SOUNDS OF THE GAME - A satirical audio podcast in production. / Launching on iTunes mid-November.
LEAPS OF FAITHS - A documentary film about interfaith marriage that will air on WTTW in Chicago / currently in post-production.
JUBILEE SHOWCASE DOCUMENTARY FILM - A feature-length documentary about the Emmy-award-winning Gospel TV show, Jubilee Showcase / in development.
GOSPEL’S JUBILEE SHOWCASE - Jubilee Showcase PBS special.
THE MAN IN THE SILO - A dramatic film starring Ernie Hudson.
JESSY DIXON COMES HOME TO CHICAGO - Live Gospel music concert.
WRESTLED - A dramatic short film.
A SERIES OF SMALL THINGS - A dramatic short film.
Rhythm & Light and Voice of the City launch a new weekly comedic podcast:
Sounds of the Game
A satirical podcast about two small-town football broadcasters down on their luck and stuck in a rut.
listen and subscribe
Christopher Ellis and Steve Ordower
Cat Dean, Ryan Jacobson, Thomas Scherschel, James Hosfield, Christina Ordower, Teresa Kuruvilla, Zoë Sapienza, Alejandro Garcia, Taijan Yarbrough, Sydney Ordower, & Eli Ordower
Rhythm & Light and Voice of the City present, “Sounds of the Game,” a mocumentary radio podcast of Midwest high-school football games featuring everyone’s favorite small town darlings: Fentchall Stalkers football team (named after stalking wheat, not creepy degenerate men).
The Stalkers have fallen on hard times, and are so terrible that the two broadcasters, Jeff Dansdorf and Bill Buxom, are left to arguing with each other over their personal lives, social issues, and other wayward topics—these two are stuck in another era. All the while, edgy and unique parodies of national and local radio commercials are peppered throughout these “disastrous” local radio programs.
A hilarious look at how American football has become the new “opiate of the people,” where everyone’s hopes and dreams seem to hinge on their team winning, and an exploration of the real reasons conservative America struggles with the social issues of the day.
Several key topics Jeff and Bill grapple with in the first season include: Woman’s equality, hazing, unhealthy food consumption, LGBTQ rights, white nationalism, Native-American objections to offensive team names (e.g. Washington Redskins), kneeling at football games as part of peaceful protest, and so much more.
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leaps of faiths - documentary film
Love, Religion, and Interfaith Understanding
There aren’t many documentaries that are also love stories. Leaps of Faiths is. Like many multi-cultural families, Jews and Catholics fall in love, knowing they must navigate their differences. This film highlights one choice some of them make: raising children both Jewish and Catholic – sharing both of their traditions: a path that has created controversy. Some fear that kids will be confused and torn between mom and dad. In the Jewish community there are concerns about Messianic Judaism and the future of Jews in America. But other clergy, parents and their children see new possibilities and have pioneered interfaith religious education programs in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Leaps of Faiths doesn’t try to resolve controversy. Instead it documents the choices some families make and how their kids turn out, first as 8th graders and then as young adults. Relationships can be messy, especially when love tests faith and faith tests love. But in a world that is increasingly diverse, blended, and multi-cultural, love always finds a way.
Jubilee Showcase - documentary film
Producer / Director Steve Ordower was invited to present parts of his documentary film, and performances from the Jubilee Showcase Archive at The March On Washington Film Festival in July of 2018. The remarkable and vital festival is put on the Raben Group, spearheaded by Robert Raben, whose mission is:
Our world, as beautiful as it can be, continues to need repair; each of us does our part, but it seems never enough. One necessary condition for healing is truth so that all of us operate from a shared and understood set of facts on how we got to where we are, and what needs to change.
The March on Washington Film festival, the product of so many creative and passionate minds and hearts, is a national platform for this conversation; to better tell our stories, to honor those who have paved the way, and to better understand how our story connects to our future.
The presentation included the following:
Join us for an audio visual exploration of the Emmy Award-winning Gospel Jubilee Showcase, aired on ABC Chicago’s WLS Channel 7 from 1963 to 1984. Produced and hosted by the late Sid Ordower, the show presented top artists and a wide variety of gospel and inspirational music every Sunday morning, establishing itself as an institution in Chicago known as “church before church.”
Panelists: Richard Smallwood, award-winning gospel music composer and artist; Steve Ordower, director, producer, and son of Sid Ordower
Moderator: Jacquie Gales Webb, Peabody award-winning producer and 96.3 WHUR Host
Overview of film:
Born in the crucible of the civil rights movement the gospel TV show, Jubilee Showcase, uniquely bridged the worlds of gospel, blues and R & B and was a precursor to modern soul music. Produced and hosted by a white Jewish political activist, Sid Ordower, this program was a singularly pioneering show in television history. For most of the artists who appeared on the program, it was their first time on television, helping launch many of their prolific careers. Jubilee Showcase was a literal “who’s who” of Gospel icons, including the likes of Mavis Staples and The Staples Singers, Albertina Walker and The Caravans, the Soul Stirrers, and Thomas A. Dorsey... Over 30 Grammy awards were handed out to artists from Jubilee Showcase over the years, and the show was awarded an Emmy for a, “pioneering project television,” yet the story of the pivotal role this show and its producer played in the proliferation of Gospel Music has never been told . . . until now.
Broadcast from 1963 to 1984 in Chicago, Ordower’s show took the bold step of presenting gospel music as an art form in its own right. This format emerged from Ordower’s overlapping passions of politics and culture. He was an extraordinarily effective political activist, working both in the civil rights movement with such leaders as Dr. King and Rev. Jesse Jackson, and in electoral politics. Sid chose to dedicate his life in service of others after experiencing the atrocities of war as a U.S. soldier, which includes the horrific loss of life on D-day. He subsequently went to work altering the political and cultural landscape in America, playing a decisive role in the elections of many political figures including U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun (first African-American woman elected to the Senate), Chicago’s Mayor Harold Washington (first African-American mayor of Chicago), and U.S. Representative Danny K. Davis. According to the Chicago Defender newspaper, Sid was “a champion of freedom and equality” and “possessed an insatiable quest for the justice of every man.”
Sid Ordower was white and Jewish. The great majority of his guests on Jubilee Showcase were African-Americans, many of them Baptists. This documentary will explore how Ordower was able to cross racial and social boundaries, to create a television program showcasing music that laid the foundation for much of the music that evolved in the U.S. to this day.
Combining rarely seen excerpts from the show with modern-day interviews with luminaries such as Mavis Staples, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Timuel Black and Michael Eric Dyson, this documentary will tell the remarkable story of a time in which the worlds of gospel and civil rights merged and helped to re-shape the American landscape.
Rev. Jesse Jackson
Albertina Walker (Grammy Award winner)
Andrae Crouch (Grammy Award winner)
Dr. Lena McLin (niece of Thomas A. Dorsey)
U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis
Former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun
Timuel Black (Historian)
Willie Rogers (Soul Stirrers)
Joe Ligon (Mighty Clouds of Joy)
Shirley Caesar (Grammy Award winner)
Myrna Ordower (Sid Ordower’s wife)
Rev. Clay Evans
Howard Shapiro (Director at ABC WLS-TV Chicago who worked on Jubilee Showcase)
Michael Eric Dyson
Arthur Crume (Soul Stirrers)
EXCLUSIVE ACCESS TO HISTORIC COLLECTION : Sitting in a vault since their original broadcasts - and now exclusively available to the producers of Jubilee Showcase (documentary film) - these priceless bits of music history will be brought to a national audience in a powerful and unique way. Through Sid Ordower’s family legacy, the producers have exclusive access to the rare archive footage of the Jubilee Showcase series -100 half-hour shows.
Jubilee Showcase PBS SPecial
Gospel’s Jubilee Showcase Celebrates Gospel Music Legends
Chicago—October 4, 2013—“Hello, I’m Sid Ordower and welcome to ‘Jubilee Showcase,’ the program presenting songs truly American: gospel, spiritual and jubilee songs - the great inspirational music of the past and present.” Every Sunday morning from 1963 until 1984, these words opened a unique local television show in Chicago - a half hour of African- American gospel music hosted and produced by a straight-laced white man who seemed part reporter, part politician, part preacher all at once.
Fifty years ago, Ordower, a civil rights activist, had little idea he was beginning to build one of the most comprehensive collections of gospel music ever, let alone a vital piece of Chicago’s and America’s history. He wanted to bring what he called “that fine American music” to a larger audience. Jubilee Showcase featured inspiring performances by the Barrett Sisters, Jessy Dixon, Albertina Walker, the Staple Singers and many other gospel luminaries. There was an even an appearance by Thomas Dorsey, the father of this musical genre. The show aired on the Chicago ABC affiliate WLS-TV (Channel 7) and won a National Emmy Award for a “pioneering project in television.”
Jubilee Showcase will celebrate its 50th anniversary during a PBS (Public Broadcasting System) Special. The show, Gospel’s Jubilee Showcase, will air on WTTW, the Chicago PBS affiliate, on October 10, 2013 at 9 p.m. (central time) and in December, will be shown on PBS stations throughout the United States. The hour-long broadcast will present historic footage from the television show. Clifton Davis will host the program. An actor, singer, songwriter and minister, Davis is best known for his roles in television sitcoms That’s My Mama and Amen. He was recently featured on TV One’s Life After and is a regular host on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. When asked why he agreed to serve as the pledge show’s host, Davis explained, “First of all, I love gospel music. I love historic gospel music. Every time we review this on television, a new generation has a chance to be introduced to something that inspired us back then.” Portions of the broadcast were filmed at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Headquarters on Chicago’s South Side.
The Jubilee Showcase archive is the single largest collection of historic Gospel music television footage in the world, and consists of 100 half-hour programs, which have never been seen by a national audience on television. And now, for the first time, these rare performances have been compiled into a true ‘best-of’ program and are available for all to see. For people who grew up with this music, it will not only be a joyous experience to hearthese amazing artists perform, but for most fans, it will be their first time seeing them perform as well.
Featured Artists and Songs:
Albertina Walker, Amazing Grace (her first solo appearance on television)
Inez Andrews and The Caravans, Oh, Mary Don't You Weep
The Soul Stirrers, Oh, What a Meeting
The Staple Singers, Help Me Jesus
The Norfleet Brothers, Precious Lord
Albertina Walker and The Caravans, Wade in the Water
The Man In The Silo - dramatic film
Starring Ernie Hudson
Steve Ordower (Producer/Editor) and Phil Donlon (Director/Writer) reteamed for their third film project, The Man In The Silo, which was featured at The Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago, held at The Gene Siskel Film Center in August of 2013. Ernie Hudson, who starred in the movie, was flown in for the festival, and was greeted by a sold-out theater. The question & answer session after the film (which included Hudson, Donlon, Ordower, and writer Christopher Ellis) had to eventually be cut off since the conversation was so lively and engaging after the film, and would have easily continued for another hour or two. “We couldn’t have asked for a better screening of our film,” Ordower commented. The film received some press prior to the screening in the Chicago Tribune, as well as Steve and Phil conducting an interview on WBEZ radio, the Chicago NPR affiliate station.
While at THE METHOD FEST with their film A Series of Small Things, (see article on A Series of Small Things) Steve (Producer/Editor/Sound Designer) and Phil (Director/Writer) met Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters/“Oz”) at one of the parties. Donlon was considering Dennis Haysbert from the popular TV show “24” but saw Hudson speaking at the festival. At a break in a conversation Hudson was having with someone at the festival party, someone asked Ernie, “So, what's next for you?” When Ernie replied, “I'm just waiting for the next interesting thing to come along,” Ordower took that as his cue to introduce himself and Phil to Ernie. Hudson subsequently spent the next 24 minutes listening to Donlon's pitch for The Man in the Silo with funky music blaring in the middle of a Ferrari dealership.
The Man in the Silo tells the story of an African-American man (Ernie Hudson, of Ghostbusters fame) who cares for his racist mother-in-law after the death of his wife and son. The action takes place mainly on the mother-in-law's farm, where the main character believes there is a man in the grain silo who is out to get him. All three films Donlon and Ordower have worked on have been directed by Donlon, with Ordower serving as Editor on all of them and working as Producer on both A Series of Small Things and The Man in the Silo. The first of these films, Wrestled, was picked up by the Independent Film Channel. Ordower took on producing duties with the second film, A Series of Small Things, which was accepted into the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
“The production was pretty intense,” said Ordower while reminiscing about the LA portion of the shoot. The shooting schedule was from 6pm to 6am for 6 straight days, and then the crew flew back to Chicago to finish up filming in the greater Chicago area and Wisconsin. There were multiple locations around LA, and the crew, which was lead by director of Photography Joey Domaracki, did a fantastic job. Ben Brammeier, the 1st A.D., also stepped up to the challenge. Brammeier, who was brought up under Director Bruce Terris, was excellent at keeping the film on schedule. There were no dropped shots and the production did not go into overtime. This was quite a feat considering the complexity of shots that Director Phil Donlon wanted to accomplish. Camera/Steadicam Operator Dave Ortkiese welcomed the challenges of this film by nailing intricate steadicam moves time after time. Ordower and Donlon were so impressed by Ortkiese and gaffer John Luker, whom Domaracki insisted work on the project, that the two were flown to the Midwest to complete the last few days of production, instead of hiring people locally to fill these positions.
However, the production didn't have to fly some production crew and Ernie Hudson to the Midwest just once; they had to do it twice. While filming one of the two days at the farm location in Bristol, Wisconsin, Ordower had to make a painful call to shut production down only a couple of hours into the production day. While doing exterior work, rain started to fall and preparations were immediately made to work through the weather. But when the forecasts became increasingly worse, Brammeier took Ordower aside and lent his experienced perspective. “What’s the rush, Steve?” Brammeier asked. “I see a lot of productions rush to finish a film, instead of taking their time and making a great film.”
Steve knew that Brammeier made a lot of sense in what he was saying, but as the Producer, Ordower was struggling with a lack of money coupled with the fear of not being able to get Ernie Hudson back on a plane to the Midwest. The production already had to reschedule the shoot three times due to Hudson's schedule, and paying for another day’s shoot was difficult for Ordower to think about, let alone pushing the last shooting day to late November. It can get pretty cold outside in Wisconsin at that time of the year. However, Ordower called an emergency meeting with Brammeier, Director Phil Donlon, and D.P. Joey Domaracki. They all came to a fairly quick decision, and Ordower made the call to shut production down for the day. About an hour before this happened, though, the words that Director Alrick Brown, who was visiting the set that day, said to Ordower rang in Steve's head for the next few weeks. When Ordower met Brown and explained the situation, Alrick bottom-lined it by saying, “It will test your resolve.” It sure did.
The next day, however, went very well while filming on the Metra train on the route from Chicago to Harvard, IL. It was all steadicam work for Ortkiese on a moving train, and all went well. The lighting that day was particularly gorgeous, and the timing of the production had to be precise with no mistakes allowed. Union Pacific, the company that owns the railroad and runs the train operation, allowed the production to film on a Metra train. Filming was allowed on a run from Chicago to Harvard and then back again, with some work done on a still car in between. Moving 45 extras around from train to train was a challenge, but things went pretty smoothly, with Ben Brammeier working closely with Ordower on logistics and 2nd A.D. Alex Lee going above and beyond the call of duty.
One of the main challenges, though, was to get Hudson to the airport in time for his flight back to L.A. for a shoot the next day. Hudson didn't ride the train all the way back to downtown Chicago from Harvard. It was arranged to have someone pick him up from a stop in Arlington Heights, close to O'Hare Airport, so the crew would have the maximum amount of time with him — and they used every bit of it. Hudson's bags were waiting for him by the door up to the minute of his departure, and Hudson was wrapped for the day about a minute before the train pulled in to his stop. It was a quick goodbye and off to the airport for Ernie.
Now, the challenge came to get the last day of production on the farm in Wisconsin to happen. The last day was scheduled and then rescheduled. Camera operator Dave Ortkiese and Gaffer John Luker were set to fly in, the crew in Chicago was ready, and then the phone call from Hudson came into Ordower the day before his flight was to come in to town. “Steve, I'm a trooper and all, but did you check the weather forecast for the area?” Ordower said, “Yes, Ernie, I am aware. We have made preparations for it.” An outdoor heater was rented for Hudson to keep him warm between takes and extra layers were prepared for him and the crew. Fortunately, Ordower's talk with Hudson went well and on November 18th, the last day of shooting got in the can.
“The day went really well,” explained Ordower. “Ernie was in a great mood. It was cold, but not brutally so. There was no wind or rain, and the mood and energy on the set was very positive.” The location was fantastic, and the owners of the farm, Ed and Juanita Cruey, were extremely accommodating.
From Donlon's and Ordower's perspective, the production as a whole was a blessing. Only a couple of the locations for the entire production required compensation. The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society granted unprecedented access to it for a very modest fee. The production was able to set design weeks in advance, as well as use a plethora of props and furniture that were on hand, which worked very well for the film.
Jessy Dixon Concert
Rhythm & Light was called upon to capture the historical and magical Gospel concert at Liberty Baptist Church, directed by the legendary recording artist Jessy Dixon in April of 2007. Since Jessy appeared on Sid Ordower's show, “Jubilee Showcase,” numerous times, it was natural for Jessy to connect with Sid's son Steve to produce and direct the multi-camera shoot. With a packed house of over 1,500 people, the atmosphere was electric as numerous choirs and performers took the stage to showcase their skills, including Vernon Oliver Price, who also appeared on “Jubilee Showcase.”
Steve's goal was to bring the highest possible production value given the budget, so he chose to shoot on the Panasonic DVD Pro50 standard definition video format with the SD X900 cameras. "I was really pleased with the images we captured. Panasonic did a great job with their answer to Sony's Digibeta format, but has a great deal more flexibility," Ordower said. Not just for the concert itself, but also for future documentary purposes, Steve chose to shoot the concert widescreen at 24fps, converting to 30fps in the camera, progressive, widescreen.. "I knew if we lit this correctly, it would match quite well with Panasonic's DVC Pro100 HD codec, which is what I will shoot documentaries about Gospel Music on," Steve said. This is why Steve flew in Director of Photography Joey Domaracki from LA. Domaracki lit the concert using a variety of color schemes for different groups and artists. The church didn't have the lighting needed for such an event, so a great deal of par cans and extra lighting was brought in for the concert.
With a three-and-a-half hour live performance and no breaks, everyone worked very hard. "The camera men did a fantastic job," Ordower said. Dave Moravec manned the jib with a great deal of dexterity, while Mike Torcha captured striking profile shots of the performers as well as audience shots. The third camera, manned by Aaron Britton stationed in the balcony, caught the wide shots as well as intimate close-ups of the artists. "I wanted a minimum of six cameras for this event, but the budget just didn't allow for that, which is why the camera operators had to work their tails off... and they certainly came through with the goods," Ordower said. Jessy Dixon's intros for the DVD project were also shot with the DVC Pro50 codec, but with the Panasonic HVX200 camera, which proved to work quite well for this application.
The audio was recorded by Accutrack Recording, spearheaded by David Levit, with 24 tracks that were re-mixed by Mat Prock of Area 44 Music. "It was a real pleasure to place the final mix in the project," Ordower said. "Dave and Mat did excellent work capturing the amazing music that was created that day."
Stationed in a chapel to the side of the main sanctuary with a bank of monitors, Ordower called out the shots over headphones, envisioning the edit as the concert moved forward. "The budget did not allow for a live switch, so I chose to edit the concert using Final Cut Pro's multi-angle functionality, which worked very well," Ordower explained. All of the editing, color correction, and DVD authoring was also done at Rhythm & Light, with this project set for international distribution.