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CIMMfest Recap from the Chair

The 6th iteration of the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival (CIMMfest) took place May 1-4, 2014. For the second consecutive year, I brought together a group of Columbia College Chicago academic departments to form a major sponsor block. The lineup of movies and music was again very strong, and the conference section−CIMMCon−was a significant component, thanks in part to the participation of Paul Teruel and the Center for Community Arts Partnerships team.

I participated in three panels, “Chicago’s F#*king Awesome,” “Chicago Film Business: Beg, Borrow, or Build,” and “Rockin’ Music, Rollin’ Film,” the last two of which I moderated. “Chicago’s F#*king Awesome” was a highly energetic and provocative evening session in The Lounge at the Logan Theatre. We discussed the many strengths Chicago has as an environment to create movies and music, taking as our jumping off point moviemaker.com’s selection of Chicago as the number #1 big city in the nation to live and work as a moviemaker in 2014. We covered the importance of CineSpace Studios and Columbia College’s Cinema Art + Science department−the only program in the region ranked in the world’s top 25 film schools. But it wasn’t all breast-beating: The panelists engaged with audience members to explore what needs to be done to make good on Chicago’s undeniable awesomeness.

The “Chicago Film Business: Beg, Borrow, or Build” panel covered ground regularly discussed at festivals and industry gatherings over the thirteen years I have been in the city. The essential question is, “How do we cultivate and grow local filmmaking and ensure the region is not entirely dependent on work coming in from outside, which, while crucial, is contingent on many factors beyond our control and therefore a weak foundation for the entire Chicago-based industry?” While previous discussions have been useful, this latest one at CIMMFest had the most supportive and constructive tone I have experienced. It really feels that we have the elements we need−the task is now one of synthesis and invention.

The final panel brought together filmmakers and artists composing music for the screen. To my mind this is one of the most crucial partnerships in cinema storytelling and experimentation, though it rarely receives the same attention as the more obvious partnerships directors have with cinematographers, production designers, and editors. We focused on the creative process, but also covered the practicalities of audio post production for the screen in a digital production context, and how new composers can seek to establish themselves.

The CIMMFest finale was “Light is Calling: Experimental Films and Music,” a Fulcrum Point New Music Project presentation in association with the International Beethoven Project. An orchestra of about 20 string players performed beneath projections of several experimental films including Bill Morrison’s wonderful “Light is Calling.” This left me speechless. The venue was a very interesting space in the rear of 1st Ward Chop House on North Avenue near Damen. The show opened with a wonderful rendition of Beethoven’s Concerto 4, Movement 1, featuring the International Beethoven Project’s driving force George Lepauw on grand piano, accompanied by the Fulcrum Point New Music string orchestra under the baton of their musical director Stephen Burns. To close the show, Chicago composer Misha Zupko took the piano stool for his piece Love Obsession, which was partnered with Rachel Monosov’s film Movement of Memory. The power of live music alongside experimental film has rarely been articulated better than it was in this closing CIMMfest spectacle. 

I have joined the Advisory Board of CIMMfest and will start working in the fall on ways to continue growing its value to the Columbia College community.

Bruce Sheridan
Chair, Cinema Art + Science