June 12, 2015 by Todd Lillethun
Chicago-based filmmaker John Borowski is in production this summer on a film about the life and work of New York artist Vincent Castiglia. After making a name for himself by directing three documentaries about serial killers, Borowski needed a break from the topic, and became interested in Castiglia as a potential subject after connecting with him on Facebook. Borowski had long admired his work, especially since he shared an interest in death as an artistic subject, but Castiglia integrates death into his artistic practice as well: he paints allegorical scenes and portraits using his own blood, which he says helps him connect intimately to the works’ depictions of mortality. The doc will explore the evolution of Castiglia’s working methods, and follow him to a prestigious solo exhibition at the HR Giger Museum in Gruyères, Switzerland. Somewhere in between Borowski will sit for his own portrait drawn from 13 vials of the filmmaker’s own blood. The film will be heading into post-production later this year with a scheduled release in 2016. After that, a fourth serial killer doc is already in the works. Follow John at johnborowski.com
STOPPING FOR DEATH
Director Wendy Roderweiss is using the online platform Tugg to self-distribute her feature documentary STOPPING FOR DEATH: NURSES OF WELLS HOUSE HOSPICE, which recently finished a 2-year festival run. She and producing partner Natasha Bayus shot the film over one year at a hospice in Long Beach, CA before moving to Chicago for post-production. The film follows three nurses and an administrator who work with dying patients during their final days, often using gritty humor and biting wit to cope with heartbreaking situations. Roderweiss says she used Tugg because it removes the risk for both the theater and the filmmakers. Like Kickstarter, if a certain amount of tickets are not sold on Tugg by a certain date, the screening is cancelled, people’s credit cards are not charged, and the theater can rebook the time slot. If the screening goes forward, it may be a great event, but not a lucrative one: filmmakers only earn 5% of ticket sales. Roderweiss has partnered with the Landmark Century Cinema on Chicago’s north side for her screening, scheduled for June 18 at 7:30pm, and is currently seeking partner organizations in other cities for Tugg screenings nationally. Her Tugg deadline for Chicago is June 11. STOPPING FOR DEATH will be available on VOD through Passion River films toward the end of 2015. Click here to follow this feature and check out the trailer.
RUN OF LIFE
Over her ten years of showing films at the Nightingale, Chicago’s venerable microcinema, programmer and founder Christy LeMaster began to notice how many new experimental and documentary films started copiously borrowing each other’s techniques, often merging into a hybrid form, but without finding an audience in either camp. Breakthrough films like LEVIATHAN (2011), and filmmakers like Ben Russell and Ben Rivers found success on the festival circuit, while many others fell through the cracks. In 2014, she approached Mike Reed, founder of Constellation, and Beckie Stocchetti, Engagement Director at Kartemquin Films, about creating a screening series outside the Nightingale’s auspices in order to develop a new audience for these works. The “Run of Life” series, presented on the third Monday of every month at Constellation and curated by LeMaster and Stocchetti among others, specializes in showing these experimental documentary hybrids, often coupled with related shorts, readings, audio recordings, and special guest appearances. LeMaster says audiences have been enthusiastic and excited by the ways the two genres overlap, and she is looking forward to continuing the series for the remainder of 2015. Among the confirmed upcoming shows is THE ISLAND OF ST. MATTHEWS by Ohio native Kevin Jerome Everson, which attempts to recreate childhood films and photographs that were lost in a flood. Visit runoflife.org for upcoming schedule and tickets.
Todd Lillethun is a freelance producer and editor at Flicker Effects and student advisor at Northwestern University's MFA program for Documentary Media.