Film Actors Meetup Holds Annual Fundraiser

Film Actors Meetup Holds Annual Fundraiser

The Chicago Acting in Film Meetup (CAFM) presents their Third Annual Networking Night and Holiday Fundraiser on Monday, December 12, 2011 from 7:00 p.m. to midnight at Chief O’Neill’s Restaurant and Pub in Chicago (3471 N. Elston). The group, which focuses on independent film work and other on-camera acting, meets monthly to share information, guidance and encouragement unlike any other local network of actors.

Since 2007, when it began with four members, the group has held more than 50 events designed to help working actors mentor each other and learn best practices for the Chicago market. Now, with a membership of nearly 250 professionals, the CAFM has applied for not-for-profit status.

“We’re excited because we already provide educational activities for our members every month,” says group founder and organizer Grace McPhillips, an AFTRA and SAG member. “The NFP status just seems like the next logical step. Being a 501(c)(3) will also help us with fund-raising, since our donors can get a tax deduction. And it lets us extend our educational outreach to the entire Chicago acting community.”

The group has run a variety of members-only events for on-camera actors, such as “Your Type, Your Talents, Your Timeline: How To Know & Market Yourself Better,” “Making the Scene Your Own,” and "Chicago & LA: Can You Do Both?” Starting in 2012, as they continue offering activities for their members, the CAFM also plans to hold special events for a greater audience, including “Educating Parents: Helping Your Kids Be Smarter Chicago Actors,” and the Sustainable Acting Summit - a first-ever Chicago acting conference designed for area creatives who plan on working and building their careers in Chicago.

“Our goal within the Meetup has always been to produce ‘smarter Chicago actors,’” explains McPhillips, “so this year’s fundraiser has a twofold purpose—helping us continue that practice for our members, and then sharing that approach with a wider group of professionals. Our group has grown and matured, so our level of outreach and education will be growing and maturing as well. What we collect from our 12/12 party will provide the seed money for our 2012 activities, like the acting summit.”

McPhillips, who is also a voiceover actor and film producer, sees a need for local actors to come together and support each other’s careers in Chicago. That includes tackling an issue that affects both members in her own group and other professionals: the mind-set that actors must leave Chicago to find success and make a living.

“We really feel that the actor is the canary in the coal mine,” says McPhillips, “because if you can't keep actors in Chicago, what industry do you really have here? It’s a cause for concern for the health of our market. We have to ask ourselves, ‘Can Chicago move beyond being a launching pad?’”

Previous CAFM fundraisers were held with the intent of launching an actor showcase starring the group members. Now, along with the NFP outreach, the group is choosing to provide more activities that directly connect their members with film makers and other industry people who can help hire them.

“It’s an important shift for us,” says Steve Scholz, a member of the CAFM Leadership Team and an assistant organizer. “Instead of doing a showcase that only lets some of our members perform, we can have a larger group spend an evening with local casting directors, or a panel of film directors, and we can network one-on-one with these professionals.” Scholz says they will have more interactive events for their membership, “possibly like the ‘mock auditions’ we ran last month when our guests were two local indie film directors who’ve also worked as creatives at Chicago ad agencies”

Although their membership list is kept private, CAFM members work regularly in commercials, industrials, Internet series, and film projects, ranging from festival-winning shorts and award winning independent features to the big Hollywood movies like “The Dilemma” and “Contagion”. Members have also appeared in the many Chicago-based TV productions, including “Shameless”, “The Chicago Code”, “The Playboy Club” and “BOSS”.

“I’m very proud of our members,” says McPhillips, “because they are go-getters. They’ve also helped the CAFM develop a positive reputation over these four years. Casting directors now know who we are, talent agents recommend this group to their actors, film schools work with our members every semester. And our members are becoming higher quality actors thanks to the ways we mentor each other.”

The annual December party is the group’s main fund-raising event. It’s also the one time each year when the CAFM opens its doors and goes from private to public. “We invite everyone to come out and help us celebrate the Chicago film community on 12/12,” says McPhillips. “We’ll have an amazing raffle with prizes like Cubs tickets, theater tickets, headshots and other big prizes. You get in for just 20 bucks. That gives you two raffle tickets, a drink ticket and hors d'oeuvres. Plus, Chief O’Neill’s will have drink specials all night. You’ll help our group keep actors smart. And you’ll help support special events planned for our NFP!”

For more information about the Chicago Acting in Film Meetup Group or their fundraiser, contact Grace McPhillips at