Monday, October 21, 2013

Open House Chicago Gives Chicagoans an Inside Look at Essanay

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of volunteering at Essanay Studios’ Open House event as part of Open House Chicago. The 2-day event gives Chicago residents the opportunity to get exclusive behind-the-scenes glimpses at some of the city’s iconic buildings and sites, and all for free! Not only did it mean giving visitors a look at Essanay’s historic Studio A (now Charlie Chaplin Auditorium, it also meant giving them the chance to watch a screening of “His New Job” on the big screen, and informing them one-on-one about our restoration campaign.

Although the day started slow, as the day got under way, I was thrilled to see the amount of eager visitors coming through the doors, taking pictures of the entrance way, and taking in Chaplin, for perhaps the first time, on the big screen. The atmosphere was friendly and fun, and it gave lots of eager film fans the chance to connect with one another (including me).

In addition to the film screening, we introduced visitors to our restoration campaign via the video we made for Indiegogo, and Essanay Centers President Gary Keller discussed the history of film in Chicago, the history of Essanay, and the future of the complex. We also presented a screening of “Being Charlie Chaplin,” a three-channel video installation piece created by Hale Ekinci wherein she competes with Chaplin for his job in “His New Job.”

For me, the most rewarding part of the event was the opportunity to connect with fellow film lovers and answer their questions. I spoke with one gentleman for at least 30 minutes, going from discussing Essanay, to discussing Hitchcock and French horror films.

The whole experience left me with the hope that the city is rediscovering this hidden gem and that our restoration project, and coverage about it, will once again bring the studio back into the spotlight. I hope we can hold another open house event very soon.