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Chicago Filmmaker Debuts First Film, Credits Francis Parker School

By Mina Bloom | December 31, 2015 5:35am
 Matthew Mourgides (from l., producer), Casey Morris (producer) and Devin Lawrence (writer/director) on the set of
Matthew Mourgides (from l., producer), Casey Morris (producer) and Devin Lawrence (writer/director) on the set of "Sympathy, Said the Shark."
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LINCOLN PARK — Even though filmmaker Casey Morris graduated from Francis W. Parker nearly 20 years ago, she said the private school was still part of her daily life.

"Francis Parker creates this community that allows you to [pursue] your creativity and feel that any idea you have is possible," Morris said. "Parker is still part of my daily life. Some of my very best friends [from Parker] live in L.A. now and still see each other and collaborate."

Morris, now 37, is gearing up to debut her first film as a producer, a psychological thriller called "Sympathy, Said the Shark." Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave., is set to host an advanced screening of the film, written and directed by Devin Lawrence of the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures," Jan. 11. 

The story follows a young couple, who open their front door one Friday night to find an estranged friend covered in blood. That leads to a frenzied night in which the couple and another friend must confront "their own darkest secrets," according to a news release.

Morris has assisted on other films since moving to L.A. from her hometown of Chicago, but she said this is the first film she's worked on that has a release date. The film will be released worldwide on video-on-demand platforms Jan. 15.

The Lincoln Park native said she owes a lot of her success to Francis W. Parker, 330 W. Webster Ave. A lot of former students, she said, have gone on to write, act and produce in Hollywood. 

"I feel like it was ingrained in me. We were always on stage performing growing up," she said. "Parker made me feel like [filmmaking] was a possibility."

She also came from a family who worked in filmmaking. Her uncle was a director, and she recalls spending many holiday seasons traveling to wherever he was shooting on location. 

"I grew up around Hollywood, even though I grew up in Chicago. I was always intrigued by it. For me, L.A. always felt like a second home." 

After graduating from Parker, Morris enrolled in Occidental College, a small liberal arts college that she said had a similar community feel to the Lincoln Park school.

Since moving to L.A., Morris worked for Creative Artists Agency, where she worked on films like "Pursuit of Happyness." She produced documentary "Trading the Gator" and short film "Trophy Wife." She's currently working on "Doubting Thomas," starring Jamie Hector, who played Marlo Stanfield on the acclaimed HBO TV show "The Wire," Robert Belushi and William McFadden.

The majority of "Sympathy, Said the Shark" was filmed over the course of 12 nights two years ago, Morris said. The team used a unique camera rig so that the film is seen through the point of view of the three main characters.

“We really wanted to explore the idea that we are all prisoners of our own secrets and subjective points of view,” Morris said in a prepared statement. “Every time the point-of-view switches, there is an overlap of time where the audience sees or hears something that the previous character missed, which continuously changes the audience’s perception of what’s really going on.”

The film has already gained some fans, winning the 2015 audience award from the Portland Film Festival. 

But it's meaningful for Morris to host an advanced screening in Chicago, especially at Facets, where she remembers going as a kid.

"These are the things I grew up doing," she said of Facets. "Webster Place was my youth. We used to walk to Webster Place. Lincoln Park was such an amazing place to grow up."

Tickets cost $10 for general admission and $5 for members. The screening will include a Q&A session with Morris, fellow producer Matthew Mourgides and director/writer Devin Lawrence.

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