By Brian Hieggelke
We’re now four months into this project, and so far, nothing concrete to share. We’ve received more than our share of local media attention, from the Sunday Tribune to WBEZ to WGN, which has motivated a surge in submissions each time. I can only hope that the actual film we make gets so much love when it comes out. (You can read/listen to the coverage here: https://www.chicagofilmproject.com/about-chicago-film-project/)
We’ve received dozens and dozens of submissions, liked about one in five enough to ask for complete scripts, and remain interested, to varying degrees, in less than ten projects. I’ve not yet read a script that’s elicited a yell of “Eureka! This is it!” But that’s perhaps not surprising. A fair bit of the material is stuff that’s been around for a while; perhaps projects that have been shopped and turned down, only to get a dust-off and submission to us. That’s not necessarily a bad thing on its face.
Several of the projects are writer-director works; some have producers and even talent attached. The latter is a pervasive phenomenon; the prevailing wisdom in the film business is that talent drives the financing of the project, especially concerning potential for foreign sales. This leads to a fair bit of counterintuitive thinking: an imperative for signing actors with some level of Hollywood exposure rather than simply finding the best actor to play a role, which can really shake up the cost of a project as well as the scheduling, both factors reducing the probability that work gets done. I think this is a mistake as far as nurturing an independent film culture in Chicago. We need to show that films can be made here, and that the talent pool, right here, is outstanding. By doing so, we’ll make our own names who become “known” talents, in the same way that Chicago theater does. (See Tracy Letts.) The famous-talent obsession leads to some odd pitching gymnastics, along the lines of “I’ve got Joe Smith, who appeared on a short-lived cable series a decade ago, attached to play the lead.” Something tells me that, if I haven’t heard of Joe Smith, the guy buying the rights for the Pakistan market won’t have either. [Read more…]