Local indie “Nightingale” returns from Slamdance with top jury prize

Producer Leigh Jones returned from Slamdance invigorated and justifiably excited as the indie feature she produced for director/writer Hurt McDermott claimed the Jury Honor for Excellence in Writing.

The fact their “Nightingale in a Music Box” was one of only 12 screened in the feature category was a terrific honor for McDermott, an established, Jeff-nominated playwright, co-producer Todd Slotten and all the others involved with the “four figure” sci-fi thriller.

After the film was accepted at Slamdance, “We got bombarded with E-mails from distributors and we checked them all out,” said Jones, an indie producer who can usually be found at Bucktown Pictures.

No distributor has signed “Nightingale” yet, but a hopeful sign is the many requests for screeners. “We haven’t quite figured out our plan, whether to host screenings for distributors in New York and/or L.A. or send them screeners,” stated Jones.

Their goal is to remake the movie with a “real budget,” she said. Slamdance drove the point home for her “that it’s possible to make independent films. I try to go to more than one festival a year. They help you become more connected. And it renews my purpose. “You tend to get real comfortable in Chicago, and it’s really harder to make films here than in L.A. or New York.”

So what happens next, now that the writing prize has put them on the indie map? First off, Jones said, “We’re trying to get ?Nightingale’ out into the world,” possibly starting with accepting invitations from Sedona and Boston festivals.

“My hope is that each year Chicago gets a film into a known festival to keep us in people’s minds,” she noted.

Jones admitted that she didn’t see many movies while she was in Park City. “But I did go to cool parties. One was hosted by John Schloss?he’s a huge independent producer’s rep, a very important player. The Kodak party was great, where we met Stephen Beers, another producer’s rep. I poked my head in at IFC.

“I met a lot of other filmmakers and producers. It was a lot of fun, a lot of energy, and I’m ready to start on the next project.”

Jones’ phone is 773/307-8782; see a trailer at www.nightingaleinamusicbox.com