Dennis Foley to add ‘filmmaker’ to his resume

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If all goes as planned, Chicago lawyer-electrician-teacher-author-coach Dennis Foley will soon be able to add filmmaker to the resume.

Foley has penned a script that is being made into a movie in Beverly this summer, mostly through his own force of will.


“Old Bob” shapes up as a little movie, to be sure, with a budget of less than $100,000.

But it’s also going to be real film, as best I can tell, with a professional director and a recognizable actor, James Russo, in the lead role.

“Am I looking at it to become a rich man? No,” the 54-year-old Foley told me Tuesday at Ellie’s Café, where some scenes will be filmed. “I think it has a chance where people would look at it and say: That’s a good movie.”

I introduced you to Foley a decade ago with his handy and humorous first book, “The Streets and San Man’s Guide to Chicago Eats.”

He describes his new project as a “dramedy” that will “put a smile on your face and a tear in your eye.”

It’s the story of three 12-year-old boys who befriend a down-and-out former high school teacher with a dark secret.

I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a family-friendly, PG-13 tale. Schoolyard baseball is involved. So are protective parents and suspicious police.

Foley can’t promise it will be coming soon to a theater near you, but he is promising to do all the filming in and around the Beverly neighborhood between July 27 and Aug. 8.

Some of the locations will include Ellie’s on 107th Street near the Rock Island station, local hot dog landmark Janson’s Drive-In and Mount Greenwood Cemetery.

Foley also hopes to film the “fast-pitch” baseball scenes at a local elementary school playground — if he can figure out how to cut through the CPS red tape. If not, an Evergreen Park school will do the honors.

Foley was working as a Streets and Sanitation electrician and writing on the side when I first met him in 2004. That was after a painful yet fortuitous career detour caused by his losing his law license, a mistake for which he has redeemed himself many times over.

The setback forced Foley to ask himself: What is it you really want to do with your life? One of the answers was to write.

Another was to teach. Foley later taught English at St. Laurence High School, where he also started a lacrosse program. He was there in 2012 when he published his second book, “The Drunkard’s Son,” an insightful semi-autobiographical tale of growing up in Chicago during the 1960s and 1970s.

These days Foley is back to practicing law, concentrating on real estate closings and property tax appeals, while continuing to write.

Last year he showed me a screenplay he had authored for a television pilot he was calling “The Blue Circus.” It was a spot-on, insiders take on city workers that I was sure would have Hollywood calling.

Except for winning a Beverly Hills screenwriting contest, however, “The Blue Circus” has yet to gain traction. Foley wrote several more episodes and was trying to compile them into a novel when he got the idea for “Old Bob.”

Rather than count on Hollywood taking an interest, Foley decided to make “Old Bob” a do-it-yourself project.

He recruited a relative of a relative who is a cinematographer to be the director. He rounded up local investors to put up $50,000 and is raising the rest through crowdfunding on Indiegogo.

The big break was catching the interest of Russo, who has agreed to take a smaller payday in return for an executive producer role, in effect, betting on the film’s potential.

“You do some for the money. You do some because you really want to do it. This is: I really want to do it,” Russo told me Tuesday by phone from California during a break in shooting another movie.

The plan is to take “Old Bob” on the film festival circuit, where Russo thinks it could do well.

“It’s an actor’s movie,” explained Russo, who said he was won over by reading the script and talking to Foley by telephone.

Hey, kids. Let’s put on a show.

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