McDermott’s farce a take on Shakespeare

“BLACK MAIL,” the modern-day take on “Much Ado about Nothing” by Slamdance and Jeff-winning writer director Hurt McDermott, premieres in a three-night run starting Feb. 5 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Taylor Nichols (“Barcelona”) stars in “Black Mail” as a movie theater owner in a flagging marriage whose misinterpreted love letter leads to farcical complications.

Andrzej Krukowski, Kerri Noto and Todd Slotten produced “Black Mail” through Fergus Films. Michael Dunne shot.

McDermott, a playwright whose second feature, the psychological thriller, “Nightingale in a Music,” won the screenplay award at the 2004 Slamdance Film Festival, filmed “Black Mail” at the 3 Penny Cinema just after the Lincoln Park movie house was shuttered in 2007.

“Black Mail” marks a confluence of events that started in 1990, when McDermott saw Nichols starring in Whit Stillman’s directorial debut “Metropolitan” at the 3 Penny.

He was so moved by the indie comedy that he went back the next night, then landed a job at the theater, whose closure McDermott calls “an emblem of what has happened to American indie film.”

McDermott won a Jeff Award for his 1999 play “WarHawks & Lindberghs.” That year he made his feature directorial debut with the comedy “Serious Business.”

New York-based producers’ reps, Cinetic Media, recently acquired digital distribution rights to “Nightingale,” and McDermott is negotiating for “Nightingale” to be included in Dark Matter’s sci-fi compilation series.

“There are so many ways of licensing it now that we have to make sure that we don’t license any of the rights which belong to someone else,” McDermott says.

“Cinetic has been particularly precise about language they want put into the contract to protect the rights they’ve already acquired.”

McDermott is developing “Monteverdi,” with Roger Rees attached to star as the Renaissance composer making his late-life return to the music world.

“Shooting ?Monteverdi’ in Venice is my dream project right now,” McDermott says. He’s in talks with William Christie of Les Art Florrisants to be music director. “This would open up money from European television,” McDermott says.

“Black Mail” screens Feb. 5-6 and Feb. 10 at the Film Center, 164 N. State St. McDermott will hold post-screenings Q&A. See