Brian and Jan Hieggelke have found their next film. The Hieggelkes’ Chicago Film Project, the film and T.V. production arm of their Chicago-based print and digital cultural magazine Newcity, has boarded Michael Glover Smith’s fourth feature Relative, which was shot over the summer and is now in the final stages of post-production.
“We’d been following Michael’s work for some time, and were intrigued by the project at the screenplay level, but had backed off production during the pandemic,” Brian told SCREEN. “When we saw an early cut of the film he managed to get made, we were swept away. It looks and plays like a movie that cost ten times its budget and is Michael reaching a whole new level with his craft.”
“And we love his leads,” Jan shared with SCREEN. “We’d worked with the amazing Wendy Robie on Dreaming Grand Avenue, and have loved Fran Guinan’s theater work for years. In fact, in 2010 we wrote that he was Chicago’s best local actor for our Best of Chicago edition (in the aforementioned Newcity publication).”
Twin Peaks and Steppenwolf Stalwarts Headline Relative
The family dramedy Relative centers on a college graduation party and stars Twin Peaks‘ Wendy Robie, Steppenwolf’s Francis Guinan, Pick Up‘s Clare Cooney (who also produced, along with Aaron Wertheimer) and The Walking Dead‘s Cameron Roberts. The film will receive completion funds from the newly launched Chicago Film Fund while Newcity founders Brian and Jan Hieggelke will serve as Executive Producers.
To commemorate, the filmmakers are releasing the first still, which depicts a family portrait involving the main characters.
Relative will be the fourth official Chicago Film Project production. The first three, Jennifer Reeder’s Signature Move (2017) and Knives and Skin (2019), and Hugh Schulze’s Dreaming Grand Avenue (2020), have collectively played at hundreds of festivals around the world, including Berlinale, SXSW and Tribeca, winning critical acclaim and leading to widespread distribution both theatrically and on VOD. According to Chicago Film Project’s mission statement, their productions should have three attributes: superior artistic quality, commercial viability, and a connection to the city of Chicago.
Here is a glance at the Hieggelkes’ 2019 collaboration with Jennifer Reeder, the Berlinale pick Knives and Skin…
“Relative is a universal family story told with warmth and humor with a great ensemble cast,” Brian and Jan declared to SCREEN. “And for cinephiles it will conjure up the likes of great French directors like Eric Rohmer, Arnaud Desplechin and Olivier Assayas.”
Writer/director Smith added, “Teaming up with Chicago Film Project for Relative is a dream come true. Knives and Skin, in particular, is one of my favorite independent American movies of recent years and I love how passionate Brian and Jan are about making sure Midwestern storytelling voices can be heard. They have festival and distribution expertise and really know how to introduce Chicago movies to the rest of the world. I cannot wait to work with them to bring Relative to the big screen next year.”
The World Premiere has yet to be set but a festival bow will likely occur in the first half of 2022.
Photo of Jan and Brian Hieggelke courtesy of Joe Mazza/ BraveLux