Chaz Ebert's mission goes on

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In the meantime, she is almost constantly traveling and attending meetings to push the ball forward on the various projects. "It just seems so natural and normal to keep doing what we were doing together," she says. "I hope people understand that, because it's not that I'm doing this just to keep Roger alive. I'm doing it because I think it's important."

She acknowledges that some of these projects sprung from her own initiative. "Of course I've had to maneuver quickly and make some quick decisions and do some things differently, and some things are just my idea alone," she says. "Not everything is my idea and Roger's idea. People didn't know that I was the vice president of the Ebert Co. for over 20 years. People didn't know that behind the scenes I was the one who handled the business, and Roger was the creative guy."

As for why he was interested in launching so many new projects toward the end, she says he "still wanted to be part of the conversation" about movies but also: "I think he was doing it for me, so that I'd have something to do," she says. "But he always said, 'Make it yours.'"

So, for instance …

"We have a Siskel and Ebert musical in the works," she says, noting that she and Iglitzen "thought that something about Siskel and Ebert could be fun on the stage. Actually, it was my idea because I like plays, and I like Broadway shows. …

"I see it as a multimedia production where you have people stepping off the screen. And it's not really about Roger and Gene. They're the hooks for it, but we're really exploring the different decades of looking at America's dreams through these two guys at the movies. I see it as more of a musical. Marlene sees it as more of a drama."

Iglitzen says she's enthusiastic about a potential stage show "because the chemistry (between Siskel and Ebert) to this date has not been duplicated, and they were just so funny."

Also in development is something called the Ebert Meter, which would be an app as well as an online experience "that would involve having professional critics give their view (on a movie) but also having fans interact with their own views and conversations about movies," Chaz Ebert says.

Then there are the e-books being planned by Ebert Publishing, which she says may eventually involve other authors but likely will start off by offering Roger Ebert works not already covered by his traditional publishing deals.

"Like a Roger's interviews book?" I ask.

"Exactly," she says.

"Or magazine pieces?"


Chaz Ebert is working on her own literary venture as well.

"I'm actually writing a book about us and about conversations that I still have with him," she says. "It's a book a little bit about the afterlife. When I say I still speak with Roger, people think I mean metaphorically. I mean literally, not figuratively. And so he's still with me still sort of a guiding force, and he still very much lets me know how much he loves me."

Meanwhile, the 16th annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival (formerly Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival and commonly referred to as Ebertfest) will take place April 23-27 in Champaign's Virginia Theatre. This will be the first Ebertfest without Roger's direct involvement, although festival director Nathaniel Kohn and Chaz Ebert say he left behind a long list of films he wished to see programmed down the line.

"Even though the final decision would be Roger's, Nate and I were very much involved with Roger in putting together Ebertfest, and so I can see doing it easily for the next 10 years," Chaz Ebert says.

Efforts also are ongoing to create a Roger Ebert film studies center or program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ebert's alma mater and the area where he grew up. "The aim is to raise a minimum of $5 million for the Roger Ebert Center of Film Studies that would be housed in the College of Media," Kohn says.

Back in Chicago the Ebert house's lower-level screening room, complete with marquee ("The Lyric" in honor of where Roger and Chaz had their first date), is being reconfigured as a studio to accommodate some TV work as well as podcasts, Chaz Ebert said. Her nephew Daniel Jackson, who moved to Chicago from Minneapolis in May, works in the home office as the Ebert Co.'s project manager.

Chaz Ebert also mentions efforts of the Ebert Foundation, the couple's charitable arm "that we started with the sale of some of our Google stock," and then she remembers another idea:

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