Out of 32 applicants, Split Pillow’s assembles 7 separate writers, directors for third feature

With third feature “Realization,” Split Pillow continues the evolution of its collaborative film concept as a series of filmmakers build consecutively on each other’s work to build a continuous narrative

“Realization” follows the Exquisite Corpse model of Split Pillow’s earlier features, “The Cliffhanger” and “Brushfires.”

But there are a few refinements. Like Project Greenlight, Split Pillow is working with separate writers and directors rather than writer/directors this time around. And the key creatives are getting paid (albeit a stipend).

“We want to help create an atmosphere that allows artists to stay here in Chicago, and to build an audience for these kind of works,” said Jason Stephens, executive director of Split Pillow and executive producer of “Realization.”

Split Pillow chose seven writers from 32 applicants. Each writer has two weeks to write their portion of the script, building on the work that came before and passing it on to the next writer.

“We selected the seven that we could put in an order that their styles would play off each other in a unique and interesting way,” Stephens said.

Contributing screenwriters are: Locals Samir Salem (“Rose”), Eric Anderson (“Red, White & Blue”), Susan Hubbard (“Lessons for Girls”), Michael Fry (“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”), Debra Weiner (a freelancer for The New York Times, Playboy and others), Sean Jourdan, a “Cliffhanger” director whose “Motorcycles & Mayhem” won best experimental feature at the 2004 Flyover Zone Film Festival, and New Yorker Timothy Michael Cooper (“The Chocolateer”).

“Realizations” dramaturge Aprill Winney

Anchoring the writing process this time is Aprill Winney, a theater director and dramaturge, who was one of the seven women writer/directors who contributed to last year’s “Brushfires.”

Co-artistic director of Disposable Theatre and literary manager and dramaturge for Umalleniay, Winney has worked as a dramaturge for both Steppenwolf and the Goodman.

“Aprill is there to help the writers think about the potential of things other writers are tossing in, and to make sure they have all the tools at their disposal to write the best they can,” Stephens said.

Split Pillow board members selected articles from local and national media to serve as a jumping-off point for the writers. “They tended to be obscure, off-the-wall pieces,” Stephens said. “We were interested in setting a tone that was lighter and a little quirkier than the previous works.”

The “Realization” script is scheduled to finish in late May. Then Split Pillow will pick the seven directors who will build the DV feature on a $30,000 budget. A staged reading and fundraiser is planned for July, and production could begin as early as this fall.

A graduate of Columbia College’s arts management master’s program, Stephens founded Split Pillow in 2003. The Tribune named him a “Chicagoan of the Year” Dec. 26, saying he “provided a national platform for more local talent than any other Chicagoan in the last 18 months.”

Stephens landed Alexander Rojas’ “Cushion” in this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, after the short had been rejected by several local venues. “Cushion” sold out its screenings, and Slamdance selected it to be of 12 shorts on the fest’s 2005 DVD, from the pool of 80 shorts screened at the fest.

“Slamdance treated the filmmakers with a tremendous amount of respect,” Stephens said. “Every movie I saw was fantastic.”

“But I noticed that in Park City, there are parties all over,” he continued, “but nothing set up for Illinois or Chicago filmmakers. We’re committed to make sure Chicago and Illinois filmmakers get the attention they deserve next year. I’m meeting with [Illinois Film Office director] Brenda Sexton about it.”

Split Pillow is also gearing up for their third annual “Challenge” Memorial Day weekend filmmaking event. For forthcoming details see www.splitpillow.com.