Students in the process of filming full length documentary

Students Balin Schneider and Holton Witman have been working on a feature length documentary for the past nine months, over the 90s band Material Issue. Schneider and Whitman both have been flying to Chicago, New York and Connecticut to interview the remaining band members and other people involved with the band.

Schneider had approached Witman to work on the project, because of Witman’s experience working in the film industry. Witman studied film in Los Angeles before transferring to Washburn and worked on a feature film called Goodland, as an associate producer. Witman admits to knowing nothing about the band or their music before starting the documentary, however really acknowledging the uniqueness in Material Issue’s sound and impact in the music community.

“They have had an impact on not only the Chicago music scene, but the music community as a whole,” Witman said.

Schneider also acknowledged the impact that the band made on other artists and bands in the 90s.

“Material Issue opened the door for a lot of bands like Liz Phair, Veruca Salt, and Smashing Pumpkins. Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain’s wife, has even covered their songs,” Schneider said.

Schneider has always been interested in the 90s band, Material Issue, who started making music in the early 1990s in Chicago. The band went on to make four albums throughout the 90s having some radio success and several MTV successes. The band had an abrupt end in 1996 when their lead singer, Jim Ellison, committed suicide.

“The documentary has grown from a 15-minute mini documentary to a full-length hour documentary,” Schneider said. “Right now, it’s a biography piece on the band, that’s also about Chicago’s music scene in the 90s and of course about Jim Ellison’s legacy.”

At the moment, Schneider and Witman have been going back and forth from city to city getting interviews from the two remaining band members, big music producers, journalists, family and friends to tell the story of Jim Ellison and Material Issue.

“We’ve interviewed Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins, Mike Chapman whose produced music and wrote the hit song “Hey Mickey”, Rick Nielson from Cheap Trick, and we’re looking to speak to some bigger names, but I’m just unable to mention them right now.”  Schneider said.

Material Issue still has a huge cult following online, which raised awareness for the project. They raised $3500 on Kickstarter from fans of the band, donations from Ken Kurson, the former Editor-in-Chief of The New York Observer, and some funding from Washburn University.

Schneider and Witman both admitted that the process has been strenuous, but the reward of making connections with the people they meet and telling the story of the band to the world is something that keeps them both going. 

“Everyone that knows of the band, and are fans of the band, want this story to be told, because no one has ever told this story.”  Schneider said.

Schneider and Witman both have had a great experience with the process of their first documentary, and hope to get it edited and finished before the film festival season hits.

To keep up with the documentary process, you can go to their website,