For the past 15 years, the Midwest Independent Film Festival has been showcasing Midwest filmmakers at monthly screenings known as “First Tuesdays.” Over the past two years, MIFF leadership, board members, and volunteers have weathered personnel changes, programming challenges, and attendance ebbs and flows. Now, the Fest is embarking on a major transformation, led by new Executive Director, Erica Duffy.
The transformation starts with a new name — Midwest Film Festival (MFF). According to Ms. Duffy, “It’s a shift that acknowledges our history while fostering a strong brand presence. We will continue to focus on indie filmmakers, and plan to draw from a deep professional pool for our panels and sponsorships. We’re already seeing signs that our collaborators are eager to support this re-brand and re-launch.”
Erica Duffy is a founder and managing partner of Camera Ambassador, a full-service rental and production house based in Chicago. She is also a producer who has worked with clients such as MTV News, Vic Mensa, and Fox’s Empire.
Her ability to connect, lead, and inspire will shore up current operations, attract additional members, and foster new MFF partnerships within the production industry.
Meet Erica Duffy
What is your involvement with the Chicago Indie Film Community? I own and operate Camera Ambassador, which is a Chicago-based camera lenses and lighting equipment rental house. I’m also a producer and I recently finished More Than a Cowboy a series about UFC fighter Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone currently streaming on Amazon and Vimeo.
How did you first get involved with MFF? I was originally just involved as an audience member. I knew a lot of people who were screening at the Festival and I would go to support them. My first official involvement happened a few years ago when I accepted an invitation to join the jury member for the Female Filmmaker Night.
What did you like most about MFF when you were just an audience member? I really loved that it’s a community hub where you not only meet new people but also connect with old friends. Sometimes it was overwhelming because there were so many people to catch up with. And (former President) Mike Kwielford and (former Executive Director) Amy Guth really did an excellent job and gave so much to the festival and they’re also helping with the transition and handing the baton over.
What inspired you to become the MFF Executive Director? Personally, why I was inspired to take this role, is because I wanted the community to see that there is a strong organization to provide a platform for filmmakers in Chicago. I am also excited to enhance the partnerships we have with our sponsors. We’ve added a bunch of benefits in this area, including the opportunity for our sponsors to become involved with our panels. Another benefit is that we can offer sponsors a VIP table for our Best of the Midwest Awards, which means that yes, the BMAs will be returning in December 2020.
Why have you decided to launch a new location and run an all-shorts program? We want MFF to be easily accessible to all Chicagoans. Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark St.) was great, but now we’re more central. We also like the fact that a lot of the schools are within walking distance and we want to partner with them on upcoming programs. We chose the Cultural Center because of its rich history supporting Chicago arts and because the Chicago Film Office is in that building. We’ve been working with (CFO Film Coordinator) Thavery Krouch and (CFO Director) Kwame Amoaku and they have not only been offering full support but also have agreed to co-host our first event on February 22, which will open with a completely free daytime portion including workshops, panels, and networking. It will follow with our first screening, and the theme will be Comedy Shorts (info and deadline for submissions is February 8).
What else is new for MFF? We are featuring all short films for 2020. Each of the screenings will follow a separate theme. We’re doing Comedy Night, Female Filmmaker Night, Advertising Community Night, Union & Indie Passion Projects, and Music Videos. We also have a brand new website and logo created by Plain White Mug — special shout-out to PWM owner Sarah Clark, who also owns Compass Casting. Another big change is that we’re expanding the old ‘First Tuesday’ concept and hosting events on various nights of the week. For this year, there will be seven in total.
What makes Chicago a great place for an indie filmmaker? Chicago is an amazing place for an indie filmmaker to be because the collaboration and mentality of the people working here is, “you do well, I do well.” It’s a creative environment with a lot of support.
Meet the MFF Board
The Midwest Film Festival Board is led by President Will Meyers, Executive Producer at Minimal Productions, based in Chicago. Working alongside Ms. Duffy, the MFF board is making plans to host a day-long Season Opener event on Saturday, February 22. This event will take place at the Chicago Cultural Center and include panel discussions, industry networking, and Comedy Shorts Night, followed by an after-party. Dates are picked for additional themed screenings and events throughout the year. Stay tuned for updates by checking the website, midwestfilm.com, and by following Midwest Film Festival on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.