Erin Babbin + Michael Sullivan

Erin Babbin & Michael Sullivan are the founding partners of On The Real Film, a Chicago based photography and video production company. Babbin is a Chicago native, continuing her family's tradition of artmaking begun by her grandmother in photography and her mother in filmmaking. She studied documentary film at Columbia College Chicago.

Michael Sullivan is an El Paso, Texas native. He studied fine arts at the University of Texas, Austin and expanded from still photography to filmmaking and video after moving to Chicago and partnering with Babbin.

Babbin & Sullivan started On The Real Film in 2011 and have worked since then documenting the work of artists and musicians, arts organizations, nonprofit organizations and universities. On The Real Film's work has been screened locally in Chicago and internationally in Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Hamburg, San Francisco, Belleville, Denver, Toronto, and Park City.

Above all we value storytelling and focus on "keeping it real" by striving for honesty in our work and telling the stories of people who are not often heard or seen. We have worked to hone our craftsmanship over the last years in order to serve those stories well. Our goal for audiences is to inspire empathy and create a greater understanding of the subjects in our documentary films.

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The First Lions

The First Lions uncovers the history of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art's founding in 1971 in Chicago and the Institute's early years. Exploring the stories of Ukrainian-American artists working in modern and contemporary art methods in post-WWII Chicago, The First Lions follows the handful of founding members still living, while exploring the past through archival photographs and films. The film serves as a time capsule for the oral histories of the aging founders, as well as a catalyst for new conversations and research of Ukrainian-American art in the US.

The First Lions uncovers the history of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art's founding in 1971 in Chicago and the Institute's early years. Exploring the stories of Ukrainian-American artists working in modern and contemporary art methods in post-WWII Chicago, The First Lions follows the handful of founding members still living and utilizes archival photographs, films and documents. The film serves as a time capsule for the oral histories of the aging founders, as well as a catalyst for new conversations and research of Ukrainian-American art in America.
Alongside the innovations, the excitement, and the artistic endeavors, The First Lions also addresses the trials that accompany being a visible immigrant community in the United States.

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