‘Chicago Rot’ potential star of booming indie film scene

By Sophia Coleman

Chicago may not be the next Hollywood in terms of big-name film production, but there is considerable potential coming from three local independent filmmakers who have made it their mission to do the city justice.

According to Rich Moskal, director of the Chicago Film Office, 121 N. La Salle St., the film scene here is on an upswing, reflected in its rapid growth.

One indie film garnering high expectations is “Chicago Rot,” a revenge-horror film that director Dorian Weinzimmer calls “a dark love letter” to Chicago.

The feature film is dedicated to the city in more ways than one. Weinzimmer, along with lead actor and writer Brant McCrea and producer Jeremy Vranich, is determined to expose the gritty underbelly of Chicago that many people tend to forget.

The film follows the revenge-soaked journey of Les, played by McCrea, who describes his character as a “wrongfully imprisoned street legend” searching for his mother’s murderer and the keeper of his soul. The film takes the audience through the dark, dingy alleys of Chicago and showcases a number of real-life

local celebrities.

Though Weinzimmer said production has been going well, he admitted keeping everything running according to plan has been a bit difficult because there is no solid “film hub” in the city.

“Development is what has been missing in Chicago,” Weinzimmer said. “We have a lot of indie people here that go out and make films that may or may not get noticed, and then they go off to New York or LA.”

He also said people from the East and West Coasts sometimes come here, shoot what they need, then pack up and leave when they are done.

In short, Chicago is more of a pit stop than a destination, McCrea said.

Todd Lillethun, program director at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark St., agreed, especially in terms of independent filmmaking.

“There needs to be more infrastructures here for independent filmmaking,” Lillethun said. “There’s a lot of attention paid to big-budget features that come in from Hollywood, but there needs to be more stability professionally for the independent filmmakers.”

Moskal is also aware of the need for infrastructure, but he believes it’s being built up with every film made here.

“We, as a destination for Hollywood, have matured and grown over the years,” Moskal said. “With that, Chicago’s independent community has matured and grown as well.”

McCrea has hope because of the recent construction of Cinespace, 2558 W. 16th St., which he thinks will be a huge step in the right direction for filmmakers in Chicago.

Cinespace is “a subsidiary of the Toronto Corporation, [which] specializes in the development, management and operation of studio facilities,” according to Cinespace’s website, ChicagoFilmStudios.com.

McCrea hopes the indie scene here will be energized by the Cinespace production space, in addition to the upsurge in big-budget films that have been shot here over the past two years.

Moskal, who is supportive of both film scenes, recognizes the hard work the crew of “Chicago Rot” has put in.

“They’ve made it clear that they are bypassing the traditional postcard views of the city and are going for a very gritty authenticity,” Moskal said.

With filming beginning in mid-October, the crew hopes to enter the film into the 2012 Chicago International Film Festival, which runs Oct. 6–20.

“The most unique aspect about [the film] is that it wasn’t originally written as a horror film,” McCrea said.

McCrea, along with the rest of the crew, has full confidence in the grungy elements of the city to bring their “heartfelt horror film” to life.

“It’s very character driven,” Weinzimmer said. “There’s a strong narrative to it, for sure, but we have put a lot of time and effort into making these characters believable, relatable and [we made sure to give] the audience a reason to give a s–t about them.”