Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What Happened to Paw Filmworks?

Remember Dixie Square Mall? OK, maybe you don't.

It was a large mall in Harvey, Illinois (for the 1960s) with JCPenney ("Penney's") and Montgomery Ward ("Wards"). But due to several well-publicized crime incidents*, it closed in 1978 after only 12 years, even after a third anchor (a huge discount store!), a remodel, and rename (to "Dixie Mall").

You've probably seen it in The Blues Brothers.

"This place has got everything!"

The suburb was just that run down and crime-ridden that it was never demolished. It just sat vacant. Even after some drama in 2006 with a new developer promising great new things, but he turned out to be incompetent, eventually demolishing the wrong part of the mall illegally and ultimately getting arrested for using a gun to intimidate a co-worker.

All about this time, an independent company called Paw Filmworks created a great Dixie Square webpage with maps and lots of photos of the storefronts (or what was left of them). Trailers were created, often utilizing the haunting photos of the mall in its present state (check Chuck's Photo Shop or search Flickr/YouTube for jonrev to see some pictures).

They also ran a decent forum, which had a few regulars and some information I can't find elsewhere, like a store in Orland Square Mall (ironically, one of the minor facts that did DSM in) that sold neon beer signs.

However, the delays ran on for years, with promises of a DVD, then a YouTube exclusive release, then back to DVD, all this time, removing the main DixieSquare.com website, promising to put it back up a new location, then failing to...

...and eventually, in 2008, the videos on YouTube disappeared (with claims of copyright concerns on the music used). I don't know all of them, but there were samples of some sort of concept album that talked about a movie theater, and a sample of "Yours Is No Disgrace" by Yes (that one showing in particular images of Harvey, Illinois when it was a prosperous suburb), and a few others.

But today, there's very little of Pawfilmworks remaining, making one wonder if it was just some fly-by-night operation. There's an interview here but Paul McVay is a common name, and it's hard to search for it. There's two Paul McVays on Facebook, but neither live in Chicago.

Luckily, there's a new Dixie Square site run by someone who does still care about the old mall.

Visit here. It's by jonrev, whose photos are excellent, and it does mention the aborted documentary. It's the best Dixie Square site on the web. (I should mention that the original Dixie Square site had a barbaric JavaScript that blocked right-clicking).

*The history, originally posted on DixieSquare.com can be found here.
http://replay.waybackmachine.org/20081226141953/http://www.pawfilmworks.com/DSMHistory.html (in danger of the dreaded advertiser's robots.txt)
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8243916/DixieSquareMall.html (my Dropbox mirror)
http://www.mediafire.com/file/ih2x3usyk1gwc8c/DixieSquareMall.html (via MediaFire)


  1. Cool write-up, thanks for the mention!

    Paul is still around, hung out with him at DSM last August. No clue as to why the documentary never was publicly shown.

    The disabling of right-clicking I believe was in the wake of goons from Wikipedia copying and pasting info from his website, which I don't blame him for, as I personally can't stand Wikipedia either.

    The old DSM site is still viewable thanks to the Internet Archive, however some of the images don't work.

  2. Paul is still alive and well. The Dixie Square doc film went through so many edits and final cuts none of which I was ever happy with which resulted in years and years going by with nothing 'solid' to put forth as the finished film. This was due to my own issues with how the final versions of the film played. There were 4 finished versions of the film done but none of which I was happy with. I took the website down during this period because there were too many wikipedia scholars borrowing and re-shaping the actual research I had done on DSM. It bothered me probably too much but what was done was done. In December of 2015 I pulled together the original principles involved in making the film to help with a polished edit and provide a 2-disc DVD set. This included original narrator Len O'Kelly. I put the project up on Kickstarter and asked for a total of $5,000. The only perk available was the finished film in a 2-disc DVD set with no shipping charges. The campaign had 0 interest despite the fact that this was the only time the film had been available in a decade for actual purchase. I had missed my audience by about 10 years but nobody is to blame for that but me. Paw Filmworks continues as it had since the mid-1990's, an avenue for me to support independent film and other creative projects (an example can be had via my IMDB entry). I would love nothing more than to put 'Dixie Square' in the hands of the fans that were interested back in 2005. Sadly, that ship seems to have sailed. Thanks for more than fair write-up on the doc film and my company. Not sure why it took me 5 years to find it but I enjoyed reading it very much.- Paul mcvay