Independent Production Roundup

CRAIG JAMES PIETROWIAK of Squid Brothers and Scott Preston of American Stonehenge Films are joining forces to co-produce two back-to-back HD features next year.

First up in spring is Pietrowiak’s under-$75,000 “Wrigleyville,” a coming-of-age ensemble drama that he’s been developing as a TV pilot. He plans both feature-length and hour-long cuts, “to maximize exposure.” Financing is from retired People’s Gas employee, E.P. Patrick Hogan.

Then, with an eye toward keeping the same crew and gear working continuously, Preston will direct “Six and Stones,” a caper comedy about the aftermath of a diamond heist, for $100,000. Script is by retired New York City police officer John Pizzo. Preston is self-financing with E.P. Israel Ramos. Both films are currently seeking cast and crew.

Pietrowiak directed the features “I Promise, I’ll Never” (1999) and “Experimental Me” (2000). Preston, owner of the Ginbucks bar in Wicker Park, made the horror comedy “Route 666: The Mother Road” with Chad Wilson in 2002. See www.squidbrothers.com or call Preston at 773/255-2606.

Dave Miller and Juan Frausto

JAIME MARSCAL directs his debut feature “Welcome Back to the Barrio” for Mindlight Films. Mindlight’s “Once Upon a Time in the Hood” sold this year to Breakaway Films for video release and HBO Latino for TV. “Hood” producer Dave Miller and director Juan Frausto are producing “Barrio.” Mindlight is based in the Sangamon Street Studio building, the former Orbis facility at 100 S. Sangamon. See www.mindlight.com.

“Puzzle Love”

HAROLD R. CALDWELL is self-distributing the DVD of his debut film, the family drama “Puzzle Love,” through his Storybox Productions. “Puzzle Love” stars Brandyze Stanley, Wylie Blanchard, Derrick Anthony and Tamberla Perry. DP is Joe Farris of Visions of Light. Editor, Jeff Rubin. Music, Shawn Wallace. Costumes, Prisilla Williams. See www.storyboxproductions.com.

ROB RUIZ is in postproduction on “Gigs,” the DV feature he directed last summer in Humboldt Park for his Ambassador Entertainment. “Gigs” is a Puerto Rican family drama set against the worlds of boxing and salsa dancing. Call 773/384-6100 or email ruiz_empire@yahoo.com.

MICHAEL SMITH is set to direct the DV feature “The Minx” next year. “It’s a modern day Robin Hood story about a female master thief who robs from large corporations by night and gives the money to homeless people on the streets of Chicago,” Smith said. Email mikeygsmith@gmail.com.

VICTOR GREYWOLF is shooting a short based on two pivotal nights in his standup career. Nov. 17 at the Biograph Theatre and Dec. 12 at the Palatine Public Library. See www.victorgreywolf.com.

Premieres and screenings of new indie films

“Video Babylon”

USAMA ALSHAIBI, director of the Z Film Festival, screens “Video Babylon” Saturday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State. The program includes two or Alshaibi’s own shorts shot in his native Iraq this year, and “Bombshell: Iraqi Secret Videos and Artifacts from a Fallen Regime,” a collection of material he collected there. See www.dancehabibi.com.

“Sangam”

PRASHANT BHARGAVA’s Sundance-selected short “Sangam” has its local premiere Sunday, Nov. 21 at 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. at the Film Center. Hesh Sarmalkar stars in the 25-minute Super 16mm piece about an encounter between two Indian immigrants on the New York subway.

A Chicago native, Bhargava is a spot director and title designer. Chicagoans on the film include producer Mark Mann, co-producer Anurima Bhargava, AP Sebastian Derencourt, co-DP Jay Silver, actor Ernest Perry and still photographer Robert Bailey. Bhargava and Sarmalkar will attend. See www.sangam.tv.

GERARD JAMROZ screens a trailer for his new DV feature “Chicago Poems” in an event featuring performances by musicians and actors from the film. Sunday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. at The Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont. See www.chicagopoems.com.

Christopher Hyatt

CHRISTOPHER HYATT’s debut feature “Eye of Cruelty” has its local debut Friday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. at the Film Center. Hyatt, who shot the film here in 2001, won best director at the International Festival of Horror in Cincinnati last October. He describes the black and white, dialogue-free (not silent) surrealistic horror pic as “George Romero for a Maya Deren audience.” Starring Christopher Maag and Kiersten DeBrower, “Eye of Cruelty” centers on an agoraphobic cartoonist who witnesses a murder outside his apartment. Hyatt is at work on his followup feature, “The Pet.” Hyatt will attend the screening.

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