Industry Days schedule and keynotes at Chicago International Film Festival

The 58th Chicago International Film Festival, presented by Cinema / Chicago, announced the program and schedule for Industry Days, running October 13-16.

Now in its 8th year, the four-day conference is the Festival’s hub for filmmakers and professionals to connect, share ideas, and find inspiration. 

“By bringing the film community together in Chicago, Industry Days has become an important meeting place for emerging filmmakers from the Midwest, and Festival guests from around the U.S. and the world, to connect directly with prominent creatives and major decision-makers,” said Industry Days Senior Programmer Anthony Kaufman. “We are particularly excited to be back in person where more meaningful and substantive interactions and networking opportunities can take place.”

This year’s Industry Days will feature several discussions with distinguished guests, including a Master Class with Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky, whose latest film THE WHALE screens as a Special Presentation at this year’s Festival. As part of the Festival’s Sound on Screen program, Industry Days will also host two Master Classes with celebrated composers Mychael Danna, the Oscar-winning composer of LIFE OF PI among many other lauded films; and Kris Bowers, the Emmy-winning musician and filmmaker, known for his work on the films KING RICHARD and GREEN BOOK and the series MRS. AMERICA and BRIDGERTON, in addition to his forthcoming project, Searchlight Pictures’ CHEVALIER due in 2023. 

Sara Murphy, the Oscar-nominated producer of LICORICE PIZZA and IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, will participate in a special pre-Industry Days conversation about creative producing and pitching projects, which will take place on Friday, October 7, as part of the Festival’s Chicago Industry Exchange Lab program. For more information on this event, visit chicagofilmfestival.com/event/how-to-pitch-your-project/.

Other Industry Days highlights include a conversation between Oscar-winning screenwriter and Steppenwolf Theatre Member Tarell Alvin McCraney (MOONLIGHT) and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Kemp Powers (ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI, Pixar’s SOUL); a production and financing panel headlined by Dan Steinman, co-president and COO of independent film powerhouse 30WEST, the media investment firm and studio behind such hit projects as Oscar winners I, TONYA and FLEE, and the blockbuster series TIGER KING and FYRE; and a panel discussion with trailblazing executives from premier production companies, including Dana Gills from Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions, Ada Chighana from Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, and Greta Talia Fuentes from Charles D. King’s MACRO Film Studios. 

Since its inception, Industry Days has hosted an impressive lineup of film executives, entertainment professionals, and major talents, including Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen, Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan; Oscar-nominated composer Terence Blanchard; producers Dede GardnerBrenda Gilbert, Ted Hope, Gigi PritzkerJames D. Stern, and MACRO CEO Charles D. King; and veteran distribution executives Michael BarkerRichard Lorber, and Tom Quinn

The full schedule for Industry Days panels and conversations at the 58th Chicago International Film Festival is below. Industry Days will also feature networking mixers and roundtable meetings with top executives from the entertainment industry. Please check the website for more information and further updates. Speakers are subject to change. 

Thursday, Oct. 13

Location: AMC River East 21 | 322 E. Illinois St.

5 PM – 6 PM | Minding the Gap: Navigating a Career in Chicago’s Film/TV Industries – Presented by Illinois Production Alliance

With the explosion of streaming content, Chicago and Illinois have become a major production hub, hitting a record last year in revenue generated from major productions shooting in the city and the state. What are the various positions that exist and how do crew and craftspeople land the jobs that sustain a career? And is it easier or harder in the pandemic-era to stay in the Midwest? The area’s most prolific and hardworking below-the-line talent speak out.

Panelists: DeShawn Bowman (Make-up Artist), Jami Primmer (Production Designer/Art Director), Nick Rafferty (Location Manager), Marci Rodgers (Costume Designer)

Moderated by: Christine Dudley (Illinois Production Alliance)


Friday, Oct. 14

Location: WoodWind | 259 E Erie St 18th floor 

11 AM – 12 PM | Deep Impact: How to Craft and Fund Stories That Make the World a Better Place 

Media is one of the most powerful tools we have to raise awareness for issues that matter to us, from social justice to climate change. How do content creators and documentary filmmakers translate their message into effective stories that will get financial support and reach a wider audience? What are funders looking for and how can creators harness their financial or philanthropic support? And how can storytelling—either documentary or fiction–empower audiences and make a positive impact on our society? Funders and filmmakers offer tools, strategies, and advice.

Panelists: Jill Tidman (The Redford Center), Whitney Spencer (Kartemquin), Paula Froehle (CMP)

Moderated by: Yvonne Welbon (Sister in Cinema)

1 PM – 2 PM | Side Effects: Independent Filmmakers Can Use Visual FX, Too! 

Presented by Adobe

Chicago filmmakers Alex Phillips (ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS) and Alex Thompson (ROUNDING), both of whom are screening their films at this year’s Festival, and local experts from companies Carbon and Sarofsky discuss the ways in which VFX can help creators realize their inspired visions, and the tricks and tips on how to do it on a budget.

Panelists: Alex Phillips (ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS), Alex Thompson (ROUNDING), Michael Sarabia (Carbon VFX), Stefan Draht (Sarofsky)

Moderated by: Spencer Parsons (Filmmaker)

3 PM – 4 PM | The Color of Money: Meet the Financier-Producers 

Financing and sales experts from some of the most important Hollywood-based and independent film companies give it to you straight on the current funding landscape for independent films, navigating agencies and packaging talent, and the viability of film markets and festivals in helping those projects become a reality.

Panelists: Joshua A. Foster (Cinetic Media), Dan Steinman (30WEST)

Moderated by: Dana Harris-Bridson (IndieWire)

4:30 PM – 5:30 PM | Disabling Comedy: Humor That Dares to Go There

Co-presented by The Second City

Mental illness isn’t funny, but comedians have always mined their own psychological challenges for laughs. Alex Heller, at this year’s Festival with THE YEAR BETWEEN, which hilariously chronicles her own bout with bipolar disorder, joins comedians and others in the comedy industry to discuss the challenges of balancing humor and mental health, and how comedic storytelling can broach difficult topics and reach audiences in ways that other mediums often can’t.

Panelists: Alex Heller (THE YEAR BETWEEN)Anne Libera (Columbia College, The Second City), Kellye Howard (Comedian, Actor), Jen Ellison (The Second City)

Moderated by: Kelly Leonard (The Second City)


Saturday, Oct. 15

Location: Woodwind | 259 E Erie St 18th floor 

10:30 AM – 11:30 AM | Critical Stories for Critical Impact: Black-Run Media Companies

Presented by SAGindie

Featuring representatives from distinguished Black-owned and Black-run media companies addressing sustainability in the industry and the power of independent storytelling, this panel will explore the ways in which these executives are breaking through the industry, and paving the way for a new generation of creatives and leaders.

Panelists: Dana Gills (Monkeypaw Productions), Ada Chiaghana (Higher Ground Productions), Greta Talia Fuentes (MACRO Film Studios)

Moderated by: Troy Pryor (Creative Cypher)

12PM – 1PM | Tarell Alvin McCraney and Kemp Powers: Writing Trauma and Transformation

Acclaimed writers Tarell Alvin McCraney, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of MOONLIGHT, and Kemp Powers, the Oscar-nominated scribe of Pixar’s SOUL and ONE NIGHT IN PARIS, discuss bringing the Black experience to life and the challenges of creating meaningful work that fosters healing and transformation.

Panelists: Tarell Alvin McCraneyKemp Powers

2 PM – 3 PM | Composing Master Class with Mychael Danna 

Join us in a special conversation with Mychael Danna, Academy Award-winning film composer behind LIFE OF PI as well as MONEYBALL, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, and (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. Known for his evocative blending of non-western traditions with orchestral and electronic music, Danna will discuss working with Award-winning directors such as Ang Lee, Marc Webb, as well as working on animated features such as THE ADDAMS FAMILYand Pixar’s THE GOOD DINOSAUR and ONWARD. Most recently, his work includes STILLWATER, RETURN TO SPACE, and WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING.

Moderated by: Kubilay Uner (Columbia College, Composer)

3:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Sloan Salon

De-fueling the Crisis: Storytellers and Scientists on Climate Action 

Co-presented by: Film Independent

From the Marvel Universe to AVATAR, the new KNIVES OUT mystery GLASS ONION to independent films, filmmakers and storytellers everywhere are grappling with our current climate change and global energy crises. From science-fiction fantasies of utopian alternative fuel sources to riveting stories of eco-warriors fighting against the fossil fuel industry, are these useful ways to think about avoiding global catastrophe? We discuss the latest scientific developments on the horizon, from geoengineering to nuclear fusion, and address the role of environmental activists who want change now, alongside or outside of the science.

Panelists: David A. Archer (University of Chicago), Daniel Goldhaber (HOW TO BLOW UP A PIPELINE)

5 PM – 6 PM | Master Class with Darren Aronofsky (AMC River East 21)

Join this special master class in directing with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. His upcoming film THE WHALE for A24 stars Brendan Fraser, Sadie SinkHong Chau, and Samantha Morton. Aronofsky wrote and directed 2017’s mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. Before that, Aronofsky made the 2014 box office hit NOAH, starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Anthony Hopkins. In 2010, Aronofsky received a Best Director Academy Award nomination for his indie box office phenomenon BLACK SWAN starring Natalie Portman, who won a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance. 2008’s THE WRESTLER starring Mickey Rourke won the Golden Lion for the best film at the Venice Film Festival. Previous to that were the acclaimed and award-winning films THE FOUNTAIN (2006), REQUIEM FOR A DREAM 2000), and π (1998). Up next, he serves as producer on THE GOOD NURSE, Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne, and an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s masterpiece KINDRED from FX. Aronofsky executive produced the upcoming LIMITLESS, starring Chris Hemsworth for National Geographic. His first book, “Monster Club,” written for middle school readers, was released September 13.

Moderated by: Anthony Kaufman


Sunday, Oct. 16

Location: WoodWind | 259 E Erie St 18th floor 

1:30 PM – 4 PM | The Pitch 

A curated selection of filmmakers with new narrative projects in active development will take part in a competitive pitch session. The winning project will receive an awards package of in-kind services from Chicago-area production facilities and organizations—to include consultation, production, and post-production services. 

Pitch Host: IFA Chicago

Pitch Judges: 

Gigi Pritzker (Madison Wells)

Brenda Robinson (Executive Producer)

Greta Talia Fuentes (MACRO Film Studios)


Saturday, Oct. 22

Location: AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois St.)

3:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Composing Master Class with Kris Bowers 

Join us for a publicly moderated Master Class with Kris Bowers, an Emmy Award-winning composer, musician, and filmmaker at the forefront of an emerging generation of genre-defying composers and multi-hyphenate creators. Famed for honoring his jazz roots while incorporating alternative and R&B influences into his work, the Juilliard-educated pianist has composed music for such films as DEAR WHITE PEOPLEGREEN BOOKTHE UNITED STATES VS BILLIE HOLLIDAYRESPECT, and KING RICHARD, as well as television mini-series WHEN THEY SEE US and MRS. AMERICA, both of which earned Emmy nominations for Outstanding Original Dramatic Score. Bowers also received Emmy nominations for his score and theme music for the hit Netflix series, BRIDGERTON. Forthcoming, he provided the score for Searchlight Pictures’ CHEVALIER due in 2023. 

For more information, visit the Industry Days website at chicagofilmfestival.com/industry/.


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