New CFO initiative gives indie filmmakers a big boost

In an effort to expand and unify Chicago’s growing independent film community, the Chicago Film Office has launched the Independent Film Initiative (IFI) for local filmmakers “to give them assistance and resources that will encourage them to fulfill their media and entertainment careers in Chicago,” says Chicago Film Office director Rich Moskal.

The IFI encompasses a full year filmmaker-in-residence program, in which the Chicago Film Office provides the selected emerging local filmmaker with a $10,000 cash grant, vendor discounts and permits, meeting space and other incentives to aid the filmmaker in producing an original work.

Also included are apprentice opportunities, mentorship from successful local filmmakers and public screenings of short films.

Moskal came up with the IFI as a way for the film office to reach out and better serve the independent community. “We want to make Chicago a place where films are not only made here, but made here by Chicagoans,” Moskal says.

“Indie filmmakers don’t necessarily know they can rely on the city for resources. We’re here to help them solve problems and provide them with assistance and resources they may not be aware of.”

Moskal and Beckie Stocchetti, whom DCASE hired last March are administering the program.

Beckie StocchettiStocchetti is ideally suited for this new position, having been Kartemquin’s director of engagement and programs, which includes its Diversity in Docs, Media Advocacy and social media strategies and similarly was Chicago Filmmakers’ program director. She also worked in Honolulu with the Hawaii International Film Festival.

In joining DCASE, she says, “I was impressed that the city wants to put its full support behind independent film production.”

The size of the indie filmmaker community and amount of their work has been difficult to quantify.

“We have a great but scattered community here,” says IFP/Chicago president and documentarian Nicole Bernardi-Reis. From her perspective, she estimates that 30 indie features and another 30 docs will be made this year.

Moskal agrees with the difficulty in quantifying indie projects.

“Their projects don’t tend to go through the city permit process, by which we keeps tabs on productions that film on city streets,” says Moskal, adding that keeping indie production records will be a key IFI function.

The IFO’s records show 20 indie films were produced in Chicago for each of the past two years.

Residency applications are available starting today

Filmmaker residency applications are available here starting today, June 21, through Aug. 31. The selected resident filmmaker will be announced in October.

The resident also will receive assistance from an advisory team of such established filmmakers as Bob Teitel (“Barbershop” films, “Southside with You”), screenwriter/director Kris Swanberg (“Unexpected”), producer Peter Gilbert (“Hoop Dreams”) and tech specialists AbelCine.

In turn, the resident filmmaker will help mentor five “production apprentices” through a paid training program that provides hands-on production experience and strategic career development to emerging producers who currently lack industry access and resources.

An open call for these apprentice positions will be announced in August.