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Fractured Lens Video Festival

September 20, 2010 | By | Add a Comment

Terrence Flamm
Fractured Lens Video Festival Brings Original Fun To The Big Screen
When the Fractured Lens Video Festival returns to the Portage Theater, located at 4050 N. Milwaukee Avenue on Chicago’s northwest side this November 11th, it will once again offer a freewheeling showcase for amateurs and professionals. Participants will get the kick of seeing their work shown on a large screen in front of a live audience. The two hour event, which starts at 8PM, will focus on locally produced comedy, drama, documentary, animation, and horror, from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. The $7 admission helps organizers John Keller and Tony Jankowski cover the cost of holding the festival.
“We’re just trying to break even with the theater rental,” Keller explained during a recent phone interview. “That’s why we do it on a Thursday night.”
Keller, a pharmacist by day, and Jankowski, a graphic artist, came up with the idea in 2008 as a means of presenting their own videos to a larger audience, but quickly expanded their festival to include others with the same ambition.
“You’ve got this massive theater, and you’re watching your video on the screen,” Keller said, explaining the festival’s growing popularity. “Every year we get better stuff.”
He and Jankowski make good use of the Portage Theater’s historic charms, giving their festival a theatrical flair via an entertaining opening ceremony, as well as showing vintage Intermission clips (“Let’s go out to the lobby”) on the big screen.
“We have some fun,” Keller said. “It’s a little bit of vaudeville combined with YouTube.”
The 1,938 seat Portage Theater, which opened in 1930, has suffered through some lean times, but began to thrive again after being restored to its original decor and layout in the mid 1980’s. In addition to being the home of the Fractured Lens Video Festival, it attracts a loyal following with foreign films, lectures, seminars, and regular features like the Movie Matinee on Wednesday afternoons. It’s the home of The Silent Film Society of Chicago, and hosts charity events like Comedy For A Cause.
Keller was enthusiastic while discussing the Fractured Lens Video Festival, but had a sense of humor about it as well.
“Our audience is on the fringe,” he said. “None of us is going off to Cannes.” Noting that Fractured Lens draws different talent levels, from professionals to novices, he humbly ranked himself and Jankowski among the novices.
Also, with tongue in cheek, Keller maintained that the festival’s first place prize of $19.95 is an enormous sum in today’s economy. Video makers competing for that coveted honor (which is determined by an audience vote) are assigned a specific topic by Keller and Jankowski, and their clips cannot be over five minutes long. Others, just looking to be part of the Fractured Lens Video Festival, can choose any topic they want, and their entries can be as long as 15 minutes. Still, it’s a good idea to be brief since the shorter entries are more likely to be used.
“It’s better to show [a lot of] short videos rather than one guy’s epic,” Keller explained.
Subject matter can also be an important factor. The Fractured Lens Video Festival doesn’t censor submissions, but the more extreme clips aren’t likely to make the cut.
“We kind of just use our judgment,” Keller said. “Our parents come to the event, so there’s nothing too crazy. It’s supposed to be a kind of family entertainment.”
The deadline for submitting entries for this year’s Fractured Lens Video Festival is October 25th. According to Keller, it’s a soft deadline, but earlier submissions may have preference over those sent at the last minute. Submissions are free and can be sent on a CD, DVD, or VHS tape (see for the specific formats) to Fractured Lens Video Festival, C/O John Keller 2002 W. Chicago Avenue. PMB #107. Videos can also be uploaded to online data storage sites. The video maker’s name and contact information should be included with the submission; submitting more than one entry is acceptable. For additional information, Keller and Jankowski can be reached at or via the hotline at 312-285-0454 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              312-285-0454      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Entries from the 2008 and 2009 festivals can be viewed online at the Fractured Lens Video site.


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