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The Chicago Acting In Film Meetup: Networking Night and Holiday Fundraiser 12/12

December 8, 2011 | By | 1 Comment

The Chicago Acting in Film Meetup (CAFM) presents their 3rd Annual Networking Night and Holiday Fundraiser on Monday, December 12, 2011 from 7:00 p.m. to midnight at Chief O’Neill’s Restaurant and Pub, 3471 N. Elston Avenue in Chicago.  The group, which focuses on independent film work and on-camera acting, meets every month to share information, guidance and encouragement unlike any other local network of actors.

“We’re planning the best holiday party of the year for the Chicago film community!” says group founder and organizer Grace McPhillips, an AFTRA and SAG member.  The event features food, drink and two raffle tickets in the $20 cover charge, and it lets actors, filmmakers and other industry professionals connect and begin collaborations for the coming year.

Helping Working Actors Stay Working In Chicago

Since 2007, the CAFM has held more than 50 private events to help working actors mentor each other and learn best practices for the Chicago film market.  Topics this year have included,  “Self-Production Breakdown,” “Your Type, Your Talents, Your Timeline: How To Know & Market Yourself Better,” and “Chicago & LA: Can You Do Both?”

Now, with a membership of 250 professionals, and monthly attendance averaging 40-100 people, the group has applied for not-for-profit status.

“We’re excited to take this step because we already provide educational activities for our members,” says McPhillips. “Being a 501(c)(3) will also help us with fund-raising, since our donors can get a tax deduction.  And it lets us extend our educational outreach to the entire Chicago acting and production community.”

McPhillips, who is also a voiceover actor and a film producer with Sterling Rock Productions, sees a need for local actors to come together and support each other’s careers in Chicago.  That includes tackling an issue which affects people in her group and elsewhere: the mind-set that actors must leave Chicago to find success and make a living.

“We really feel that the actor is the canary in the coal mine,” says McPhillips, “because if you can’t keep actors in Chicago, what industry do you really have here?”  She says that when actors pack up and relocate, “it’s a cause for concern for the health of our market.  We have to ask ourselves, ‘Can Chicago move beyond being a launching pad?’”

Expanding Their “Smarter” Outreach, Yet Staying Selective

CAFM Founder Grace McPhillips (right) announces a raffle winner at the 2010 holiday fundraiser.

To address that concern and others, the CAFM plans to hold events for a larger audience, such as the Sustainable Acting Summit—a first-ever Chicago acting conference designed for area creatives who plan on working and building their careers in Chicago, and Meet The Midwest Film Community—a joint effort with casting houses, production facilities and training centers in the Chicago area. These projects for the film industry would happen alongside the group’s monthly members-only activities.

“Our Meetup’s goal has always been to produce ‘smarter Chicago actors,’” explains McPhillips.  “So this year’s fundraiser has a twofold purpose—helping us continue that practice for our members, and then sharing that approach with a wider group of professionals.  Our group has grown and matured, so our level of outreach and education will be growing and maturing as well with our new NFP status.”

And while the CAFM membership keeps growing, McPhillips is still very selective about whom she lets in.  “We’re not for the waiter who hasn’t auditioned in a year, or the consultant who just decided to try acting,” she says.  “Our group is for the movers and shakers who are making it happen for themselves and the Chicago film community.  Our members embody the D.I.Y. spirit.  We do more work than our agents are finding for us.  We are creating our own projects and connecting directly with those who can hire us.  We expect that level of commitment from every member who joins.”

Chicago’s Finest And Most Consistently Working Actors

Although their membership list is kept private, CAFM actors work regularly in commercials, digital Internet projects, and films ranging from festival-winning shorts and award-winning independent features to major releases like The Dilemma and Contagion.  Members have also appeared in many Chicago-based TV productions (Shameless, The Chicago Code, The Playboy Club and BOSS).

Grace McPhillips with guest panelists for CAFM’s “Chicago & LA: Can You Do Both?”

Among the recent locally-produced films with CAFM actors: Julian Grant’s NYC International Film Festival winner Fall Away; Wendy Jo Carlton’s Jamie And Jessie Are Not Together; the independent feature Frankenstein: Day of the Beast; the dramatic short The Last Hug; and the comedic shorts Fitting, directed by Larry Ziegelman, and Flüffenhaus: The Comeback of a Pop Culture Icon.

“I’m very proud of our members,” says McPhillips, “because they are go-getters.  They’ve also helped our Meetup develop a positive reputation over these four years.  Casting directors now know who we are, talent agents recommend this group to their actors, film schools work with our members every semester, indie filmmakers seek us out.  And our members are becoming higher quality actors thanks to the ways we mentor each other.”

Their party on December 12 is the group’s main fund-raising event, and the one time each year when the CAFM opens its doors and goes from private to public.

“We invite everyone to come out and help us celebrate the Chicago film community on 12/12,” says McPhillips.  “We’ll have an amazing raffle with prizes like Cubs tickets, Blackhawks tickets, jewelry, theater tickets, headshots, a one-year membership to the Midwest Independent Film Festival, and a 10-minute one-on-one session with the top Chicago casting directors! You get in for just 20 bucks.  That gives you two raffle tickets, a drink ticket and hors d’oeuvres.  You’ll help our group keep actors smart.  And you’ll help support special events planned for our NFP!”

For more information about The Chicago Acting in Film Meetup or their fundraiser, contact Grace McPhillips [].  Or visit the Facebook page for Chicago Film Actors, click on the Events tab, and find the “2011 Annual Networking Night and Holiday Fundraiser.”


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Comments (1)

  1. Corbett

    Wow, that lady is a go-getter. What can’t she get done?

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