Chicago hosts first film and media summit

One-day meeting will showcase city as center of media creativity

October 4, 2013

OK, so they didn’t set off the “mother of all bombs.”

But the Transformers: Age of Extinction film shoot confirms what many have already noted: Chicago is exploding as a destination for film and television production.

Chicago’s local film scene is also heating up. Kartemquin just won an Emmy for its already wildly acclaimed documentary The Interrupters. Newcity has released a list of 50 Chicago film and media movers and shakers. Good Pitch is coming to Chicago for the first time, with its “speed dating” approach to matching documentary filmmakers with potential funders. And now the city of Chicago is hosting its first ever film and media summit.

The one-day event on Oct. 20 follows close on the heels and format of Chicago’s first  music summit. There’ll be panels on expected topics: casting, funding distribution and new media platforms. Some screenings are planned.

The most interesting (and potentially most raucous) event is likely to  involve local filmmaker John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Wild Things). He and others will conduct a “case study” of what it took to make his latest film The Harvest, which stars Michael Shannon and will debut at the Chicago International Film Festival Oct. 19, the night before the summit.

Rich Moskal directs the Chicago Film Office and organized the one-day summit.

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“It’s true that Chicago is getting a lot of talk these days as a destination for Hollywood,” said Moskal. “But this summit is about the local community, and how Chicago is the center of creativity for independent features, webisodes ... film and media created by Chicagoans.”

The summit itself is a creation of Chicagoans. Moskal enlisted lots of local film organizations (CIMMfest, IFP Chicago, Chicago International Film Festival) to program and help produce the event.

Still, there will be some Hollywood talent on hand. In addition to McNaughton and Shannon, attendees include producers George Tillman Jr. and Bob Teitel of State Street Films (Soul Food, the Barbershop movies).

In an interview from his Los Angeles office, Teitel raved about Chicago’s assets, from the great actors and local facilities to the attitude of crews.

“”When you shoot in California it seems like everybody thinks they should be a director, or that’s always my experience!” said Teitel with a laugh. “In Chicago everybody always acts as a unit and a team. It’s incredible.”

Moskal agrees, but thinks the local scene could use a bit more attention in and beyond Chicago. He hopes the event is an opportunity for locals to network, cross paths or launch collaborations. And he thinks a summit could be a magnet to draw filmmakers, funders and distributors to the city.

“I think there’s something about people recognizing Chicago as a place that’s not only known for its culinary scene and not only known for its theater but also known for its film and media,” he said.

But after organizing back-to-back summits, some think Moskal’s long-term goal is to create a Chicago version of Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW). When I asked, Moskal didn’t say yes. But he didn’t say no either.

“Ultimately it’s about promoting the local community to Chicago and beyond,” said Moskal. “If South by Southwest is a good model for that, absolutely.”

The Chicago Film Summit is Oct. 20 at the Chicago Cultural Center.

is the Arts and Culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram