Price of lunch exchanged for short films

Sundance and CineVegas programmer Mike Plante bought lunch one day for a filmmaker friend. “Instead of owing me lunch, why not make a film for that same money?” Plante writes in his blog.

Plante and the filmmaker wrote out a contract on a napkin, and so was born “Lunchfilm,” a growing collection of some 50 short films made for the price of a midday meal.

Plante has screened “Lunchfilm” programs at Sundance and at venues across the country. Now embarking on its second national tour, “Lunchfilm” makes its first Chicago stop Jan. 15 at Chicago Filmmakers.

“Rules and ideas based on whatever we talked about at lunch are written on a napkin contract,” Plante writes in his “Lunchfilm” blog. “The overall metaphor is about community. It is very easy to help a filmmaker. Buy one lunch today.”

Amir George, organizer of the local screening series The Film Culture, is co-presenting “Lunchfilm’s” Chicago stop.

“I reached out to Mike Plante a few months back about bringing the program here,” George says. “He informed me he was starting a new tour and had yet to bring the full program to Chicago.”

Two local filmmakers are featured in “Lunchfilm”: Mike Gibisser and Ben Russell, a 2009 Guggenheim fellow, among a roster of directors that include Sam Green (“The Weather Underground,”) Bobcat Goldthwait (“World’s Greatest Dad”) and Azazel Jacobs (“Momma’s Man”).

Plante programmed Gibisser’s feature “Finally, Lillian and Dan” in the 2008 CineVegas Film Festival, where Plante recruited Gibisser for “Lunchfilm.”

“He bought me oatmeal, I think, at a cafe in the Palms Casino in Las Vegas,” Gibisser says. “It was something like $22.”