Split Pillow launches doc project, shoots Dogme tribute, readies fourth feature, lands video deal

Six filmmakers will each contribute a short documentary about a different Chicago neighborhood to “Chicago360,” production collective Split Pillow’s first foray into non-fiction films this winter.

“We want to try to reflect the Chicago landscape,” said Jason Stephens, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Split Pillow, which runs the annual Memorial Day speed filmmaking Challenge and the “Cliffhanger” series of collaborative features.

“Like with our other projects, we’re looking for people who aren’t afraid to take a risk, jump right in and create something new.”

Split Pillow is meeting with aldermen to identify locations for “Chicago360.” Each documentarian will have 60 days between November and January to produce their segment based on an assigned neighborhood.

“Winters play such a pivotal role in Chicago’s life, but you see so few films shot during those months,” Stephens said. “Chicago360” is set to premiere in late January or early February.

Split Pillow is seeking seven directors to shoot chapters of its fourth collaborative feature, “Realization,” which begins production Sept. 9.

Last spring, seven screenwriters wrote successive segments of “Realization,” a sci-fi comic love story about a tour guide at a physics lab trying to live up to the standards of his physicist father.

“Realization” reflects several variations on the “Cliffhanger” style: the segments won’t necessarily be directed by their writers; dramaturge Aprill Winney provided a unifying influence on the script; and the seven directors will shoot their segments in parallel, rather than in sequence.

“Each director will have complete autonomy over the chapter they’ll shoot,” Stephens said. “We want them to be as different as possible, stylistically. If you’re not taking that risk, what’s the point of having multiple directors? It’s a story about faith and parallel universes, so it’s a story that’s suited to this approach.”

Split Pillow pays tribute to the 10th anniversary of Dogme 95 with the third “Cliffhanger” film, “Sensory,” a Dogme-style feature shooting through Aug. 9, with each chapter based on one of the five senses.

“We’re utilizing the rules of Dogme, with all handheld camera and only natural, on-location lighting and sound,” Stephens said. “This is our way of saying, Dogme was a movement that launched the whole digital revolution in filmmaking. Each of the five filmmakers is someone who has been inspired by the movement.”

“Sensory” includes: “Touch” by Alexander Rojas (Slamdance selection “Cushion”); “Hear” by Daniel J. Pico (World War II drama “Two Days in Limbo”); “Smell” by Split Pillow youth outreach coordinator Mary Felice; “See” by Chicago Short Comedy Video and Film Festival coordinator M.T. Cozzola; and “Taste” by Dennis Belogorsky (the Johnny Frigo doc “With the World on His String”).