We concluded the 2023 Community Builders Grant season on Wednesday, May 24th at the newly renovated Claudia Cassidy Theater in the Chicago Cultural Center.


Operations Manager Matt Carroll introducing the crowd to the 2023 Community Builders Grant Pitch Session & Screening | Victoria Messina


In celebration of our FIFTH ANNIVERSARY of the grant, we kicked off the evening with a screening of our previous winners' films.

Our previous winning projects included: Patois (Andre Muir, Danielle Alston, Zachary Moore), A Nickname (Sean Sankalp Raju), Zero Mile Mark (Link Wolfe, Jody Bailet), and the trailer for Video Funeral (Linh Tran, Hannah Schierbeek). 


Erica Duffy (second from left) and 2019 Grant Winners (from left to right) Zach Moore, Danielle Alston, and Andre Muir | Victoria Messina


After the screenings, our 2023 Finalists presented their pitches to the community attendees and remote audience.

Adithi Chandrashekar, with her team Co-Director Jerre Dye and Co-Producer Jordan Graves, presented her short film Young Claude. The queer coming-of-age dramedy explores the complex relationship between father and child, the simple pleasures of youth, and the profound and sensory nature of queer grief.

Next, Caroline Koonce pitched her horror-comedy short. "Killing Time", in the vein of "Barry" and "Spree", is about a theatre teacher targeted for murder by a wannabe serial killer with dreams of acting.

Finally, Christian Mejía took to the stage to share his coming-of-age short film "First Check". The narrative follows a hopelessly plain 16-year-old boy who chooses to get his first job instead of visiting his grandmother in Mexico, a yearly tradition he shares with his sister.


The 2023 Community Builders Grant Pitch Session Livestream


Erica stands on-stage with the Finalists and presenters (from left to right) Jordan Graves, Jerre Dye, Adithi Chandrashekar, Caroline Koonce, and Christian Mejía | Victoria Messina


Both the screening and the pitch event had a variety of accessibility options available for attendees.

For those who were D/deaf or hard of hearing, the theater provided assistive listening devices. All the films playing at the event also included open captions. Finally, Live Captioner Tina Dillon provided CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) services for the introduction and pitches. The captions were then used for both the in-person event as well as the livestream hosted on Facebook.

From wheelchair-accessible entrances to the Chicago Cultural Center to accessible seats in the back rows of the Claudia Cassidy Theater, the venue offered several mobility access options.


 Live Captioner Tina Dillon pictured on the right | Victoria Messina


After all three Finalists took to the stage, we held an exclusively in-person community vote for this year's winner. Each participant was given an "I Voted!" sticker in celebration of their contribution to the 2023 Community Builders Grant.

Voting results will be announced on social media on Monday, May 29th. 


Audience members asking questions during the 2023 Community Builders Grant Pitch Session | Victoria Messina 


A photo of the "I Voted" sticker in front of the event stage | Julia Relova


We would also like to thank Deputy Director Jonah Zeigler and the whole team the Chicago Film Office, along with a special thanks to Quicksilver Color, Journeywork Entertainment, and Full Spectrum Features for their support.


(Photos by Victoria Messina)