The online mien of Benjamin Nowicki

Biography

I was born in Champaign, Illinois, where my parents were students. From Champaign my parents moved to the Chicago area and divorced. I spent my formative years in the Chicago suburbs and metro area.

On most weekends my mother would bring us to see films at a revival theater. I was weaned on all-day Woody Allen festivals, along with Chaplin, Clint Eastwood, The Marx Brothers, and foreign films. The Parkway Theater, which held so many memories for me, has since been turned into a Lenscrafters. Progress…..

These photos of The Parkway Cinema are c. ’80s. Just as I remember it.

From an early age I was inspired by the power of film. Also instilled in me was a deep appreciation for the natural world.

When we lived with my father we lived on an expansive cemetery in Lombard, Illinois. Incidentally, this was the highest naturally occurring point in DuPage County.

The place had an amazing history. It was owned and operated by organized crime during the prohibition era . They would smuggle contraband in coffins and had a tunnel leading from the main structure to the stables (later a garage). The lookout could see the lawmen approaching from miles away by the dust clouds created from the unpaved roads.

From the same vantage we watched the suburban sprawl encroach each year. While it may sound a little bizarre, the grounds were beautiful! Flowering trees, rows of peonies, and marshes, complete with singing frogs. I would spend hours among the trees and the headstones.

The house was just as wondrous. Huge and old, it held a certain mystery for a child my age. That house has since been burned down for the insurance money. The grounds, including the trees and peonies, have been plowed under for housing developments and an office park. Progress…..

From Lombard we moved to a nearby town, where my father designed and built a passive-solar house. I lived in that house from about age 10 to age 19.

I hated high school. My High School was run like a police state. The only thing that saved me was my radio show. The school had a radio station that broadcast to the surrounding area at 500 Watts.

From high school I entered Columbia College’s film program in Chicago. I lived in Hyde Park on Chicago’s south side, very close to the University of Chicago.

During my early years at Columbia College we were immersed in film, actual film. All our work was filmed with a Bolex, then edited on Movie-o-las, our soundtracks built on magnetic single-sprocket films stock, cut with razors and taped together. Booking a Steenbeck suite was the height of luxury, heady days indeed.

Also during that time, I had the opportunity to meet one of my stepfather’s friends, Bob Hudgins. Bob was working as a Locations Manager at the time, and he decided to use the apartment where we lived in a TV movie called “The Kid Who Loved Christmas”. It featured an all African-American cast, starring Sammy Davis Jr. (it was to be his last film), Della Reese, and Ray Parker Jr. (Ghostbusters Theme). One day while shooting, I came home and Della Reese was in my bedroom with hair and makeup. A first taste of the life.

Later on in film school, I called Bob again and tried to arrange an internship on John Hughes’ “Baby’s Day Out”. Because I was soliciting my own internship during the summer, my internship coordinator was unavailable. I missed the chance.

The next few years were spent out of school, working. When I ended up working for the Chicago Tribune at 10¢ a paper from 3 to 6 am, then in an office from 9 to 5 I knew it was time to return to school and complete my degree.

Right around this time I met my wife; without her in my life I would be talking to myself in a gutter somewhere!

Back at Columbia College, I declared Producing as my concentration in the film department. I studied under Bob Enrietto for the remainder of my BA studies, a salty old AD who worked in the biz for 30 years.

During this time I was waiting tables at a cafe. I struck up a conversation with a customer named Betsy Sartori, who just happened to be the Locations Manager on Universal’s “The Jackal”. The next thing I knew, I was working in the locations department. A true baptism by fire.

I believe that the responsible creation of media content is, in fact, a public trust. To that end, I have dedicated myself to the ethical pursuit of the visual arts.