First new film house in ages opens

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A scene from Giraffe’s comedy PSA for ASHA

Last year, however, partner Eric Goldstein and Tory Sheehan of Minneapolis quietly opened their Giraffe Film Company here.

Better still, Goldstein is a bona fide comedy director, a genre we haven’t enjoyed for easily a decade, going back to when an accident forced a star comedy director into involuntary retirement.

Giraffe had operated since 1990 in Minneopolis. Goldstein and Sheehan took some time off after a disappointing foray into an Internet high-resolution video streaming venture.

When Goldstein was ready to reopen, “We decided that we wanted to go to a bigger advertising market, like Chicago. I’ve worked here many times before and I like the comfort level,” he said.

“I’m surprised,” he said, posing the imponderable, “that more commercials aren’t shot in Chicago for being such a large city. It’s got everything going for it — great architecture, terrific crews and actors, equipment, and such a cooperative city government.”

Giraffe has started to produce here and Goldstein said local agencies are asking them to bid. Recently Giraffe produced its second job as a Chicago production company: An $80,000 PSA for the American Speech- Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) for agency August, Lang & Husak of Bethesda, Md.

“ASHA is an organization of speech language pathologists, and their big message is that our ears are not evolved to deal with today’s sounds,” said Goldstein.

The PSA follows an average Joe through a difficult morning filled with hearing hazards. It starts with an alarm clock mishap, a tie caught in a blender, and culminates in a traffic jam where his car winds up hitched to the bumper of a van blaring loud political slogans.

Giraffe shot the stunt- and gag-laden Super-16mm spot earlier this month in Ravenswood and Jefferson Park. They created the traffic jam in a parking lot, using 25 vehicles, including a garbage truck.

Shooting a spot like this in New York would’ve been too difficult, Goldstein noted. “But Chicago is feasible and people can comfortably work here.” The spot should air within a month on network and cable.

A second comedy commercial was produced for The Yes Men of Milwaukee and their client, Norlight Telecommunications. Goldsmith shot it in the style of a 1950’s health documentary.

“We had a guy in a lab coat doing strange things to a rubber brain, and we said ?this is your brain using normal telecom methods,'” Goldstein says. “Then the guy did nice things to the brain, and we said ?this is your brain using Norlight.'”

The comedy talent was J.D. Mathein whom Goldstein discovered via O’Connor Casting. “I wouldn’t have found anyone better in New York or L.A.,” he said.

Advertising is second nature to Goldstein. His father, Stanley, was a copywriter for N W Ayer, Philadelphia, then FCB, New York. He and several others at FCB were recruited to Knox Reeves in Minneapolis to work on giant General Mills. “I was writing copy from the time I was 13,” he recalled.

Goldstein and Sheehan work out of a remodeled 1800s church at 3106 S. Racine in Bridgeport; phone, 773/847-9000. www.giraffefilm.com.?Ed M. Koziarski and Ruth L Ratny; < a href="mailto:edk@homesickblues.com">edk@homesickblues.com

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