Though Michael Bilandic bears the same name as his famous father, the late Michael Bilandic, the former mayor of Chicago and chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, who earlier served as alderman of the Daley family’s longtime 11th Ward political bastion in Bridgeport, the younger Bilandic clearly has never had any interest in following in his father’s footsteps.
As we chatted on the phone earlier this week, Bilandic, 36, happily explained this parents, including his mother, Heather, “never put any pressure on me to do anything except what I felt I needed to do for my life and career.” Bilandic explained he only had “complete support and encouragement” to follow his dream of pursuing a life in the arts, wherever that might take him.
Asked about Chicago politics today or the current election cycle, Bilandic quietly said, “I’m pretty out of touch at the moment … not completely up to date with what’s going on now,” adding that he felt “very, very lucky” his parents only wanted him to find a life’s work that would make him happy and fulfilled.
Bilandic will be back in his hometown for the opening night screening at 8 p.m. Friday of his new film, “Hellaware,” at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute on State Street, and may also be on hand for the 8 p.m. Saturday screening as well. “Hellaware” also will be screened at there Sunday and next Thursday, Nov. 6.
The writer and director of “Hellaware” is particularly excited his movie is screening at the Siskel Center, as he not only worked briefly at the Art Institute after completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Texas in Austin, but “it was at the Art Institute that I saw so many films growing up and where I was exposed to so many great ideas and creative things,” he added.
From Chicago, Bilandic then went on to New York and got his graduate degree at NYU’s prestigious film school. He has become involved in the New York independent film world and has had some exciting opportunities, including spending some time working for such filmmakers as Spike Lee.
Yet it was during his years in Texas that Bilandic first realized that filmmaking was the direction he wanted to pursue in the arts — “though I also wanted to be some kind of musician as well for a long time. In this film, and some other projects, I’ve been able to incorporate both things.”
The “Hellaware” story — a satire really — is about a New York photographer, deeply enmeshed in the edgy Manhattan art scene, who during a drug-fueled YouTube search stumbles upon a music video from a Goth rap band in Delaware. They call themselves the Young Torture Killaz and are Insane Clown Posse wannabes. Nate, the photographer, makes it his mission to befriend the band, but things take a few unexpected twists and turns as the relationship unfolds.
The idea for the film grew out of Bilandic’s habit of “always searching for the weirdest stuff online. … Plus I always wanted to make a movie set in the horror core of rap music and also wanted to make a movie about the art world and its larger-then-life personalities having esoteric ideas. It all sort of comes together in this film.”
Any who comes to meet Bilandic at the Friday night screening of “Hellaware” — and wears a costume — will be admitted to the Siskel Center for a reduced rate of $7. Seems a perfect idea for an opening on Halloween!