CHICAGO — Two years after local filmmakers Jessica Hardy and Brent Kado created the Chicago Comedy Film Festival to fill a void in the city's comedy scene, the couple said they're looking to further cement their fest as an unstuffy, accessible event for moviemakers and audiences.
This year's festival, held at the South Loop's ShowPlace ICON Theater on Friday and Saturday, will show nearly 50 comedy full-length films and shorts from local and international directors.
Hardy, an improv teacher, started the festival with husband Kado in 2011 after the Andersonville-based pair tried to find somewhere to screen their own project and drew blanks.
"I know Chicago is obviously a huge comedy city," Hardy said. "And it occurred to me that we didn’t have a large-scale comedy film festival."
Since then, the organizers have worked each year to shape the "filmmaker's film festival" Kado said they had in mind — one that's focused on giving festgoers a good time while providing independent comedy directors with an audience.
For this year's fest, Hardy said she's looking forward to the Chicago premiere of "One Small Hitch," which was filmed locally, as well as "Mousse," a Swedish comedy. Both are indicative of the festival's lineup, which keeps to indie programming and encourages international film, organizers said.
"We need to keep building," Hardy said. "We need to keep making our festival accessible to filmmakers, and that's a big mission of ours, to not make it stuffy or exclusive."
To that end, they've added a web series category this year to open the floor to online-based comedy and a separate section for student films.
Last year they added a video-on-demand web channel, which offers some of the films to download or stream for a price. Directors who choose to add their work to the mix retain the rights and reap a percent of the profits, Kado said.
"That's something we've been wanting to do since year one," Kado said. "It's a big plus for our filmmakers."
The festival founders said they've also tried to select a lineup of diverse films, especially in what Hardy acknowledges can be a male-dominated scene.
"We really want to get away from just showcasing a bunch of bromance comedy films," Hardy said, before adding that they're "not opposed to those" and they do show a few. "I've at least made it part of my mission to balance that out with female comedies."
So they can show more local comedy, they have a separate, free night called "Laugh Out Local," held on Thursday for out-of-competition films, which "gives an opportunity for up-and-coming filmmakers in Chicago to be put on the radar," Hardy said.
In a month filled with local film festivals, Hardy said this one can hold its own without taking itself too seriously.
"The caliber of the films will just go to show that there's a lot being done," Hardy said. "And it's good comedy. It's smart comedy. It's comedy that has something to say."
The Chicago Comedy Film Festival runs Friday and Saturday at ShowPlace ICON Theater, 1011 South Delano Ct E. Weekend passes are $39, individual screenings are $12.