Flashback: Entertainment Lawyers in Chicago

Tom Leavens, from the Newcity Film 50 photo shoot/Photo: Joe Mazza-Brave Lux

Tom Leavens, from the Newcity Film 50 photo shoot/Photo: Joe Mazza-Brave Lux

Unless you’re writing your own material, one of the first things a film producer needs to do is to obtain rights to something to film, either a finished screenplay or perhaps some underlying work (fiction, magazine article, etc.). To do this right (meaning you’ll be able to distribute the movie you’ll ultimately make), you’ll need to find a lawyer, ideally someone specializing in such things. It turns out that making a film is a mountain of contracts (and legal bills), so this is an important decision. While Chicago is not the entertainment-law beehive that is LA or NY, we have some fine lawyers specializing in the practice.

To find them, I asked people I knew in the film and entertainment industry for referrals. I got a few from trusted sources, and set out to meet them. [Read more…]

Signature Move Casting Update: Charin Alvarez to Play Anna!


We are thrilled to announce that Charin Alvarez been cast in the role of the other woman in Alma’s life, her mother Anna.  [Read more…]

Signature Move Casting Update: Sari Sanchez to Play Alma!


We are thrilled to announce that Sari Sanchez has been cast in the role of Alma as our romantic lead, the woman who is destined to capture Zaynab’s heart. [Read more…]

Signature Move Casting Update: Mark Hood to Play Milo!

Mark Hood Headshot + Resume

We’re excited to start sharing casting news, starting with the news that Mark Hood has been cast in the role of Milo, the bar owner who plays a small but pivotal role in bringing Alma and Zaynab together. We’re working with Chicago casting agency Paskal Rudnicke Casting, Inc. (prcasting.com) by the way. [Read more…]

Angie Gaffney joins Signature Move” as Co-Producer

ag headshot

One of the most important roles in making a film is the line producer, which is sometimes combined with production manager on low-budget films. Simply put, the person in these roles is responsible for everything that makes the movie production work as a business entity: creating the budget and the schedule for principal photography and hiring and managing much of the crew. Chicago has quite a few well-regarded line producers and we got to know a bunch of them over the course of the last couple of years. They’re quite busy, given all the TV activity in town these days, and part of the challenge for any project is availability. This is definitely not a last-minute hire. But we are ecstatic that one of the best in town, Angie Gaffney, has joined “Signature Move” as co-producer, a role in which she’ll perform or directly oversee the line producer duties, lead the hiring of the production crew and help execute a whole host of other essential duties. [Read more…]

Christopher Rejano joins “Signature Move” as Director of Photography


Building a team for a film is a fascinating process when it’s your first time out. Some of the roles are filled through extensive interviewing, networking and auditioning. Others are based on prior relationships that a member of the team brings along. Our director of photography, Christopher Rejano has shot each of director Jennifer Reeder’s recent short films, the two of them have established a creative rapport that finds its expression in powerful images on the screen. We’re stoked to have Christopher shooting “Signature Move”! [Read more…]

The Making of the Trailer: Behind the Scenes of a One-Minute Movie

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It was early August when I had coffee with the Chicago International Film Festival’s Anthony Kaufman and he mentioned that, for the first time, CIFF was inviting filmmakers to contribute trailers to promote the festival’s theme, “Because Everyone Loves Movies.” I brought the news back to Fawzia and Eugene in our weekly meeting and suggested we make one, using Fawzia in her “Signature Move” character Zaynab, albeit in a different scenario than those included in the film. This might be the foundation for a promotional technique we might deploy throughout pre-production, and would give the film a nice boost if CIFF chose to use it. And, it would give us a chance to work together as a team, rather than just talk about it, not to mention the opportunity to work with a director who might be a candidate for the director’s chair for “Signature Move” as well.

We did not have much time, as the finished trailer was due to CIFF by September 15, about a month away. And Fawzia had a heavy travel schedule for performances and screenings of her short films, one of which was working its way through the highly competitive NBC Universal Short Film Festival. Eugene had met Wendy Roderweiss at the Athens Film Festival, where both had short films. Since she was from Chicago and was working in the comedy genre with her short-film series in process, “Stages,” he thought she might be a good candidate for us. We had coffee with Wendy, she was interested, and off we went.  [Read more…]

How to (Pre) Sell Your Movie: Lessons Learned at The Pitch @ Industry Days

thepitch_1On October 25th, Fawzia, Brian, and I pitched “Signature Move” at Industry Days, a new event organized by IFP/Chicago and Chicago International Film Festival. “The Pitch,” as they billed it, was a chance for six local filmmaking teams to vie for a handsome package of in-kind services from various Chicago-based film companies. Sort of an “American Idol” or “The Voice” for film projects.

“Signature Move” was lucky to be chosen as one of the six contestants. Ultimately, the $20,000 prize and bragging rights went to Cornbred Films and their project “Oriole Park.” We were excited to walk away with an honorable mention, though, as well as a lot of great feedback from the jurors and the team of industry professionals who helped us prepare the weekend before. Of course, we would have loved to have won the big prize (we did receive a generous in-kind award of free office space from IFP/Chicago), but the lessons learned were in many ways more valuable. [Read more…]

Jennifer Reeder to Direct “Signature Move”


Jennifer Reeder, center, directs Jennifer Estlin on the set of “A Million Miles Away”

We’re enthusiastic to announce that Jennifer Reeder has joined us as director. One of Chicago’s leading filmmakers (included on Newcity’s Film 50 AND Art 50 lists), Jennifer’s singular style and voice has us all thrilled with the chemistry she’ll add to the project. We’ll have more to say about the process and search for a director later, but wanted to get the exciting news out first.  [Read more…]

“Signature Move” Readies Its Pitch For IFP/Chicago – Chicago International Film Festival “Shark Tank” for Film

Fawzia's notes for the practice pitch session held last Saturday.

Fawzia’s notes for the practice pitch session held last Saturday.

This coming Sunday, “Signature Move” will pitch to an audience of film distributors, investors and industry peers alongside five other outstanding film projects in various stages of development at the first-ever “Industry Days Pitch Session. Besides ours, audience members will see the latest undertaking of veteran Chicago team John McNaughton and Steve Jones (“Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer,” “Wild Things,” “Mad Dog and Glory”), from Jennifer Reeder, who made both Newcity’s Film 50 and Art 50 lists last year before playing the Sundance festival with her short film; from Collin Schiffli (director of the acclaimed debut “Animals”) and his brother Brandon Schiffli, the Chaz Ebert-executive produced Emmet Till biopic and a John Wayne Gacy-inflected period piece from the husband-and-wife team at Cornbred Films. Whether we win or lose the competition (we’re playing to win, of course), this event offers a unique showcase of some of the very best independent film projects in development in Chicago right now. [Read more…]