Sunday’s Film Summit & Expo earns 4 stars all around

SRO for all panel discussions

In no uncertain terms, Sunday’s Film Summit & Expo was a rousing success – and a somewhat surprising one given the short time frame the organizers had for assembling the parts that made it so successful: the 1,000 professionals attendees, out of 1,500 who registered. The SRO panel discussions.  Dick Wolf’s candid speech.  The crowded roomful of exhibitors.

The Summit was the perfect intersection of public and private interest in addressing the needs of the growing numbers of local filmmakers who want to make their bones here, in Chicago.

“It was fantastic,” said SAG AFTRA’s Kathy Byrne, who talked to people all day about the union’s low-budget contract. “A great turnout.  Well run. And I loved the people who came from all different aspects and career paths.  It was reminiscent of the old IFP Conferences.”

Added Steering Committee member Grace McPhillips of Chicago Acting in Film Meet Up (CAFM), “People came out in force to show that we have a hunger to be fed critical information to forward our careers.”

Fletcher Cameras Tom Fletcher deemed it “a first class event in a professional environment, where little conversations gave birth to things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise,” he says. 

In Fletcher’s 27 years in the business, “This is the first time where we have the support of a mayor who gets the industry and is giving us his full-blown support. That was the best part of the Summit,” he noted.

SRO for all the panel discussions

All 10 panels and Dick Wolf’s interview were SRO.  Auditoriums were bursting at the seams as people stood in the back and crouched on the sides to hear the speakers, and lined up afterwards for Q and A.

“The LA producers and highly seasoned local people gave us a lot of useful information we can apply to our business,” said attendee Darren Harrison, a director/cameraman/editor.

“The Harvest” director John McNaughton was applauded when he said Chicago filmmakers need to take themselves more seriously.  “We can’t be the Third Coast or the Second City anymore.  We have to give ourselves, as filmmakers, legitimacy and put our productions before LA productions.”

A constant flow of seriously interested diverse filmmakers, seasoned veterans to college students, visited a cross-section of 45 exhibitors. “You could feel a real vibrancy going through the whole building,” noted the Illinois Film Office’s Betsy Steinberg.

Revived IFP initiated the event

Reportedly, the Summit kicked off when newly reincarnated Independent Feature Project (IFP/Chicago), non-existent since 2010, received a grant from the Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences for a Producers Conference, like the ones IFP held annually for 25 years, and approached the Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (Dcase for short) as a potential co-sponsor.

For Dcase, the match was perfect. Film was now the focus, after it had sponsored popular theatre, music and restaurant events throughout the city this year. 

The first real planning meeting got underway in August, giving the 20-person Steering Committee a scant six weeks to put the Summit together. “Its success is gratifying, considering we had such short lead time,” says McPhillips, CAFM was one of 15 organizations that joined Dcase to plan the event.

A key player was CIMMfest, which had the monumental task of bringing exhibitors and producing the six big Expo Panels in record time.  David Moore, CIMMfest associate director, have worked with Dcase in producing a series of concerts Sept. 18-20 in Daley Plaza as part of the citywide Music Summit.

“It was a great opportunity to work with the city again,” Moore said. “The generosity of the panelists who contributed their time and talents were awesome and deeply appreciated.”

Fletcher said he wants everyone to know that the city picked up the entire tab for the event – free admission, free panels and free to exhibitors, and that Cinespace solely hosted the Pre-Summit party held Saturday night.

As a tribute to the people and the hard work they invested forth the Summit, the best compliment from attendees was, “Please hold this again next year. It’s the perfect way to unite a fragmented industry.”

The Steering Committee was comprised of representatives of 2DS Productions, Beverly Ridge Pictures, CAFM, Chicago and Illinois Film Offices, CIFF, Cinespace, Filmworkers, Fletcher Chicago, IFP Chicago, Kartemquin Films, Midwest Independent Film Festival and Ocean Pictures.