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Columbia alum debuts ‘Melomaniac’ documentary to sold out crowd at Chicago Underground Film Festival

Lukas Katilius
Katlin Schneider, director of “Melomaniac,” stands outside of Harper Theater in Hyde Park before the sold out showing of her documentary on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

Katlin Schneider, a 2011 Columbia graduate, recently won the Audience Favorite Award at the 30th annual Chicago Underground Film Festival for her documentary “Melomaniac.”

For Schneider, the debut screening, which took place at the Harper Theater in Hyde Park, was an interesting opportunity for her to watch people and experience the story.

“It’s really exciting to have worked on it for four years and have that payoff,” Schneider said.

“Melomaniac” tells the story of Aadam Jacobs, who has been amateurly recording live shows around Chicago since the 80s.

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Jacobs has amassed thousands of live show recordings of bands before they were famous like The Flaming Lips, Nirvana and Sonic Youth. He owns a large discography of old underground bands that he also recorded; almost single-handedly documenting the live music scene of Chicago through the 80s and 90s.

The documentary features interviews of different venue owners Jacobs recorded in, as well as different bands that know Jacobs as an archivist. The film also documented old live music venues that held several live shows during the 80s and 90s, like The Grand Ax, featuring interviews with the owners.

The final question the documentary posed is: What will happen to this amazing archive of live music when Jacobs is gone?

Schneider said she hoped people will help Jacobs digitize it.

“I would love for people to get together and really take action to support Aadam Jacobs,” she said. “He’s taking every single tape and digitizing it and that takes time, money and extra hands.”

The documentary took four years to produce with Schneider carrying a tripod and her personal camera around Chicago to interview different people, including Jacobs.

Schneider said there were times where it was hard to keep going with the project.

“There were a couple times when I questioned if this was something I wanted to keep working on, to finish,” she said.

Her passion for music and the importance of Jacobs’ archive led her to continue.

“It’s a really important part of Chicago’s music history, like there wasn’t a lot of recording going on in the 80s and 90s,” Schneider said. “The fact that this thing exists, that we do have a means of preserving it at some point of preserving it is really important to me.”

“Melomaniac” had two premieres: Thursday, Sept. 14 and Saturday, Sept. 16., both of them selling out, with a Q&A session after. Schneider was then awarded the Audience Favorite Award at the end of the festival.

Schneider found out about the Chicago Underground Film Festival — or CUFF — through Jacobs during filming.

“Aadam Jacobs volunteered for CUFF in its early years,” Schneider said. “It’s an interesting full-circle moment that 30 years later his documentary is being shown.”

Talia Howe, producer of Chicago Underground Film Festival, detailed how important the festival is for underground filmmakers.

“CUFF is the launching place, essentially, for a lot of up-and-coming filmmakers to kind of have their first visible training,” Howe said.

The festival has screened many successful independent filmmakers over the years, including Rodney Ascher, Tyler Hubby and Kelly Reichardt, said Bryan Wendorf, who is one of the founders of CUFF.

Now, Schneider plans to take her film on the festival circuit.

“I definitely want to take it to a couple other festivals in the Midwest,” she said. “Ultimately I do want to take it out to L.A., I do want to take it to New York, to as many documentary and music-based festivals as possible.”

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About the Contributors
Connor Dore
Connor Dore, Former Reporter
cdore@columbiachronicle.com   Connor Dore is a senior journalism major, concentrating in broadcast journalism. Dore primarily reports on Columbia's School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but has also written about the college's financial deficit, Chicago protests and course changes. He joined the Chronicle in May 2023.   Hometown: Hickory Hills, Illinois
Lukas Katilius
Lukas Katilius, Photojournalist
lkatilius@columbiachronicle.com   Lukas Katilius is a junior photojournalism major. He has covered various campus and Chicago events. Katilius  joined the Chronicle in July 2023.   Hometown: New Lenox, Illinois