Loading Doc: The Next AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, A First for Participant, and A Trip to the Palace

Loading Doc: The Next AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, A First for Participant, and A Trip to the Palace

Non-fiction media by Chicago makers is charting new ground in visual storytelling and engagement campaigns. Our creative community is showing others how to tell stories and get people into a room together. Take a look at these works-in-progress in the Loading Doc.


A first for Participant with Steve James and Kartemquin

This multi-part documentary about a local high school is the first ever series for Participant’s Documentary Division. AMERICA TO ME follows a year in suburban Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School, one of the country’s most exemplary and diverse public schools, as students, teachers and administrators grapple with decades-long racial and educational inequities – in addition to the challenges that today’s teenagers face. A resident of Oak Park, James raised his children in the school district and gained remarkable access for the film. At Kartemquin’s Spring 2016 showcase he said that the series will give voice to the current students and teachers and allow their stories to unfold during this particularly sensitive time in our nation’s history. The title inspired by a line from a Langston Hughes poem, “America never was America to me” reflects the type of first-person storytelling developed over many years and projects by James and his Kartemquin team. Executive Producers for AMERICA TO ME are James, Gordon Quinn, Justine Nagan, and Betsy Steinberg. The Series Producer, John Condne, a film and video teacher at the high school for twelve years, helped develop the project. The production team includes Producer Rise Sanders-Weir and Editors Leslie Simmer and David Simpson, Story Producers Bing Liu, Rebecca Parrish, Kevin Shaw, Co-Producer Janea Smith and Cinematographers Dana Kupper and Keith Walker.


Could this documentary project become AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH about childcare?

A major collaboration by two of Chicago’s leading non-fiction companies, Siskel/Ebert and Kindling Group, the film, and its national engagement campaign will trigger urgent conversations about the state of childcare and early education. Directed by Danny Alpert, Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel and produced by Rachel Pikelny with Co-Producer Laura Wilson, NO SMALL MATTER explores how our country is raising its youngest citizens, why making the most of this time in their lives is so crucial, and most importantly, what we can do to change the perception of when learning begins. The engagement campaign is already well underway with helpful tips in a blog and several short videos. A Q&A interview with Laura Wilson goes into detail about the project. The campaign aims to redefine the public’s understanding of what’s going on in children’s brains from zero to five and push their needs to the top of our social and political agenda.


Do you remember your first time in a movie palace?

Following the success of her remarkable 7 year odyssey across 49 states to create a passionate chronicle about the era of drive-in movie theaters, April Wright is directing and producing a feature documentary about America’s movie palaces. GOING ATTRACTIONS: THE DEFINITIVE STORY OF THE MOVIE PALACE includes national landmarks such as the Music Box Theater in Chicago. Wright interviews Leonard Maltin and others to explore why and how early Hollywood showmen built lavish palaces for their customers. The film will take viewers inside awe-inspiring buildings and uncover precious memories of ordinary movie goers. Do you remember how you felt the first time you walked into a movie palace? I do. My mom took me to the Egyptian Theater and the Grauman’s Chinese theater in Hollywood. This trailer for the project brings it all back to life. Note Maltin’s grin as he quotes Marcus Loew: “We don’t sell tickets to movies. We sell tickets to theaters.” To learn more about April Wright’s work-in-progress visit her website.

The Doc Talk Show #7: Women!

What are you doing on September 28th (7pm-9pm)? Join us at Uncommon Ground (3800 N. Clark St.) It’s not a movie palace but you can feel catch the vibe in the video below. Every last Thursday of the month I host and curate a lively non-fiction showcase with food, drinks, short non-fiction films and Q&As with filmmakers.

Come meet these remarkable filmmakers: Kelly Richmond Pope (ALL THE QUEEN'S HORSES); Ruth Leitman (LADY PARTS JUSTICE IN THE NEW WORLD ORDER); Rachel Pikelny (GRACE); Elizabeth Coffman (FLANNERY O'CONNOR: ACTS OF REDEMPTION); Anu Rana (LANGUAGE OF OPPORTUNITY), and Anna Boisseau & Brendan Hickey (THE INEXPLICABLE PETER SMITH). Click here for your tickets for this Thursday.

JEFF SPITZ is a Chicago-based Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Sundance Film Festival honoree and Associate Professor at Columbia College Chicago. Jeff curates and hosts THE DOC TALK SHOW – a monthly non-fiction showcase with filmmakers, food and drink presented by Groundswell Films.