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Chicago Filmmakers cuts ribbon on new home
by Liz Baudler
2018-05-02

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Chicago P.D. actor Jeff Rogers wears many hats, and he put another one to emcee Chicago Filmmaker's open house and ribbon-cutting on April 28 at 5720 N. Ridge Ave.

Formerly a Chicago firehouse from 1928, the Chicago Landmark building will be home to classrooms and a theater for the 45-year-old organization. In his opening remarks, Rogers, who has worked with Chicago Filmmakers, said the organization helps Chicagoans "explore their dreams."

"We hope the next generation of filmmakers and media makers will find their community," said Chicago Filmmakers Board President Sharon Zurek, who concluded her speech with some tears.

Executive Director Brenda Webb recalled passing the firehouse while Chicago Filmmakers was renting spaces and dreaming of having its own. "I always wondered what was inside," Webb said of the firehouse. "Now I get to create what's inside." While Rogers called Webb "the tip of the spear" for finding the space, Webb thanked Ald. Harry Osterman for his "vision and dedication" and for wanting to see their building used for the good of the community.

Diane Quon—whose latest film, Mind the Gap, has received Sundance accolades—recalled "feeling lucky" to find workshops at Chicago Filmmakers, and remembered putting her education to work the day after when returning to set.

Rich Moskel, director of the Chicago Film Office, called Filmmakers an organization "of and for filmmakers," and praised its egalitarian nature. Christine Dudley, of the Illinois Film Office, called the firehouse itself a symbol of safety and a place to be nurtured.

Osterman called the opening "an incredible day in Edgewater" and likened the process of connecting the organization to the space as a "masterpiece." And Chicago Fire actor Chris Stolte, like Webb, remembered driving past the firehouse and wondering what would become of it—perhaps "a really cool theater."

"This might be even better than a really cool theater," said a smiling Stolte. After the ribbon was officially cut and a very large community photo was taken, guests streamed inside to drink champagne and nibble on snacks. And as was made clear from the long list of announced VIPs, which Jones called "The Avengers: Chicago Filmmaking Edition," everyone was here for the party. After a toast to "the health and long life of the organization" inside the former fire truck bay, now a theater, Zurek and Webb continued to thank individuals and ask for support, particularly to purchase platform seating for the theater and plants for the outdoor park. Upstairs, instructors and volunteers facilitated class-sign ups, and screenwriting and film-cutting activities.


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