Elevated Films is a non-profit organization that will offer sneak previews of acclaimed indie movies before their official release dates at a rooftop location in Lincoln Park this month. Each screening will be preceded by a live band and will also include food, a Koval Distillery tasting and what the Elevated website promises as “great priced beverages” from the good folks at Revolution Brewing. At $15 per ticket, the events are reasonably priced and all of the money goes to charity. Even better, the first two films, People Places Things and Queen of Earth (which premiered at the Sundance and Berlin International Film Festivals earlier this year), look exceptionally promising. Elevated Films is the brainchild of Eddie and Susie Linker who hope to raise awareness of indie films in a neighborhood setting and give back to the community by using profits to support local youth arts programs. I recently spoke to Susie about this enterprising series.
MGS: Where did the idea to have rooftop film screenings to support Chicago youth arts programs come from?
SL: We were inspired by New York’s Rooftop Films. We had been to several screenings in NY, a couple of our own productions, and loved the concept of neighborhood viewings, raising awareness to indie films in a community setting. My husband and I thought Chicago would would be a terrific host for such outdoor community events, and wanted to attach a meaningful component of giving back by (hopefully) having profits to support those young artists who make it possible for us to watch film and enjoy art.
MGS: What are your objectives in holding these screenings and what specific youth arts programs will benefit from them?
SL: We want to support and raise more awareness to indie film makers and the more organic side of film making. We want folks to have more choices when going to the movies, and gain an appreciation for these artists. We are targeting a handful of programs to support, and will continue to help and discover as many as we can. Scenarios USA teaches and supports high school students in marginalized communities, who have a personal story to tell, and they provide a platform for them to share difficult stories, and offer the potential of being professionally produced into a short film. After School Matters was founded by Maggie Daley, and provides support to high school students in a large variety of arts, by offering an incentive, and an artistic option, away from reading, writing and math. CPS has made too many cuts in arts programs for us to ignore. Students need to have other choices, and unfortunately aren’t given them. Apprentice LAB is a photography mentorship program that teaches young photographers the business side of being an artist. So aside from creating, these students are learning how to manage their art to hopefully provide them with tools to earn a living in the real world.
MGS: How were you able to secure the local premieres of such high-profile films as People Places Things and Queen of Earth?
SL: My husband and I have been working with a couple of film makers, and have helped produce a handful of films. Through this avenue, we have built relationships with some distributors via our films, and visits to Sundance and SXSW. We are providing the distributors an outlet to pre-release a film, and gain some visibility and buzz in front of theatrical and OnDemand releases.
MGS: It seems like each movie screening will be just one part of an evening-long affair. What else should one expect from an Elevated Films event?
SL: As folks are coming in, getting a drink and snack, finding their seats… we will have live music playing. Since promoting the arts is what Elevated Films is all about, we are providing a platform for introducing a local band/musician, giving them an opportunity to get some visibility, and expand their fan reach. After the film, we are planning a Q&A with either the film maker/director, or with any luck, a main actor. We want to bring that next level of closeness for the community to feel apart of the production, and be able to have questions answered about the film or film maker. Alex Ross Perry will be doing a live Skype after Queen of Earth. (If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a real treat… and are sure to have plenty of questions!)
MGS: Do you have any plans that you can share beyond the Queen of Earth screening on August 12?
SL: Since this is our first season, and we are on a shoe-string, NFP budget, we didn’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. Launching just a few events in 2015 is our way of testing the indie-going waters. Of course one season isn’t enough to determine our viability, but unfortunately money is. Summertime in Chicago can be a short season, and if weather doesn’t cooperate, then we don’t have an event. We played it safe by cutting it off mid-August. This will give us plenty of time to reload and get ready for a full 2016 season! We have a handful of sponsors, but need to grow our reach to sustain. Hopefully these events will do just that. BTW, in the event of rain, our ticket purchasers are told that their ticket is good for the very next night. Should it rain 2 nights in a row, then a refund would be offered.
Here is the 2015 Elevated Films schedule:
08/05/15: People Places Things (dir. James C. Strouse) – Doors open at 7:00pm, opening band The Aunteaks play at 7:30, screening begins at 8:15.
08/12/15: Queen of Earth (dir. Alex Ross Perry) – Doors open at 7:00pm, opening act Lili K. plays at 7:30, screening begins at 8:15. Followed by a Skype Q&A with Alex Ross Perry.
Both screenings will take place on the rooftop of Whole Foods at 1550 N. Kingsbury. For more info, consult the Elevated Films website.
You should also check out the hilarious and amazing trailer for Queen of Earth below: