The Call Sheet: 02.05.07

When Chicago-based Spilt Pillow was organizing its seventh film project, the non-profit production company took a different route.“A lot of times we think of a project first and [then] go out and get filmmakers,” says Jason Stephens, executive director of Split Pillow. “This time we got the film first and gave them [the filmmakers] the power and parameters with which to create.”The resulting feature, “Drama,” follows the intersecting lives of four characters. It is scheduled to premier at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 11, at Chicago Filmmakers.Split Pillow selected Maria Gigante, Scott T. Jones, Nick Martin and Ben Poster to co-write and co-direct the film. The filmmakers brought experience from varying backgrounds, such as comedy, commercials and drama.“There was a conscious effort to bring a diversity of style to this project,” Stephens says. “People who you wouldn’t necessarily think would create something together [collaborated]. They each had their own unique style and approaches.”The filmmakers agreed to work on a dramatic feature and went through many pre-production meetings, Stephens says. Each filmmaker created a character, storyline and roughly 20-minute screenplay. The rule: filmmakers had to include all four characters in their individual chapters.Some filmmakers say the collaborative process was challenging. The amount of freedom Split Pillow gave at the beginning of the project was not the best thing, says Gigante, because each filmmaker had a separate story they wanted to tell. After Split Pillow gave a bit of direction, she says it was easier for the group to work together.“Our overarching theme was [connecting] with people or being unable to do so,” says Gigante, who wrote her chapter in one week and shot it in three days. “All the writer/directors and actors really brought a part of themselves to the stories.”Filmmaker Scott T. Jones says his chapter of “Drama” is a metaphor connected to his personal life. “It is not a literal story at all, but it was very personal,” Jones says. “It is kind of like I am growing as a person while creating the film. It is the way I prefer to do it.”The four filmmakers used their own editors for each segment. Jones says this allowed the filmmakers to keep their unique visions, but still fit with the theme.“I was hoping to see four different visions coming together,” says Jones, who plans to see the entire film for the first time at the premier. “When you have more directors it is never going to be generally cohesive. You are going to see an unevenness to it. I think that is how it should be.”The characters in “Drama” are from different age groups, says Stephens, and viewers can connect with the perspectives each filmmaker brings to their chapter. “When I watch this, there is something in every character that I can relate to and [that] I can say, ‘I have been there,’” Stephens says. “But there is not one character that I can say is me. There are little pieces in every one of them that I think represents everybody.”//www.splitpillow.com