In 1919, Hart Crane said of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio: ‘America should read this book on her knees.  It is an important chapter in the Bible of her consciousness.’

Anderson’s modular novel -- a collection of interconnected short stories -- remains one of the highest regarded works of American literature to this day, yet has proved resistant to adaptation as a mainstream Hollywood feature.  That resistance continues in
Chicago Heights, a stunningly vivid black and white, experimental, non-linear interpretation of the antique narrative.  The film takes the originally all-white, century-old rural stories and tells them with a predominantly African American cast in contemporary south Chicago, celebrating the universal power of the source while playing on its anachronisms. 

Chicago Heights is a series of inter-related vignettes that play out in the imagination of an elderly writer as he stares at the ceiling light in his bedroom. He senses now that he is near death, and his mind has fractured. He does not know if the people he imagines are his creations, his memories, or his dreams, though we cannot help but sense that they are stark yet somehow abstracted reflections on his coming of age, and his relationship with his mother, who died when he was young. He also reimagines the lives of others he may once have known, like the community pastor, a favorite teacher, and the therapist who treated his mother. In his mind, they are all “grotesque.” They have a strange archetypal meaning to him, and all seem to manifest aspects of an early struggle for identity that may have kept him alone throughout his life. 

Here’s our “making of” video, The Road to Chicago Heights.

Here’s the current version of our Production Notes.

Here are our posters.

See some of our Production Stills.


Sherwood Anderson / Older Nathan - William Gray
Elizabeth Walker - Keisha Dyson
Nathan Walker - Andre Truss
Doctor Reefy - Benny Stewart

Reverend Curtis Hartman - Jay Johnson

Wash Williams - Ron Jarmon, Jr.

Louise Trunnion - Simone Wilson

Helen White - Terah Jene Weddington

Kate Swift - Michaele Nicole

Dante Hard - James Barbee

Calla Hard - Raven Reeves

The Stranger - Jason Coleman

Tom Walker - Brian Harris

Margot Williams - Tovah Hicks

Mrs. Swift - Barbara Hogu

Elizabeth’s Father - Homer Talbert

Mrs. Hartman - Sherri Evans

Actress / Snow Angel - Mercedes Kane

Patient / Snow Angel - Leah Shortell

Margot’s Mother - Lynn Werth
Man on Gospel Hill - Thomas Fillmore

Dead Elizabeth - Lisa Hendrickson

Kim Ki-Duk - Lee Kim

Man in Snowstorm - Linsey Savage

Man in Forest Under the Church - Victor Collazo

Depression - Finnegan Klein


Producer: Sanghoon Lee

Director: Daniel Nearing

Co-Producers: Keisha Dyson, Seth McClellan, Daniel Nearing

Associate Producer: Mercedes Kane

Screenplay: Daniel Nearing, Rudy Thauberger

based on Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

Script Consultant: Keisha Dyson

Director of Photography: Sanghoon Lee

Editors: Elias Faulkner

Philip Larkin

Unit Production Manager:  Seth McClellan

1st Assistant Director:  Mercedes Kane

2nd Assistant Director: Leah Shortell

Original Music: Minister Raymond Dunlap

Still Photographer:   Dirk Fletcher / Dirk Fletcher Media Works

Graphics:  Lisa Klein / Pisa Design

Camera: Sang Hoon Lee, Dirk Fletcher, Don Winter, Daniel Nearing

Sound Recordists: Leah Shortell, Elise Brown

Gaffer: Don Winter

Grip: Victor Collazo

Effects: Matt Pronger

Make-up / Effects Associate: Stephanie Portner

Locations Scout:  Lynn Werth

Production Assistant:  Robin Thompson


JK Kim

Reverend Larry McClellan

Rashidah Muhammad

Seunghyun Lee

Brittney McClellan

Chris Kane

Odelia Dunlap

Emma T. Dunlap Pope

Perry Dunlap

Emmett Garner Jr.

The Raw Footage Band

Adesuwa Obazee

Robert Culbreath

Ralonda Cohen

Eric Payne

Charmela Pettiford

Diamond Jones

Lendoria Jones

Mark Jackson

Sabrina Jackson

Denise Taylor

Mylan Reeves

Renee Reeves

J.A. Glass

Masahiro Sugano

Derrick Shelton

Michele E. Shelton

Wonda Dunlap

Sylvia Thornton

Martell PJ Willis

Greg Anderson

Andre P.L. Meekins

Caleb Dyson

Dwayne John Beaver

Eric Martin

James Howley

Bastien Desfriches Doria

George Cavelle

Paul Blough

Jason Bowen

Rhonda Jackson

Derek Tatsuo Nordstrom

Doug Nordstrom

The Chicago Transit Authority

Governors State University DPS

Paradise Bay

Shot on Location in Chicago Heights,

Lockport, Evanston, University Park, and Chicago, Illinois




About the Filmmakers:


Director and Co-Writer DANIEL NEARING was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.  He holds an MA in English from the University of Toronto, where he studied under Northrop Frye, one of the most influential literary theorists of the 20th Century. He also holds a a BA from the University of Calgary, an MFA in Film from York University, and was a resident at the Canadian Film Centre in 1997. He currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. He has done a range of documentary and dramatic work for television, including the CBC, TSN, TMN, The Discovery Channel and Bravo, with subjects ranging from juvenile homicide to the National Hockey League.  CHICAGO HEIGHTS is his first festival feature.

Producer Sanghoon Lee was born in Seoul, Korea. He studied philosophy at Sogang University and conducted his graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he expanded his career as an independent filmmaker, a producer, cinematographer and editor. He produced the feature documentary EDIT, which was screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2004), as well as SECOND MOON (2007), which premiered at Pusan and played to sold-out audiences at the Gene Siskel Cinema in Chicago.

Co-Producer Seth McClellan was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois.  He also handled casting and unit production management for the film.  His feature documentary about Dr. Martin Luther King and the Chicago Freedom Movement premiered in 2009 on PBS in Chicago and played at 14 film festivals across the US and Canada.  King in Chicago also screened at universities, including the American University in D.C., Howard University School of Law, and Northwestern University.  As an actor, he has appeared in many commercials and independent films. He's created other narrative and documentary projects and also runs his own mini-production company, Thorn Creek Productions.

Keisha Dyson was born in Chicago, Illinois, and in addition to serving as Co-Producer, script consultant and marketing lead during production, she oversaw music contacts and plays the role of Elizabeth Walker beautifully.  She is putting the finishing touches on her MFA in Independent Film and Digital Imaging at Governors State University while working as a freelance television producer for PBS and other networks.  She has appeared in many theatrical productions, including Having Our Say, The Wiz, and A Christmas Carol.  Chicago Heights is her film debut as an actress. 

Associate Producer Mercedes Kane was born in Chicago and graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 2001 where her field of study was broadcast journalism. She has worked as a news producer and reporter at WEIU-TV. Mercedes is currently finalizing her MFA in Independent Film and Digital Imaging.  She recently functioned as producer, writer, director and editor of 9724, her first short film, and of Hearts of Hope, a feature documentary about infant heart surgery. She also served as 1st Assistant Director during the production of Chicago Heights.

Stills Photographer, Gaffer and second unit Cinematographer Dirk Fletcher was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and has been a professional photographer for over 20 years. The department chair for the Digital Photography Program at Harrington College of Design, Fletcher has a BA in Advertising Photography from Brooks Institute and is near completion of an MFA in Independent Film and Digital Imaging at Governors State University. His work has been published in national newspapers and magazines, annual reports and advertisements, and has garnered international attention and awards. Fletcher’s portfolio can be seen at

Gaffer and second unit Cinematographer Don Winter was born at Great Lakes, Illinois.  He has 30 years of production experience and a B.A. in Film from Columbia College. He is president of Winter Productions, which specializes in industrials, commercials, documentaries and features. His clients range from small companies to Fortune 500 corporations, and his assignments have taken him on location throughout the U.S. and abroad to Costa Rica and South Africa. Don has shot for all the major networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and the BBC, and his work has been seen on 20/20, The Discovery Channel, and History Channel.  Don teaches lighting in the Film Department at Columbia College.

In competition:


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