One year before Spike Lee began filming his widely hyped “Chiraq” in Chicago, local filmmaker William D. Pierce already had produced the pilot for his “Chiraq” TV series and previewed it at a South Side theatre to a reception audience.
Within the past three months, Pierce’s company, Independent Network TV, completed three more hourlong episodes for the eight-episode series.
They were produced non-union, for a low budget, funded by a private investor with a crew of eager college students gaining invaluable experience for their future in visual media.
While Lee and Pierce’s “Chiraqs” share the theme of people who live in gun-violent, war torn-like neighborhoods, Pierce feels the difference in their approaches couldn’t be greater.
“‘Chiraq the Series‘ is not a Greek comedy,” says Pierce, referring to Lee’s $15 million satirical take on Aristophanes’ “Lysistrada.” “There is nothing remotely funny about ceaseless murders in our neighborhoods and its painful aftermath.
“Our Chicago community rallied around our production to help tell their true life stories. We are living what Spike Lee is trying to sell with his story.”
Loglined as “The Wire” and “West Side Story,” “Chiraq the Series” revolves around the leaders of the rival Black Hustlers and the Spanish Angels as they fight for control of their racially divided neighborhood, and the friendship between their respective teen son and daughter.
Scenes were filmed in the heart of some of Chicago’s worst gang- infested neighborhoods, notes producer Delvin Molden, with a cast of 12 local actors and a crew of 35 that both included gang members.
Of that crew, about 80% were Columbia College and Tribeca Flashpoint film students and recent graduates. “Some people might say, ‘so what,’ but our show delivered hope to those who wouldn’t have gotten within a hundred feet of a Hollywood production. And we are not finished,” Molden says.
“’Chiraq the Series’” isn’t a big Hollywood production backed by millions of dollars, but it’s time for Illinois to stop sweeping local productions underneath the rug for the glamour of the recent influx of huge Hollywood productions shooting locally,” says Pierce.
Adds Molden, “This is not about Spike Lee’s ‘Chiraq’ versus Chicago’s ‘Chiraq the Series.’ But living in Chicago I cheer for the Chicago Bulls not the New York Knicks.”
Credits include EP Rodger Jackson; line producer Tavores Johnson of Columbia College; co-directors Darryl Manuel and Phil Lee and Lee also edited; director Lawrence Wallace; DP Noel Occomy; sound mix and color correction by Periscope. Series co-writers with Pierce are Michael Ballard, Margaret James and Alicia Lozano.
Eric Lane (“Chicago PD”) and Jose Santiago star as the black and Latino gang leaders, respectively. Also starring Jacqueline Francine as Jose’s girlfriend; Simeon Henderson, Marshawn’s policeman brother; Michelle Shelton Huff and Luisa Riveria their respective mothers. High school sweethearts and the gang bosses’ children are Terry Bell and Hannah Bonecutter.
Pierce’s contact is firstname.lastname@example.org.