Independent Production Roundup

HURT McDERMOTT has taken home another screenplay award for the dystopian thriller “Nightingale in a Music Box,” which he wrote and directed, the first feature for the distinguished playwright.

“Nightingale” just picked up the best script honor at the Brooklyn International Film Festival, following a similar award at last year’s Slamdance Film Festival. Kelley Hazen, Catherine O’Connor, and Andrzej Krukowski star. Todd Slotten and Leigh Jones produced.


Harry Lennix

ACTORS HARRY LENNIX AND IRMA P. HALL are attached to “Mahalia!” the rags-to-riches story of Mahalia Jackson, gospel pioneer and Civil Rights activist, which has begun preproduction by Joyful Noise LLC.

Budgeted at $10 million, the independent feature will be filmed in 35mm in Chicago, where Jackson lived most of her life.

The period film covers the diva’s life from 1930, when she came to Chicago from New Orleans, to 1968. Jackson’s story has never been told on film before.

Screenplay was written by Ruth L Ratny; executive producers are John Robinson, formerly manager of Allstate’s in-house AV department, and producer/director Jim White. Harrise Davidson, former talent agency owner, is associate producer and Sharon King is casting director.

Robinson said four major movie directors, three of them former Chicagoans, are reading the screenplay.

Unique to the project are two former Jackson employees serving as consultants on the movie. Dr. Charles Clency, a music professor and Mahalia’s organist, is music consultant, and Jerome Burks, her personal assistant, is historical consultant.

Producers have scheduled early 2006 as the start date of principal photography.

WOMEN IN FILM FOUNDATION gave writer-producer Rosie Vargas Goldberg the final push to complete her debut feature “Bloom.” It was chosen as one of nine projects nationwide to receive a Film Finishing Fund grant, an undisclosed amount paid for by General Motors.

Vargas Goldberg said the grant will cover the final HD master, DigiBeta screening tapes and festival submissions.

The $120,000-$140,000 HD drama shot here last summer under the banner of Vargas Goldberg’s Whatever Films. It was her first foray into filmmaking after several years as a stay-at-home mom in Lincoln Park.

“The Promise Keeper”

MARTIN WHITEHEAD has locked picture on his debut feature “The Promise Keeper.” The Seattle filmmaker shot here last summer, largely at law firm Albert & Whitehead, where his brother, executive producer Gregory Whitehead, is a partner.

Ric Walker, Ric Arthur and Terrina Reese star as law partners who come into possession of a cursed African nail fetish that violently holds them to their promises. Lakeisha Woodard co-stars.

John W. Bosher, Kate Grady and Sabrina McClure produced. Jeremy Bird edited. Bo Hakala shot on HD. Crew includes fellow EP Jocelyn Cooper, casting director Elliot Domalewski, and art director Kendra Rasmussen.


PRODUCERS BOB HERCULES of MPG and Cheri Pugh’s feature-doc, “Forgiving Dr. Mengele,” obtained a total of $26,000 in finishing funds from the Seligman Family Foundation of Detroit, Kodak’s Eastman Fund, and the Korber Foundation of German.

International sales agent CS Associates has been shopping the doc at the Cannes Market. Hercules said they aim for a North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September.

Dale Chapman

DALE CHAPMAN’S comedy short “Dawn of the Celebrity Dead” was selected for National Lampoon’s nationally syndicated series “Comedy Night School,” which is broadcast locally on Comcast cable Ch. 53, early Tuesdays from midnight to 1 a.m.

Chapman teaches at Columbia College and produces the sketch comedy series “We’re Geniuses in France,” which runs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on cable channel CAN TV19. His short “Anguish” will be featured in the Chicago Short Comedy Video and Film Festival July 28 at the Music Box Theatre.


THE ACADEMY FOUNDATION, the educational wing of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has announced its latest round of $500,000 in grants.

Local programs that will benefit include: The Community Film Workshop’s production training ($6,000); IFP/Chicago’s Project Involve program, which connect filmmakers with young students ($5,000); and Columbia College’s semester in Los Angeles.


Kate Mortimer, Greg Beam and Matthew Doxtad in “All This Murky Green”

HARMONY JOYRIDE PRODUCTIONS has self-released the DVD its 40-minute comedy short “All This Murky Green,” which debuted earlier at the Highland Park Theatre.

Partners Tim Ferrin and Ryan Wolff directed from a script by partner and producer Justin Peters. Greg Beam stars as an electronics salesman who is lured into his co-workers crime-investigating hijinks. Peter Ferry, Kate Mortimer and Matthew Doxtad co-star.

Harmony Joyride is at work on projects for the Bloodshot and Trailer record labels, and has a couple more independent comedies in the works.


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