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The Independent Film Initiative (IFI)

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Chicago Film Office Announces Independent Film Initiative Filmmaker In Residence Daniel Nearing

Movie crew filming along Lake Michigan with Chicago skyline in the background (Photo credit: Chuck Hodes)

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The Independent Film Initiative (IFI) is a program of the Chicago Film Office – Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events designed to retain, promote and provide career enhancing opportunities for local film industry professionals, media makers and affiliated creative with the goal to foster a more sustainable and robust independent film industry in Chicago.

The IFI is an industry development initiative designed to advance the filmmaking community and grow the number of locally produced independent features, documentaries, short film, and web series. Through increased convening, marketing, communication and professional development strategies, IFI will promote Chicago as a hub for independent film and media arts across all sectors, including production, financing, exhibition (screening of new works), education and distribution. The program is intended to foster industry growth, talent retention, and provide local producers with incentives, resources and promotional opportunities created exclusively for Chicago's independent filmmaking community.

The IFI serves to advocate and promote Chicago's independent film community, bringing more attention to Chicago film among industry stakeholders on the national landscape. IFI will support and partner with existing Chicago-based independent film organizations with the goal to increase the sustainability and quantity of independent media production and increased workforce participation by emerging film and media makers.


Call For Filmmakers - ChicagoMade Short Series

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and the Chicago Film Office are now accepting entries from local filmmakers for the ChicagoMade Shorts Series as part of the 5th Annual Millennium Park Summer Film Series. A program of the Independent Filmmaker Initiative, the ChicagoMade Shorts series will showcase one short film by a Chicago-based filmmaker prior to each feature screening of the Millennium Park Summer Film Series. The ChicagoMade Shorts Series is a celebration of the robust local independent film community and a showcase of entertaining work produced by talented Chicago-based artists. Submission is now open for original, entertaining short films a maximum of 8 minutes in length created by Chicago-based filmmakers. All genres and diverse subject matter is encouraged; however submissions must be appropriate for a public outdoor screening. Short films must be submitted at: Entries accepted through March 31, 2017. Selected short films will screen once to a captive audience of 8,000-10,000 and receive a screening fee of $250. Screenings occur every Tuesday night from June 13 – August 30, 2017 beginning at 6:30pm in Millennium Park. All screenings are FREE to the public and made possible by the Millennium Park Foundation. The Summer Film Series is co-curated by Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE).


IFI Filmmaker-in-Residence


The IFI Filmmaker-in-Residence program is a platform to formally support local, accomplished independent filmmakers with the aim of enhancing the viability of their careers and to bring more visibility and support to the independent filmmaking industry in Chicago. Residents will be connected to an expert community, new collaborators, and a wider network of funders and distributors. In support of the completion of a film or media project, this year-long residency provides Chicago-based film and media makers with:

• $10,000 in funding

• Industry discounts on equipment rental and permits

• Meeting/convening space at the Chicago Cultural Center, with access to multiple downtown amenities

• An advisory board comprised of experts in the independent film and broadcast field

• Additional promotion, resources, and mentorship

• Industry+ Badge at the Chicago International Film Festival’s 2016 Industry Days and slot in the Pitch session

In exchange, IFI Residents are required to make a public presentation of their project at the completion of the residency, participate as a lead in the Independent Producers Apprenticeship, and provide a final report and budget.


Advisory Group:

IFI Residents will have the opportunity to meet and consult with an advisory of local and national industry professionals with expertise across all phases of the filmmaking process, including directors, produces, screenwriters, casting directors, agents, financiers, and distributors. Confirmed advisors include Kris Swanberg (Unexpected, Empire Builder), Bob Teitel (Barbershop, Soul Food, Southside With You) , and Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams, Happy Christmas, Golden Exits).


Eligibility Requirements:

Filmmakers-in-Residence are individuals who live and work in the city of Chicago, and are selected by committee from an online application. Applicants must be filmmakers who have played a principal role in a completed production (producer, writer, director, editor, etc.). Previous work samples are required and must demonstrate high technical and artistic ability. The majority of the production team must be Chicago-based. This residency is for individuals only, and are not awarded to organizations, non-profits, community centers, universities or schools, or federal, state, or city agencies.

Applicants primary residence must be in the city of Chicago to be eligible for the IFI Filmmaker-in-Residence.



All awardees are required to adhere to the following:

- Required to adhere to a contract during the grant cycle with the City of Chicago, which outlines the terms of their residency.

- All fellows must print the following credit line in all programs or printed materials describing the funded project: “This project _insert name_is supported by the Independent Filmmaker Initiative, a program of the Chicago Film Office Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events”, and include the DCASE logo in the final credits.

- Submit a Final Report including financials no later than 30 days after completion of the residency

- Professionalism of overall application, required proof of residency and indebtedness check

- Serve as a lead to the Independent Producers Apprenticeship. The IFI Resident will serve on the Apprentice selection committee; lead one four-hour orientation with the selected Apprentices, and commits to open their production to each Apprentice for up to two weeks.

- Host a public screening of their finished film with DCASE at the completion of the residency.


Apply here through August 31:

Download the IFI Filmmaker-in-Residence Application Questions (PDF)


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