This past week, I attended two panel events at different organizations dedicated to helping filmmakers in Chicago. Filmmakers love panels. We’ll host a panel about anything.
A film, a bunch of films, panels with directors, panels with producers, panels about how to make films. We love panels. They teach us things and help us meet people. The first panel was “Maximizing Production Dollars” at Stage 18 Chicago. The panel discussed what you can do with different levels of budgets. The second was “The Art of Engagement: Creating Social Impact through Film,” followed by an information session about a grant. That was hosted by Chicago Filmmakers. Both locations were a little far out and during those bus and train rides, I wondered why I was there and not at home, cuddled in front of my TV watching a film, like good film students do. But I reminded myself that good film students also network and look for resources off campus.
Both events were incredibly informative. At Stage 18 Chicago, I learned a lot about what I am capable of doing when I’m working with certain amounts of money and was told exactly what I should avoid doing when I’m working with certain amounts of money. It was really insightful as a student filmmaker making low-budget shorts. It’s easy to get overly ambitious, so it was nice to hear from people with experience what is and isn’t feasible. The Chicago Filmmakers panel informed me about film making that is done in collaboration with the community at the center of the story. As someone who loves to tell stories about marginalized communities that I’m not a part of, it was great to get input about the ethical way to go about it. I also got a lot of information about good strategies to promote your film. Both events were all around good experiences. In addition to getting very useful information, I also met awesome people working on awesome projects; established filmmakers who were honest about their experiences and happy to give advice; and potential mentors.
These two events were a good reminder that, while I’m learning a lot in film school and have access to amazing professors who have a lot of experience and are always willing to talk, there is a world beyond 1104 S. Wabash that has a lot to offer. There are young filmmakers taking a different route who I can learn from and collaborate with, opportunities I can take advantage of, lessons I can learn. Organizations like Stage 18 Chicago and Chicago Filmmakers really can be tools that you use to elevate your grad school experience. It’s also just nice to be able to talk about the films I’m working on outside of school. It opened me up to new perspectives. I got asked questions that hadn’t come up before. The fact of the matter is, at some point, all of your classmates will have heard about your film about a thousand times and are familiar with it, so it’s good practice to get fresh eyes and ears once in a while and listen to what comes up and watch for their reactions.
I’m glad I attended those panels. I hope to go for more and find more organizations. I recently learned about an organization for women of color working behind the scenes in film (Me! That’s me!) called Mezcla Media Collective and I’m excited to see what I can gain from and give to that space. I’m sure they will have awesome panels.