Chicago production had its busiest year ever in 2012. A total of 406 total projects across all visual media shot 1,808 days. This is up 45%, when 391 projects shot 1,234 days the year before, according to stats provided by the Chicago Film Office direct Rich Moskal.
The tally was bolstered by a record-breaking four episodic TV series shooting entire seasons in Chicago.
“The closest we came before was in ’98 or ’99 when we had three shows shooting,” Illinois Film Office director Betsy Steinberg says.
The IFO will release audited figures for production spending later this year. “In terms of economic impact, one season of one TV series can be twice or more than a typical [studio] feature that comes to town,” Steinberg says.
Fifty TV projects shot 938 days in 2012, according to the Chicago Film Office. This compares to 53 projects shooting 501 days in 2011. The CFO only tracks permitted shoot days with Chicago city, so figures do not include suburban or downstate production, or unpermitted days in the city.
NBC’s Chicago Fire led the pack with 125 days, followed by Fox’s Mob Doctor with 118, Starz’ Boss with 80, and MTV’s Underemployed with 70 days. Showtime’s L.A.-based, Chicago-set Shameless shot 14 days here.
TV shows an “excellent fit for Illinois”
In addition to the bigger scripted series, four reality series shot entire seasons here: Style’s Chicagolicious was here for 100 days, as was VH1’s Mob Wives of Chicago. Tru TV’s Hard Core Pawn had 70 days, and TLC’s Twins shot 60 days.
“We went full-court press to get the attention of TV,” Steinberg says. “We recognized that in the current landscape, TV is an excellent fit for Illinois, not only for our infrastructure, which is deep, but also because of our tax credit, and the crew is so good. Whenever anybody has a positive production experience, they tell other people, and they keep coming.”
The most decisive development is that with Cinespace Chicago Film Studios now fully online, along with Chicago Studio City, Chicago now for the first time has two full-service production facilities.
However, only Chicago Fire was confirmed to return in 2013, with Boss and Mob Doctor both cancelled, and the future of Underemployed still undetermined at press time, according to Steinberg.
In early January, Steinberg met with network heads and confirms that Illinois is “top of mind” as a location for pilot season. “I’m confident we’ll have a good pilot season again,” she says.
Features were notably absent
Features were far less active in 2012. The CFO reports that 17 film projects shot 182 days, with not a single Hollywood feature. 2011 saw one studio feature, Man of Steel, though the totals were even lower: 12 films shot 80 days in 2011.
Steinberg argues that the dip in feature production is a statistical aberration rather than a trend, and that Illinois should still be seen as in the midst of an upswing in feature production that has been otherwise steady since 2007.
We did have Bollywood actioner Dhoom 3, the biggest Indian shoot in the U.S. this year, shooting 72 days. Then there were the indies, led by Richard Knight Jr.’s Scrooge & Marley at 16 days, Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies with Anna Kendrick and Olivia Wilde, Alex Beh’s Warren, and Huck Botko’s Johnson, 15 days each, and Jerzy Rose’s Crimes Against Humanity, 13.
However, 2013 is promising to be a bigger year for features, with Divergent shooting here in its entirety, and the Wachowskis shooting some portion of their alien epic Jupiter Ascending with Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum and Eddie Redmayne here, CFO director Richard Moskal says.
Commercials active, though up slightly
Commercials were the most active since 2005: 123 shot 209 days, though just a slight rise over 2011. The most active commercial producer on record was Optimus, which had shoots for Dove Unilever, Brown & Foreman, Sears, Norelco, US Bank, Jewel Osco, Comcast, Payless, Bayer, Hallmark, City Soles and Kraft. STORY shot for AARP, GMC, Silk, Allstate, Dremel, Regions Bank, Ford, and JBL.
Steinberg points out that “commercials have been very strong. We’ve seen an uptick in commercial production,” which is often the bread and butter of our local industry.”
In addition: 82 still projects shot 206 days, and 134 other projects, including web series, shot 273 days.