Lombard man's film fest allows artists to 'tell their stories the way they need to be told'
An African American-owned film festival is about to host its second annual showing as it aims to help filmmakers tell their own stories and get due credit for their work.
The Tylerman Film Festival is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, where festival producer Andrew Tyler of Lombard is grateful to be able to host socially distant groups of up to 100 masked viewers each day.
Last year's inaugural event, also at Cantigny, drew roughly 300 people, Tyler said, but this year's event is scaled back for health and safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The theater and screening area that will be used for the fest each will allow up to 50 people inside, half of the typical capacity of 100.
Tyler plans to screen more than 50 films during the event, which runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Most of the films are shorts -- "five minutes here, 10 minutes there, three minutes there," Tyler said. And they come from all over: dozens from the U.S. and also five from the United Kingdom, four from Nigeria, three from Canada and two each from Australia, Bulgaria and India.
Tyler, a filmmaker himself, said he was moved to start the festival after watching TV some years ago with his daughter, Olivia Dru Tyler, now 7, and not seeing much representation of people like her. Even if the actors on the screen were Black, Tyler said, the talent behind the screen -- the writers, cinematographers, producers and directors -- were often white.
"I got tired of other people from outside our culture telling our stories," Tyler said. "The Tylerman Film Festival is a social awareness film festival that allows for people to progress and tell their stories the way they need to be told."
Tyler's idea for a film fest gained a space to become reality when he visited Cantigny Park as part of his involvement with Unity Partnership, a DuPage County-based group that aims to build relationships between police and diverse communities.
Matt LaFond, Cantigny's executive director, met Tyler through Unity Partnership and offered use of the venue, a 500-acre estate with a golf course, museums and gardens that formerly belonged to Col. Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune.
"We saw this as an opportunity to help an independent, local filmmaker. That's why we really thought it'd be a great partnership for him and us," LaFond said. "It will draw in a different audience that doesn't usually come to Cantigny to show them all Cantigny has to offer."
Rolling Meadows resident and budding filmmaker Michael Pomaro came to Cantigny last year to see his first short film shown at the Tylerman fest. Pomaro, 39, had been obsessed with movies as a child and went to school for filmmaking.
But his life took a different turn (he works as a Cook County probation officer) and he wasn't able to get into making films until recently, with the blessing of his wife and the acting help of his two daughters, Evelyn, 12, and Mia, 8.
"I didn't expect them to take to the process as well as they did," Pomaro said about his daughters, who also star in his second film, a 7-minute, 30-second short that will be shown at this year's Tylerman festival. "But they really loved it and wanted to do it again."
This time around, Pomaro's film is called "They Grow Up So Fast." It's a horror film set in a post-apocalyptic world, in which the two girls are living at home with no adults, when a stranger comes knocking and bringing trouble.
"It's just cool to get into any festival. It's an honor," Pomaro said. "To see and hear strangers react to it is such a thrill and such a high that that is what I most look forward to."
Tickets to the festival are available at www.tylermanfilms.com or at the door for $15. Parking at Cantigny Park is a separate $5 charge, and attendees will have access to explore the grounds between screenings.