SiskaFilms (www.siskafilms.com) is Chicago filmmaker Mark Siska’s production company. Siska began Studio 207 in 2002 after finishing several projects in Europe. He founded Euro Underground (www.eurounderground.org) in 1996 after he broke from the Chicago Underground Film Festival, of which he had been a co-founder. Euro Underground was a vehicle to showcase American and European Underground, as well as true indpendent films, and tour with them in various European cities, according to Siska.

As he was curating and organizing festivals, he worked with a number of talented film makers in Europe. “I was able to network with a lot of great artists, film makers and musicians,” Siska stated. “On a trip to Krakow, Poland, I had organized a retrospective for the well-known director Lech Kowalski (www.lechkowalski.com)

During the festival, some local punks showed up and started chatting with Kowalski and me. It turned out these fascinating
characters produced hand-made boots. Kowalski was able to envision a documentary and I had a video camera and the next day we were embedded with the punks Kowalski-style and I was co-lensing the documentary with him.” The documentary, named The Boot Factory, showed all over Europe and won the French Auteurs Best Documentary for 2001 and aired
on Arte’ French and German TV. “After working in Europe for six years, I had the opportunity to buy a loft in a converted tool
and dye factory in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.

Euro Underground was winding down and I had expanded into Asia. I was invited to show my own work and curate a program for The Bangkok Experimental Film Festival in Bangkok, Thailand, where I was able to meet and work with Apichatpong Weerasethankul, ” winner of 2010 Palme D’ Or at Cannes Film Festival for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. (www.nytimes.com) (www.kickthemachine.com)

Photo By Rob Benetti

I am currently finishing up Compass Cabaret 55. A Historical Survey of the Birth of American Improvisational Theater. It has been 5 years in the making and I have interviewed 20 people in Chicago, NYC and Los Angles. “ I met David Shepherd through the Prop Theater in Chicago. Originally, he had started the group Compass with Paul Sills in the 50’s. At the time I met David he was doing improvisational films. I liked his style of mixing improvisors with non-actors. If we needed a real estate agent to play a part, David would cast an actual agent rather than an actor. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t;
but it was fresh and real.

“During that time, I was reading about the history of Improv
and it struck me that it was odd thatCompass slowly was being forgotten and that there was no comprehensive documentary about it. America does not have a lot of its own art forms. America gave birth to Jazz, Blues, Rock, Gospel, Soul, Rap, Abstract Expressionism and Graffiti. American Improvisational Theater is an art form truly unique to America. Although based on a European model, Shepherd was able to make it American. He is an idea man, the innovator and visionary who defined the style and introduced Improv to America as any art form,” Siska explained.

Grants: The Governors International Arts Exchange Program of the Illinois Art Council, Soros Grant for Contemporary Art, US Consultant Belgium, Austrian Consultant US, Stefan Batory Grant, Illinois Art Council, Community Arts Assistance Program Grant City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.