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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and anybody who ever wanted to cruise with a caravan. There are stories to be told, and wonders to behold and we’re here to do just that.

We’re Gypsy Chicago Productions and we’ve put together a band with an intercultural plan to document histories of the told and untold variety. We’re storytellers with advertising degrees from the life school of the narrative arts and we want to take you down roads less roamed and times less traveled as we explore diversity, adversity, happenstance, circumstance and the meaning of life. All done in the theatre of documentary filmmaking.

So beginning now, we start telling a story near you.

Channels Changers title slide

CHANNELS CHANGERS – A DOCUMENTARY

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Cotton Stevenson, Co-Executive Producer – Channels Changers

Cotton Stevenson
Cotton Stevenson

Cotton has over forty years of experience with Multinational Advertising Agencies both in the United States and Canada starting at McCann Erickson with time spent at Leo Burnett and FCB, all in Chicago. After that he was Senior Vice President, Executive Creative Director at FCB Canada.

During that time he created campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands including: Coors, Colgate, General Mills, Mazda, Nestle, Pizza Hut, Seagram’s and many more.

Today he is a filmmaker whose documentaries include: STAND, the story behind the making of the statue of Tommie Smith and John Carlos in their iconic raised fist pose from the 1968 Olympics, Good Brothers, the history of African American San Jose State athletes in the early 1960’s and what it was like for them at the time, and Diversity University, the history of diversity at San Jose State University.

In addition he has been recognized for his efforts in the fields of diversity and inclusion by San Jose State University and with a Joint Resolution by both Houses of the Tennessee State Legislature.

Lowell Thompson, Co-Executive Producer – Channels Changers

Lowell Thompson
Lowell Thompson

Lowell is a Chicago-born, bred and based artist/writer/creative catalyst. He calls himself a “recovering adman” because he spent the first 35 years of his adulthood creating ads and commercials for many of the nation’s biggest ad agencies, companies and brands, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Taster’s Choice, United Airlines, Leo Burnett, Young & Rubicam, J. Walter Thompson, and many more.

He was one of the first Blacks hired in a top ten advertising agency when corporate America finally opened itself up to “unwhites” after the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the urban riots that followed.

Today, his photo-journalistic paintings are part of many Chicago art collections, his pictorial history book, African Americans in Chicago, is in every branch of the Chicago Public Library and his Uptown’s Colored Wheel has become a must-see site in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

Terry Peigh, Co-Executive Producer – Channels Changers

Photo of Terry Peigh - Co-Executive Producer
Photo of Terry Peigh - Co-Executive Producer

Following a career of over 40 years in the advertising and marketing communications business, leading the programs of some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, Terry has recently retired and now devotes his time to consulting and Board service. His professional experience includes over 20 years serving as Senior Vice President/Managing Director of Interpublic Group, a global marketing communications firm. Prior to that, he was Executive Vice President of True North Communications and FCB Advertising. For most of his career, Terry has also utilized his marketing skills to advise governmental and NGOs on how best to use modern day marketing principles and practices to advance health and livelihood goals in the developing world.

Alaric C. Martin, Consulting Producer/Editor/Motion Graphics- Channels Changers

Photo of Terry Peigh - Co-Executive Producer
Photo of Terry Peigh - Co-Executive Producer

Alaric Martin is a 6 time Telly Award winner, one time Emmy winner and two time Addy winner for his work over the past 35 years. He began his career doing independent film projects and then transitioning to advertising, first as an employee of Burrell Advertising and then working as a creative film editor at Skyview Film and Video. He left Skyview shortly after to become an editor at Postique/Griot Editorial in Detroit/LA working on many national campaigns.

He returned to Chicago to work at Spots BME and then Ki Edit and Design. He would later start his own company, Epilog Media and Design Group. He has been a go-to producer, editor and director on Documentaries for the past 25 years while continuing to also work on broadcast advertising and indie feature films.

Laurel Dobose, Producer – Channels Changers

Laurel Dobose
Laurel Dobose

Laurel Dobose, currently curator of creative production resource, Gypsy, is a Chicago native and an advertising brat. Hanging out at her Dad’s production company as a kid, she enjoyed experiencing the production process. She started her advertising career as an admin in the creative department at Leo Burnett, moved to Account Management at AdCom, and then finally landed at FCB where she would finally work with her first love… production. She spent many, many happy years at FCB until it was time to leave the corporate world behind. Her next move was to get involved with representation of directorial talent to the agencies.

She now enjoys running her own company, and a job that offers the opportunity to make connections between agency creative teams and director talent with the end result being shared creativity and lifelong friendships. She gets crazy about collaboration, sunsets on the beach, a good power ballad, and is completely jazzed to be working on the Channels Changers documentary film.

THE BLACK AD COMMUNITY CELEBRATES THE PREMIERE OF CHANNELS CHANGERS

by Barbara Roche, July 3, 2024

Members of the advertising community gathered at the Gene Siskel Center on Monday evening to honor the veterans and icons of Chicago’s Black ad agencies, whose legacies are now documented in the heartfelt film Channels Changers.

Produced by Gypsy Chicago Productions, Channels Changers introduces viewers to the largely unseen world of African American ad professionals of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

The film highlights the pioneering Black advertising executives in Chicago’s top agencies, who significantly transformed the landscape of advertising and media during that era and beyond.

Lowell Thompson, an expert on the subject who introduces the film, collaborated with fellow veteran admen Cotton Stevenson and Terry Peigh, to create a documentary about this remarkable period and the Black ad trailblazers. Producer, Laurel Dobose brought in Editor, Alaric C. Martin, who throughout the evening was referred to as the Mastermind behind the film. Alaric had the enormous task of sifting through hours of footage to painstakingly create the template in which the story unfolds. Truly a labor of love by all involved.

Channels Changers illustrates how the Civil Rights movement and the riots following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination prompted corporate America to finally open its doors to Black people.

Gypsy Chicago Productions interviewed over 20 Black ad professionals from that period, including industry giants Tom Burrell and Carol H. Williams, who went on to establish nationally renowned agencies. The stories of these trailblazers reveal the significant challenges they faced as they entered the predominantly white advertising world. The film also features a number of ads, commercials, and campaigns that many may not have realized were created by African Americans.

Stevenson assembled a team of top-level filmmakers, many of whom were old friends from his days as a Chicago creative executive. The film’s initial funding came from the Field Foundation of Chicago and Chicago ad agencies FCB, Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, and DDB, with additional financial support from a GoFundMe campaign.

A reception followed the screening, where old friends exchanged hugs, laughs, and memories… lots of memories. It was much like a family reunion. There were no strangers in the room. Everyone’s paths had crossed at some time during their career.

Click the image above to see a slideshow from the premiere reception.

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CHICAGO DOC TELLS UNTOLD STORY OF CITY’S BLACK ADVERTISING LEGENDS

– Reel Chicago, June 23, 2024

They are legends in the advertising industry, but surprisingly (not really) the stories of the Black ad men and women who transformed the industry’s predominantly white landscape during the 60s, 70s and 80s remains largely untold. Now that is about to change with Gypsy Chicago Productions’ new documentary Channel Changers.

The documentary delves into how these pioneering African American professionals not only made significant contributions but also reshaped the face of advertising and media, leaving a lasting legacy .

Channels Changers features interviews with over 20 Black advertising pioneers, including industry legends Tom Burrell and Carol H. Williams, who later established nationally respected agencies. These trailblazers share their personal stories, highlighting the formidable challenges they faced as they entered an industry that didn’t look like, or represent, them.

The film also showcases numerous advertisements, commercials, and campaigns that were created and produced by African Americans, many of which were previously unrecognized.

Lowell Thompson, an acclaimed writer on the subject, introduces the film. He collaborated with veteran adman Cotton Stevenson to bring this remarkable era to life. The documentary explores how the Civil Rights movement and the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination prompted corporate America to finally embrace diversity and inclusion.

Behind the Scenes

Stevenson assembled a team of top-tier filmmakers, many of whom were long-time friends from his days as a creative executive in Chicago. The Field Foundation of Chicago, along with prominent ad agencies such as FCB, Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, and DDB, provided initial funding for the project. Additional financial support was garnered through a Go Fund Me campaign.

Channels Changers is set to premiere at the Siskel Center on July 1 at 6 pm.

Credits:

  • Executive Producers Cotton Stevenson, Lowell Thompson, Terry Peigh
  • Producer Laurel Dobose
  • Writers Lowell Thompson, Alaric C. Martin
  • Consulting Producer Alaric C. Martin
  • Director/ Director of Photography Bill Youmans
  • Editor/Motion Graphics Alaric C. Martin
  • Title Design Animation/ Webmaster Dani Dudovick, Double Dog Productions
  • Videographers Dennis Thompson Joe Brooks Cal Evans
  • Location Sound Dustin Berta, Case Chamberlain, Daniel Hernandez
  • Main Title Music Darryl Duncan, GameBeat Studios
  • Colorist Pete Jannotta, COLOR BY PETE, INC.
  • Trailer Colorist Bob Sliga
  • Sound Design /Editor Sidney Jones, Jr. BAM STUDIOS CHICAGO
  • Hair and Makeup Marcus Geeter
  • Wheel Man Michael J. Manhoff
  • Legal Ellen Duff Ratcliffe, Duff & Peel LLC
  • Transportation Coordinator Maura Donahue
  • Special Project Consultant Bill Izzo

Lowell Thompson, Emma Young, Al Hawkins and Bruce Bendinger swap stories in a booth at Shaw’s Crabhouse