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Studio Announces Expansion

Photo by: John Dixon

When Brett Hays, producer and co-owner of Shatterglass Studios and Shatterglass Films in Champaign was a student, he would approach business leaders with a request: "I don't want anything from you, like a job or an internship. I just want to get ideas," he said.

This young student would then proceed to pick their brains for their strategies as businesspeople.

"Since I had only the motivation to acquire knowledge, it was easy. I would tell them that I just want to meet them. That I'm just a student who wants ideas from them," he said.

Hays was very fortunate when one man, Scott Reichard, told Hays that he would grant monies to Shatterglass when they started 10 years ago.

Reichard is the chairman of Benefit Planning Consultants. He was interested in starting a multimedia company and brought Hays and Luke Boyce, another creative young man, together.

"We had a meeting of the minds, if you will," Boyce said.

Boyce had experience that belied his young age, having been involved in filmmaking since he was 14 years old. He is now the co-owner and creative director of Shatterglass. He said the collaborative thoughts about the potential they had together amazed them all.

"It was a synergy," Boyce said.

"For me, it was a 'wow moment.' It was serendipitous," Reichard said.

"Scott is not some jaded suit," Boyce said. "He believes in people."

It's about the kids

Fast-forward a few years, and it's now Shatterglass' turn to assist the Champaign-Urbana Film Society in helping youths with their ideas. The Pens to Lens competition began in February 2013, with the goal of creating an outlet for kindergarten through high school students to participate in the local film community by submitting original screenplays to be developed into short films. During the first year, they received over 100 original screenplays from students ranging from ages 5 to 18. This year, Pens to Lens has had 210 scripts submitted and will possibly have 20 to 30 films produced.

Scripts are chosen by the Champaign Movie Makers filmmaking club, and then are created, filmed and produced by local filmmakers. Artisans and designers from the Champaign Urbana Design Organization create movie posters for the film features. Hays said that the scripts are submitted to filmmakers, who then produce them. A screening gala takes place at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, complete with red carpet, this Aug. 15.

"It's not about the filmmakers," Hays said. "It's about the kids. The Champaign Movie Makers leave the script as is, and they take it and run. It's the pure essence of the kid."

And because it's kids that are involved, one would think that the films are cute or funny.

"Well, they can be, but we had a drama last year that was about a mom passing away," he said. "William Kephart was the filmmaker."

Pens to Lens promises to be even more exciting in the third year.

"It's a validation of students. It shows them that filmmaking is a viable business," Hays said. "We wanted to teach literacy. We asked ourselves how do we create film literacy for the kids."

But sometimes, it's not just about the kids, it's about economic development.

Boyce was one of the first beta testers of the original Red One Camera in 2008. The camera redefined digital filmmaking.

"Back then, everyone wondered how this was possible. The Red Camera had 4K footage. That's 4,000 times the resolution of HDTV," Boyce said.

The company not only uses the Red One camera, but also the RED Scarlet-X Digital Cinema camera and the Canon 5D Mark II.

Ten years ago, Hays, Reichard and Boyce decided that they could produce the quality of film that they wanted to create. They acquired the cameras, the staff and the studio and went to work. During their tenure, they have created commercial films, documentaries, feature films, promotional films and short films that have earned a reputation as one of the premier independent film producers in the Midwest, according to Hays. Their awards include a regional Emmy for a documentary on the 14th annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival, a "Best Short Film" award at the Bend Film Festival for the short film "Sugar" and the "Best of the Fest" award at Newfest in 2010 for the feature-length "Leading Ladies."

Last year, Hays was involved as a line producer and unit production manager in the making of the feature film "Food," which was later renamed "Consumed," that starred Danny Glover and Kunal Nayyar. Part of the feature was filmed in Champaign-Urbana. After the experience, Hays was convinced that C-U could be a destination for filmmaking.

"We're talking about job growth and economic development," he said. "We brought $100,000 into C-U's economy with "Consumed." I'd like to see more of that: job creation, business growth with assistants, props, electrical, legal, special effects and the list goes on."

Shatterglass Studios made the decision to expand their partnership to include Jennifer Shelby and Habeeb Habeeb, creating Shatterglass Films, with the hope of creating a hub in the film industry in East Central Illinois.

Shelby, managing partner and executive producer of Shatterglass Films, is the president and dealer principal of a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealership and a Ford dealership in Hoopeston. She is also the president of a real estate holding company, Solomon Ventures LLC in Champaign.

Habeeb, executive producer of Shatterglass Films, is also the president and CEO of Benefit Planning Consultants and H-Squared Leadership Institute.

"I saw their (Shatterglass) work at Carle and the Rotary," Shelby said. "I told them I'd like to get into filmmaking. I see the benefit to the community. They saw in me someone who will sell the film."

Hays agreed.

"You have to do everything in this business, until you can find someone who can do it for you," he said. "When Jen came on, we had a need for someone like her."

Shelby said they connected on so many levels.

"There is just something about us as a group," Boyce said. "In this business, we're like a family bond. It's that we feel a responsibility to each other."

Habeeb said economic development is his passion.

"We can be a film oasis in the Midwest," he said. "We could be a future draw from many metro communities: Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis, among others."

Hays said the company has been helping others make their films and now want to expand into making its own features. Its projects in various stages of development are "The Origins of Wit and Humor," "Chadura," the documentary "Ebertfest," and "Death of Innocence -- the hate crime that changed America," a story about the murder of African American Emmett Till.

"Films are coming to Illinois because of tax credits. This would be monetarily prudent for C-U," Hays said. "The support structure is here."

Shelby said Shatterglass Films wants to organically put things together here in the area.

"This is moving, full steam ahead, 100 miles per hour. We're going. We need everyone in C-U that wants to come on with us to jump on this train," she said.

Boyce said that at Ebertfest, filmmakers were amazed at what was available in the C-U area.

"A filmmaker asked me if he could easily find a warehouse in the area. Or rent a plane for three months. I told him that it is possible, and it's a fraction of what he would be paying in New York, Chicago or L.A.," he said.

Habeeb said it's all possible.

"We can do it here," he said.