Street Smart Chicago

Education 2010: We’re Rolling

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summercampFor some movie fans, if not all fanboys between the ages of 15 and 25, film school is a distant dream, an unlikely path that even if accomplished will lead to more barista jobs and, if lucky, a P.A. gig on a second-rate television show. Trying to get your own film made in Hollywood might be a near impossibility for an outsider, but scaling back, surrounding yourself with dedicated, skillful artists and learning how to put together your own project might just make your movie come to life. That’s where Chicago Filmmakers Co-op comes in.

“Chicago Filmmakers Co-op is designed to offer students a chance to participate in making media, specifically people who otherwise don’t have access, voices left out of the mainstream marketplace,” says Todd Lillethun, program director at Chicago Filmmakers, a position he took just over a year ago. “We try to get different perspectives, invite people from different backgrounds to participate in making media.”

The Co-op allows the people from different backgrounds Lillethun mentions—ethnic, sexual and religious minorities—to represent and stress their points of view. “Basically [you] don’t have to be a minority to feel left out. Mainstream media doesn’t represent everybody but a few corporate interests.”

Chicago Filmmakers breaks down its class offerings into three categories—Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production—plus offers separate workshops with a focus on camera use. Classes across the board include Screenwriting, Developing the Documentary, Directing, Producing, Lighting for Film & Video, Sound Recording, Final Cut Pro and Basic Animation, which makes it clear from just a cursory glance at the course titles that the Co-op is interested in covering most aspects of filmmaking.

The classes aren’t all filled with aspiring Quentin Tarantinos either.

“People are taking classes to enhance their work skills at their job,” Lillethun says. “So a nurse will take the lighting course to learn how to videotape surgeries better. People in the recording industry want to learn about HD cameras and microphones so they can have better traction in their own job place.”

And perhaps the most important draw for would-be filmmakers—it’s cheaper to learn here than to get an education at NYU or USC. While a major additional benefit of those film-school giants is their ability to get you a seat at a premier networking party, Chicago Filmmakers does its own version with its bimonthly filmmaker meet-ups, in which filmmaking hopefuls meet and mingle. Directors find producers. Screenwriters find directors. Everybody finds the necessary technical people, the lighting, sound and photography artists. With any luck, groundwork is set for a future independent film production.

The instructors at Chicago Filmmakers have included local filmmakers and those who operate within the industry, including “The Weather Underground” director Bill Siegel and Ed Koziarski, journalist and co-director of “The First Breath of Tengan Rei.”

“It’s really great to be a part of an organization that’s promoting independent films and filmmaking,” Lillethun says. “It’s really great to see students engage a part of themselves that’s been dormant for a while, who thought they were really far from making a film. It’s always nice to be a catalyst for, hopefully, some very great work. I think it’s also important to be a place where people can meet each other, grow as filmmakers and make good work out of their experience.” (Tom Lynch)

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