Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In The Kitchen With Julie Swieca

I enjoyed playing baseball, basketball, and football. I was never any good at executing the plays, but I was usually very fast. It was not until I lost my sight that I took an interest in learning the rules and history of various sports. The main way I did this was listening to as many broadcasted sporting events and call-in shows on the radio. I quickly grew fond of certain broadcasters and lost interest in others. After many months of studying radio personalities, I realized I wanted to become one. Soon I had the courage to start calling into these programs. One day, I spoke to a woman who was producing the show to which I was listening and I appreciated the way she kept checking in on me as I was on hold informing me how many callers there were ahead of me and to stay on the line. I made sure to express my appreciation on the air and the on air personality told me her name was Julie Swieca. Soon after that day, I heard Julie giving on air sports updates and hosting. Julie had conviction in her opinions, but was very classy and respectful in handling callers who disagreed with her. Not every host handles the callers in that manner so I was excited that Julie would be playing a bigger on air role. My sports education continued when Julie's voice started coming through my speakers with more frequency when she would cover White Sox, Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks games as an in-game reporter. She would also get sound from the press conferences and locker room after the game. The more I heard Julie on the air the more I learned about sports. When I went on to college and began hosting my own radio show and attending games as a reporter, I relied on Julie to guide me along. The very first time I ever called her to book her on my show as a guest, she called me back immediately and left me a voicemail message stating if I wanted I could leave her another voicemail or I could try to reach her that same night by calling the number for the phone inside the White Sox press box as she would be at the game. I was so nervous about getting her in trouble by calling during the game. I was also filled with anxiety because I had spoken to Julie on her shows as a caller, but I had never spoken to her off the air as a fellow media member. She quickly put me at ease with her usual cherry personality. She was so warm and inviting. From that day forward, any time I ever called her either to get her on my show as a guest or to get her expertise in dealing with teams' public relations personnel or players' agents, she always made time for me. Over the years, I worked with a couple different female co-hosts and they always said that their highlights included interviewing Julie Swieca. My female co-hosts looked at Julie as a source for inspiration that as women, they too could be intelligent, tough, talented individuals and succeed in a male dominated industry. Julie helped them and me in ways she may not have realized. The day she exited the all sports station in Chicago which had been her radio home for over ten years was a difficult one for all her fans. I was sad to hear her leave because she was so knowledgeable, funny, and classy. Above all, she was "one of the good ones." Since the day she left, I frequently find myself witnessing major sports accomplishments by players or teams in Chicago and always wondering, what is Julie thinking right now. What would be her reaction on the air if she was still broadcasting? For what it is worth, in the years since Julie left, no one has filled the void she left. As a fan of her work, I am so thrilled that she now has a great opportunity to have her own television program where she can combine a love for sports and food. As fans, we have a chance to help make Julie's show a reality by voting for her all this week. Vote as often as you want and get all your friends to vote. If she gets enough votes to catch the eye of Oprah Winfrey's people, then she will have a wonderful opportunity to bring a quality show to television. A quality show from a quality person!

For more information and to vote for Julie Swieca, please visit:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

World's Largest: A Documentary About Small towns With Big Things

Even with the various connections, references, and support I had made in the media industry, I found myself unable to land an entry level post in the smallest of media markets in the country. Per one of my former university professor's suggestion I took the thirty minute film script which I wrote as my project for his media writing course years before and turned it into a full length feature. As I neared the completion of the first draft, I began to research schools for writing, acting, and directing as well as organizations where I could network with filmmakers and other industry insiders. I came across IFP which began in New York in 1979. I located the Chicago chapter and familiarized myself with the people in charge. I attended a Chicago screening for a film in which one of my friends whom I met in acting class had been. After the screening, the Executive Director for Chicago IFP was introduced to the audience and I knew I had to introduce myself to her. Unfortunately, I was not able to do so that night, but I made sure to send her an email to which she promptly responded. I followed up with a phone call to the IFP offices. To my surprise, Elizabeth Donius, the Executive Director, picked up and gave me all the time in the world to ask my questions and receive further information on the IFP organization. By the end of the conversation, I had registered as a new member of IFP. From that day forward any time I had questions, concerns, or issues, Elizabeth would be the person to whom I would speak or send an email. She was always pleasant, prompt, and willing to give me all the time in the world. I then attended a seminar called Producers' Series were I quickly made some contacts with filmmakers and producers who were just starting out and others who were established in Hollywood. The highlight for me was that on one of the days, Elizabeth was leading a panel discussion. Everyone was ready. She walked in, sat down, and began to speak, "Welcome to today's panel. Let's get started. Oh wait." She paused to acknowledge a young man sitting in the front row immediately in front of her. "Good morning Israel. How are you? How are you enjoying our seminar?" She and I exchanged pleasantries as I answered her questions. She may not have realized it, but that made my day! Every time I have ever had the pleasure to speak to Elizabeth Donius, she has been warm, inviting, and classy. She truly is "one of the good ones." Above all, she is an extremely talented filmmaker whose abilities are on display in a film she and her childhood friend, Amy Elliott made and is now screening as part of the Seventeenth annual Chicago Underground Film Festival which runs from June 24 through July 1, 2010 at the Gene Siskel Film Center. "World's Largest: A Documentary About Small towns With Big Things" can next be seen on Tuesday, June 29, 2010. When one travels throughout this country, one will hear or see how towns constantly promote roadside attractions and make claims that theirs is the home of the world's largest tomato, moose, or statue of some kind. Elizabeth and Amy decided to seek out and document these attractions.For more information on the filmmakers, the documentary, or future screenings, please visit


Monday, June 21, 2010

Astronomy For Beginners

If you have read previous entries of this blog then you know that Laura Shatkus is a lovely and talented artist with whom I had the privilege of being in several acting classes years ago. She continues to shine on stages in and around the Chicagoland area. She can currently be seen in Astronomy For Beginners written by Kristin Idaszak and directed by Sarah Moeller. It is one of many pieces which can be seen at the Chopin Theatre as part of Sketchbook. Performances remaining for the show will take place on June 21, 24, 26, and 27. Please feel free to get more information about the show in which you can see Laura as well as the other pieces at: