This is the second in a two-part survey of local documentarians, who they are, their background and credits. Ranging from national leaders like Kartemquin, Towers and Kurtis Productions, to small to mid-size companies, they capture public imagination and affect social change by telling true stories.
Media Process Group
770 N. Halsted, Suite 507
Lisa Wolff, Keith Walker, 312/850-1300
Founded in 1985 by Bob Hercules and David Britton, MPG has continually produced independent docs while working for hire on “Oprah,” “60 Minutes,” HBO’s “Real Sports,” and other high profile gigs. The company produced the PBS series “Literacy in America.” Films include “Baseball’s Heirlooms” (1989, Discovery Channel), “Ghost Towns of the West” (1990, The Learning Channel), “Did They Buy It?” (1992), the environmental doc “Times Beach, Missouri” (1993, PBS national), “Great Indian Nations” and “Great Indian Leaders” (1995, Questar Video), “The Democratic Process: Saul Alinsky and his Legacy” (1999, PBS), and the holocaust doc “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” (in postproduction).
Michael Caplan, 773/588-7721
Narrative indie producer Michael Caplan’s feature doc debut, about the German Jewish school that saved his father from the Holocaust, earned a PBS premiere.
1317 W. Grand
Marc Wellin, Snehal Patel, 773/549-1616
Founded in 1984, this full-service production and multimedia company is producing the doc “Taking Liberties,” about racial discrimination in the U.S. after 9/ 11/01.
MPI Media Group
16101 S. 108th Avenue, Orland Park
Chuck Pelini, Matthew White, 708/873-3160
Founded in 1976 by Waheed and Malik Ali, MPI distributes and produces doc and narrative work for video and TV. Films include “The Murder of JFK: A Revisionist History,” “The Story of Islam,” and “Dream Jets.”
4516 N. Francisco
Tod Lending, 773/478-9594
Tod Lending’s 2000 feature doc “Legacy” about four generations of public housing residents, received an Oscar nomination and screened on HBO, Cinemax and PBS. Lending’s 3-part series “No Time to Be a Child” about the impact of violence on youth ran on PBS national and garnered a national Emmy nomination. He won a national Emmy for his ABC after school special “Shades of a Single Protein.” Lending is in production on the feature doc “Redemption” about the struggle of prison inmates to reintegrate into society, and is in development on the doc “Why War?” Other films include “Breaking Ties,” “Growin’ Up Not a Child,” “Time to Speak,” “Modern Cool,” “The Principal,” “The Real Defenders,” and “Reinventing Government.”
4926 N. Wolcott Ave.
David McGowan, 773/271-0793
Ravenswood Media focuses on environmental issues, particularly the damage caused by the introduction of invasive species to an ecosystem. Films include “Understanding Biodiversity,” “Mark of the Maker” about hand papermaking, an Oscar nominee for short doc, “Inventions and Invasions,” “Preventing a Hostile Takeover,” the climbing doc “El Capitan,” and the work-in-progress “The Call of the Frog.”
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Reigning Cats & Dogs Entertainment
Julie Lofton, 312/410-9866
101 W. Grand, Suite 200
Former Buena Vista, NBC and USA producer Julie Lofton’s documentary “Best Friend Forgotten” about pet overpopulation, shelters and neutering, is narrated by David Duchovny.
Rhythm & Light
Steve Ordower, 773/342-9939
1452 N. Artesian
Steve Ordower, president of this production and post-house, is developing a seven-part gospel music documentary series, inspired by the “Jubilee Showcase” gospel show that his father Sid Ordower produced on ABC for 21 years.
Bill Siegel co-directed and produced the 2003 Oscar-nominated feature doc “The Weather Underground,” about the radical anti-Vietnam group behind the Days of Rage, produced through the Free History Project which he co-founded in Berkeley. Siegel has worked as a researcher and in other capacities on docs “Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story,” “Hoop Dreams,” and Leon Gast’s forthcoming “One Love” about the cultural history of basketball. Siegel is the director of school programs for the Great Books Foundation.
Skipping Stone Entertainment
445 W. Erie St., Suite 207
Tom Trinley, 312/560-6904
Former TV producer and Museum of Broadcast Communications VP Tom Trinley’s hour-long doc “Monumental Myths” about historic sites screens May 13 at 6 p.m. at the Apple store, 679 N. Michigan Ave.
2634 W. Logan Blvd.
Alex LeMay, 773/384-1707
Full-service production house Taproot produced the feature bullfighting doc “The Bulls of Suburbia,” which premieres this June. 30 seconds of “Bulls” footage was used in “Seabiscuit.”
Terra Nova Films
9848 S. Winchester
Jim Vanden Bosch, 773/881-8491
Founded in 1980, Terra Nova specializes in documentaries and educational films about aging. Organizers of the Silver Images Film & Video Festival, now the Silver Images Awards.
Tiny Leaps Productions
Brigid Maher, 312/437-0137
1573 N. Milwaukee Ave. PMB #436
The nonprofit production company behind the 2001 narrative feature “Adrift in the Heartland” recently went for-profit and premiered the 45-minute doc “The King, the Lawyers and the Cheese,” about cartoonist Stu Helm’s legal battle with Kraft Foods, at the 2003 Chicago Underground Film Festival.
549 W. Randolph, Suite 300
Jonathan Towers, 312/993-1550
Former CNN correspondent and ABC and CBS writer Jonathan Towers founded Towers Productions in 1989. Towers produces 60 hours of documentary programming annually, including the long-running “American Justice,” A&E’s highest-rated series. Projects include “After Saddam” for Discovery Times, “True Crime Authors,” “Isaac’s Storm,” “Unconventional Warfare,” “Making A Buck,” “Organized Crime: A World History,” “America’s Haven: The YMCA at 150,” “Blind Man’s Bluff,” “Kennedys: The Curse of Power,” “The Time Capsule,” “History’s Mysteries,” “The Hidden History of Chicago,” “Tales from the F.B.I.,” “Wrath of God,” “The Docks: Trouble on the Waterfront,” for the History Channel, “Investigative Reports,” “Biography,” “The Laugh Track,” “Minute by Minute,” “The Unexplained,” “The New York Mob: Empire of Crime” for A&E, “Storm Stories,” “Atmospheres,” for the Weather Channel, “Classic Yo-Yo Ma” for PBS, “Private Schools, Public Money” for CNN, “WGN-TV: 50 Years as Chicago’s Very Own,” “Chicago’s Front Page: 150 Years of the Chicago Tribune,” “A Stage of Their Own,” “When Harry Met Baseball” for WGN, “On the Brink: Doomsday” for the Learning Channel and “Intimate Portraits: Women Spies” for Lifetime.
2042 Pratt Ct., Evanston
James M. Fortier, 847/425-0565
Director/producer/DP James Fortier, whose work often focuses on Native American issues, returned to Chicago last year after 20 years in San Francisco. He won his third Emmy in 2002 for his feature-directing debut, the PBS doc “Alcatraz is Not an Island.” Films include the two-part PBS doc “Native Americans in the 21st Century,” “I Is Not For Indian,” “Waasa-Inaabidaa: We Look In All Directions,” “Voices for the Land,” “Muckleshoot Tribe Canoe Journey,” and the Echo Pictures PBS series “In America” and “Great Museums.” He’s co-producing and shooting “American Lynching: Strange and Bitter Fruit.”
Yvonne Welbonne, 312/764-6170
This independent documentarian is the director of “Living with Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100.” Her hour doc “Sisters in Cinema” about the history of African American women filmmakers premiered on Black STARZ! in February.
? Ed M. Koziarski, email@example.com
Docmakers, if we missed you for some reason send your information and we’ll be happy to include you in a future list. Share news of your work with our 15,000 registered readers.