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Midwest-style Collaboration: Glass City Films

September 30, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

Part of “Best of Chicago DIY Film” originally posted February 14, 2011.

Jessica Green

From "Separation Anxiety"; Photo credit Ian Iott, courtesy of Glass City Films

From "Separation Anxiety"; Photo credit Ian Iott, courtesy of Glass City Films

“To become the Focus Features of the Midwest.” That’s what Glass City Films Production Company has set out to do. Created in 2007 by founder John Klein, Glass City Films has already produced three features, two shorts and a handful of music videos in the short time they’ve been around.

Their first film, Glass City, was written by Klein in 2006 and was the namesake for the company. To protect the film and its investors, Klein gathered a crew and formed the company. Klein is the producer, Cole Simon the artistic director, Kiana Harris is the marketing director and Mike Molenda works as the post-production supervisor.

The company is based out of Chicago, and truly loves working here. “The Midwest has such a vibrant community of artists, all of whom are immensely supportive and eager to help,” Klein said. “Our industry has a reputation for selfishness, but the Midwest directly refutes that idea; we all root for each other and cheer on the success stories of our fellow Midwest artists and filmmakers.”

This is where Chicago’s independent community differs from others. Even though there are many production companies in the city and throughout the Midwest, Klein feels that it’s not all about competition. He has found that within the film community, there really is a sense of collaboration.

From "Separation Anxiety"; Photo credit Ian Iott, courtesy of Glass City Films

From "Separation Anxiety"; Photo credit Ian Iott, courtesy of Glass City Films

What does separate Glass City Films from other companies though, is the types of films the make and the way they approach them, according to Klein. “The difference lies in the stories we’re willing to tell. We believe we can have quality art in our filmmaking yet not sacrifice the marketability of our films,” he said. “Sometimes, filmmakers believe it can only be one or the other.  You’re either making a straight genre film – a horror, a comedy – or you’re making a very artsy, quirky drama that will appeal to a niche of film festivals.  We believe we can have both.”

He also strongly believes in departmentalization. Klein and his crew try to “wear as few hats as possible” in each production, which also means hiring on as much talent as needed. This may seem difficult for an independent company to manage, budget wise that is, but Glass City Films makes it work.

“I think we’ve all worked on indie films where the writer is the director, the producer, the cinematographer, the editor, and sometimes even the star of the film,” he said. “We don’t fault those filmmakers, as they’re making due with limited resources (sometimes out of necessity). But, as I said earlier, we’ve always believed that the best thing about filmmaking is collaboration.”

From "Happily After"; Photo credit Jack Beggs, courtesy of Glass City Films

From "Happily After"; Photo credit Jack Beggs, courtesy of Glass City Films

Naturally, like most filmmakers out there, Glass City Films has set high goals for themselves and would love to someday win an Oscar or something of that caliber. But that certainly does not mean they don’t love the independent world of filmmaking.

“We love taking risks!” Klein said. “Working under limitations sometimes forces you to go to extremes and try something you never thought you could do as a filmmaker.  We’ve found that some of our best and most ambitious work on set has come when our backs were against the wall or when we didn’t have the money or the resources to do what we had originally envisioned.”

“That’s the thrill of low-budget, independent moviemaking: the joy of achieving the impossible. And I think casts and crews on independent productions all share in that mentality. We’re all in it together, and not simply out for a paycheck.”

Their most recent production, a full length feature called Separation Anxiety, premiered at the Trail Dance Film Festival in Oklahoma. It received three nominations- Best Feature Drama, Best Director and Best Actress.

From "Happily After"; Photo credit Jack Beggs, courtesy of Glass City Film

From "Happily After"; Photo credit Jack Beggs, courtesy of Glass City Film

The film is about a trio of friends that gets torn apart when one of them suddenly dies. “Separation Anxiety, at its core, is a study in grief, and a treatise on finding meaning in a tragedy, in a life ended too soon,” Klein said. “Through flashbacks of the trio’s time together, we come to an understanding of their relationship, their individual problems, and the way their sometimes difficult friendship defines them in the best ways possible.”

As of right now, the gang at Glass City Films still hold regular jobs, but ultimately hope to make film production their full time gig. They’ve recently partnered with fellow local producer Michael Steinbeck of Drop Shadow Productions on a film that Klein helped write called ALIA; and hope that it is the beginning of many more collaborations.

On a final note, although they have many accomplishments under their belt, Klein is the first to say that Glass City Films still has a long way to go. “The hardest – and, oddly enough, also the easiest – thing for us to acknowledge is that we are and always will be a work in progress,” he said.  “Part of the collaborative process, and part of what I’m hoping to do more in 2011, is working with people who are better than you at what you do, and learning from them.  In filmmaking, we learn by doing, by osmosis, in trial by fire. We still have a long way to go, and we still can be immensely better filmmakers.”

Glass City Films Reel 2010 from Glass City Films on Vimeo.

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