A film starring, and directed by, Oak Park resident Seth McClellan, a professor at Triton College, will screen at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., on Oct. 24, 26 and 30.
Creative Writing, a fictionalized story based on real events told in black and white, takes a look at a group of writers desperate to be famous but who do not put in the effort to become skilled writers.
"I think people are brainwashed, or maybe it's just the human condition, by advertising and Facebook to think that if they could only be 'somebody' they would be happy," McClellan said in an email.
In his story, which explores being "vulnerable in unexpected ways," McClellan tackles ambition as well as race.
"The dreams and delusions of a creative writing class erupt into a racially-charged confrontation," McClellan said.
Creative Writing premiered at the Independent Filmmakers Showcase in L.A. and won the top award at the Iowa indie film fest.
Q & A with Seth McClellan
1. Could you give a brief synopsis of the film?
The dreams and delusions of a creative writing class erupt into a racially-charged confrontation. All the actors lay fictionalized versions of themselves and the story is based on real events.
2. What was a common theme or thread you found when drawing from real life teaching situations to tell these stories?
The desperate desire to be famous and successful without an appreciation of the craft and effort required to get really good at something. I think people are brainwashed, or maybe it's just the human condition, by advertising and facebook to think that if they could only be "somebody" they would be happy.
3. You mention in the attachment that you were trying to tell the stories in the film in "vulnerable and unexpected ways." How do you feel you accomplished this?
The plot does not take any of the usual routes, beyond its basic structure, that storytellers, particularly in movies, typically do. I can guarantee that anyone who sees the film has never seen this story before and that is depressingly rare in modern cinema. I was also lucky enough to have a group of actors, who were mainly my actual students, brave enough to share with the camera aspects of themselves that are raw and real.
4. How long did it take you to complete this project?
About two years from conception to our premiere in L.A.
5. Why black and white?
The performances are very natural and the high contrast black and white plays against that creating a more stylized heightened reality that helps drive some of the themes of the film. It's also faster and cheaper to shoot in black and white.
6. What's next? Any upcoming projects?
I'm developing a film to shoot in Northern Iowa this winter with LA-based stage and screen actress Tanna Frederick and also putting together a few other projects.
7. A bit about yourself:
I'm 37 and live in Oak Park with my wife and children. I grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago and worked as an actor in LA and NY before becoming a professor and filmmaker. I've made numerous films, most notably producing and directing a documentary that aired on PBS, KING IN CHICAGO, about Martin Luther King and the Chicago Freedom Movement and co-producing CHICAGO HEIGHTS, an experimental narrative that Roger Ebert listed on his top-ten Best Art Film for 2010.