REELSCREEN: News & Notes – 08/13/04

WHEW, OPRAH STAYS PUT. The tension’s over as to whether she would or wouldn’t opt out of TV and Chicago at the end of her current contract. But we can relax. Oprah is not going to hang it up after all. Her newly-signed contract will keep her on TV through 2011 ? and assure continuing jobs for the nearly 300 people who work on the show.

By 2011, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” will have been on a full 25 seasons. And they say there’s no indication that the 25th season will be the last.

TeamWorks’ Ch. 11 doc recalls 25th anniversary of Dahl’s Disco Demolition

It was 25 years ago July 12 that then-WLUP-FM DJ Steve Dahl helped seal the fate of the disco craze when he staged his notorious “Disco Demolition,” exploding a crate of disco records at Comiskey Park and halting the White Sox-Tigers match when more than 50,000 fans stormed the field and started a bonfire in center field.

Screenwriter Mark Harris’ directing debut due for November video release

It’s a big summer for Mark Harris. After writing several unproduced scripts for hire, his directing debut “Why Men Cheat” is in post-production at Day For Night Film in Virginia, on its way to a November video release. And his script “Hard Knock Life” is slated for production in Los Angeles this August.

Harris made “Why Men Cheat” over a rapid-fire week in May in his South Side Englewood neighborhood on an under-$50,000 budget. Don Winter (“13 Days in April”) shot on 24P DV.

REELSCREEN: News & Notes – 6/24/04

MOVIEMAKING AT THE MUSEUM. A tremendous amount of work went into “Action: An Adventure in Moviemaking,” the exhibit at the The Museum of Science & Industry. Presented by BankOne, the exhibit goes through the gamut of filmmaking, and includes such fun stuff as more than 100 artifacts including costumes from “X2: X-Men United” and the MagLev car from “Minority Report.” There’s a “Meet the Filmmakers” section Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m.

Silver Addy spurs video game scorer GameBeat’s expansion into spot music

Barely a year after its move into commercial music, Matteson-based GameBeat Studios picked up a Silver Addy last March from the Madison Ad Federation (MAF) for a theme for the Kalahari Resort Hotel near Wisconsin Dells.

GameBeat president Darryl Duncan was a staff writer from Warner Bros. and A&M in Los Angeles, writing and producing for artists including R. Kelly, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Chaka Khan. “I exited the mainstream music industry to have something where I didn’t need a hit record to feed my kids,” he said.

Up and Down the Avenue – 03/19/04

John Zwierzko, a.k.a. Johnny Z returned to JWT as a producer, engineer and sound designer. A 22-year agency veteran, he nonetheless was canned during a wave of firings 17 months ago. Between JWT stints, Z edited with Spots BME.

Ace rep Donna Daguanno returns to Chicago after a short seven month stint in her native Baltimore. Within minutes of returning, she signed with L.A.-based Reactor (director Steve Chase)… Due to return to Chicago is former Chicago Film Critics Award show producer Sue Kiner, after three years in London.

What’s in your shopping cart? —
Doc on homeless premieres at Doc Fest

At a Salvation Army in Los Angeles’ gritty Nickel District, local production designer Wesley Tabayoyong interviewed more than 30 homeless people about the contents of their shopping carts.

Tabayoyong and his collaborators combed the underbelly of LA’s skid row for interview subjects. “We covered an area called ‘Tent City,’ which is a quarter mile of makeshift tents, can fires, and some dangerous people,” Tabayoyong recalled.

Women only to work on Split Pillow’s second improv film shooting in April

Seven women have set out to accomplish what it took 14 men to do before.

The Women’s Cliffhanger Project is a more streamlined, structured version of the improvisational filmmaking process that produced last year’s surprisingly popular feature “The Cliffhanger.”

“All 14 directors of the first ?Cliffhanger’ were men, and it showed in the work,” said Jason Stephens, president of Split Pillow, the non-profit he founded last year to foster and market improv film as a distinct Chicago art form.

Bob Hudgins heads new IFP board; executive director Cowing resigns

Executive director Rebekah Cowing will leave IFP/Chicago after four years, and the IFO’s Bob Hudgins now heads IFP’s new board of directors.

After nearly four years at IFP/Chicago, Cowing said she wants to “do something more creative and explore other options,” she said. She will exit April 1, giving the newly appointed board time to name her replacement and assure a seamless transition.

The IFP board formed a search committee to find her replacement and welcomes candidates’ resumes. Inquiries should be directed to the IFP/Chicago office, 33 W.

Six years in the making, low-budget horror feature ready for release

He sold the farm to cover film costs and mortgaged his house to pay for postproduction, but John Swanson has made his movie ? a self-financed, under-$100,000 horror flick.

The filmmaker shot “Unearthly Harvest” six years ago, in 1997 and 1998, in his north-central Illinois hometown of Princeton and in nearby Tiskilwa. He finished it last fall, premiered at the Chicago Horror Film Festival, and is readying a DVD self-release as he courts distributors and prepares for the festival circuit.

Theatre industry shows clout

By Jonathan Abarbanel

The Fire Commissioner was there. Not his assistant, but the Commish himself. Ditto, the Building Department Commissioner and the Director of the Dept. of Revenue, and all because of six small Off-Loop theatres with barely 400 seats between them. Under normal circumstances, the honchos wouldn’t know these little places existed and if they did know, they wouldn’t care.

Going to the theatre?

By Jonathan Abarbanel

If you’ve got tickets for your favorite Off-Loop theater, better call first to make sure it’s open.

Days before Thanksgiving, Chicago’s Department of Revenue shut down six Off-Loop theatres in a surprise enforcement sweep of Public Place of Amusement (PPA) licensing laws. All theaters, clubs, concert halls and sports venues are required to have a PPA, issued only after an inspection task force signs off on the venue.

Olken’s human trafficking expos? in
debut feature “Slave” at Facets

Erinn Strain stars in Noel Olken’s “Slave,” Nov. 12 at Facets

Screenplay guru/author Syd Field
a ShowBiz Expo Nov. 7 keynoter

Syd Field holds two writing seminars and a workshop at ShowBiz Expo.

Big Dog making big tracks

Composer Jeff Jacobs of Big Dog Bites Music

Learn about laughter

Zanie’s hosts the Comedy Conference Aug. 1-3.

Bulletproof Film heads to Vietnam for veterans’ reconciliation doc

Carmine Cervi (pictured) and his Bulletproof Film partner Ilko Davidov will shoot in Vietnam this August for their documentary “Teaching the Vietnam War: Reconciliation and Memory.”

Manuel producing as a one-stop shop

Spot producer Darryl Manuel finishing post on a doc about his musician father-in-law.