Scrappers Film Group provides film production work to journalistic, documentary, business, and socially motivated clientele. We use cinéma vérité and naturalistic techniques to best portray our customers’ visions.  Our services include video journalism, documentaries, promotional pieces for institutions, video installation, shooting, editing, sound recording, interviews, and original scores.


Ben Kolak, Filmmaker

For over 10 years, Ben Kolak has worked on innovative projects in a variety of roles –  as a cinematographer, editor, producer, and director.  Ben’s many roles stem from a pure enjoyment of the filmmaking craft.  He works in small teams on projects designed to encourage social good.

Ben has shot and edited strategic videos for clients including The University of Chicago, Big Shoulders Fund, Chicago Humanities Festival and The Joyce Foundation.  He frequently collaborates with contemporary artists on moving image projects.  He’s collaborated with Catherine Sullivan, Maria Gaspar, Ricardo Gamboa and Majel Connery, as well as Kurt Stallman, Theaster Gates, Tania Bruguera, Slater Bradley and Sharon Hayes.  Ben shot much of the 2016 PBS Art21 Chicago episode.

He began making films while studying philosophy and cinema at the University of Chicago, where he wrote a thesis under the direction of Frankfurt School expert Miriam Hansen.

Ben’s documentary directorial debut, Scrappers (2010), went on to win awards at numerous festivals and make critic Roger Ebert’s list of the top 10 documentaries for 2010.  Ben edited the documentary Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists (2014 Newport Beach Film Festival), and co-directed the web series Central Standard: On Education, made in partnership with WTTW 11 and PBS Digital Studios (2014).  In 2015, Ben crafted a season of 360°/VR documentaries for Chicago news site Gapers Block.  He is currently in production on numerous web series, strategic projects, and documentaries.

Ben lives in Hyde Park with his wife, Akemi Hong, their son, and a corgi.  He enjoys basketball and camping.  Ben is a member of The Arts Club of Chicago and a board member of the Media Burn Video Archive.

Brian Ashby, Filmmaker

Brian Ashby studied international relations at the University of Chicago, and came to documentary filmmaking through his interest in social issues surrounding political economy.

Spending four years on his first film, Scrappers (2010), established his commitment to making socially engaged and formally exploratory work. In These Times called the film “a moving portrait of the precariousness of life and work at the bottom of the American economy, in one of the country’s wealthiest cities.” Detouring into the history of the visual arts, Brian co-produced Hairy Who & the Chicago Imagists (Pentimenti Productions, 2014), which has screened widely at venues including the Liverpool Biennial, the New Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. He co-directed the SFG/WTTW11 web series Central Standard: On Education, examining disparities in public education in Chicagoland, and is currently co-producing and co-editing The Area, a documentary feature following the displacement of a Chicago neighborhood by an intermodal freight yard. Projects produced by Brian have been supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation, PBS Digital Studios, the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, the Driehaus Foundation, and others.

Brian alternates between work as a producer, cinematographer, and editor, and values collaboration above all.

David Jacobson, Producer & Controller

David brings a myriad of skills and prospectives to the team.  He received his degree in film studies with a concentration in screenwriting from Northwestern University.  David spent over 6 years at Evanston Hospital where he gained extensive knowledge of pharmaceutical management and health record systems. David also completed the Startup Leadership Program,  a highly selective, 80-hour, 6-month training program for outstanding founders and innovators. He brings his business acumen to the company as well as his systems analysis, problem solving, and creative skills.

Currently, David is pursuing his Masters in Accounting and MBA at UIC’s Liautaud School of Business, with a focus in finance and managerial accounting.

David produced the feature Maydays, which premiered at the 2013 Chicago Latino Film Festival, as well as the web series Central Standard: On Education, in partnership with WTTW 11 and PBS Digital Studios.

In his free time he sings in a post-punk band and attends the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Peter Galassi, Director of Post-Production

Peter is a editor, director, and colorist working in Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects and DaVinci Resolve. A focus on writing and directing in college gives him a strong understanding of how to craft a story and guide a project from pre-production through to finishing.

Recently, he finished editing Central Standard: On Education, an episodic documentary following five 8th-graders as they try to get into Chicago’s selective enrollment high schools. The show debuted on WTTW11 in the fall and is currently airing on PBS Digital’s YouTube channel.

In 2012 he produced and edited a cut of the feature documentary, Your Name is My Name, which explores the lives of albino children in Zimbabwe. Directed by Osato Dixon, Your Name Is My Name was funded by a Fulbright Scholarship and a grant from the New York State Council of the Arts.

He graduated from Northwestern University in 2005 and worked in New York, Michigan, and Chicago.

David Schalliol, Filmmaker

David Schalliol is an assistant professor of sociology at St. Olaf College who specializes in visual sociology. He is the director and cinematographer of The Area, an ethnographic film about the displacement of more than 400 families on Chicago’s South Side by an intermodal freight yard. The film is supported by the Graham Foundation, the Driehaus Foundation, and the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Other film projects to which he has contributed include the ITVS/Kartemquin Films feature Almost There and the National Film Board of Canada’s Highrise: Out My Window, an interactive documentary that won the 2011 International Digital Emmy for Non-Fiction.

Schalliol is also a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in such publications as Artforum, Design ObserverThe New York Times, and Social Science Research, as well as in numerous exhibitions, including the inaugural Belfast, Northern Ireland Photo Festival and the Museum of Contemporary Photography’s Midwest Photographers Project. The Japanese publisher Utakatado released his first book, Isolated Building Studies, in 2014.

Schalliol received his bachelor’s degree from Kenyon College and his master’s and doctoral degrees from The University of Chicago.


Yana Kunichoff, Journalism Producer

Yana Kunichoff is a Chicago-based journalist covering inequality, urban issues and social movements.

Yana approaches her work first and foremost as a storyteller with an eye to bringing to light rarely heard voices. Her stories have ranged from coverage of the Arab Spring protests in Bahrain to a chronicling of the human casualties of rapidly disappearing affordable housing in Chicago.

She has lived in five countries and worked with many more publications. Most recently, this has included The Chicago Reporter, In These Times magazine, Truthout.org and DemocracyNow!

Yana received an MSJ from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and has twice been nominated for a Lisagor award.

You can find her most days with an ear to the ground.

Reshmi Rustebakke, Production Manager

Reshmi Rustebakke is a Chicago based director, interested in work about women and people of color, and helping to expand the voice of marginalized communities.

Reshmi comes to filmmaking from a theater background. She received her B.F.A. from NYU and M.F.A from DePaul University, in directing. She has worked in New York and Chicago, both as director and assistant director in places like Playwrights Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop, Vineyard Theatre (NYC), and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, TimeLine Theatre, Redtwist, Victory Gardens (CHI).

Reshmi made the switch over to directing for film, primarily in the genre of web series. She is working with Ricardo Gamboa and Ben Kolak on the upcoming series, BRUJOS, to be launched on the Open Tv platform in March of 2017. She is also in development for multiple series this fall/winter.