April 2, 2002

Fire Escape Group to Finish First Flick

Fire Escape Films, a University of Chicago-based student film production society, has finished shooting its first feature-length film, and is now moving into post-production. The film, entitled Haunting Pierrot's Ghost, was produced in large part by University students.

"It's as much film as it is theater," said Nima Bassiri, the writer and director of the film, who graduated from the College in 2001. "The basic underlying premise is that its about mime… it's discursive, it deals with religious issues, politics…it's all over the place. It's very U of C." A trailer has been finished, but will not be released online until late April. The film, which is being produced jointly with University Theater, is being presented by the Arts Council in association with the Festival of the Arts, an annual spring festival that involves an array of different artistic activities in and around the University.

"It's the first feature-length production that I know of put on by students of the University of Chicago," said Tony Gannon, member of the Fire Escape committee and production designer for Haunting Pierrot's Ghost. "It'll probably be a little over 90 minutes." MostFire Escape productions thus far have been shorts, typically running anywhere from two to 20 minutes.

Actors in Fire Escape films are usually students or friends of the filmmakers. Because of the requirements of the script, however, most of the actors for Haunting Pierrot's Ghost were drawn from outside the University community. "Auditions were fall quarter," said Bassiri. Three actors from University Theater were also involved.

Haunting Pierrot's Ghost is scheduled to be shown at Doc Films at 9:30 on May 26. Doc Films has been the traditional venue for Fire Escape Films, but Bassiri expressed hope that the film would also be shown elsewhere. "We're going to try and have independent presentations," she said.

"In the past we've done an annual Fire Escape festival [that] collects the shorts produced over the entire year," said Dan McCormick, a fourth-year with Doc. "This past quarter they wanted to do a short every week at the end of our Wednesday night movie. We're continuing to do that this quarter."

Fire Escape, which is funded by the University's Programming and Coordinating Council, provides financial and technical assistance to aspiring graduate and undergraduate filmmakers. "We provide financial support, mentorship, training for equipment," Gannon said. "We just provide funding for any project that looks doable…anything from short documentaries to mockumentaries." At any given time, 20 to 40 people are involved with Fire Escape productions.

Fire Escape was created about seven years ago to fill a void left when Doc moved away from actually producing movies to simply showing them. Doc had been making films into the late 1970s.