Reel Women: Angie Gaffney, Executive Director IFA Chicago, Film Producer | Chicago Reel


Angie Gaffney

Editor’s Note: These are leaders. They are inspiring. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, tough guys. These are our 2022 REEL WOMEN. During Women’s History Month, you can meet these incredible personalities from advertising, entertainment, media and production. women love Angie Gaffney make “Herstory”.

Strong, confident, capable, Angie Gaffney is a true Renaissance woman who happily shares her love of learning, exploring, and creating with Chicago’s independent film community.

As Executive Director of the Independent Film Alliance of Chicago, Angie ensures that filmmakers and producers have the support they need to succeed and grow. She has worn many hats on a film crew and produced numerous independent film and television productions in the greater Chicago area. She is the founder of Black Apple Media, a teacher at Harold Ramis Film School in Second City, a certified life and leadership coach, and served as an executive producer at The Onion, where she was instrumental in the development of Onion Labs. , The Onion brand. content agency, overseeing the production and execution of all video content, web series, business initiatives and client relationships.

What is your origin story?
I’ll give you the short version. Always career-oriented, I lived a double life as a child: from the age of 6 to 18, I spent half the year performing in plays and musical theater and half the year play competitive softball. I think the combination of the two really made me the person and producer I am today. I developed a deep, emotional connection to storytelling and performance (forcing my younger siblings to do plays in our basement, naturally), while simultaneously honing discipline and building skills. team that accompany training for competitive sports. I spent the majority of my childhood and teenage years in Boulder, Colorado and have always felt most at home in the mountains. skiing, hiking, biking, adventure. Even though I grew up with a sort of relaxed liberal-Catholic religion, storytelling and the mountains remained the source of my spirituality in my adult life. At the age of 17, I quickly left the Boulder Bubble and moved to Chicago to pursue studies in digital cinema at DePaul University. I’m here since.

How did you get into the movie industry
When I came to DePaul, I knew I wanted to do something in storytelling or communication. I originally signed up for their broadcast journalism program, but quickly switched to movies after friends from Columbia College invited me to their sets. I give DePaul a lot of credit for my current career: they really empowered me and helped me do my own things, while encouraging me to get out there and work in today’s industry. I’ve had many mentors and teachers who have been kind enough to accommodate me missing a class or two for sound work or overseeing the script for a short film. As such, I graduated DePaul with a personal portfolio of short films I had produced and a rich resume of paid work on set: I built a community with both my academic peers and within the wider film industry at the same time. It was this work in the industry that landed me my first position as unit production manager at The Onion, which led to an offer to executive produce before graduation. After that, myself and a producer named Matt Corrado worked tirelessly to create Onion Labs – the branded content division of The Onion – and I quickly got a crash course in sales, pitch and business skills. . About a year later, I returned to the independent film space – working on feature films, most often as 1st assistant director, all over the region.

By the end of 2014, my relationship with Cinespace President Alex Pissios had developed organically, and he offered me the opportunity to “start an incubator” in the field. Now called IFA Chicago, our organization has nearly 200 members and is growing rapidly.

More recently, I took time off from film production and completed a three-year leadership and life coach certification program while working full-time at IFA Chicago. I’m incredibly grateful for the training I’ve received: my leadership, listening, conflict mediation and communication skills have increased dramatically, and the break from fundraising for movies (let’s be real, this shit is hard) helped me fall in love with producing again. Now, in addition to the work at IFA, I look forward to pursuing feature films in the years to come.

Who were your mentors?
I have been fortunate to have many mentors throughout my life. I would say the most impactful mentor to date was my high school softball coach, Coach Tony Bruno. He is a beacon of integrity, teamwork, kindness and compassion; he taught me to be a leader, to work hard, to pick myself up when I failed. It basically shaped who I was during some very difficult years of my teenage years. I think I’d be a very different person without his mentorship: to this day, he still gets a “Special Thanks” in the credits of every movie I’ve made. Other mentors close to my heart include my manager at The Onion – Kurt Mueller, Rosie Burke, Alex Pissios, Betsy Steinberg and my parents.

Although there will be more, what do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
In addition to my last two feature films (Killing Eleanor and Monuments), I’m very proud of the community organizing work I’ve done at IFA Chicago. I’m really excited for the next slate of programs we have in place for our members: it’s everything I wish I had more of in film school, plus some tangible development opportunities. The goal is to have a real economic impact on the local Chicago film industry: where writers, directors and producers don’t have to move to the coasts to seek the mentorship and business resources they need to make advance their career.

What drives you to create?
Empathy and curiosity. I am fascinated by the human experience: its diversity, possibilities, nuances and layers. For me, making movies is the ultimate adventure – and you never run out of places to go. I also believe that stories directly influence our societal and cultural values ​​- now more than ever. To have an impact on changing the narrative, on challenging beliefs and being able to present a wide variety of people and backgrounds in service of spreading empathy is, for me, an incredible honor.

Which shows do the best at portraying strong women on TV?
For me, strength means leaving room for flaws. To that end, I enjoyed the first season of The Morning Show and the layers of complexities within the leading women — not all of them pretty and nice and perfectly wrapped, which I appreciated. Big fan of Fleabag, Insecure and Killing Eve. My partner and I also watch a lot of British and European crime dramas: Unforgotten is a favorite and actor Nicola Walker brings an incredible combination of strength and vulnerability to his role.

Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour. Name a famous woman you’d like to attend every reception with.

Coffee: Chloe Zhao

Lunch: Ava DuVernay

Dinner: Brene Brown

What is the biggest challenge for women in your industry?
Personally, the biggest challenge for me is not always being able to see myself, or my gender identity, in the professions I aspire to. hold positions of power and leadership that are still predominantly occupied by men. I’m fully confident that I’ll make it, but charting my own path and navigating different rooms and professional situations has been a challenge. I write a bit about this in my last blog post.

If being a woman is your superpower, what is your kryptonite?
Dark chocolate, puppies and broken fingernails will always bring me to my knees.

How has having the superpower helped you?
I wouldn’t want it any other way: it’s made me resilient and very intuitive socially and emotionally – I can read a room and body language in seconds, and I can probably pick up on what you’re not saying. not in front of you knows exactly what it is. Although this skill set was originally trained to analyze good and bad intentions in a room full of professionals and older colleagues (and protect myself in the process), it made me a leader, a incredible partner, friend and professional.

When you’re not creating, what do you do in your free time?
I have two dogs that I walk and play with regularly. I’m a big foodie and would gladly spend a ridiculous amount of money on delicious food, and I’m also an avid reader of mystery novels. Live blues music is the path to my soul: I do my best to incorporate it regularly, usually followed by a rousing heartbeat or Yahtzee with my loved ones. I go back to Colorado and the mountains every chance I get.

Predict your future! Where are you in 5 years?
In addition to continuing to support the Chicago film community and IFA Chicago, I run my own film fund and production company, investing in and creating stories that build a more conscious, empathetic, and progressive society.

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