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Ringing commentary
Bell documentary takes financial toll by Elizabeth Cain

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 laugh.

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 complete postproduction.

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 Concepts.

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 and printed.

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 tracks added.

It will be sued in schools to teach students of all levels about carillons.

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 planned for."