Inside Full Spectrum Features’ Producers lab

This year Full Spectrum Features launched its Independent Producers Lab in partnership with the Illinois film office, funded in part by the National Endowment of the Arts. Participants in the lab could not stop singing its praises, and the community leaders behind its inception remain committed to expanding the opportunities for Chicago’s independent filmmakers.

“Generally it’s a big move to strengthen the creative core of Chicago, that has so much going for it but doesn’t always seem to get the most resources” said Grace Hahn, one of the producers in the lab whose producing credits include Stephen Cone’s Princess Cyd. For the lab, Grace will be producing Heart of the Trepid, a feature length dramedy by Sadie Rogers that follows a group of friends in their 40s called to take up a 17 year old dungeons and dragons campaign they had never finished. 

Every lab participant has stressed how helpful the lab’s focus on post and distribution has been for their understanding of the industry. Harley Foos, the lead producer for Olivia Lilley’s feature The Snowpeople, an exploration of peer accountability from within Chicago’s own DIY arts scene, weighed in on how the lab has stressed the importance of producers learning to “work backwards from distribution”, really planning what resources the filmmakers will need to execute their distribution plans and how to plan for the long term success of their films.

Another lab participant, Anthony Gibson agreed saying “I definitely didn’t know much at all about distribution or financing going into this, and I’m coming out way more suited to produce things. The biggest part of all of this is the community. I feel so connected to what’s going on in the city now.” Anthony will be producing Love in the City, exploring modern intimacy. The feature represents a huge feat of collaboration with its 9 different writers and two directors.

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The lab’s last participant, Angelic Ross, just won Chicago International’s pitch competition, securing 25k for Kyra Jones’s feature, Go to The Body, a narrative feature tackling issues of sexual assault in the black community. “I think the fact that we already have so much of our film’s long term strategy planned out made our pitch strong and that’s definitely due to the work with Full Spectrum’s lab.”

Gregory Collins is the Director of artist programming at Full Spectrum Features. He had this to say about the lab, “a lot of the film industry is built around this notion of kingmakers and gatekeepers. This program is made to challenge that narrative. This industry really comes down to individuals”. Collins went on to stress the importance that lab participants are “people who understand profitability and who come in with an entrepreneurial mindset.”

While Eugene Sun Park, the Executive Producer at Full Spectrum behind the lab, has high hopes for all of this year’s projects, what’s more important to him is that the lab serve to foster growth for its individual producers. Sun Park explained that while Chicago has a wealth of individuals prepared to step into below the line production management roles frequently demanded by its television and commercial scene, there has been a dearth of Producers able to really take a project through from conception into distribution. “We’re looking for people willing to sit with a project through a 5-6 year period.”

Sun Park wants this program to “shift the exodus from Chicago to LA”, and to “establish the infrastructure needed to cultivate the artistry of the city.”

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