Kartemquin’s biggest year ever for doc production

Kartemquin partner Gordon Quinn

Kartemquin Films has 15 films in progress and is completing six others this year, making 2014 the acclaimed nonprofit production company’s busiest year ever in nearly a half-century of operations.

“The last few years have been an exciting period of growth for Kartemquin — both in terms of films and organizational programs,” says executive director Justine Nagan. 

“As we look towards our 50th anniversary in 2016, we’re striving to continue to build a sustainable foundation for the organization to continue supporting the work of independent documentary filmmakers,” she says.

In June, Kartemquin wrapped principal photography on the 6-part miniseries Hard Earned, which will run on Al Jazeera America next year.  David E. Simpson and Liz Kaar are editing 250 hours of footage directed by Katy Chevigny, Maria Finitzo, Ruth Leitman, Brad Lichtenstein, and Joanna Rudnick. 

Tim Horsburgh, communications directorHard Earned is Kartemquin’s second miniseries after The New Americans, a seven-hour 2004 PBS series interweaving the stories of five immigrant families.  “That project was nearly the end of Kartemquin,” says Tim Horsburgh, director of communications and distribution.

“It was a huge drain, it was such a mammoth undertaking.  On top of that, they weren’t able to raise the full budget. Going through that process led to strategic planning which then saw Justine and Gordon making the leadership transition to assure Kartemquin lives beyond its creators.” 

Nagan assumed executive producer role in 2008

In 2008, founding partner Gordon Quinn stepped aside from his position as executive director to become artistic director, making way for former Kartemquin intern Justine Nagan to become executive director.

Quinn and Nagan serve as executive producers on all Kartemquin productions

Justine Nagan, executive producerSince then, Kartemquin’s staff has grown from a small handful of employees and interns to a current roster and 12 full-time and three part-time employees and a $1.5 million operating budget, according to latest available figures.

They continue to operate out of the same 1906 house in West

Lakeview where Quinn founded Kartemquin in 1966 with his University of Chicago classmates Stan Karter and Jerry Temaner (the “Kar” and “tem” to his “quin.”)


Friday’s Gala for supporters of social issue documentaries

To allow for all this increased capacity, Kartemquin has worked to increase its base of individual donors, with events like their annual Gala, Sept. 5 at Moonlight Studios, 1446 W. Kinzie St. at 7 p.m.

The Gala will showcase footage from Kartemquin’s many works in progress.  Tickets start at $250, and include drinks, food, and a raffle for a trip to Miami.

“We want people who might come in because of their interest in a particular film to see that Kartemquin is a cultural lynchpin in Chicago, like Steppenwolf or Second City, and support us as institution dedicated to the art of social issue documentary,” Horsburgh says.

Look for part two of Kartemquin’s amazing year of growth and upcoming projects in Thursday’s ReelChicago.com.