Split Pillow Gives a Haunted Gala
by Sawyer J. Lahr
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Chicago’s Split Pillow company rang in a new year of indie movie-making at the Haunted Gala this month, looking forward to the release of their latest feature presentations, the horror comedy Eye of the Sandman and the documentary Life as Lincoln.
In the spirit of horror and Halloween, guests at the event were invited to enter a dark and disturbing haunted house, populated by cast members from both upcoming features. M.T. Cozzola (co-director of Sandman) said she mined the humor in what was initially considered to be a straightforward horror tale, based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 short story “Der Sandmann.” Cozzola also noted that the Dogme95 style, which she utilized for her first SP feature, Common Sense, offers the perfect limitations for a no-budget filmmaker. She thinks that SP’s collaborative sprit creates an ideal environment for local filmmakers to do their thing.
Life as Lincoln director, Caitlin Grogan, said she grew up with a family focused on American history, and her curiosity about history buffs led her to research the subject and eventually find the Association of Lincoln Presenters. Her film focuses on three particular presenters, each of whom come from a different state where the legendary president once lived: Kentucky, Indiana, and of course, Illinois. Grogan says that in all her work —journalism, filmmaking, etc.—she tries to figure out what’s really going on behind the human narratives she follows.
Also in attendance was SP board member, Jeannie Kaplan, a local film critic who’s also a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. She writes about film for her website, Kaplan vs. Kaplan, where she and her husband give “his” and “her” views on the latest releases. Jeannie’s work is also published in Chicago City Woman. It is Jeannie’s first year on the board, where she helps solicit auction items and encourages the indie filmmaking spirit in the city.
Split Pillow is always looking to expand their board, and the internships offered in their Media Start program provide locals with the opportunity to assist with productions and events.
Jason Stephens, SP founder, spoke to the packed house about Media Start and Chicago 360, the organization’s major programs outside of funding two to three independent features per year. As a not-for-profit, Media Start is the media literacy component of SP, which “helps youth from all communities better understand how to express in positive ways their ideas, thoughts, and feelings.” Stephens talked about the changing media environment and how Media Start can help parents interact with their children in a new culture of communication. There will also be more emphasis on marketing and publicity in the coming year. “Getting the word out” and integrating social media networking tools are growing priorities for the six-year-old organization. Media Start has grown since its inauguration, and through the efforts of SP, youth learn “how art can play an important part in their lives.”
Dennis Belogorsky has served as Executive Director of Split Pillow since its founding. His latest feature, Eye of the Sandman, he co-directed with Cozzola and Split Pillow Creative Director Jeff McHale. Look for the world premiere at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Center next month, November 20 & 23.
Life as Lincoln is coming out on President’s Day next year. SP will be releasing a new project in March of 2010 directed by Nick Martin (Columbia College Chicago MFA Film & Video Alum). Current projects are being submitted to film festivals. SP has been active since 2003, and has been collaborating with Towers Productions and Quiet Storm Productions, which lend their support to this growing organization.
Sawyer J. Lahr is Chief Editor of the forthcoming online publication, Go Over the Rainbow. He also writes a monthly film column for Mindful Metropolis, a conscious living magazine in Chicago, IL.
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