Welcome to Peterahawley.com

When I graduated from college in 1986 I was one of the most decorated college film students entering the workforce that year. I had won a student Emmy award for a music video I produced, and a short film I directed was in a lot of film festival.

I entered the “real world” bright eyed and eager. Then almost immediately I learned I could not, nor would not be hired by anybody to be a filmmaker. The gap between student filmmaking and professional filmmaking is massive, and I wasn’t prepared to bridge that gap.

Stymied, I took a job working in the archives of the Museum of Broadcast Communication, and went home every night and wrote a script. It took several years, but that script got produced, I got writer and director credit, and now 5 years after graduation, I was a professional filmmaker. And have been one ever since.

In 1996 I started teaching in the Film Department at Columbia College in Chicago. I knew I didn’t want to have my students graduate and face the same dilemma. I wanted to make sure they were prepared to become professional filmmakers. So I regularly tried to give students opportunities to do professional quality work.   I brought in clients from the outside, I had students find clients- restaurants who needed TV or web commercials, I brought other professionals into the classroom to work as mentors.

For the past 22 years I have worked in academia, first at Columbia College Chicago, then as one of the founding faculty at Tribeca Flashpoint College, and then at Columbia College Hollywood. While teaching I have continued as a filmmaker making TV commercials, documentaries, music videos, corporate work. My work as a filmmaker informs my works as a teacher and vice versa.

This website, the blog, and the podcast is going to focus on teaching in the arts, and being a student in the arts. I will be interviewing teachers in all sorts of artistic fields, and talking to students and recent graduates about their experiences and hopes for the future.


Salk Institute Restoration

Among my favorite projects for Wiss Janney Elster was shooting at the historic Salk Institute in LaJolla, CA. I did this project with my Crosstown Productions partner, Dan Lerner. The D.P. was from my school in L.A., Columbia College Hollywood, Charlie Rose. The header photo on the peterahawley.com website was taken by the WJE, client Jeff Caldwell, and it’s of me, Dan and Charlie at Sunset on one of the production days.

Legendary Race Announcer Tom Durkin!

This week on Teaching in the Arts, Tom Durkin, the legendary horse race announcer.  Close listeners  to the podcast will know my love of horse racing, and especially horse race announcers.  You have also heard me talk about making a documentary film where I interview race announcers, and will call a race myself- good, bad, or otherwise.

That brings me to this week’s episode.  In November, I traveled to Saratoga Springs, NY where Tom Durkin was kind enough to allow us into his home for an interview.  In my film, Tom acts as my mentor- giving me tips, pointers and sharing his knowledge. After I call my race he will review me.  But in the film, I will only use a small portion of my interview with him, so I have decided to run the interview as an episode of the podcast.  It fits because in the interview, Tom teaches me.

He not only gives me valuable pointers on how to call a race, but we talk about the hard parts- the stress of the job, how he used hypnosis to help him out, how his career began on a lie (told by someone else). And he talks openly about the 2009 Kentucky Derby, where he   was caught by surprise with the late charge of Mine that Bird.  Watch for yourself here- the final 25 seconds of the race, and listen to Tom and I discuss.

As part of my film I shot a recreation- something I have wanted to do, but never had the opportunity.  On Saturday Dec. 1, I recreated Sunday May 2, 1971 as I jumped into my parents bed and “called” the Derby from the day before.  Here are some production stills, but thanks to my friend Amy Rising for playing my mom, Isaac Zumann as Peter, and Keith Kelly as my dad.  And thanks to all my great crew, Vedran Residbegovic my D.P., Killian Heilsberg (guest number 3 on Teaching in the Arts), Betsy Finn my hair and make up artist, and my pal Normann Pokorny who came along as support, and who took all these pictures.  It was a great day, and when my film is complete, you will see the recreation- 4K HD looking like 16mm and 8mm film.

Here are some photos from the shoot.

And if you want to see  a snippet of my film, and an announcer in action, here is John Dooley, announcer at Arlington International Race Course and the Fairgrounds in New Orleans in action.

This is the last episode of Teaching in the Arts for the calendar year.  Winter break time, back in January with all new episodes.  Listen to me and Tom Durkin here:


Save Old Town School of Folk Music!

The Old Town School of Folk Music is going through some difficult times. Enrollment is down, teachers are unionizing, students and teachers are both feeling changes happening without being informed or consulted. My guests this week are John Mead, a teacher at the Old Town School since 2001, and Rich Gordon, a longtime student, and one of the organizers of the Save Old Town School movement.

Here’s some background:
In October the administration at Old Town School announced they were selling the school’s building at 909 W. Armitage, which has served as the school’s historic home for more than 50 years. The next day Save Old Town School was founded. Since then a change.org petition has more than 8,000 signatures and last week there was an Old Town School board meeting where teachers and students spoke to the board and pushed for change.

I will let John and Rich tell the story from here, but here is a link to their website and the Change.org petition.


Also, you will hear John mention the Bruce Springsteen Ensemble. They are playing tonight, Dec. 3, 2018 at Martyrs here in Chicago, check them out if you can.



Listen Here:

Teacher Man

Guest Host Bill Baykan with Michael Galbincea

Terry Gross has Dave Davies cover for her.  Johnny Carson had Joan Rivers, Gary Shandling, and scores others guest host when he was away. Fun Fact, when Lennon and McCartney were on the Tonight Show in 1968 to talk about Apple Records, Joe Garagiola was the guest host. He ain’t no Joe Garagiola, but Bill Baykan, my first guest on Teaching in the Arts sits in for me as I took a week off to work on my race track announcer film- more on that next week.

Bill’s guest is Michael Galbincea, Chair of the Animation and Digital Art Program at Flashpoint Chicago.  They have a great chat, and it was fun for me to listen to my own podcast with fresh ears.  Great job Bill and Michael, and thank you Andrew Shabat and Soundmaker Post for putting it all together.

Listen here:

Back next week with a new episode and some news about upcoming episodes of Teaching in the Arts.

Teacher Man

Military Experience & The Arts, Dan Buckman

A great show this week, Dan Buckman, Vice President and Managing Fiction Editor of the website Military Experience & the Arts is my guest on a special Veteran’s Day episode of Teaching in the Arts.  This is a fascinating conversation, and I want to thank a listener for bringing Dan to my attention.

Military Experience & the Arts is a website for veterans to share their stories in written form, both fiction and non-fiction.  It’s been an outlet since 2011 and some of the writers published there have gone on to publish novels of their own, including Ray McPadden’s And the Whole Mountain Burned.

It’s a great conversation, we talk about Dan’s background as a 4th generation military man, his novels (he’s published four!) and teaching writing and literature in colleges.  The real focus is on the returning veteran experience and the divide between veterans and the general public- including a discussion about why veterans do not like it when someone says, “Thank you for your service.”This was a real eye opener for me, you can listener below.

A brief note, next week I have a guest host, Bill Baykan, my guest on the very first episode of Teaching in the Arts fills in for me.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Teacher Man

Rene Roy from the Museum of Science and Industry

This week on Teaching in the Arts, Rene Roy, Senior Co0ordinator of Guest-Facing Volunteer Programs at the Museum of Science and Industry here in Chicago.  We had a great discussion about Rene’s career and journey from being an actor and director, to being chair of the Theater Arts Program at National-Lous University for nearly 20 years.

I first met Rene in the early 2000s while he was a producer and on-camera talent at Skylight TV, the in house production arm of Children’s Memorial Hospital.  We get into that fascinating gig, and he tells me when he met Mr. Rogers,  who Rene says was the genuine article.  And if anyone hasn’t seen the Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, you must check it out.  It’s a great film.

The Lesson of the Day, short and sweet, go vote!  Tomorrow is election day, throw the bums out.  If you are a teacher, talk about it in your classes. It’s a great conversation with Rene, and I learned a lot.  I can’t wait to get lunch with him next week and talk off mics.

And if that’s not enough, basketball legend Bill Russell makes it into the conversation- for reals!  But you have to catch the whole podcast to see how Mr. Russell makes the podcast.

You can listen here:

And for anyone who is interested, I have been slowly but surely been adding videos to what I am calling my film archive.  It goes back to the 1980s and up to present day.  You can check that out here.

Teacher Man

Victimless Crimes

If I was to trace where my film career came from, I go to three projects. 1) The Niteskool Project music videos I did while a student at Northwestern. 2) The Denny Dent films-the longer and the shorter version, and 3) Victimless Crimes, the feature film I wrote and directed. For rights reasons I cannot play the entire film here, but here’s the trailer.

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