an hourly basis, and offering ample low-cost office rentals for artists and people on the business side of the music industry.

Last year, the founders established an incubator, called 2112 (the name inspired by an epic Rush song) for music, film and technology startups, under the direction of Scott Fetters, whose resume also includes music and business. 

Neilsen and Mahoney have devoted 20,000-sq. ft. of their vast Fort Knox to 2112, providing startups with cheap office space and access to mentors and programs.

Best of all, as a nonprofit L3C, 2112 will open doors to capital via private investors, grants, partnerships with crowdfunding platforms and eventually it have an internal fund for financing start-ups.

So what better poised, most appropriate and needful place to start recruiting startups than among independent filmmakers, who stand in the midst of plenty but unsure of where to go. 

Fetters anticipates a minimum of 200 creative start-ups housed at Fort Knox Studios by early next year. 

Wednesday’s event will be moderated by IFP president Nicole Bernardi-Reis. Panelists are Brenda Webb, founder/director of Chicago Filmmakers; Kathy Byrne, SAG AFTRA director of TV/theatrical contracts; Josh Chicoine, co-founder, CIMMfest; Troy Pryor, founder, Creative Cypher and Angie Gaffney, founder/producer, Black Apple Media.

Fetters says they plan to hold a series of discussions on creative industry topics as 2112 continues to unfold. 

The evening is free and open to all, at 4255 N. Knox. Meet and greet at 6 p.m., panel discussion 6:30-8 p.m.