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Chicago Director Uses His Bold Style to Stand Out in the Film Industry

By Amy Ross

Chicago film director Jason Knade sees his name as a brand. And as with any brand, success is all about standing out: having a clear identity, consistency and boldness. “As for building brand awareness, my manager and I put a lot of time into my social media presence, and I’m always reaching out to new people and making new connections,” Knade said in an email.

This year, he was voted Best Filmmaker of Chicago by the Chicago Reader, a title he had earned once before in 2011. For Knade, attending events and investing time in face-to-face networking are crucial components to a successful career in the film industry. The efforts of this young director appear to be paying off. His narrative films have screened at over 50 festivals around the world, winning multiple awards. Aside from receiving attention from local news outlets, Knade’s work has also made it under the radar of prominent national media such as The Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times, who have described it as “intelligent” and “heartbreaking.” In July of 2013, Knade got the most unforgettable telephone call of his career from an Associated Press reporter.

“He wanted to talk about a music video that I directed. The most exciting part was how excited he was; he told me the video was going to be huge and to expect lots of news coverage and success,” Knade said. The journalist’s comments were referring to the “All American Boy” video clip Knade directed for artist Steve Grand, which has been viewed more than 3.5 million times on Youtube. Other successful projects include the short “Cyclicity”, and Knade’s first narrative feature with an upcoming release, Searching for Venice. Striking a balance Although he has done work as a cinematographer and a producer, Knade identifies the most with directing, which he also feels is the most difficult to sustain financially. “Prolific narrative film directors are lucky if they do a project or two a year, just because of the massive time commitment required during the development stage all the way through the film’s release,” Knade said.

Knade doesn’t live entirely off of his artistic endeavors. While narrative film may be his biggest passion, much of his paycheck comes from his long list of commercial clients, including the Joffrey Ballet, Subway and Jos-Cacciatore & Co. Striking a balance between the two is an enormous challenge, as they both require large amounts of time and energy. However, in his view, they aren’t as distant as they may seem at first glance. “Actually, it’s that storytelling background and passion that sets me apart and makes me so good at other types of projects. I also just enjoy fast-paced, dynamic commercial environments.

The whole business atmosphere,” he said. Knade shoots in over a dozen cities a year, although most of his projects are developed in his hometown of Chicago, where he has built his career. He considers the film scene to be small and intimate in “The Windy City,” but recognizes that the opportunities are rapidly expanding. “It’s great and keeps getting better! We have Cinespace, up to a 30% tax credit, talented crews and actors, and great statewide locations,” Knade said. “I’m very excited about the future of Chicago filmmaking.” For more details on Jason Knade’s work or to keep up his career, you may visit his website or follow him on Twitter.