New Stage 18 Production Partners meet with members

Stage 18 cofounder Angie Gaffney

Stage 18, Chicago’s Film and Media incubator at Cinespace, co-founded by Angie Gaffney, introduced its new Production Partners Program — 16 companies that provide resources and discounts — to its 40 members last Friday night at AbelCine’s showroom at Cinespace Studios.

During the evening, the nonprofit once again delivered on its commitment to building Chicago’s independent film and narrative content community.

In her welcome to the attendees, Gaffney reminded them that Stage 18 not only boasts “the only soundstage on the Cinespace lot that’s available to non-network shows right now,” but it also offers free use of its Cinespace facilities to members “any day of the week” until they move into their brand-new 3,000-sq. ft. office space this September.

Directors, producers, editors, musicians, and caterers elevated conversation to the level of budding success. Daufenbach Camera, Free Spirit Media, Northern Fork Catering, and a dozen other vendors transformed the showroom into an essential networking function. Beer, wine, chicken satay, and mini roast beef moved easily within the high ceilings of the comfortably lit space.

Many of the attendees ReelChicago talked to were praiseworthy about Gaffney’s efforts and what Stage 18 means to them.

One of the new Production Partners, Sarah Clark of Compass Casting, called Stage 18 “brilliant, because it brings together really creative, productive people who are actually pushing forward,” she said.

“There’s none of that ‘hey I’m gonna do this and I’m thinking about doing that.’ It’s people who are actually going through with what they’ve planned.”

Chicago Underground Film Festival co-founder/artistic director Bryan Wendorf said, “The existence of [an incubator] like Stage 18 has been huge for the community. You gotta know your neighbors.” The occasion offered Wendorf a break from his duties at CUFF, which took place in June after receiving a record 2,700 film submissions last year.

Director Layne Marie Williams and actor Hannah Kopen discussed the challenges of making their short film, “Dollface,” about an interracial couple in the 21st century. “There was like a skeleton of the script,” explained writer Williams, “We would take the skeleton and have the actors riff of that.” “It was really freeing,” added Ms. Kopen, who played the lead. “I got to breathe life into this character.”

A creative hub for creative innovators

Among the attendees were DP John O’Shaughnessy, 48HR producer Jerry Vasilotas, writer Vivian Vougiouklaki and DP/editor Troy  OkoniewskiDown the hall, Ericka Mauldin of Chicks That Pitch explained that she and co-owner Michele Santiago partnered with Stage 18 because “it’s a central hub for people who are likeminded creative innovators.”

The duo helps to develop and distribute TV concepts and, she said. “We have about 15 shows on slate right now — three that are happily married to a green light.”

Theater / film director Kevin Hanna anchored the back bar a few feet away. “I hate to sound cheesy and meow meow meow,” he said, “but everyone here is really nice. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this?”

He is currently developing TV pilot “Desensitized,” “about a group of people that work at a diversity insensitivity training company who are all horrible, terrible, racist, and misogynist.”

CIMMfest marketing director Gary Kuzminski explained what the Chicago International Music and Movie Festival does when it’s not hosting one of the country’s fastest-growing cultural celebrations.

Besides helping to put on Chicago Women in the Blues and taking part in the Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP), the CIMMfest crew is helping the Black Harvest Film Festival present “Tear the Roof Off: The untold story of Parliament Funkadelic” Aug. 12 and 13 at the Siskel Film Center.

CIMMfest 2017, he was happy to add, will spark up on 4/20 next year.

See who attended the event at ReelChicago’s Facebook Photo Album.