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Publishing company founders discuss industry, Chicago Film Project at MSLCE event

Jan and Brian Hieggelke speak in the Frances Searle Building at a Thursday event. The event was hosted by the Master of Science in Leadership for Creative Enterprises program and highlighted the Hieggelkes’ careers in publishing and film.

Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Jan and Brian Hieggelke speak in the Frances Searle Building at a Thursday event. The event was hosted by the Master of Science in Leadership for Creative Enterprises program and highlighted the Hieggelkes’ careers in publishing and film.

Jason Harward, Reporter

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The Master of Science in Leadership for Creative Enterprises program hosted a conversation Thursday with Brian and Jan Hieggelke, the founders of a publishing company focusing on the Chicago arts scene.

The event, held in the Frances Searle Building, was part of MSLCE’s curriculum, which aims to connect students to top industry professionals in major cities. During the talk, the Hieggelkes discussed their company, Newcity, and the Chicago Film Project, their affiliated production company.

The Hieggelkes, a married couple and management team, started their first business in 1986. It began as a neighborhood newspaper and ended up becoming the alt-weekly cultural publication known as Newcity. Throughout the late ’80s and mid-’90s, the business was based on covering culture and selling ads, Jan said.

Today, Newcity operates as a print magazine. They switched from newspaper to magazine in order to focus on a more viable and interesting print product, Jan said. Brian Hieggelke added that he and Jan wanted to create a publication that told people “why to go” instead of just “where to go.”

“There was a lot of thinking about the future of the print medium. We didn’t have much clarity in all this, so we just had to create a theory and test it ourselves,” Brian said.

James Harvey, an MSLCE student with a focus in advertising, said he enjoyed learning about the Hieggelkes’ advertising background.

“One of the big trends in advertising right now is that technology disruption is happening throughout the industry, so it was interesting to hear about how that happened in the print medium over the past 20 years,” Harvey said.

Newcity’s latest business venture is the Chicago Film Project, which is dedicated to telling artistic stories centered in Chicago. “Signature Move,” the company’s first feature film, premiered at the 2017 South by Southwest Festival and played at more than 150 other festivals worldwide. Its second movie, “Knives and Skin,” premiered this month at the Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin, Germany.

In the process of creating “Signature Move” — a coming-of-age romance film — Brian Hieggelke recalled being very careful with the image that Newcity was trying to produce in their initial film project.

“You have to think about, if you have a publication for 30 years and build a brand and you’re gonna make a movie, you have to realize that it’s going to be a brand signifier in a certain way, so what’s that gonna be?” Brian said.

The script, written by actress Fawzia Mirza, follows the love story of two young women navigating families that don’t know about their relationship.

He added that he wanted the film to “speak to a larger idea of Chicago” and said it ended up checking “all the boxes.”

Brian attributed the pair’s longtime success to their understanding of both the business and creative sides of their field, a focal point of the MSLCE curriculum that the event set out to highlight.

“We’ve always been able to straddle and have one foot as a business person and one foot as a creative person,” Brian said. “You need to have both.”

Email: jasonharward2022@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @jason_harward00

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