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Chicago Film Showcase Ends on Small Note of Optimism

Monty Brown Posted by Monty Brown in Blogs September 17th, 2011

By Monty Brown, Past President of TRACS.

The prime purpose of this annual Showcase get-together in Chicago is the showing of films to Presenters, and this was successfully accomplished on the first day, Sunday, 9-11.

At break of day, Steve Gonser and I conveyed the projection and sound equipment around the corner from the venerable Hotel Seneca to the bright and modern Museum of Contemporary Art.

By the time breakfast was brought in, we’d set up Steve’s projectors and my sound gear. At 10 o’clock we welcomed the Attendees: Including 6 film production entities and 11 Presenter groups. We  had a minute of silence for the victims of the 9/11 disasters. Throughout the day, people told anecdotes of their whereabouts on that fateful day 09/11/2001.

Each Preview was introduced by a different attendee, chosen at random —name in a hat— during the breakfast hour. This is the second year in a row that we’ve done it this way. It was organized by Kathie Veach and Marsha Brown, and it makes the whole process much more fun and inclusive.

Eighteen previews were entered, two of which could not be shown because of technical reasons: one cracked DVD and one DVD without sound. (There are dangers in a Filmmaker mailing in his or her program and not being present at the event. Luckily, in this instance, both Filmmakers were well represented by other previews.

At least a dozen out of the 18 were previews of new productions. The quality was uniformly high and there was considerable diversity of style and content.

Steve Gonser deserves our thanks for running a very efficient show, dancing between DVD, HD, and Mini-DV formats.

In the evening we gathered for a wine, beer, cheese and meatball fest at the President’s Reception.

Fran and Brooke Reidelberger brought along a huge pile of back issues of Travel Adventure Cinema Magazine and its several predecessors. We all marveled at the youthful images of our now mostly-mature membership. (“Venerable” might work here, too.)

Day 2: The TRACS Board met at some unearthly morning hour and discussed most of the issues which eventually arose at the General Meeting. Before the GM, however, the two components of the assemblage gathered separately. The Film- makers — Browns, Nolans, Reidelbergers, Steve Gonser, Sandy Mortimer and Doug Jones — in one room, and the Presenters in another. Grant Foster, a Filmmaker who lives in Chicago and is a past President of TRACS, was a most welcome guest at all the proceedings.

A couple of weeks before the Convention I had sent around an email memo asking for input on the question of TRACS survival: Evolve or dissolve? My own feeling leading up to the meeting was that dissolution was a strong possibility, and I sensed that the Filmmakers were leaning in that direction. Buddy Hatton was “present” at the Filmmakers meeting through his well-worded reply to this email, with which many of us agreed .

However, Sid Nolan and I had to point out that at the board meeting there was some determination to keep TRACS alive. Evolution was the message emanating from that direction.

Thus, it was quite a lively General Meeting, and by that I don’t mean to imply that there was animosity. I felt that the enthusiastic Presenters simply won us over and by the time we were asked whether we might attend a Conference in 2012, we unerringly declared that, Yes, we might. A reversal of our feelings from the separate meeting.

 

Steve Smith

Of course, there are “conditions,” but it was all worked out quite amicably. The Presenters, particularly Steve Smith, announced that they would do their damnedest to get more sponsors to any future gatherings. This would undoubtedly encourage more Filmmakers to attend. And secondly, we are to find cheaper venues in future. We have to admit that none of us is making enormous amounts of money these days, so a budget-priced Film Showcase-Convention is essential.

 

There is some new enthusiasm amongst the presenters, a new President coming up in the person of Pieter Kool, with Vice President Jim Holmgren stepping into the president’s position for the next year. New Board members are Kathy Lewis of Washington University as Presenter Chairman and Carol Rienstra as Board Secretary.Things are looking up.

It’s notable that Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, MI, is having some sellout audiences and that Anna Sietsema has replaced herself with another go-getter, the aforementioned Carol Rienstra. In fact, Carol is checking on the possibility of Calvin holding our next convention. Anna was awarded a certificate thanking her for over 32 years of service.

Kathie Veach must be commended again for her work in planning this event. The food was good and plentiful, the meeting rooms were close and convenient, and as I said, the Film Festival aspect was a huge success.

So, there we have it. Another Convention has passed, and in spite of repeated calls on all sides for “virtual” gatherings and an internet film festival, TRACS is deciding to keep the personal touch. I like that: long may it continue.