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CARPE DIEM: First-time Chicago-based filmmakers Jesse Swedlund and Ben Prawer are celebrating the completion of their documentary, TY’S LIST, which tells the story of their good friend Tyler Lorenzi who tragically died in a sailing accident in 2011 when he was only 23. After his death, they found a list of his favorite things to do in his hometown of San Francisco, and three of his best friends from different phases of his life meet each other and complete the list, all while trying to capture Lorenzi’s spirit. “He was a friendly, life-loving, curious person,” said Prawer.

“We want people to feel inspired to live life to the fullest,” Prawer said. “We want them to wake up in the morning and really challenge themselves and think about death and how you really can’t choose when you’re going to die, but you do have control of how you’re going to live.”

The filmmakers, who recently graduated from Northwestern University, have found much support in the Chicago filmmaking community. The team participated in Kartemquin Films’ KTQ Labs program. After posting on The D-Word, Chicago filmmaker Margie Newman offered to be their mentor. They found an office and work space at Next Door, a concept by State Farm that gives people a free space to work.

“To some extent you can tell we are beginning filmmakers, but we hope it’s part of the charm of the documentary,” Prawer said.

TY’S LIST is now complete, and being sent for color correcting and audio mixing. The filmmakers are hoping to soon be on the festival circuit, and eventually have online distribution.

Learn more about the film here.

JUSTICE FOR ALL: From Chicago directors Scott Prestin and Marc Menet and Executive Producer Joe Klest comes a midwestern story of the American justice system: JOHN WAYNE GACY: DEFENDING A MONSTER. The story is about Sam Amirante, the attorney who defended John Wayne Gacy in court.

“We're re-telling the Gacy story with great detail and unique insight, and also want to convey the story of what it is like to be an honest, hard working attorney who defends one of the world’s most hated criminals,” Prestin said. “Someone has to responsibly escort the murderers of the world through the system so that justice can be served, but sometimes a portion of the public will incorrectly look negatively at the defense attorney.”

The film is in post-production right now and will be completed by the end of this summer. There will be Chicago and LA premieres of the film.

“We have an amazing justice system here in America where everyone gets their day in court, even the Gacy's of the world,” Prestin said.

Attorney Sam Amirante has also written a bestselling book on the topic with the same name as the film.

More about the documentary here.


#DocYourWorld, now in its second year, is the only event of its kind at Columbia College Chicago. It unites students, faculty, alumni and industry professionals across the fields of film, television, radio, photography, journalism, creative non-fiction, and interactive arts & media. It will take place all day on April 23 and 24, and feature panels, events and speakers. The event is co-chaired by documentarians and Columbia faculty members Ruth Leitman and Michael Caplan.

“We want to show to the Columbia and Chicago doc community that non-fiction storytelling transcends any one media, and that we should embrace the diversity, share our approaches to telling true stories, and learn from each other,” Caplan said.

More information is available at docyourworld.com and facebook.com/docyourworld.

Katie Prentiss is a journalist and documentary filmmaker in Chicago working with Kartemquin Films on MORMON MOVIE. Follow Katie and tell her what you’re working on at @prentkat.