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The Film Industry
in Illinois

If you have dreams of a career in the film industry, your path to Hollywood begins at the Illinois Film Connection. We are the best film school in the state, and we put you closer to the action than any other film school can. With our unique training approach, you won’t waste a single day sitting in some college or trade school classroom. Instead, we’ll place you as a working apprentice (extern) inside a real film production company, and we’ll pair you with an experienced film professional who will show you the ropes one-on-one. In other words, you’ll learn on-the-job, and “on the set.” And in so doing, you’ll be making lots of career-advancing industry connections while those other film students are still sitting in those classrooms.

What do you want to do in film? Do you want to write scripts, or edit films? Do you want to be a cinematographer? A producer? A director? Do you want to go all the way to making your own movies in Hollywood? We’ll pair you with an industry pro who specializes in your field of interest, and tailor our curriculum to fit your needs—including, if you so choose, helping you develop your own film idea and then pitching that film to REAL HOLLYWOOD EXECUTIVES.

The great thing is, you don’t have to move to L.A. in order to get started. Thanks in part to generous incentives offered by the state, there are many major film and television productions that come to Illinois regularly to shoot on location.

Here’s just a partial list:

  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • The Breakfast Club (1985)
  • Home Alone (1990)
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
  • Contagion (2011)
  • Man of Steel (2013)
  • Bad Teacher (2011)
  • Public Enemies (2009)
  • Chicago Fire (TV series, 2012-present)
  • Prison Break (TV series, 2005-2009)

Major productions like these frequently rely on local talent, so you can see there are plenty of opportunities to connect to the film industry right here in Illinois. By placing you as a working apprentice (extern) in a real production company, the Illinois Film Connection can help you make the most of these opportunities where other schools can’t.

Our one-of-a-kind training program is fully accredited and has the endorsement of hundreds of major players in the film industry, many of whom teach for us. We have been around for nearly 30 years, and we’re not going anywhere. Our program works because this is an industry that revolves around experience and connections, not college degrees or film school diplomas. You’ll get a certificate of completion from us, but the real value of our program comes with the real-world experience and the connections you’ll make by learning on-the-job—experience and connections that can even lead to jobs in Hollywood itself. Yes, we have connections there, too, and we can help you connect there, as well.

One thing that could stop your dreams dead in their tracks is being overwhelmed by student debt—so we’ve taken steps to protect you from that, as well. While other film schools charge huge tuition rates that practically force you into debt, we’ve managed our costs to offer you this on-the-job education for up to 75% LESS than our competition. This allows you to focus on your new career, not on how you’re going to pay your tuition bill.

Whether you live in Chicago, Springfield, Rockford, Peoria or some other town in Illinois, we have film professionals near where you live who are eager to train you! If you’re ready to get on the inside track to the film industry, we’re ready to help. APPLY NOW FOR FREE to get started.

Programs

You will study inside a real film production company in your city as you develop your movie idea with a legendary to filmmaker. Then you will fly to Los Angeles or New York to pitch your idea to an executive that could buy or get your movie idea made.

Director / Producer / Screenwriter Details

The screenwriter is the person who creates, takes, or adapts an idea and formulates a screenplay. Without the writer, there would be no movie. Period. He or she is the starting gate. He or she is the person that starts the ball rolling down the hill.

Screenwriting Details

In many ways the film editor is the most misunderstood of all film professionals. Often considered just a film technician, a good editor is, without doubt, much more than that. He or she is also a qualified storyteller of the highest order.

Film Editing Details

The cinematographer is literally the set ‘magician.’ DPs are responsible for the technological wizardry to help create the needed light, while at the same time also having the keen sensibility to shape the light for the greatest artistic effect.

Cinematography Details

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Meet our Faculty

Why learn from teachers when you can learn from the professionals?

Michael Van Orden Film Connection Mentor

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Michael Van Orden Film Connection Mentor

Background

Credits: Being Doug, Called to Serve, The Washing, Spit

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Albert Dabah Film Connection Mentor

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Albert Dabah Film Connection Mentor

Background

Albert has been in the video production business for thirty-three years, owning and running Simba Productions in New York City.

Clients: CNN, HBO, Apple

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Derek Koen Film Connection Mentor

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Derek Koen Film Connection Mentor

Background

Washington Koen Media Productions is a full-service media production company specializing in video productions, streaming video solutions, presentations and audio/visual support for organizations both large and small. Whether corporate video presentations, documentaries, live streaming of meetings, or web streaming solutions, our highly-skilled and creative team- with over 20 years of combined experience – using today's latest tools and technology, can produce quality results for your company

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Brian Glazen Film Connection Mentor

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Brian Glazen Film Connection Mentor

Background

In 2013, Brian Glazen co-produced an independent film called Fishing Without Nets. This film went on to win for Best Direction at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and recently sold to Twentieth Century Fox for distribution to theaters nation wide.

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Laura Scheiner Film Connection Mentor

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Laura Scheiner Film Connection Mentor

Background

Seasoned film development executive, writer and script consultant with exceptional story development and script analysis skills. As a development executive I’m particularly adept at pinpointing the problems in a script and coming up with creative solutions. I’m a passionate collaborator who creates a fertile environment where writers can bloom and scripts can meet their potential.

As a writer for hire I pride myself as bringing my story sense, knowledge, talent and unbridled imagination to the table in order to bring the producer’s vision to life.

As a storyteller I always aim to entertain, engage, surprise, move and provoke.

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Craig Constant Film Connection Mentor

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Craig Constant Film Connection Mentor

Background

Craig Constant is an Executive Producer at Constant66 Films. After leaving the Marine Corps, he worked as a Photojournalist/Editor for the Fox News Channel for close to seven years. Since then, he’s worked as a Sound Technician, Production Sound Mixer, Camera Operator and Director of Photography.

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Zef Cota Film Connection Mentor

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Zef Cota Film Connection Mentor

Background

Alphabet City Films is a film production company based in New York City, NY. We are a collective of writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, and other talented filmmakers. We have created many short films, and recently produced our first feature length film: The Trouble.

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Jim DeGroot Film Connection Mentor

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Jim DeGroot Film Connection Mentor

Background

Clients: Green Bay Packers, Disney, National Guard, Doritos, ABC World News, Good Morning America, St. Joseph’s Medical Centers, Homeland Security

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Bob Kelley Film Connection Mentor

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Bob Kelley Film Connection Mentor

Background

Clients: Discovery Canada, PBS, UCDavis, Associated Press, Fox News, Blackstone Media, NBC Universal

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Marc Silber Film Connection Mentor

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Marc Silber Film Connection Mentor

Background

With a background in visual media, director Marc Silber has interviewed scores of entrepreneurs, CEOs and creative professionals over the years. His interview series has received hearty praise and has helped countless business leaders and artists tell their story.

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Craig Roessler Film Connection Mentor

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Craig Roessler Film Connection Mentor

Background

A film and television studio executive and producer for over twenty years, Craig has directly overseen, managed, and/or produced 25 films and seven network series with budgets totaling over $500 million. 

Craig is known for his project-management skills, having close working relationships with talent and directors, producing big looking, studio-quality content on tight budgets, quickly providing workable solutions for development and production issues, and completing projects on time, on budget.

As Senior Vice President of Production, Programming and Creative Affairs for MGM Television Worldwide Inc., Craig had direct oversight of all content development, and oversaw pre-production, production, post-production, while working with business & legal affairs, marketing, and promotion. His MGM product was nominated for 10 Emmy awards and numerous others including DGA, Golden Globes, PGA and SAG awards. 

He oversaw studio projects such as the series Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate: Universe, Dead Like Me, and The L Word, as well as Showtime Movies Inherit the Wind, Twelve Angry Men, In the Time of the Butterflies, That Championship Season, and Rocky Marciano, which opened the Monte Carlo Film Festival. Craig has worked with a wide range of talent, from well-established actors and directors to breaking new talent. 

Craig grew up in Los Angeles and Colorado, working summers on ranches breaking and training western saddle horses. He attended Columbia University, working his way through school as an actor on NBC’s soap opera “Another World,” while learning production work skills for quick, quality content.

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Kel Thompson Film Connection Mentor

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Kel Thompson Film Connection Mentor

Background

America’s Production Company was established in 2005 by Kel Thompson who has degrees in photography & advertising from Texas State University. Kel is also a graduate of the Palm Beach Film School. Kel was first published in photography at 17 years old in TX. Kel worked for News24Houston as their first helicopter videographer, before being hired by a major event production company in Florida. Two years later he established America’s Production Company after learning the ropes in photo, video, audio and event production.

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Sebastian Triscari Film Connection Mentor

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Sebastian Triscari Film Connection Mentor

Background

“Young people are the future of this industry. Mentorship programs like The Film Connection are the most efficient and effective ways for anyone who has a passion to gain the information and experience necessary to be successful!”

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Mitch Kaufman Film Connection Mentor

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Mitch Kaufman Film Connection Mentor

Background

A native of Atlantic Beach, Mitch Kaufmann has been offering video services to area businesses and residents since 1984. He started Atlantic Video Productions by shooting weddings, business seminars, and sporting events.

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Eero Johnson Film Connection Mentor

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Eero Johnson Film Connection Mentor

Background

“I’m Eero Johnson. I’m a film and video producer living in Bellingham, Washington. For over ten years I’ve been creating commercials, corporate videos, web videos, sales DVD’s, music videos … whatever it takes to get your message to your audience. I have a great group of clients and I love what I do.”

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Chris Varner Film Connection Mentor

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Chris Varner Film Connection Mentor

Background

In a career spanning nearly 20 years, Chris has worked in almost every facet of video production, from lens to post. His credits include EPK work on “Sleepy Hollow”, “Under The Dome”, “The Longest Ride”, “We’re The Millers”, “Iron Man 3”, “One Tree Hill” and more.

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John Raffo Film Connection Mentor

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John Raffo Film Connection Mentor

Background

John Raffo started as a photographer in New York before turning his attention to screenwriting. Over the last twenty years he’s worked on a variety of credited and uncredited projects (including, DRAGON, THE BRUCE LEE STORYTHE RELIC, and THE INTERPRETER”). His original screenplay RENKO VEGA AND THE JENNIFER NINE appeared on the 2011 Black List. THE 7TH SWORD is his first story written directly as a graphic novel.

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Shawn Hamer Film Connection Mentor

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Shawn Hamer Film Connection Mentor

Background

17 time Emmy award winning DP/Camera Operator, Producer and Director with over 20 years of experience in the Film, Television and Audio business. Extensive professional experience for top clients across the country from Miami to Anchorage, from New York to San Francisco. International production experience in South & Central America as well as China for both documentary and commercial production. Well versed in handling both low and high budget production ($1k to $3.5m). Professional still shooter as well with full ProFoto strobe lighting and speedlight kits. Lots of contacts in the Detroit metro area and in major cities across the globe for every type and size production – full cinema production, 3D production, aerial shoots, camera car, crane/jib, etc. I also have shot, explored, camped and lived all over Michigan – I know the state EXTREMELY well, particularly it’s remotest regions.

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Ivan Alzuro Film Connection Mentor

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Ivan Alzuro Film Connection Mentor

Background

“Unlike the local University, Film Connection sends us committed and focused students. We have turned 1 student into full-time contractor – that says it all!”

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Daniel Lir Film Connection Mentor

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Daniel Lir Film Connection Mentor

Background

Dream Team Directors is a prestigious directorial team founded by Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir. Their company motto, “Let our dream team manifest your dream”, symbolizes the expansion and positive attention they win for their celebrity and high-profile brand clients and collaborators such as Adidas, MTV, Coldplay, P. Diddy, Smashbox Cosmetics, Atlantic Records, Chrome Hearts, Oscar De La Renta, Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo, Golden Globe nominee Anthony Mackie, Matt Bennett of the “Big Bang Theory” and Lea Michele of Fox’s “Glee.”

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Horacio Jones Film Connection Mentor

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Horacio Jones Film Connection Mentor

Background

Award winning director, Horacio Jones is a multi-faceted Video Producer, Director, and Editor. He has turned CinemaViva into one of the leading video production studios in San Diego. In addition to making outstanding corporate video productions, he is committed to making socially conscious and inspiring films and documentaries that bring magic into peoples lives in fun and colorful ways.

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Deen Olatunji Film Connection Mentor

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Deen Olatunji Film Connection Mentor

Background

Deen’s most recent film is “Warfare”, which was screened at the heart of Dallas and several other cities across the United States. Deen has also worked on several feature, short films and other content, which include “Kanaani” (Popular TV Series”), “The Call”, “King Sacrifice”, “Who Am I” , and “Dancing With The Docs-Texas”. (TV Series). He is currently working on his next projects “The Alarm Clock” (Short Film) and “Eze Back To School”  (Feature Film) all coming up in fall and winter 2016.

Deen believes the RRFC program is great because it’s one of the few reputable schools that teach you on the field which he states is a great way of learning.

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Rex Piano Film Connection Mentor

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Rex Piano Film Connection Mentor

Background

“The Film Connection allows aspiring writers to work with professionals.  The students not only learn theory, but practical applications to screenwriting.  I wish it was around when I was a student.” — Rex Piano, Producer/Director, Impact Earth, Fall of Hyperion, Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire, Murder Dot Com, Hope Ranch, The Month of August

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Matt Kaczkowski Film Connection Mentor

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Matt Kaczkowski Film Connection Mentor

Background

Matt Kaczkowski graduated from Winona State University with a BA in Mass Communications Broadcasting. He spent three years as a DJ and produced an award-winning radio production.  Prior to starting SilverWater Productions, Matt was an event planner and A/V services coordinator for 4 years. Matt’s passion for film and video is a catalyst for SilverWater’s success.

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David McClain Film Connection Mentor

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David McClain Film Connection Mentor

Background

Credits: Coca Cola, Google, Dateline, Travel Channel, NBC

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Demetria Kalodimos Film Connection Mentor

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Demetria Kalodimos Film Connection Mentor

Background

In 2000, Demetria established Genuine Human Productions, writing, directing, shooting and editing true stories about real people…genuine humans. Demetria Kalodimos has anchored and reported television news for more than 30 years. She’s won some of journalism’s most prestigious awards including 15 regional Emmys, 2 National Headliners and 2 Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards.

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Rocco Michaluk Film Connection Mentor

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Rocco Michaluk Film Connection Mentor

Background

Michaluk has been creating award winning Film & TV productions for over 15 years. His Film Clients include Columbia Pictures, Indian PaintBrush, PBS, NBC, American Empirical Pictures and Fountainbrush Films. His Television clients include NBC, Television Academy / Emmy’s, MTV, Viacom, E! Entertainment, CBS, ABC, Travel Channel, Leftfield Pictures, PETA, and others.

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Alejandra Huerta Film Connection Mentor

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Alejandra Huerta Film Connection Mentor

Background

Alejandra Huerta specializes in On-Screen Promotions, Executive Presentation Tapes and Sizzle Reels. She started her career with Andromeda in Miami offering Production Services to MTV Latin America as an editor for on-air promotions. She then relocated to New York where she became a successful producer and editor for Viacom and NBC Universal. After her professional experience in NY she relocated to Florida where she continues to manage, produce and edit projects at Andromeda Productions.

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Joaquin Palma Film Connection Mentor

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Joaquin Palma Film Connection Mentor

Background

“The thing I admire most about the program is that it pairs you with people doing the job that you are aspiring to do. In doing that, I feel it gets rid of the “glamour” that people associate with this business, and helps them realize that it is, in fact, A JOB. It takes hard work, a lot of practice and a sincere courtesy towards one’s colleagues to get ahead and stay relevant; not that tired stereotype of the suffering artist that won’t settle for anything less than his vision of perfection! I don’t think they teach you that at traditional film schools.” — Joaquin Franco Palma

Joaquin Franco Palma was born and raised in Los Angeles and is a first-generation American. Having started his career as a production assistant, Joaquin has gone on to become an award winning writer and director of both independent features and TV; most notably, as a staff writer on the Emmy nominated HULU series, EAST LOS HIGH. Aside from writing for the screen, Joaquin is also a published author of fiction and is a youth writing volunteer for the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND and NOSOTROS ORGANIZATION programs.

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Drew Mason Film Connection Mentor

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Drew Mason Film Connection Mentor

Background

I started getting serious about making videos during summer backpacking trips with my friends between college semesters at Central Michigan University. Shortly after graduating, I was asked to produce a local TV show. I jumped at the opportunity and never looked back. Since then, I’ve produced videos for documentaries, national ad campaigns, and commercials for multinational companies. Recently I was part of a team that produced videos for Lansing’s Silver Bells in the City, and we received an Emmy Award for special event coverage.

My introduction to the business wasn’t with videography; I was a wedding DJ for nearly 8 years. Through this experience, I discovered that weddings are not only among my favorite things to be a part of, but also to film. I love capturing the excitement, love, and energy surrounding them.

When I’m not editing videos – haha, funny joke – I like to make music. In fact, I serenaded my wife Amanda with my ukulele for our first kiss. True story! I also try to get out to the backcountry wilderness with just a backpack from time to time, especially in beautiful northern Michigan.

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“I learned more about the history of film today and how people used to film videos and movies and clips with still photography. I met some more filmmakers and editors who were really nice and fun to be around”

Day 1

Brett Wilson, San Diego, CA Majored in Editing / Production

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