Bell documentary takes financial toll by Elizabeth
When asked how long
it has taken local independent filmmaker Mitchell Kasprzyk to make
his 26-minute documentary , he becomes quite mysterious. "Let's just
say that I started this project many years ago."
Why the ambiguity?
"Because it has been a very, very long time," he responds with a
The documentary in question is called "Tintinnabula" (the Latin word
for the sounding of bells). It documents the 700-year history and
present use of the carillon, a musical instrument of those tuned
bells inconspicuously hidden in most church towers.
"Tintinnabula" is a rarity, first, in subject matter and second,
because it's Kasprzyk's personal project. "I did 99.9% of the camera
work, plus I produced, directed and wrote the film," he said. Like
most labors of love, however cash is short and the lack thereof is
why the film has taken so long to complete.
Kasprzyk personally invested $18,000 of his own money. He received a
$1,283 grant from the Creative Artists Assistance Program of the
Chicago Office of Fine Arts last summer, and while the grant
certainly was helpful, Kasprzyk is still short $5,000 to $8,000 to
Shot mostly on the South Side in the University of Chicago's
Rockefeller Chapel, Kasprzyk recalls that his initial interest for
the documentary was sparked when he heard the music played from one
of Chicago's many church towers.
"I just wondered if a person was actually up in the tower playing,
or if it were a record. I checked out some of the towers around the
city and discovered that some of the music is played by tape, but
others actually have people up there playing," he said.
When not engaged in documenting when the bells tolled, Kasprzyk
produces and directs corporate productions through his company, KSM
Kasprzyk personally edited "Tintinnabula" on rented film editing
machines at SMS Productions and at Chicago Filmmakers. Although he
said "it's a complete film in the sense that the visual and the
sound track are done," Kasprzyk has yet to have the film conformed
Kasprzyk has set plans as to the future of his pet project. He said,
"It will probably be geared towards educational markets. For grammar
schools, it may be used a history lesson. In high school and
college, it could be used for music appreciation courses." Release
format probably will be half-inch or 3/4 inch video.
The Question remains, however, as to exactly when final
postporduction will be completed on "Tintinnabula" and its method of
distribution. "I expect it to be finished when I get more money,
possible from another grant or through a foundation."
KSM Concepts is located at 5148 W. Roscoe St.,: phone 635-6540
Local artist produces film about
the carillon, an instrument of bells
by Jackie Pledger-Skwerski Leader Staff Writer
In the first scene of the
film, we see a briefcase being carried up the winding stairs of a
circular tower. Footsteps echo on the hollow stone. Keys jangle. A door
creaks as it opens. A man lays the briefcase down and takes a music
sheet from it. Then he sits down on a bench. We hear a melodic burst of
bells as he begins to play a carillon.
The film is called "Tintinnabula". It is a 26-minute educational film
about bells and the carillon, an instrument of tuned bells. And it is
the brainchild of Mitchell Kasprzyk, a filmmaker who lives and works in
the 5100 block of West Roscoe Street.
Kasprzyk, 39 received an initial $1,283 grant from the Creative Artists
Assistance Program of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs last
June. He used the money to film the documentary and finalize the editing
and preparation for laboratory work. Now, he is looking for a $5,000 to
$8,000 grant so that the film can be technically refined and the sound
It will be sued in schools to teach students of all levels about
Kasprzyk is a professional filmmaker who makes documentary and feature
films for a living. Throughout his 14-year career, he has worked on more
than 100 financially successful films such as "Risky Business." Why
then, would he want to invest two or three months in an educational film
that has little financial backing and no sure source of funding?
"Filmmakers are a little crazy," Kasprzyk said. "I was interested in the
subject . . . Years ago, I had heard a carillon played briefly on a
newscast. I became really interested . . . I wondered how this music was
made. I got fascinated and started looking into it."
To prepare for the film, Kasprzyk researched the history of bells and
carillons so that he could write the script.
Wylie Crawford, head carilloneur at the University of Chicago's
Rockefeller Chapel, played the chapel's carillon in the film. The
carillon is the second largest in the world. Much of the action of the
film was shot at the South Side university.
When Crawford first sits down at the carillon console, he plays "Cavotte
and Double," a 17th Century piece by Willem de-Fesch. The narrator,
Steve Andrews, a friend of Crawford, explains that a carillon is made up
of a series of 23 to 75 tuned bells. Inst4ead of keys, it has two rows
of large batons, or oak levers, which correspond to the black and white
keys of the piano. The upper row of batons is comparable to the piano's
black keys: the bottom row is comparable to the whit keys. There also
Are foot pedals like those found on an organ. The carilloneur plays the
instrument by striking the batons with a loosely clinched fist and
depressing pedals with is feet.
Playing the carillon is different from playing chimes because chimes are
played one at a time, while the bells on the carillon are played in
chords, the narrator says. Crawford plays "Ode to Joy," from Beethoven's
Symphony No. 9, on chimes to demonstrate.
The film also gives a short history of bells: How bells were first used
to signal people of danger, and how they are still used to tell people
when to wake up, answer a phone, stop for a train, or go to church.
Bells originally appeared in towers in the low countries of Europe _
Belgium, Holland and northern France _ where the landscape is flat and
sound carries over long distances.
The carillon at
Rockefeller Chapel is mounted in a Gothic bell tower 172 feet above
street level. It was donated in 1932 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in
memory of mother, Laura Spellman Rockefeller. It has 72 bronze alloy
bells. The largest bell weighs 18 1/2 tons and is just under 10 feet in
diameter, the smallest bell weighs ten pounds
and is about four inches wide.
Kasprzyk has been interested in photography since he was a child. "I
started taking pictures with a box camera when I was about eight years
old," he said.
For a while, he thought he might like to be a history teacher. He took
business and advertising classes at Wright College, but by the time he
finished at Wright, he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. He earned a
bachelor of arts degree in cinematography from Columbia College, with a
miner in photography.
He founded K.S.M. Concepts Incorporated in 1978. Most of his films are
training films, industrial films or films about products shown to
customers in a store. "But once in a while I get involved with feature
films that are shot here (in Chicago)," he said.
Kasprzyk served as a production coordinator for "Silk Stockings," and as
a production assistant for "Blues Brother." He was production manger for
"Office Party," a pilot film for cable television, and was on the
lighting crew for "Big Town," :The Untouchables," and the television
series, "Crime Story," He also did lighting and special effects for the
feature film, "Risky Business."
One of the films Kasprzyk is most proud of is "The Sentence," which
deals with death in the electric chair. The subject matter is harsh and
the film graphic, he said, but "I looked at where I wanted to go with my
career and what I wanted to do."
The film premiered five years ago on "Night Flight," a syndicated
program on the U.S.A. Cable Network. It has also been shown at schools,
including a media class at Wright College. It was in competition for a
Cable Ace award for cable television, and for a local Emmy award.
A documentary film on which he collaborated, "The Police Social Work
Team," won a Helen Cody Baker Award in 1977, first place for best
audio-visual program. The film, produced by the University of Illinois
at Chicago Circle through the efforts of Professor Harvey Treger, was
about cooperative efforts between police officers and social workers.
If he can find enough financial backing, Kasprzyk plans in the near
future to produce a feature length comedy about teenagers coming of age.
He's almost finished writing the script, he said.
But that's just the first hurdle.
"The filmmaking business is really crazy," Kasprzyk said. "You can plan
for 1 million problems to come up during the shooting of a film and none
of them will happen. But there'll be another million that you haven't