In Tagged, local filmmakers show Chicago street art through the lens of a murder mystery

BUCTOWN – A feature film made by a Chicago-based production company, it highlights dozens of murals and street art throughout the city that act as a backdrop for a murder mystery.

Tagged is the latest project by writer and executive producer Grant Troyer, a relatively new director who launched the Bucktown-based Kernel Productions in 2020.

Troyer was inspired to make the film during the social justice protests in the summer of 2020, after watching a street artist paint a mural on pieces of plywood in his block in Logan Square.

“He was coming back and just kept refining and refining, and I said to myself, ‘This man is putting so much pride and effort into something that’s as temporary as possible,'” Troyer said. I said to myself, “I need to write a story about a graffiti artist.”

But Troyer knew almost nothing about street art and its rich history in Chicago. He did extensive research to develop a screenplay, then worked with local artists to “verify” the story and details.

But while Troyer had a premise and a protagonist named Lex, he was initially surprised at how the plot would unfold.

“I thought, ‘What’s going to happen to this man?’ What will happen? My wife and I did it as a crowdsourcing, just the two of us for dinner one night, and she said, “Get him involved in a murder investigation,” Troyer said.

The film went into production last summer, shooting in 38 locations to show dozens of murals from Pullman and Pilsen to Wicker Park and Logan Square.

“Many of them have cultural significance, significance for Chicago and many of them even national. And I said to myself, “I have to integrate that into it somehow,” Troyer said.

credit: Core production / provided
A shot from Tagged, a new feature film about Chicago’s rich history of murals and street art

Tagged is the second feature film written by Troyer. For years he will write as a hobby while working full time in a shipping company where he still works. During the pandemic, he was finally inspired to take it to the next level.

Troyer then wrote and produced Sheltered, his first feature film, released last year.

“When COVID hit, I wrote a meaningful shelter script that I decided to just do with an ultra, ultra low budget, and that kind of thing made it flow. It was the end of 2020. And we did it and we were very proud of it. It was an incredibly low budget. And I said to myself, “I have to do this again.” So you entered “marked”, Troyer said.

Troyer does not slow down. His next project is already in production this week.

Called “Twain, Canceled”, it tells the story of time traveler Mark Twain, who finds himself in today’s Chicago, where he began to appear as a stand-up comedian.

Like Tagged, the film will be shot in locations in Chicago. Using local team and resources is a huge part of Troyer’s mission as a director.

“We are a hyperlocal company. We do not want to attract producers and money from Los Angeles or New York on this issue. So we do everything around, “he said.

Tagged will be available for streaming on June 27 on Amazon, followed by Google Play, Tubi and iTunes later this summer.

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