Maker Rick Kariolic Takes
New Direction with The
2nd Annual Chashama
Written by Elias Stimac
Opposite Photo: Rick Kariolic
The 2nd Annual Chashama Film Festival, THE FESTIVAL
OF THE WORLDS, will run October 22nd- 26th at chasama
Theater Space, 217 East 42nd Street, NYC (visit
for screening and ticket information).
Film director and
producer Rick Kariolic is funding and curating this
year’s series, which sets out to “explore
global expression through filmmaking, while setting
the stage for audiences and filmmakers to cultivate
the unknown in various cultures.” The Chashama
Film Festival has become a platform for a spectrum
of cultural, political, and philosophical ideologies,
presented in an environment designed to foster creative
and intellectual expansion. This year the festival
will screen 80 movies from over 30 countries spanning
all seven continents.
In addition to his festival duties,
Kariolic is currently directing and producing a
documentary on the history of 42nd Street. He has
directed and produced many films, ranging from experimental
to a feature-length documentary. His imagery focuses
on life situations, including the birth of a child
or the rescue of a friend, never turning off his
humanity or the camera to share in “real time”
moments and events through film and photography.
In 2006, Kariolic received a space grant from Chashama
for his exhibition of “paint and shoot”
and his photography exhibition “Europe”
was shown at the chashama Black Box. Internationally,
his works were featured at the BE HERE Festival
in the former Yugoslavia at performance venues in
Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia in 2004.
New York Cool had a chance to catch up with this
prolific talent on the eve of the upcoming festival.
Elias Stimac: How does your
hometown of Chicago compare to and differ from New
Rick Kariolic: My
hometown of Beverly Hills on the South Side of Chicago
was not a diverse place. I feel like I didn’t
learn too much about foreign cultures in Chicago
except through college and here I am exposed to
everything you can think of. New York is full of
a variety of cultures where there is so much to
learn. They are both super competitive cities where
you have to bust your ass, make connections and
maintain them, just to get ahead. I love both cities
—the chaos, the competition.
Elias Stimac: What was your
life like growing up?
Rick Kariolic: I
experimented with a lot of different things growing
up, most notably fighting. I was the youngest of
a group of about twelve boys who were always playing
sports and sometimes the games turned into fights.
Being the youngest, the bigger kids (including my
brother) would kick my ass to feel better about
themselves. So you could say learning the art of
defense is my first craft. Sports and being physical
was also an important part of growing up and I associate
physicality with the arts.
Elias Stimac: When did you start
to get interested in the arts?
I feel creativity manifests in a lot of different
ways when you're young. I used to collect colorful
rocks and shells and glass and beer caps. I’d
always draw on my homework, in my school books,
on my walls. When I got a little older I grabbed
spray paint and painted different cars, garages.
I used to take everything apart to figure out how
it worked and tried putting it back together to
make something else, like a time machine or a ghost
finder, which never worked but that didn't stop
Stimac: Did your school years help or hinder your
Rick Kariolic: My
artistic background was mostly learned by watching
the older kids, copying them and trying to get better
than them. I learned different art things in school
but I didn't care about school, I was too fidgety
and couldn't sit still for too long. I was more
of a physical person. As it goes in my documentary
The Fashion Laboratory, my dad was a photographer,
he gave me a camera, he showed me how to focus and
I was off. First chance I had, I took a photography
class. In school, I'd ask everyone to make a strange
position and a crazy face then take their picture.
I was relentless and shot as much film as I could.
However, the school wouldn't publish any crazy photos
in our yearbook so I had to take a few normal ones.
Elias Stimac: When did you
first decide you wanted to be a filmmaker?
Rick Kariolic: There
were always video cameras around when I was growing
up and I’d ask to use them. When I couldn’t,
that would make me want it more. As soon as they
put that camera down and walked away I was there,
turning it on and playing with it. I remember being
so fascinated with zooming in on the floor or a
pipe on the wall. Pretty lame now to think about
it but I remember that feeling of power it gave
me because it was a magical tool that distorted
Elias Stimac: You went on
to a career in moviemaking. Tell us about some of
the films you have directed.
Rick Kariolic: My
first film was a short called No Witnesses,
which I wrote, directed and starred in. It was a
freshman college film about Jeff, who was getting
followed by a dark documentarist chronicling Jeff
and his dealings with robbing people and leaving
"no witnesses.” I made a few music videos
about drug addiction and depression. In my films
I like to show realities of hardship and address
issues that people around me were dealing with.
These tragedies were omnipresent in my neighborhood
and making semi-controversial movies seemed like
a dedication to them.
Elias Stimac: Can you describe
your current film projects?
Rick Kariolic: I
have two projects in the works – The Documentary
on 42nd Street and The Fashion Laboratory.
The 42nd Street film has been a project in the making
since I first officially moved here in 2002 and
became involved with a Chashama-sponsored theater
group that was housed at 111 west 42nd street. I
was running around with a camera capturing different
things. The theaters were getting torn down, and
then I got a job working on the site continuing
the documenting. I began researching the street
and interviewing people from the United Nations
to the Circle Line. There is way too much info to
make one doc so I cut the movie in half and began
focusing on the first release, which documents from
5th avenue to Hudson River. In the doc we see how
Times Square and the heart of New York begins, we
see the transformation of the theater district to
the deuce to tourist central and what events took
place to make these changes work. We follow stories
told and made by Seymour Durst, Mickey Rourke, Jean-Claude
Baker, Douglas Durst, Bob Fox, Rick Cook, Steve
Olson and many more. The Fashion Laboratory
is a journey of a male (me) discovering the artist
inside, following him through his life to see how
he becomes this New York City expressionist through
his energy and multi-platform art experiment.
Elias Stimac: Why did you
decide to turn your attention to curating a film
Rick Kariolic: It
came about by wanting to show my first feature doc
to people. I found a space to show it 2 months in
advance. All that time to just show one movie seemed
wasteful. I checked with Chashama and I had the
space and equipment available to use at my discretion.
I thought it would be great to help other artists
who wanted to show their work as well. We launched
a guerrilla/internet campaign to get movies, and
it all came together. It's worth noting that this
film festival was the first festival I ever attended.
Oh, and I never screened my movie.
Elias Stimac: What makes
Chashama a good venue for your event?
Rick Kariolic: The
chashama space is a great venue because they cater
to creative artists and want to help them however
they can; their work is a group effort and they
have a shared vision. What I'd like to do is bring
Chashama back over to the tourist trap that is Times
Square and inject culture back to this commercial
area. I'd like to help make another part of Manhattan,
where the worlds already meet, a film festival destination.
Elias Stimac: Tell us why
the theme “The Festival of Worlds” is
important in today’s social and political
Rick Kariolic: Our
society is becoming more and more involved in topics
that are deemed important by the media, but not
noticing other matters that are also important on
a global scale. Take education -- the world is changing
yet our education system is basically staying the
same. I guess it has to do with individual's comfort
zones—people are not comfortable moving beyond
their limits, which creates censorship and bias
and nobody gets educated on the subject. The way
our world is becoming with ease of communication,
we should start to learn about the rest of the world
and understand personal and social issues that are
of concern so we can understand where others are
coming from. Creating understanding can lead to
peace between cultures that have been at war or
have been unknown to each other. Which is why I'd
like to launch a viral film festival next year,
bringing "Festival of the Worlds" to the
Elias Stimac: Which films
in the festival are you most proud of attaining?
Rick Kariolic: I
really like Marathon Beirut because of
the message they are putting across; Expansive
Grounds, because it tackles the current German
point of view from a tragic time of tyranny; Dirty
Step Upstage, because the singer song writer
filmmaker Amber Moelter puts on an exceptional display
of all-around talent; it drew me in; and Bhutan:
Taking the Middle Path to Happiness, because
it is about a remote place of the world.
Elias Stimac: How can filmmakers
get involved in future Chashama Film Festivals?
Rick Kariolic: We
would love filmmakers to get involved with the festival
through getting the word out about it. They are
welcome to become part of our team, to build the
festival bigger each year, and bring ideas to the
table. We are an open festival in terms of growth;
people with knowledge of film and its world would
make it even better.
Elias Stimac: How much of
an influence on your filmmaking and photography
does living in New York have on you?
Rick Kariolic: NY
has had a great influence on the way I do things,
as there's so much variety here. Coming from Chicago
where I learned filmmaking, and now using it here
and seeing the possibilities that numerous other
artists use expands my craft and makes my ideas
flourish more than I thought possible.