Local studio pitching Roberts' 2007 play at Chicago film festival

Local studio pitching Roberts' 2007 play at Chicago film festival

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign's Shatterglass Films will be among six teams pitching indie-film projects later this month to IFP Chicago and the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival.

Shatterglass producers Brett Hays, Luke Boyce and Jen Keller Shelby will try to sell to industry professionals Mark Roberts' screenplay for "Rantoul and Die" during "The Pitch" at Industry Days on Oct. 23 in Chicago.

The movie would be an adaptation of Roberts' play "Rantoul and Die," a dark comedy that was presented in 2007 at the Station Theatre in Urbana, and later in Los Angeles, to good reviews.

"The point of the pitch is it's a competition on pitching, with various prizes for winning," Hays said. "It's a good experience. You want people to hear about the project and build interest in the industry as well."

The winning team will receive services in consultation, production and post-production from Chicago-area movie-production facilities and organizations.

The jury at "The Pitch" will be veterans in the film industry: Molly O'Keefe, Director of Scripted Programs at Tribeca Film Institute; Forager Films' Eddie Linker; Aijah Keith, Acquisitions Manager of IFC Films and Sundance Selects; and Rebecca Green, producer of the hit films "It Follows" and "I'll See You In My Dreams."

Last year, Shatterglass Studios pitched to IFP Chicago and the Chicago film festival their project about Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Chicago boy whose 1955 murder in Mississippi galvanized the civil-rights movement.

Shatterglass and Chaz Ebert continue to try to find money to make that film, which would be based on University of Illinois Professor Chris Benson's award-winning book "Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America." Benson co-authored it with Till's mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.

(Several other teams, including one with Whoopi Goldberg, are working on movie and TV projects about Till).

While pitching the project in Chicago and elsewhere, the Shatterglass team plans to raise money locally for "Rantoul and Die." They feel confident they can do so, Hays said, because Roberts, who grew up in Tolono and Urbana, is well-known in the area.

He has had a number of his plays produced at the Station Theatre and has emceed charitable events here.

He also has quite a background in television, theater and comedy.

As a comedian, Roberts appeared several times on "The Tonight Show" as well as other comedy specials. He acted in TV series, among them "Seinfeld," "Friends," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "The Larry Sanders Show" and was a regular on "The Naked Truth."

For seven years, he was head writer and executive producer for the hit TV series "Two and a Half Men." He spent three seasons as an executive consultant on the hit "The Big Bang Theory" and three as creator-showrunner and occasional director for "Mike and Molly." All of those sitcoms aired on CBS.

He also wrote a number of stage plays, among them "Welcome to Tolono," which was adapted to film by local filmmakers, with a cast of local actors.

Shatterglass Films hasn't determined yet whether to try for big names or locals for "Rantoul and Die."

It will be directed by Roberts and shot in Rantoul and the area, starting in spring 2017.

"Mark has connections to larger names," Hays said. "We also floated around different ideas as to locals to unknowns to bigger names. We haven't begun the casting process."

Hays doesn't want actors sending him head shots for "Rantoul and Die."

But he and the other producers want local support, whether financial or otherwise.

"We'll be especially looking to the community for that help," he said. "We will pull a lot of Champaign County support."

Topics (2):Film, Theater