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  • Writer's pictureTeam Acacia

Industry Days at 59th Chicago International Film Festival Schedule and Keynote Announced

Special Guests Include Actor-Director Michael Shannon, Producer-Writer James Schamus; Filmmaker Minhal Baig

CHICAGO, Illinois (September 21, 2023) - The 59th Chicago International Film Festival, presented by Cinema/Chicago, announced today the program and schedule for Industry Days, running October 12-15 in downtown Chicago. Now in its 9th year, the four-day conference is the Festival’s hub for filmmakers and professionals to connect, share ideas, and find inspiration.

"By bringing the film community together in Chicago, Industry Days has become an important meeting place for emerging filmmakers from the Midwest, and Festival guests from around the U.S. and the world, to connect directly with prominent creatives and major decision-makers,” said Festival Senior Programmer Anthony Kaufman.

This year’s Industry Days will feature discussions with distinguished guests, including a Master Class with Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon, whose directorial debut ERIC LARUE screens as a Special Presentation at this year’s Festival, and a Keynote Conversation with James Schamus, the Oscar-nominated writer of THE ICE STORMand CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, producer of acclaimed films such as BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and THE ASSISTANT, and the former studio executive and CEO of Focus Features. Other special guests include writer-directors Minhal Baig (WE GROWN NOW, this year’s Opening Night presentation) and Samantha Bailey (DEAR WHITE PEOPLE) and trailblazing executives from premier independent production companies, including Jenny Halper from Maven Pictures (THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER), Ana Leocha from Tango Entertainment (AFTERSUN), and Kiva Reardonfrom Barry Jenkins’ production company PASTEL (MOONLIGHT, ALL DIRT ROADS TASTE OF SALT).

Mary Jane Skalski, president of production at Echo Lake Entertainment and the award-winning producer of THE STATION AGENT and AMERICAN ANIMALS, will also participate in a special pre-Industry Days conversation about creative producing and pitching projects, which will take place on Friday, September 29, as part of the Festival’s Chicago Industry Exchange Lab program. For more information on this event, visit

Since its inception, Industry Days has hosted an impressive lineup of film executives, entertainment professionals, and major talents, including directors Steve McQueen and Darren Aronofsky, screenwriters John Logan and Tarrell Alvin McCraney; composers Terence Blanchard and Mychael Danna; producers Dede Gardner, Brenda Gilbert, Ted Hope, Gigi Pritzker, James D. Stern, and MACRO CEO Charles D. King; and veteran distribution executives Michael Barker, Richard Lorber, and Tom Quinn.

Industry Days will also feature networking mixers and roundtable meetings with top executives from the entertainment industry. Please check the website for more information and further updates. Speakers are subject to change.

All events are open to registered Industry Days passholders only unless otherwise noted.

For full schedule information, registration, and other updates visit:

Thursday, 10/12

4pm-5pm: AMC NEWCITY 14

Chicago Stories; Global Impact

Presented by The Illinois Production Alliance

Flyover country, be damned. Whether it’s TV shows like The Bear, independent films like Perpetrator or We Grown Now, award-winning commercials, or the occasional Hollywood blockbuster that passes through town (such as David Fincher’s The Killer), Chicago continues to be a creative and production hub. But how do Chicagoland artists and stories break out of their backyards and reach the masses? Successful creators speak about their craft, telling authentic stories rooted in their Midwest background, and reaching audiences around the country and the world.

Panelists: Minhal Baig (We Grown Now), Carrie Holt de Lama (The Bear), Jennifer Reeder (Perpetrator), Haroula Rose (All Happy Families)

Moderator: Anthony Kaufman

5pm - 6pm: Industry Days Mixer - Location TBA

Hosted by CineCity Studios

Friday, 10/13


Documentary Deep Dive: Producing and Financing

Take a deep dive into the funding, financing, and producing of documentaries in ways that are effective, responsible, and sustainable. These veteran nonfiction producers will break down best practices in equity financing, the granting landscape, fundraising, budgeting, and bringing your film from idea to reality.

Panelists: Caryn Capotosto (Little Richard: I Am Everything), Chris Renteria (Whose Streets?), Yvonne Welbon (Sisters in Cinema)

Moderator: Ines Sommer (Doc Chicago)

11:15am - 12:15pm GENE SISKEL FILM CENTER

Documentary Deep Dive: Help, No One Is Distributing Docs!

“To say the documentary marketplace is cold is generous; it’s fucking freezing,” a documentary producer recently told Filmmaker Magazine. What are nonfiction filmmakers and episodic creators to do when companies aren’t acquiring their work? Experts will discuss the ways nonfiction distribution can still thrive via both conventional and alternative strategies.

Panelists: Andrew Carlin (Oscilloscope Laboratories), Whitney Spencer (Kartemquin), Lisa Trifone (Bright Iris Film Company)

Moderator: Ines Sommer (Doc Chicago)


Keynote Conversation with James Schamus

James Schamus is an award-winning screenwriter (The Ice Storm), producer (Brokeback Mountain), director (Indignation) and former CEO of Focus Features, which released such classic independent films under his tenure as Lost in Translation, The Kids Are All Right, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He continues to produce films under the banner of his production company, Symbolic Exchange, including Kitty Green’s The Assistant, Andrew Ahn’s Driveways, and Minhal Baig’s We Grown Now. A professor at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, and a negotiating committee member of the Writers Guild of America, Schamus will offer his unique perspective on the past, present, and future of the entertainment industry.

2:30pm - 3:30 pm GENE SISKEL FILM CENTER

Master Class in Directing the Actor with Michael Shannon

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, The Shape of Water) brings his feature film directing debut Eric LaRue to this year’s Festival, but Shannon is a veteran theater director and artistic visionary, whose work at Chicago’s A Red Orchid and Steppenwolf Theatre dates back over 25 years. In this Master Class discussion, Shannon will discuss the ways that directors and actors can work most effectively together and offer advice and inspiration on how to make powerful work together.

Moderated by Yasen Peyankov, Head of Theatre, School of Theatre and Music at UIC and Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble


Innovations in Editing

Presented by Adobe

How do we craft amazing stories through editing? How can new technologies help in this creative process? Whether it’s the embrace of AI or working remotely with a director, traditional filmmaking workflows may be long behind us. This panel brings together leading editors & storytellers to discuss the latest in post-production technology and best-practices for filmmaking.

Panelists: Michael X. Flores (Love Means Zero), Melissa Sterne (Punch 9 for Harold Washington), Matt Tarr (Quriosity Productions), Angelo Valencia (Optimus)

Moderator: Kyle Henry (Rogers Park)

5pm - 7pm: Industry Days Mixer - GENE SISKEL FILM CENTER

Hosted by Adobe

Saturday, 10/14

10:30am - Noon AMC NEW CITY 14

Solidarity Breakfast

Coffee, pastries, and conversation with union members and other special guests.

12pm - 1pm AMC NEWCITY 14

Power to the People: Can Labor Unions, Collectives, and Alliances Save Independent Creators?

Presented by SAGIndie

In the wake of The Great Resignation and historic strikes by the entertainment unions, workers are harnessing the power of their collective strength to mount a vigorous fight for better pay and a better way of life. Hearing from representatives from unions, doc collectives, and other advocacy organizations, independent filmmakers and creators can learn how to change our industry and find strength in numbers.

Panelists: Charles Andrew Gardner (SAG), Brett Neveau (WGA), Naeema Torres (Mezcla Media Collective)

Moderator: Darrien Michele Gipson Dorn (SAGIndie)

2pm - 3pm AMC NEWCITY 14

Amplifying Black Voices; Expanding Black Audiences

Presented by Nielsen

In 2020 Black writers made up just 15.5% of episodic writers, 9.7% of plot writers and only 7% of screenwriters. No wonder half of Black viewers feel there is not enough content for them. What can creators and industry do to help tip the scales, expanding and cultivating more Black talent and making content that both resonates with and grows a diverse audience base for their work.

Panelists: Sam Bailey (You’re So Talented), Charlene Polite Corley (Nielson), Nikki Love (ALLBLK)

Moderator: Aymar Jean Christian (OTV cofounder, Northwestern University)

3:30pm - 4:30pm AMC NEWCITY 14

Think Bigger: Can Short Films Meet Outsized Expectations

What role do short films play in the media landscape and creators’ careers? Can they be money-makers on their own? Are they simply calling cards? Can they help lead to a feature film or TV career? Filmmakers and industry representatives share their experiences working with short films and discuss the various ways they can be used to leverage money, attention, and project advancement.

Panelists: Clare Cooney (Departing Seniors), Mark Glasgow (Chicago Media Angels), Spencer Parsons (Bite Radius)

Moderator: Peter Hawley (Illinois Film Office)

5pm-6pm AMC NEWCITY 14

Comedy’s Trickiest Weapons

Co-presented by The Second City

Ever since Ancient Greece’s Homeric parody The Battle of Frogs and Mice, parody and satire have been potent tools for skewering the popular forms and belief systems in our society. At this year’s Festival alone, films such as Vera Drew’s The People’s Joker, Emerald Fennell's Saltburn, and Kristoffer Borgli’s Dream Scenario poke fun at everything from the dominance of cis superheroes to the corruption of capitalism and social media. Join visiting filmmakers and local comedians for this discussion about what’s funny about popular culture, fair use, and how such comic forms have the power to radically transform and restructure the ways we view our world.

6pm - 7pm: Industry Days Mixer - Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya

Hosted by SAGindie & Periscope Post & Audio

Sunday, Oct. 15

11:00am-12:00pm: GENE SISKEL FILM CENTER

International Awards Contenders: Making Movies that Transcend Borders

The Chicago International Film Festival has a long tradition of hosting the year’s best films from around the world, with many of the selections submitted as their country’s entry in the Oscar race for Best International Feature Film. (This year’s Festival has more than a dozen). Meet some of this year’s most acclaimed global auteurs, and hear how they’ve crafted movies that resonate with audiences around the world.

Panelists and moderator: TBA



A curated selection of filmmakers with new narrative projects in active development will take part in a competitive pitch session. The winning project will receive an awards package of in-kind services from Chicago-area production facilities and organizations—to include consultation, production, and post-production services.

Pitch Judges: Jenny Halper (Maven Pictures), Ana Leocha (Tango Entertainment), Kiva Reardon (Pastel)

Pitch Prize Partners: Panavision, LightIron, Periscope, All Senses Go, Camera Ambassador, PR Casting, Ramo Law

For more information, visit the Industry Days website at

2023 Industry Days Sponsors and Supporters

Industry Days is supported by Adobe, All Senses Go, Camera Ambassador, Caption Consulting, CineCity Studios, Cinelease, Dark Matter Coffee, The Illinois Production Alliance, Nielsen, Panavision, Light Iron, Periscope Post & Audio, Revolution Brewing, SAGindie, SANPELLEGRINO, and The Seeker. Additional support is provided by the Illinois Film Office and the Chicago Film Office. This program is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.

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