October 4, 2005

U of C alumnus and undergrad win film series competition

A recent U of C graduate and a third-year undergraduate won first prize this summer in a short film competition sponsored by Current TV, an independent cable and satellite network co-founded by Al Gore. Joe Hanson, class of 2005, and Hassan Ali, class of 2007, filmed and submitted "Joe Gets Dope," a movie in which Hanson enters a freestyle rap battle competition in Wicker Park.

An article published by Wired magazine called "Joe Gets Dope" a "hilarious" film, stating, "Current TV would do well to hire more smart but witty presenters like Hanson." Hanson and Ali beat out four other finalists to win a day on the set with Dave Meyers, a director who has done music videos for artists like Mick Jagger, No Doubt, Outkast, and Jay-Z.

"Joe Gets Dope" is only one short in a series of six films. The other movies in the "Joe Gets" series focus on Hanson embarking on various adventures, including going up on the suspension rack with a dominatrix and meeting a necromancer, a performer who claims to communicate with the dead.

"Current TV is one of the best avenues to get into film, especially living in Chicago, because you don't have to move to L.A. If you can get your hands on a camera, you can submit your film and help improve your career," Hanson said. On the Current TV website, aspiring filmmakers can upload their work and read comments posted by fellow viewers. "It's nice to get honest feedback on your films because faceless strangers can be as cruel and harsh as they want," he said.

Hanson became involved with Fire Escape Films while at the U of C, and last year he appeared on the reality show, "Beauty and the Geek." Ali continues to be active in the filmmaking community here, working on a number of projects including last year's award-winning The Pursuit of Happiness. To learn more about Hanson and Ali's recent films and upcoming projects, you can visit their website at

"The word needs to get out about the Current TV network for people struggling to get into film," Hanson said. The network accepts movies on a variety of topics including fashion, the Middle East, and Joe Hanson doing yoga. As for the future, Hanson plans to continue submitting films to Current TV, concluding, "If it weren't for a forum like this, I would be serving coffee on a set, not making movies myself."