Seven Chicago-produced TV pilots for have been selected for the 2017 New York Television Festival, which will light up the Big Apple in the third week of October. From a candid glimpse at life in the projects to a personal crisis in a suburban basement, the themes reflect a dynamic and exciting Windy City production scene.
The NYTVF is one of the largest and oldest celebrations of independent television in the country. Besides presenting an annual showcase of pilots in three categories — comedy, drama and unscripted — it brings industry decision-makers together with creators and fans for a week of viewing and networking in the Big Apple.
Angie Gaffney, founder and executive producer of Black Apple Media, will be making her fourth trip to the event as producer of Public Housing Unit.
“It’s incredible,” she says. “Not only is it one of the original festivals to push the concept of indie TV forward, but it’s also a networking opportunity in a really curated festival.”
This year’s lineup has received special praise for its celebration of diversity. According to Deadline, it is “NYTVF’s most diverse on record, with 56% of all selected pilots featuring persons of color above the line and 44% with a person of color on the core creative team (creator, writer, director).”
Public Housing Unit got it done by combining several different walks-of-life into a project that could only have happened in Chicago. Filmed in the Lathrop Homes on the northwest side, it dramatizes the experiences of three police officers who patrolled the city’s “infamous public housing projects” during the late 1980s.
The concept was born and nurtured in Stage 18, the film incubator that Gaffney co-founded with Alex Pissios, CEO of Cinespace Studios Chicago. It started when Ted Reilly, a Stage 18 member who is also executive director of investment group Chicago Media Angels, told her about “a great story.”
“Ted was friends with these cops,” she explains. “He had been interviewing them, learning about their stories and their history.”
Feeling that “it is my duty as a producer to identify people who are more knowledgeable in those areas,” she enlisted Stage 18 member Patrick Wimp to help write the script and Dan Willis to direct.
“When you’re presented with such an incredible content opportunity, you bring people to the project who can help validate that story,” she says.
For the next two years, the team interviewed the CPD officers who had patrolled the housing units and the tenants who had called them home.
At the same time, they worked with actors to help develop the characters by reading from the script and providing feedback. Many of those who lent a hand were cast members in shows filming at Cinespace and, eventually, agreed to play roles in the film as well.
The dynamic story, cast and crew made a lasting impression on Gaffney, who has produced several award winning films over the past five years.
“A project has to have social relevance, or push the boundaries, or be beautiful and spark a conversation about grief, or race, or show a different way to love,” she says. “I will always include this type of development in my projects moving forward.”
Public Housing Unit premiered at the Chicago International Television Festival in March, then went on to screen at Denver’s SeriesFest in June, where Wimp and Willis won top honors for best writing and Destini Huston was named best actress.
Chicago-produced pilots at 2017 NYTVF (Source: Deadline.com)
Basically Happy [World Festival Premiere]
Created by Liam Gallogly and Mollie Rehner – Chicago, IL
Mollie and Liam have a tendency to take everything to the extreme, especially when it comes to their relationship.
Gentle Dan [World Festival Premiere]
Created by Dan White, Kyle Bethea, and Tim Lyons – Chicago, IL
When Dan’s temporary rough patch becomes an extended residency in the basement of his sister’s McMansion, he slowly adjusts to a new life in the suburbs and all the people who come with it.
Guilty: The Web Series
Created by Katie Novotny, Erin Conroy, and Emma Smith – Chicago, IL
Katie Donovan, a 20-something in Chicago, is dealing with different temptations every day. From drinking too much before Mass to dating outside of her religion, Katie must find the strength to shed her Catholic guilt to be the person she wants to be instead of the Catholic girl her parents raised.
Rap Skool [World Festival Premiere]
Created by Nnamdi Ngwe and Amechi Ngwe – Chicago, IL
Rob and Davis join a school of rap for the middle class and realize it’s tougher than they expected.
Starving Artists [World Festival Premiere]
Created by Dewayne Perkins and Aasia Bullock – Chicago, IL
Comedy duo Aasia and Dewayne go to extravagant lengths to reach their goals of international stardom and complete world domination. Starving Artists is a show about being young, gifted, and black in a world that praises straight, white, and wack.
Drive Slow [World Festival Premiere]
Created by Terrence Thompson
A teenager from the South-Side of Chicago attempts to finish his college essays and struggles to boil down his complex surroundings in 500 words, while his friends’ disparate opinions, racist news narratives, and the threat of lingering danger complicate the process.
Public Housing Unit
Created by Patrick Wimp, Ted Reilly, and Angie Gaffney – Chicago, IL
Set in the late 1980’s, three police officers take on both lawmakers and lawbreakers as they work to protect the people of Chicago’s infamous public housing projects.Starring Kamal Angelo Bolden, Chris Boykin, and Ira Amyx.
CREDITS — PUBLIC HOUSING UNIT
Production Companies: Chicago Media Angels, Black Apple Media, Digital HydraCasting by: Sarah Clark, Compass CastingTheme Composed by: Greg Allan and Ira AntelisMusic by: SonixphereEdited by: Felix PiñeiroCostume Designer: Sarah SharpProduction Designer: Adri SiriwatDirector of Photography: Ross HeranCo-Executive Producers: Claudia Toussas, Nancy and John BuchananExecutive Producers: Kelly Aisthorpe Waller, John WallerProduced by: Angie GaffneyStory by (based on): Eric Davis, Jimmy Marbn, Charlie ToussasCreated by: Ted Reilly, Patrick Wimp, Angie GaffneyWritten by: Patrick WimpDirected by: Daniel Willis