REELSCREEN: News & Notes – 08/13/04

WHEW, OPRAH STAYS PUT. The tension’s over as to whether she would or wouldn’t opt out of TV and Chicago at the end of her current contract. But we can relax. Oprah is not going to hang it up after all. Her newly-signed contract will keep her on TV through 2011 ? and assure continuing jobs for the nearly 300 people who work on the show.

By 2011, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” will have been on a full 25 seasons. And they say there’s no indication that the 25th season will be the last. What the extension means, said a TV media guru, is that “Oprah continues to be the wealthiest and most influential woman on TV.” Like we didn’t know that.

STUDIO FIRE.An estimated $100,000 worth of musical instruments were destroyed in a recent fire at Glenwood Studios, CRC’s sister recording studio in Burbank. It seems an an R&B/hip hop band called the Black Eyed Peas was recording an album there and the band left with votive candles burning when they left the studio and some of the gear caught fire.

FIFTEEN HUNDRED GUESTS helped Optimus celebrate its ninth anniversary on a flawless Friday afternoon outside the post house’s Grand Ave. building. “Guests came early and stayed late,” said president Tom Duff. “The industry is feeling strong again and was ready to party.”

TAPPED FOR THE IFP MARKET is co-producers’ Bob Hercules and Cheri Pugh’s “Forgiving Dr. Mengele,” one of 200 docs out of 1,600 entries greenlighted to participate in the big Sept. 19-24 Market in New York. The rough cut is nearly finished, after working on the film for three-and-a-half years, noted Hercules of Media Process Group. The producers hope to pre-sell domestic and international broadcasters at the market, “since we are still trying to raise the finishing funds,” Hercules says.

A KILLER SERIES. Towers Productions is gearing up production this fall for a series of 10 shows about serial killers worldwide. Stuart Cleland was signed for three months to write and produce a show on Rosemary and Fred West, who over a 20-year period killed a dozen or more people. He’ll fly to England later this month for interviews.

INDIE WRITER/PRODUCER LARRY COHEN will be Chicago Underground Film Festival’s guest of honor Aug. 21, conducting an Aug. 20 filmmaking workshop and screening two of his films. Cohen is being honored for his huge body of work for minuscule budgets (“Original Gangstas,” “Good as Dead” “The Wicked Stepmother,” etc.) over the past 30 years. CUFF runs Aug. 18-24 at the Three Penny Cinema. See

LEGENDARY CHICAGO DJ LARRY LUJACK gets his day in the sun with induction into the Radio Hall of Fame. Fellow inductees are National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” anchorman Bob Edwards; Clear Channel Communications’ CEO L. Lowry Mays; Detroit’s morning voice on Oldies 104.3 WOMC; the late Walter Winchell, the pioneer of celebrity journalism. The Nov. 6 ceremony will be held at the Renaissance Hotel.

SINGLE-O. Only one Chicago-area production company was among the 75-winners of the recent Cinema/Chicago INTERCOM competition. Caren Cosby of Oak Park-based Camera Originals accepted two awards for “Snap-on Dealer Insurance Redwood” DVD: a Silver Hugo in the CD-ROM/DVD category and a Gold Plaque in recognition of its originality. (Note to Cinema/Chicago: Drop “industrials” from your categories. No one’s produced an “industrial” for 25 years.)

FUTURE FILMMAKERS. Two PSAs produced by 15 Curie Metropolitan High School students for the Chicago Theatre industry, and a documentary of their filmmaking experience, will screen 6:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Chicago Cultural Center. The students produced the spots as part of a six-week partnership program between IFP and the public schools’ Education to Careers Program. Nicole Bernardi-Reis was IFP/Chicago’s program producer. ”

RADIO’S GLORY DAYS will be revisited Aug. 25 at the Cultural Center at 7 p.m. when the AFTRA/SAG Senior Radio Players perform in “Turn of the Dial” ? slices of shows like Fred Allen, Baby Snooks, Little Orphan Annie and the greatest tearjerker of all, Stella Dallas, while Guy Barila, Bernie Allen and Mercita DeMonk sing old commercials (also heard on hold when phoning Post Effects).