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“Come To Light” A short film on Chicago Public Art Group.

Come To Light from Milk Products on Vimeo.

Filmmakers are a unique brand of artist combining both aesthetics and narrative elements with music to create something that is very personal but also collaborative. When I first saw Todd Tue’s short documentary “Come To Light” about a really amazing organization, Chicago Public Art Group, I had to reach out the filmmaker and share his work with as many people as I could.

What I really like about “Come To Light” is the execution of a simple story added by great camera work and music. As a filmmaker myself, I believe there is no such thing as a purely objective film; the filmmaker will and should leave their unique mark on a film. I asked Todd, director, editor, and designer, about “Come To Light”.

Andrew Roddewig- Can you give me a brief description of your background?  Born? Raised? Spent most of your days?

Todd Tue- I was born in Southeast Michigan and grew up partly in “downriver” – which is a fantastic breadth of suburban sprawl that gets its name from literally being downriver from Detroit – and partly in the small rural town of Tecumseh. Graduated from Eastern Michigan with a film degree then spent some time near Nashville, a year in Japan, and eventually ended up in Chicago.

AR- What is Milk Products?

TT- Milk Products Media is a multimedia production company that was started by myself and two collaborators: Jon Stuyvesant and Jeff Hadick. We do both for-hire projects, as a full-service creative agency, as well as producing our own stuff. Typical projects include book trailers, music videos, and documentary-style pieces often used for online promotion. We’ve also recently branched out our creative network so we can handle web and mobile development & design.

Milk has been incorporated for a few years now and it continues to be a really great experience. Regardless of how trite it may sound, to get to do what you love as a living is pretty amazing and I feel very lucky and grateful for the all the great opportunities we’ve had so far.

AR- How did this project come together? Where did the concept come from?

TT- I am friends with the lead artist, Andy Bellomo, and we had talked for a while about how it would be great to produce a video about one of her projects or her mosaic work in general. When she was offered the lead position for this project she immediately contacted us and we started planning how we could document the process. The people involved included herself, two assistant artists, and a team of youth artists on spring break from high school.

Logistically, we began filming at the Chicago Public Art Group’s studio, then followed the team over the next week as they moved to onsite construction.

We knew we wanted to show some of the nuts and bolts of how a bricolage piece is actually constructed. We also knew a captivating part of the story would be the heart and dedication that goes into a project like this. It was especially exciting to hear the youth artists discuss their thoughts on public art and to hear those thoughts change throughout the process.

AR- Had you worked with many artists in a documentary sense before?

TT- I’ve worked with a lot of different artists and musicians in a documentary style starting a few years back with a feature called Seven Signs: Music, Myth & The American South. I helped produce & shoot and was the editor for that film. We spent a lot of time filming with eclectic small town artists, local Saturday night jamborees, and bigger Americana bands. It was a great experience and I loved the process of the whole thing— seeing artists work and then going into editing to craft the story of it all.

Since then we’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of great artists. We’ve done a short doc piece on Brett Whitacre , who was one of the artists on the “Come To Light” project, and we’ve collaborated with really creative authors like Sarah Vowell and Sloane Crosley. Most recently, I just finished working on Charlie Louvin: Still Rattlin’ the Devil’s Cage . I was a co-producer and editor on that project which is about the life of Country Hall of Famer Charlie Louvin and features Charlie, George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Marty Stuart, and John McCrea from Cake.

AR- OK Time to get nerdy on this: what kind of cameras do you use, what do you cut on, what’s you favorite lenses, jibs, picture profiles? Give me your gear specs.

TT- A lot of recent projects have been shot on the Canon 5D or 60D, including “Come To Light.” I’m still holding on to Final Cut 7 for the meantime but have Adobe Premiere as the next step once 7 is done for. For a lot of on-the-go stuff I shoot with a pretty flexible 17-50mm zoom lens. It’s rather utilitarian. “For Come To Light” we used a Kessler Cineslider (thanks to Bill Frye, great DP and all around good guy) that helped us get some short dolly type shots.

AR- You are also heavily involved in music. Could you explain to me what Small Chicago is?

TT-Small Chicago started out as an idea my friend Justin North had while we were sitting in his basement lamenting the absence of The Old Grey Whistle Test, which was a BBC show in the ‘70s and ‘80s similar to Austin City Limits. Justin had a recording/practice space set up in his basement and we thought it would be cool to get our friends in bands to play, film them, and then post them on the web. We came up with some rules—because we love rules—and decided each band would get to play three songs, we’d shoot with two cameras, and they only got one take per song. We figured it would be a fun project that would let us do some creative production work and would benefit our friends by providing them with some good live recordings. And it was a great excuse to get a bunch of talented people together, drink beer, and see some great musicians.
After about 10 episodes or so Justin moved out of state and we started shooting at different studio spaces throughout the city. Somewhat to our surprise, the series started to get more popular and more and more bands started contacting us about shooting episodes. We had to scale back a little to shooting one or two bands a month and putting out one episode a month but it all continues to go really great. Our friends Boldt Collectivecontinue to shoot stills for every episode and we keep talking to more bands that are interested in playing. It continues to be fun for us to produce the series and hopefully it’s adding something to the Chicago music community.

AR- Anything coming up we should be looking forward to?

TT- The Charlie Louvin documentary I mentioned was just recently released on DVD and it’s been submitted to festivals across the country so I’m curious and excited to see what happens with that. We’ve received a lot of good feedback and eventually we’ll start coordinating live event screenings for it here in Chicago and across the country.

We’re also talking to some bands about putting on a Milk Products show in mid-March. We’ve never really done a live event per se so we’re excited to try out something new. People can look forward to that as it will likely be a roaring success.

In the meantime we have some interesting projects coming into pre-production, so for all interested parties I would recommend keeping up with our Facebook page and/or twitter, if that’s your thing.

AR- Anything film, art or music that you think people should know about (not including your own work)?


Hmmm. We did a Small Chicago with the band Dastardly and they were pretty amazing. Our friends The Saps are finishing up a new record that’s going to be really good. For my live music money, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club continues to be one of the best live bands ever. Film-wise, I like watching home videos of my daughter but I also saw a great doc recently called For the Love of Dolly about a few Dolly Parton superfans. It was amazing. It was a low budget doc but they did a great job of crafting these people’s stories and getting them to open up about their lives.

AR- Do you think there is a unique character to Chicago’s cultural landscape? If so, describe it.

TT- I do. We moved here about six years and Chicago still gives me the same feeling of being a Midwest metropolis. It has all the amenities and institutions you would want in a major city, but has a humble Midwestern feel to it. I find it to be a really comfortable place. I think people are encouraged to try out new ideas and projects, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but either way everyone continues to press on. The creative communities here feel overall pretty supportive and it doesn’t necessarily feel as cutthroat here as some places. In short, I think it’s real swell and we plan to stay.

“Comet To Light”
Lead Artist- Andy Bellomo
Produced by Milk Products Media and Chicago Public Art Group
Directed by Todd Tue

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