I teach video production to young people on the west side of Chicago for a non-profit called Community TV Network. CTVN has been around for over 30 years and they’ve gone through many transitions. Many filmmakers and educators have begun their career doing what I do, including my film history and analysis professor from Southern Illinois, Jyotsna Kapur. She visited one of my classrooms two years ago and introduced herself as my student’s grandparent. It made me feel part of a larger film educator tradition.
This year my students got to experience a bunch of film fun including a private screening of The Interrupters at The Siskel Film Center, making a mockumentary and one of them went to The Peace Summit to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It’s a rewarding job that offers a lot of perks and it’s fun to pass them along to kids that don’t normally have access to the film world. The best part about it is that the West Town Video Production Team won Best Screenplay at the Chicago Youth Community Film Festival last week.
We also brought some major change to CTVN this year by revising our brand, retooling our website and retrofitting our on-site classroom. As a youth media organization that focuses on low-income students, we’ve been through a rough patch but we were still able to pull together an amazing effort to give the organization a shove into the 21st Century. Last week, thanks to Craftsman Experience, we celebrated the culmination of all our hard work on The Down and Dirty with Frank Fontana.
I make an appearance at around 7:35, followed by an interview with Gordon Quinn, who put the work we do into the larger context of Chicago film history. It was an honor to have him come out and give our new studio his blessing. After the show ended and the dust settled, I was able to take part in an even deeper Chicago tradition that will stay with me for a long time to come. I got to give Gordon Quinn a ride to his car.
My love for Kartemquin Films is well-documented in that my first serious blog post was about The New Americans, so I offered my services when Gordon needed a ride to the CTA. (Onlookers may describe this differently as I vaguely recall knocking over chairs and trampling small children on my way across the room.) My limited driving experience in The Gold Coast paid off because I got lost on our way to the blue line and found out that we were going the same way. This resulted in a longer ride than either of us expected but that was fine with me and it made things easier for him too. Win, Win.
The word Sage is probably under-used because it gets giggles from audiences but, being in the presence of someone that’s seen and done many of the things that you wish to see and do in your lifetime is truly a great thing. Through our conversation, I had a glimpse through a lens that sees things as part of a larger cycle that will ebb and flow like everything else that is crucial to our common growth. The stories he told me are mine to keep and all I had to pay was a drive across town. Great bargain.
His parting words hammered in the gravity of the tradition that I was part of in that car ride. He told me that Studs Terkel never learned to drive and he’d frequently hitch rides with people to get around. After some nights, when all the pretty girls were gone, it would fall to Gordon to take him home. In that moment, sitting in the place that my hero sat when he was in the presence of the imminent sage of his time, I felt the wind of Chicago tradition at my back.