This is CIMMfest, the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival—a four-day showcase of outstanding films, energetic concerts, visually stunning VJ/DJ sets, lively Q&A’s, daring live score performances, industry panels and presentations…anything to show just what movies and music mean to each other.
CIMMfest was imagined and brought to life by musician Josh Chicoine (Cloudbirds, The M’s) and filmmaker Ilko Davidov (BulletProof Film). Neither knew what he was getting into at the start, but hundreds of films, thousands of attendees and countless incredible experiences later, CIMMfest is a respected Chicago fixture.
CIMMfest No.7 will take place April 16-19, 2015.
Go to the website and learn more about the upcoming 2015 festival: http://www.cimmfest.org/
Matthew Toffolo recently chatted with the Festival Director CARMINE CERVI
MT: What is the goal of your film festival?
Carmine: Our goal is to create a home for great music-themed films and visually exciting concerts, where fans and industry alike can come together for a long weekend- have a great time, network, learn and possibly do some business. With Chicago being the center of the Midwest, we hope to grow to have a regional presence for the industry and fans. This year we have the City of Chicago partnering with us in this effort by adding a major arts convergence event aligned on CIMMfest’s dates April 16-19.
MT: How has the festival changed since is began until now?
Carmine: When co-founders and original directors, Ilko Davidov and Josh Chicoine (filmmaker and musician, respectfully) and I started out– we knew nothing about running a festival. We only did what was fun for us– and tried to create an experience for both filmmakers and audiences that we would appreciate ourselves. We were punk. We were street-level. Despite all the attention we’ve received, we strive to maintain that street-level experience– and the punk attitude. Two years ago we initiated CIMMcon, a conference component that brings industry professionals together to discuss trends, resources and strategies. It’s a great opportunity for networking and relationship building. We’ve also expanded our outreach and relationships with other festivals and organizations both in Chicago and around the world. In 2013 we created the CIMMfest Baadasssss Award by honoring the man for whom the award was named, Mr. Melvin Van Peebles. Last year we presented it to SXSW founder and CIMMfest board member, Louis Black.
Perhaps our most exciting change this year is the addition of Sundance Film Festival programmer,Adam Montgomery, who last year served on our jury.
One thing that has not changed– our entire staff is comprised of filmmakers, musicians and artists. Our goal continues to keep the artists and audiences as our primary focus.
MT: How many films are you showcasing at your Film Festival?
Carmine: Typically we screen 40-50 feature films (docs, fiction, concert films) and as many shorts and music videos. We try to pair shorts and music videos with like-themed features, as well as shorts programs, and our HQ (CIMMcity) always includes a Music Video Lounge.
A signature feature of our festival is our live scored films. Last year we did 6 in our four-day run. Often these are one-off events created just for CIMMfest. Last year one highlight was Mary Shelly (Members of Smashing Pumpkins and Local H) performing a live score to Battleship Potemkin. Additionally we featured concerts by over 75 bands, as well as 25 Industry related panels, workshops and interviews.
MT: Can you give us a sneak peak of what to except for the 2015 Festival?
Carmine: It’s a little early to make any announcements, those will begin in January. But we will feature music docs and features from a wide variety of genres and countries, plus a multi-venue concert series, industry events and lots of great parties for the musicians, filmmakers and attendees alike. And of course, our partnership with the City of Chicago in the first “Lake FX Summit and Expo”, which will run concurrently with CIMMfest. It is a creative industries conference that brings together the film/media, music, fashion and culinary arts for showcases, keynotes, panels and exhibitions. It is an exciting expansion of what CIMMfest is all about and a great opportunity for expanding the audience for our filmmakers and musical artists.
MT: What type of music do you like to showcase at your festival? Is there a genre theme?
Carmine: One of my favorite things about our programming is that we span the globe of musical genres. Last year our Best Feature Fiction award-winner was a great film from Iceland called Metalhead, and our Best Feature Doc was an American film about a brass band festival in Serbia. We expect more of the same this year with lots of rock-centric films and then a bunch of films featuring music form all over the world.
MT: Is there going to be an overall theme for the 2015 festival?
Carmine: Last year our dates included May 1st, so we were all about revolution and power to the people. This year’s theme is about taking action. One of Chicago’s mottos is “The City That Works”. Creatives are all about the hustle. In 2015 CIMMfest is about Getting It Done!
MT: Where do you see your festival in 5 years?
Carmine: We see CIMMfest as a regional hub for the film and music industry to gather, celebrate, and create. CIMMcon will grow to be the premier center for resources and education for the creative industries. We’re on the leading edge of helping filmmakers and musicians to collaborate and succeed.
MT: What’s the current status of the Film Scene in your city?
Carmine: Chicago has always been a film city– from Essanay Studios and Charlie Chaplin, to John Hughes, the Wachowski’s and Steve James. Chicago is long established as a documentary town– and today is one of the busiest cities in the country for feature film and television production. Independent productions are stronger than ever in Chicago, which is also the home of one of the most successful independent distributors, Music Box Films, which again this year will have multiple titles nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards– and an Oscar nomination.
MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?
Carmine: You’ve cleverly sidestepped asking a filmmaker what his favorite movie is– but the question is still not easy to answer. Ilko Davidov and I have made many music-themed films before creating CIMMfest. I feel I should restrict my answer to a music-based film (or can I name 5?) Stop Making Sense and Spinal Tap are always go-to movies. Amadeus is one of my all-time favorites. But I’ve also lost count of how many times I’ve seen the Chicago-produced films, The Blues Brothers and John Cusack’s High Fidelity. Now, watching films and programming for CIMMfest, that list continues to grow; always discovering new, great music-centric movies, like The Winding Stream about the Carter and Cash families, Player Hating: A Love Story, a candid, insightful look at a Brooklyn housing project rapper on the verge of stardom, and Control Tower a universal story from Japan about disaffected youth connecting through music.
CARMINE CERVI, has produced and directed documentaries and short fiction films in both the United States and Italy. A professional actor since the age ten, and alumnus of Chicago’s improv scene, Cervi graduated from Columbia College before relocating to Rome. In Italy he co-wrote and starred in a weekly TV series, as well as appearing in commercials and voice work at the famed Cinecittà. He went on to produce and edit short background docs for DueA Film and directed his first feature documentary, Sacred Sounds, in Morocco. Upon returning to Chicago, he partnered with Ilko Davidov at BulletProof Film to produce and direct fiction and non-fiction films. BulletProof Film’s William S. Burroughs: A Man Within was shown on Independent Lens, enjoyed world-wide theatrical release and is available on home video. Their forthcoming feature documentary, Nelson Algren: The End is Nothing, the Road is All will be released in 2015. Cervi co-founded CIMMfest in 2008 with Ilko Davidov and Josh Chicoine.
Matthew Toffolo, Interviewer BIO
Matthew Toffolo is the current CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival . He had worked for the organization since its inception in 2007 serving as the Short Film Festival’s moderator during the Audience Feedback sessions.
Filmmaker of over 20 short films and TV episodes. Took over full reins of the WILDsound Festival in May 2013. From then to the end of 2014, he’s presented over 90 movies at the monthly FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto, plus has had over 60 screenplays and stories performed by professional actors at the bi-monthly Writing Festival.