Midwest Filmmakers Take Center Stage at SXSW

Midwest Filmmakers Take Center Stage at SXSW

South by Southwest 2016 is set to get underway this Friday and there will be plenty of Midwest filmmakers premiering and performing over the next week, including one of Indiewire's proclaimed "seven hidden gems of the fest."

Michigan filmmaker Joel Potrykus will debut his latest feature THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK on Sunday, March 13th. Young outcast Sean has isolated himself in a trailer in the woods, setting out on alchemic pursuits, with his cat Kaspar as his sole companion. Filled with disdain for authority, he’s fled the daily grind and holed up in the wilderness, escaping a society that has no place for him. But when he turns from chemistry to black magic to crack nature’s secret, things go awry and he awakens something far more sinister and dangerous. Written, directed and edited by Grand Rapids-based Potrykus, producers include Chicago's Leigh Jones. Indiewire has deemed THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK "one of seven hidden gems in the SXSW Film lineup," promising "a story that's uniquely odd and quite possibly very dark."

The Chicago-made indie OPERATOR will make its world premiere on Saturday, March 12th. This feature filmed in and around Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood last July, with a talented team that included frequent Swanberg producer J.J. Ingram and Neo-Futurists alum Sharon Greene. In OPERATOR, Joe (Martin Starr) loves data. He tracks his diet and exercise, his mood and sex life – turning the information into beautiful charts that help him control his often overwhelming anxiety. At work Joe designs personalities for digital customer service voices, but his latest robo-agent for a client is a disaster. In a moment of inspiration he enlists his wife Emily (Mae Whitman) to serve as the template for the redesigned voice. The project goes well until Joe’s obsession with replicating his wife's empathy threatens their marriage. Directed and co-written by Logan Kibens.

Sarofsky Executive Creative Director Erin Sarofsky will serve as one of the judges for SXSW’s Excellence in Title Design competition. Over the past few years, Sarofsky has been honored as a finalist more than once in the Austin-based festival's showcase. In 2012, the team was nominated for the Showtime series SHAMELESS, while their work on CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER scored their nomination last year. Click here to see what visually stunning nominees Erin will have to decide between this week.

And on a side note, one of the keynotes for the festival is this guy from the South Side of Chicago named Barack Obama. Friday, March 11th.

Plenty more Chicago and Midwest artists will be taking center stage over the next two weeks at SXSW. More to come from SCREEN, and in the meantime, here's a look at the full Film, Music and Interactive program. See you in Austin!

Mike McNamara is the Co-Founder of The Midwest Independent Film Festival, www.midwestfilm.org. Mike pays his rent as an actor in Chicago in theatre, commercials, television and film. More from Mac at www.findmac.com.