Southwest-Side Story

You might say Whatever Films, now shooting its first production on location in Chicago, got its start when Diana Mucci-Beauchamp’s sister couldn’t land a date with a guy she had her eye on. Two years ago Mucci-Beauchamp, a married mother of four and former salesperson, set out to find out what was going on in the minds of men like the one who was ignoring her sister. In a five-month period she interviewed 100 of them, thinking she’d write a book. She says she learned that “men are simple” and “just want to screw your brains out,” while women overanalyze: “If he doesn’t call you,” she confirms, “it’s because he doesn’t like you.” She turned the project into a play, I’m a Female Seeking a Male, and her friend Rosie Vargas Goldberg staged a reading of it at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts last year.

Like Mucci-Beauchamp, who’s part Puerto Rican and grew up in Back of the Yards, Goldberg was a Latina with an unhappy sister. Goldberg and her siblings were raised in the same Mexican home in Pilsen and Little Village headed by a mostly single mother, but while Rosie graduated from college, got a good job as a pharmaceutical rep, and married a doctor, one of her sisters struggled. “Every time I would see her,” Goldberg says, “I would think ‘How has she come to this state?’ and ‘How could she get out of it?'” Mucci-Beauchamp’s play led to a eureka moment for Goldberg, and working sporadically over a couple months last fall with help of DramaDog software, the mother of two preschool boys knocked out a script for a full-length movie, Hopeless, about a woman’s poor life choices.

In the absence of ready buyers and in order to retain creative control, she decided to produce the screenplay herself. Her husband, Benjamin Goldberg, put up the money, and Mucci-Beauchamp came on board as coproducer. “We thought we could do it for $50,000,” Goldberg says, but an acquaintance pointed her in the direction of Independent Film Producers vice president Noel Olken, who told her she might as well throw the $50,000 away. He advised her to find additional funding, because with at least $100,000 “you can have a decent-looking film,” she says. The Goldbergs doubled their financial commitment, and Mucci-Beauchamp came up with a director. She’d met New York-based Mexican filmmaker Julio Dominguez when she was probing the male mind for her book and had already used him for her only other foray into film–a cable commercial for a friend who’s a bankruptcy attorney.

The higher budget meant they’d have an assistant director, a good director of photography (Chicagoan Vladimir Van Maule), and technical upgrades like HD video and a “real lighting truck.” In April, with help from IFP and the Chicago Film Office, they began working in earnest, scouting locations and auditioning would-be actors from sources like the Pilsen YMCA and the Highland Park Senior Center. The screenplay, which they characterize as a “woman’s story,” is hung on the relationship between a Latina and her psychiatrist–40ish and Jewish, with her own problems. Both women’s mothers loom large in the story, which touches on infertility, cancer, drugs, physical abuse, death, and the Holocaust and includes two flashback scenes to be shot in Yiddish (with subtitles) and a sprinkling of Spanish. They cast a novice, recent UIC graduate Jessi Perez, in the younger role, and Chicago actor Mara Monserrat as the shrink.

Shooting began August 16 at locations including Loretto Hospital (the only place they had to pay to use), Manny’s delicatessen, and the producers’ Lincoln Park and Highland Park homes. Goldberg says they were clueless, but she learned quickly that the most important thing on a shoot is the food–which she and Mucci-Beauchamp, as the catering staff, provide. They’re also the makeup artists, wardrobe assistants, hairdressers, and prop managers. Last Sunday, as the two of them prepared to haul a desk into Mucci-Beauchamp’s living room in an effort to transform it into a doctor’s office for the next morning’s shoot, she noted that there’s a daily need to remind everyone it’s a low-budget production. (Except for what Goldberg calls modest salaries for the director, assistant director, director of photography, gaffer, grips, and sound mixer, none of the 13-member crew and 34 actors is getting paid.) Shooting wraps up in mid-September, and they expect to have the finished product in December (Dominguez will edit). They’re perusing a list of film festivals. “Then,” says Mucci-Beauchamp, “we’ll get the book on film distribution for dummies.”

The Lawyer of Choice in the 46th Ward

Last week, after a city building inspector discovered a problem with Circuit Night Club’s wiring, the club closed. Co-owner Mike Macharello says the Halsted Street gay dance venue will reopen in the fall, after extensive renovations that he hopes will attract larger crowds. Macharello says the club has lost 80 percent of its Saturday-night crowd since some residents in the Dakota condominium next door complained about noise and he had to turn the music down. Circuit has hired attorney Brendan Shiller, Alderman Helen Shiller’s son, to help it fight a dry-vote referendum poised to go on the November ballot. “There’s no connection between the closedown and the vote-dry,” the younger Shiller says, adding that he’s helped Circuit with the process of getting some signatures on the referendum petition reversed and has until October 2 to file a challenge to others. . . . It’s a small, small world: Brendan Shiller’s also representing Frankie Janisch in his newly successful quest for a wet precinct and the pending liquor license for Frankie J’s restaurant and theater complex, also located in Alderman Shiller’s 46th Ward.

New Management at the Old Music Box

Business 101: If you build a site-specific business and you don’t own the site, what have you got? Music Box Theatre owner Bob Schopf has kept the theater’s former operators, Bob Chaney and Chris Carlo, on as consultants since he took over the business in May, even though they’ve moved to Oregon. Chaney and Carlo’s 20-year lease had expired, and Schopf, an attorney who bought the building in 1986, was ready to step in. As owner, “I’m in a better position to spend money on improvements,” Schopf says. With the help of technical guru James Bond, he’s in the process of installing new lenses and projectors and a new screen, along with refurbishing the paint and carpet in the 75-year-old theater. The Music Box had been closed for six years when Chaney and Carlo took it over in 1983 and reinvented it as an art house.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.