CAFM Receives Non-For-Profit Status
November 28, 2012 by Screenmag
The Chicago Acting in Film Meetup NFP (CAFM) is celebrating their fifth anniversary this year with some great news: the official IRS letter approving the group’s 501(c)3 status.
“It's a very exciting time for us,” says CAFM Founder and Co-Director Grace McPhillips. “Being a recognized nonprofit will help us reach a new level of professionalism as we continue giving back to the Chicago acting and production community.”
The Meetup group had humble beginnings in 2007 with McPhillips and just three other members. That number has grown to nearly 200 actors who now co-mentor each other online and offline. By exploring monthly topics such as “Your Career Marathon - Strategies and Management for ‘The Long Run’”, “Essential Sales & Marketing Skills For You, The Working Actor” and “BULLSH*T - How To Spot It and What You Can Do About It”, CAFM provides educational support unlike any other local actors organization.
“When I started this group, I wanted a safe place where on-camera actors could learn from and empower each other, knowing a rising tide lifts all boats” says McPhilllips. “And we couldn’t be happier with the result. I now hear praise from casting directors, talent agents, film directors and other industry professionals who have all seen a difference, and they know CAFM has elevated the quality of the actors they work with.”
CAFM members are now appearing in award-winning short films and independent features, national and regional commercials, plus the TV shows Boss, Underemployed, Chicago Fire and The Mob Doctor, and web series like The Onion’s Week in Review.
While the group does accept new members, everyone must be approved before they join, and must be a working film actor.
“We take our quality control very seriously,” says McPhillips. “You need to be a professional to take it to the next level.”
Since the group turned in their 501(c)3 application last fall, they have also had special nights with guest speakers like actor/instructor Michael Kostroff and LA casting director Bonnie Gillespie. The nonprofit status also paved the way for educational outreach beyond their “members only” events, which led to a unique opportunity this past March.
“During the SAG-AFTRA merger campaign,” says CAFM Co-Director Steve Scholz, “many of our members–both union and pre-union–were talking about what this change would mean for their careers. So we sponsored an informational Town Hall meeting open to all local actors and production people, where everyone could ask questions about the merger.”
Working with the SAG-AFTRA Chicago local, CAFM became the only group to host a public forum on the merger. Their panel included AFTRA and SAG leaders and staff who worked on the national merger proposal.
“That event, and the discussions before and after, led several group members to join the union,” says Scholz.
The group’s 4th Annual Networking Night and Holiday Fundraiser will be held in Chicago on December 10, 2012 at the Hard Rock Hotel (230 North Michigan). Funds raised will provide seed money for CAFM’s first film festival next February. The “In Love With Chicago Actors Film Fest” scheduled for Valentine’s Day 2013 will screen films that feature members in leading and supporting roles. Tickets are available at www.chicagoactinginfilm.org.
“Many of our actors have done their best work when collaborating with local filmmakers,” says Scholz, “so we’re proud to present a showcase that spotlights these projects.”
And after half a decade of motivating Chicago film actors, what's next for CAFM?
“We're drafting plans for a Sustainable Production Summit in Chicago,” says Scholz. “Much like the recently unveiled Chicago Cultural Plan 2012, which connects local artists with local opportunities, we want to connect the entire Chicago production community so we can share best practices, plan for our own independent productions, and commit to steps that help us all stay employed. With the many subgroups in our community that each have their own 'scene,' it's time we have a 'United Scenes of Chicago' where we focus on the bigger picture together.”
“Who better than actors to take the lead?” says McPhillips. “We are often dismissed as the ones most likely to leave for the coasts. But really, we want to live and work in Chicago. We believe this entire community, from filmmakers to crew members, also wants that. We're all part of the team effort to create great work, so why aren’t we taking the lead? We want to help everyone achieve success here, because then there's more to go around.”