On March 16th, IFP Chicago, along with the Music Box Theatre, presented our first ever Member Spotlight, which showcases work by up-and-coming Midwestern filmmakers. March's event highlighted the short films of Brad Bischoff and introduced the audience to his first feature film, The Grasshopper, currently in pre-production.
Read on to find out how it all got started.
This event came about like a lot of things, a mixture of good opportunities, timing and a to of work. Brad Bischoff was a student of mine years ago and we have managed to keep in touch even as I have moved to another school and Brad has made a variety of life changes all the while pursuing filmmaking. Brad has consistently put out interesting films with a unique voice and I am a fan of his work which I have gotten to see at festivals, private screenings and the occasional link Brad sends me. He reached out to me as he was trying to get his first feature Grasshopper off the ground. I’ve produced some features and Brad was looking for advice and ideas on how to make his film a reality. If you have never made a feature, I don’t know what to say to you beyond “you haven’t made a feature until you’ve made one”…….my experience is that it is exponentially harder than making a short film. During our talk, Brad mentioned how difficult it has been for him to make the transition to bigger films and to just keep making movies in general. What he didn’t know was that I have been a part of the IFP Chicago “reboot” and a big part of the reason I’m involved is that I believe in the idea of a strong film community that can continue to offer guidance beyond film school. I have seen how hard it is for film students, both my friends and the students I have taught, to keep pushing their projects forward when they’ve moved past college. And it isn’t just film students, many filmmakers who never went to school but have the itch to make movies are able to muscle through “a” film but then what? Resources and energy exhausted, continuing to make movies without the support of a community is very difficult…..and this is where IFP Chicago comes in.
While IFP Chicago has a lot of different projects and programs happening and in the works, our President, Nicole Bernardi Reis and I were both very interested in doing more screenings and not just regular screenings….screenings with a purpose. Screenings that could bring attention to midwestern filmmakers and help them accomplish something special. We knew that these events should have the ability to make or raise money and that there needed to be a larger story than just a screening. We’re lucky to live in a city with great movie theaters like the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Landmark, and the Logan but one of our favorites and definitely the most grand is the historic Music Box on Chicago’s Northside. It’s got style, history and a fantastic reputation for showing and supporting some of the best independent films in the city. It’s also got a brand new “filmmaker lounge” that is the perfect place to grab a drink before a movie or get together with friends to talk movies. Besides a bar and some comfy seating, there is a projector and screen for special occasions. We had a great time last year when MI director Joel Potrykus talked to our members there before a screening of his critically acclaimed film Buzzard. The space was perfect, the Music Box staff was great and the event was definitely a success.
So, a local filmmaker needs help taking his career to the feature stage, which requires both money and attention, we have a local theatre that supports our industry and we have an organization designed to both help filmmakers and build community through events and programs…..no brainer. The only problem is that Brad doesn’t have a feature to show(yet) and it is pretty hard to sell tickets to see a short. What about a bunch of award winning shorts though? A bunch of shorts all made by one filmmaker that we could watch chronologically and then have a discussion to tell the narrative of that filmmaker and their journey. This was one of my better ideas if I do say so myself. Thankfully we had the support of IFP Chicago as well as the enthusiasm and imagination of Stephanie Berlin and Brian Andreotti from Music Box Films to help make this a reality. And what an event it was! We had a great turnout, Brad raised money and awareness for his film, and the community of filmmakers and fans came outto support one of their own. If you missed it, don’t worry, this was just the first of many IFP Chicago “Spotlight On” programming. Do yourself and us a favor and make it out to the next one.
Article written by John Otterbacher.
John Otterbacher is an independent filmmaker, faculty member at Tribeca Flashpoint College and IFP Chicago’s "curmudgeoneist" vice president.