Celebrating Chicago’s indie filmmakers

Celebrating Chicago’s indie filmmakers

Still from the 2011 short film
As October approaches, so does the promise of more movies and film events in Chicago.
The 49th Annual Chicago International Film Festival runs October 10-24, the Music Box Theatre’s week of Docs at the Box is October 4-10, and the first crop of Hollywood’s Oscar hopefuls (like the space thriller “Gravity” and the film festival stunner “12 Years a Slave”) will hit Chicago theaters in early to mid-October as well.

One of the films that will be screened for Docs at the Box is “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” a documentary about the legendary boxer from Chicago’s Kartemquin Films. As a home for independent filmmakers, many of whom are based in the Chicago area, Kartemquin has fostered the talents of now well-known directors like Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “The Interrupters”) and continues to open the door for many others just getting their start.

The Second City is bursting with cinematic talent, particularly among the rising stars at Kartemquin and two of the top-rated film schools in the country, DePaul University and Columbia College Chicago. Many more filmmakers have fine-tuned their craft independently, garnering national and international acclaim.

Here are just a few of the soon-to-be-famous filmmakers with Chicago ties:

Jason Knade

Knade is multi-talented writer/director, producer and cinematographer. He has won a dozen film festival awards (Audience, Jury, Best Film, Screenwriting); had 50+ festival screenings in cities like Amsterdam, Torino, Mumbai, Milan, Dublin, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York; and provided videography for organizations ranging from The Joffrey Ballet to Lacuna Artist Lofts. Currently, Knade is in post-production on a feature film called “Searching for Venice,” and in pre-production for another film to shoot this fall.

Fun fact: Wonjung Bae, a Columbia College graduate who won a Student Academy Award in 2011 for her film “Vera Klement: Blunt Edge,” was Knade’s cinematographer on “Searching for Venice.” jasonknade.com

Stephanie Tisza

Tisza grew up in a working class neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago, studied experimental filmmaking under James Benning at the California Institute of the Arts, and received her MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2011. As a media artist and educator, Tisza’s films are motivated by an interest in voyeurism, fantasy, and the intersection between reality and fiction. Her work been shown internationally at galleries and festivals including SKIN TIGHT at New Capital in Chicago, International House Philadelphia, P1xels at an Exhibition in Berlin, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, the Gene Siskel Film Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Fun fact: Tisza’s exhibit at the MCA earned her a write-up in VICE Magazine. stephanietisza.com

Ted Tremper

Tremper is an improviser, filmmaker and writer hailing from Seattle and currently living in Chicago. His short film series, “Break-Ups: The Series,” won the inaugural Vimeo Award for “Best Original Series” in 2010, and went on to win numerous awards at film festivals across the globe. His latest web series, “Shrink,” follows the stories of a young psychiatrist performing his state-mandated 1750 hours of supervised clinical therapy.

Fun fact: Complex Magazine listed Tremper as one of the “25 Funny People Who Should Get Their Own TV Shows” in 2013. complex.com

Fawzia Mirza

Mirza is an accomplished actor, producer and writer/director. She has appeared in numerous films as an actor, including “Silhouettes,” “Promise Land” and the award-winning “Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together,” directed by fellow Chicago indie dynamo Wendy Jo Carlton. In 2012, Mirza wrote, directed, and produced her own documentary short, “The Queen of my Dreams.” Currently, Mirza is the creator and star of the popular Chicago-based web series “Kam Kardashian,” which chronicles the day-to-day adventures of a fictional, long-lost lesbian sister of a very famous family.

Fun fact: Prior to her career in show business, Mirza went to law school and worked as a litigator in Chicago. fawziamirza.com

Brian Keller

Keller is a visual artist, cinematographer and producer who received his BFA from Columbia College in 2001. Since then, he has produced for the cable network G4, created the comic book review franchise “Fresh Ink,” and worked on the original team of the critically acclaimed daily live series, “Attack of the Show.” Now, Keller is back in Chicago, directing on-air spots for Vimby and creating a wide array of innovative projects under the brand Brain Killer.

Fun fact: Keller was named “Best Local Filmmaker” by the Chicago Reader in their 2013 “Best of Chicago” issue. vimeo.com/brainkellerreel

Who are your favorite Chicago-based filmmakers?

Leah Pickett is a pop culture writer and co-host of WBEZ’s Changing Channels, a podcast about the future of television. Follow Leah on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.