“You can make a good movie
for $20,000 and
a good film for $100,000,
but you shouldn’t
use the same
script for both.”
Michael Glover Smith
Michael Glover Smith’s Rendezvous in Chicago will make its hometown premiere with four screenings at the Gene Siskel Film Center in February 2019. On the festival circuit, the feature-length film won Best Comedy at the Strasburg Film Festival, will be competing at the Santa Fe Film Festival in February 2019, and has screened at the Adirondack Film Festival in Glen Falls, NY and the Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival in Des Plaines, IL.
Acclaimed filmmaker, critic, author, and professor Michael Glover Smith wrote and directed Rendezvous in Chicago. Women of the Now’s Layne Marie Williams produced the film, along with a crew largely filled with Women of the Now board members, and it stars a predominantly Chicago cast, including the film’s casting director Clare Cooney.
Williams states that as a producer, “You are your team. You are only as strong as your team.”
According to Smith, the Women of the Now team was a “well-oiled machine.”
Clare Cooney, who stars as Delaney in the film, comments, “It was a really lovely energy. They were all wearing these t-shirts so you always knew who was crew, and… it was a very chill set.”
Cooney felt especially comfortable filming the more intimate scenes. “It was nice to have a room full of women.” In comparison to predominantly male sets, it “was a really nice change.”
RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO | OFFICIAL TRAILER
Rendezvous is the final installment in Smith’s “Chicago Relationship Trilogy” (Cool Apocalypse 2015, Mercury in Retrograde 2017), and it especially stands out for its thrift, playful performances, experimental delivery, and according to the crew, for its efficient execution.
Regarding its thriftiness, Smith explains that over the course of making the trilogy, he has “learned how to spend money wisely. In fact, I had two other scripts that I wanted to do that would have required a higher budget level.”
After realizing he couldn’t raise the appropriate funds, he said to himself, “Okay. Either I don’t make a movie in the year 2018 and I wait and try to do the bigger budget thing in 2019, or I make a movie this year that I can do.”
One of the greatest challenges as an independent filmmaker is writing scripts appropriately for their budgets.
Smith states, “You need to tailor the subject matter to your budget, and that is something that a lot of independent filmmakers don’t understand… you can make a good movie for $20,000 and you can make a good film for $100,000, but you shouldn’t use the same script for both.”
Before writing Rendezvous in Chicago, Smith calculated that the most he could likely raise through crowd funding on Seed & Spark was $20,000. After settling on that number he then asked himself, “What kind of film can I make at that budget level that would be worth watching?”
With a month of pre-production, eight days of shooting, and just over a week of editing after production, Smith and company did just that. Rendezvous’ stellar performances demand attention. Smith states that it was his “best experience working with actors.”
“Part of the reason why production went so quickly is because I knew the actors so well,” he explains.
Smith had already worked with actors Shane Simmons, Kevin Wehby, and Clare Cooney on Mercury in Retrograde, and Nina Ganet returns as the character Julie from Cool Apocalypse.
As for Williams and Cooney, both loved working with Smith because of his balance of experimentation, confidence, and communication.
Williams comments, “It’s been amazing watching him and working alongside him in this way because I’ve learned so much, and he’s very communicative. He’s extremely articulate, and he knows what he wants. But he’s also collaborative.”
Cooney remarks, “He’s very confident in his choices… but he’s also open to playing and experimenting.”
In many ways, Smith’s scholarly and critical background is joyfully apparent in the film and his directing style. For example, just like the RGB sensors in nearly every digital camera, the color pallet of Rendezvous goes from red in “Part I: Brothers Karamazov” to green in “Part II: Cats and Dogs” to blue in “Part III: The End is the Beginning.”
Smith tests out film theories in a way that is reminiscent of the thrifty critic-turned-filmmaker methods of the early French New Wave directors, those filmmakers that first made names for themselves with their own film criticism in Cahiers du Cinéma.
Rendezvous in Chicago’s music, camera work, 4:3 aspect ratio, narrative arc, vignette structure, and pacing, along with one of the most unconventional dance scenes in recent memory, all beg to be analyzed in a film theory course and written about in scholarly journals.
After seeing Rendezvous in Chicago, film buffs and general audiences alike will be grateful that Michael Glover Smith chose to make a film in 2018.
For more information on Rendezvous in Chicago, click here.
For updates on screen times at the Gene Siskel Film Center, click here.
Contact Joey Filer at Joey@reelchicago.com or follow him on Twitter @FilerJoey.