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Students Network with Elite Chicago Film and TV Professionals

Ten of Chicago’s most prominent TV and film professionals met with Northwestern students in a speed-meet-and-greet networking session in Norris Student Center on November 7.

Undergraduate and graduate students mingled with up-and-coming film and television directors, producers, and innovators including Northwestern alumnus, Joe Chappelle (GC86), who produces and directs Chicago Fire and also co-executive produced and directed The Wire. Chappelle said he enjoyed giving advice to students looking to break into the business.

“I always say if you want to direct or produce or do much of anything, you should write something,” he said. “It’s really important to create something first.”

Chappelle said his work on his production MFA from Northwestern University’s School of Communication (now parsed among several newer programs) helped him learn how to collaborate, an essential part of working in TV.

“In grad school, you have to work together,” he said. “It was really a real-life education. You’d work on a project, and maybe you’d direct, or you’d produce, or you’d learn how to work a boom mic. You might not know how to do it when you start, but you learn. It’s all a craft, so I really appreciated how I learned so many aspects of a project.”

Chappelle, who has been working locally on Chicago Fire since 2011, said he was glad to be close to home, and added that now is one of the best times to work in Chicago. Rich Moskal, director of the Chicago Film Office, also attended the networking event and said seven major shows are being shot in the city right now.

“These are extraordinary times in the City of Chicago,” Moskal said. “I’ve been working in the film office for a number of years, and there’s never been this many productions going on at once. There’s never been this much opportunity in Chicago. Now, we’ve become so much more of a home for the industry. More artists and producers and directors are staying in Chicago and creating their own work in Chicago.”

The networking event, sponsored by the Office of External Programs, Internships, and Career Services (EPICS), offered 10-minute intervals in small groups with the 10 professionals, including:

  • Matt Miller, a Chicago-based director of the hit web series, Teachers, which was picked up by TV Land in 2014
  • Brian Andreotti, director of theatrical distribution at Music Box Films and the director of programming at the Music Box Theatre
  • Nicole Bernardi-Reis, executive director of IFP Chicago
  • Angie Gaffney, an award-winning producer and entrepreneur who is the co-founder and executive director of Stage 18, a non-profit entertainment development lab
  • Carrie Hoit de Lama, the line producer on Shameless
  • Tim Horsburgh, director of communications and distribution for Kartemquin
  • Anthony Kaufman, film programmer at the Chicago International Film Festival
  • Eddie Linker, founder of Forager Films

Students asked a broad range of questions covering topics from breaking into the industry to how to best promote themselves and their work.

Bernardi-Reis said she loved talking to students. “It’s part of IFP’s mission to create and strengthen the artistic community to make art stronger and sustainable,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see such an incredibly diverse group of people here.”

In terms of advice, Bernardi-Reis said she often tells students it’s up to them to define success.

“You have to figure out what success means to you, and you have to think about how your vision fits into the marketplace,” she said.

Sharon Krome, who’s working toward her MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage, said the networking event was eye-opening in terms of learning about new professions and her fellow students.

“I found it interesting that a broad range of students from different programs are here and they’re all asking questions I might not have thought to ask,” Krome said. “I’ve learned quite a bit, not just about the professions here, but also about other students who come here with different perspectives and career goals.”

— Cara Lockwood