People With Passion: Alex Beh (2015 edition)

Warren Alex Beh film

People With Passion

Filmmaker Alex Beh

E-mail exchange, Feb. 2-3, 2015

When we last spoke, back in April of 2010, filmmaker Alex Beh had recently released Babe, his fourth short film. In the intervening five years he has directed three more shorts, directed several music videos, starred in commercials for Bud Light and Burger King and has now released Warren, his feature film debut.

John Heard (left) and Alex Beh (center) in

John Heard (left) and Alex Beh (center) in “Warren.”

The movie stars Beh as the title character, a Chicago man drifting through his late 20s while his parents (John Heard & Jean Smart) get divorced and his ex-girlfriend (Sarah Habel) turns up back in town with a fiancé. Beh is the lead but dishes out plenty of screen time for his co-stars, with particularly strong performances from the veterans Heard & Smart. Let me be the first to say that Heard — whose credits include Home AloneAfter Hours, Big and The Sopranos — gives one of the best performances his career as Warren’s hard-drinking, love-lorn, soon-to-be-divorced father.

While Beh prepped for Warren‘s Chicago premier last night at the Midwest Independent Film Festival, Beh and I traded e-mails the past two days about his experience making the film. The following is an edited version of that exchange. Read More

Exavier Pope’s story continues

Exavier Pope of the Pope Law Firm tells his DWB police abuse story in support of St. Louis boy Mike Brown, shot and killed by police. (Ben Speckman for Chicago Daily Law Bulletin)

Exavier Pope of the Pope Law Firm tells his DWB police abuse story in support of St. Louis boy Mike Brown, shot and killed by police. (Ben Speckman for Chicago Daily Law Bulletin)

If you follow my work at the Law Bulletin, you probably read about Exavier Pope, the sports and entertainment lawyer whose harrowing & uplifting backstory was our front page story for Law Day 2014.

Ex and I spent a day together — it started with him talking to students at Hyde Park Academy High School and continued as we visited his childhood home where he lived with his foster mother, toured parks where he played ball, was attacked by gangs and later slept, went to the projects where he nearly sold crack and finally to one of his two law offices, this one at Lacuna Lofts.

While the story was packed with episodes from Exavier’s life — it included a sidebar strictly on his Twitter game — there were a few anecdotes from later in Exavier’s life that we had to leave out of the story. One of them was the story of how Exavier and friends were pulled over in Kentucky when they were in college, leading to Ex spending nearly two weeks in prison for a traffic stop.

In light of the Mike Brown murder, Ex decided to share that story on Twitter. Here it is, tweet by tweet: Read More

People With Passion: Jonathan Eig

A People with Passion series

Chicago journalism

January 30, 2012: Jonathan Eig

Jonathan Eig.

We are meeting at Eig’s Lakeview home on a sunny January afternoon. A tall man, heroically bald, Eig is a gracious host and a loquacious subject, and stories and opinions spill from him with a child’s energy. He seemed equally comfortable speaking with me as he did speaking with Jon Stewart when promoting his book “Get Capone” on the Daily Show in May 2010.

Here, in the 25th installment of my Chicago journalism interview series, Jonathan Eig tells me about Red Smith ledes, the influence of Watergate, and the birth of his new sports site ChicagoSide, which he hopes will become Chicago’s own Grantland.com. Read More

People With Passion: David Drake, music writer

A People with Passion series

Chicago journalism

January 18, 2012: David Drake

David Drake, during his DJ days.

We are meeting at Filter Coffee Shop on Milwaukee Ave. in the late afternoon. David is quiet yet loquacious, with a deep knowledge and passion for music, particularly hip-hop. It is that passion for the music mixed with a love of writing, an authority of opinion, and relentless networking that has allowed him to leave his day job and make, as he puts it, ‘a run’ at writing.

Here, in the 23rd installment of my Chicago journalism interview series, David Drake of Pitchfork, Fader, the Tribune, and his blog somanyshrimp.com discusses his life as a working freelance writer, and describes the process of how he created the connections required for such a career. Read More

People With Passion: Tran Ha, RedEye

A People with Passion series

Chicago journalism

December 29, 2011: Tran Ha

Tran Ha, RedEye.

We are meeting in the RedEye’s conference room. Covering the walls are old RedEye issues, and I am surprised by how familiar they are — I remember many of them, even though most were only on newsstands for a day.

Tran is enthusiastic and energetic in her soft-spoken way. Later, when I watch a newsroom meeting, she leads the RedEye staff in a manner both self-assured and receptive; she directs the course of the meeting while giving everyone an opportunity to be heard.

Here, in the 22nd installment of my Chicago journalism interview series, RedEye managing editor Tran Ha discusses her introduction to journalism, her move to RedEye in 2003, her transition to editor, and why the paper matters to its readers. Read More

People With Passion, Sam Smith — EXCERPTS

For the 21st installment of my Chicago journalism People With Passion series, I sat down with legendary Bulls basketball writer Sam Smith for a Skype conversation that lasted more than two hours. We covered Smith’s entire career — his childhood in Brooklyn, his introduction to journalism, his political writing in Fort Wayne and then D.C., his arrival at the Tribune, the writing of The Jordan Rules, his departure from the Tribune, and his tenure at Bulls.com.

Since this is such a long, rich interview, I have split it into three parts, running Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week, all at our Eye On Chi blog on ChicagoNow. Here, now, are excerpts from all three parts: Read More

People With Passion: Ben Joravsky

A People with Passion series

Chicago journalism

December 20, 2011: Ben Joravsky

Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader, with Mayor Daley. (photo by Hunter Clauss)

We are seated at a window table at Starbucks at the Irving Park/Lincoln/Damen intersection. Ben holds the tape recorder like a microphone as he speaks, as if he is dictating his autobiography. He speaks in person with the passion, knowledge, authority, and irreverence displayed in his work.

In the 20th installment of my Chicago journalism People With Passion interview series — and a return for 2012 — Chicago Reader political writer Ben Joravsky discusses the challenges in writing about Chicago’s tax increment financing program, the cluelessness of Chicagoans, the trouble with aldermen, and the beating down of the journalism profession. Read More