Sikora’s pioneering digital feature on Elgin rock band plays at Film Center

Jim Sikora’s “Rock & Roll Punk” has three December screenings at the Film Center.

Jim Sikora could have had one of the first digital features ever released. If it had ever been released.

Sikora shot “Rock & Roll Punk” on Sony’s then-brand-new VX1000 DV camera in June of 1996. “I’d been following the development of DV Cam, and I was convinced it was going to revolutionize the industry,” Sikora said. “We could capture musicians live, playing their own instruments. Usually you’d have actors playing musicians and it looked godawful, but we were going for realism.”

“Rock & Roll Punk” follows the misadventures of an Elgin rock band on an ill-fated tour. “This film is for the rock & roll working stiff,” Sikora said. “I wanted to show what the foot soldiers of rock & roll go through all the time.”

The picture, which screens Dec. 21, 23 and 30 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, features members of the bands H?sker D?, The Jesus Lizard, The Minutemen, Shellac, Pegboy and Tortoise. Sikora directed from a script by former SST Records head Joe Carducci, who produced through his company provisional.

Sikora spent two years struggling through postproduction, as the development of post technology lagged behind camera innovations. “It’s a question of being so far ahead of the curve that you’re behind it,” Sikora said. “By the time we were finished, all these Dogme films had started to come out.”

“Rock & Roll Punk” premiered at the 1998 Chicago Underground Film Festival, to mixed critical response. “Film critics didn’t get the music part, and music people didn’t get the film part,” Sikora lamented. He and Carducci eventually parted ways, provisional folded, and the film was never released.

Some of the filmmaker’s other work is about to get its chance to reach a wider audience, however. His Carducci-produced “Bullet on a Wire,” also made in 1996, is due for DVD release Feb. 17 from Detroit-based Barrel Entertainment, along with Sikora’s Super 8mm triptych “Walls in the City.”

Sikora has a new project in development, an adaptation of Scott Johnson and Julie Kistler’s nonfiction book “Once There Were Giants,” the story of the sensational 1952 national high school basketball champions of Hebron, Illinois.

Sikora wrote the script with Steven A. Jones, for Sikora to direct and Jones to produce. Jones is best known as the producer of John McNaughton films, from “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” (1986) to “Speaking of Sex” (2001).

“This is the greatest basketball story in Illinois history, probably in the history of high school basketball,” Sikora said. “The is the real ?Hoosiers.’ Although ?Hoosiers’ was a really good movie, it weighed in a little heavy on the syrup. We’re going for John Ford on the basketball court, something more lyrical and austere and classic.”

Sikora is also seeking finishing funds for his most recent feature, “Critics,” which former Chicago Reader critic and Book Magazine editor Adam Langer adapted from his own play.

Sikora expresses a commitment not only to keep making films in Chicago, but to reach untapped local investment sources.

“I know there’s money here, we just have to get some of the people in the business community to figure out what they figured out years about in L.A. and New York, that if you put something into it, it’ll come back to you.”

“Rock & Roll Punk” plays 5 p.m. Dec. 21, 8 p.m. Dec. 23, and 8:15 p.m. Dec. 30 at the Film Center, 164 N. State. Sikora and some of his collaborators will speak at the Dec. 23 screening.

See or Reach Sikora at 773.772.5995 or ? by Ed M. Koziarski,