Camera Ambassador, 2112 launch partnership

Adding an arsenal
of rentable gear
to a film, music, and
tech industry nexus
will help Chicago’s
production community
dial it up to eleven

Camera Ambassador and 2112 are going all in to help filmmakers get it done. Through a partnership announced last week, the equipment rental shop and the film incubator are combining their time, resources, and expertise to create an incomparable advantage for productions shooting in and around Chicago.

The deal begins with a 20% rental discount that Camera Ambassador will offer to members and productions filming at 2112 — “all the tools from cameras and lenses to grip trucks and lights.” On orders greater than $1,000, the equipment will be shipped from Camera Ambassador’s main facility next to the Cinespace Studios production campus and ready for pickup at 2112.

But that’s just the beginning.

Rob Tovar and Erica Duffy
Rob Tovar and Erica Duffy

Camera Ambassador houses a deep reserve of rentable film gear and a long list of satisfied clients. 2112 is a film, music, and tech industry nexus on the Northwest side of Chicago. Together, they hope to dial-up Chicago’s output to eleven.

Training, workshops, exposure, and massive collaboration are scheduled to begin next month. Camera Ambassador will also place a team member at 2112 every other Wednesday.

According to co-owner Erica Duffy, the effort is a natural result of collective evolution.

Camera Ambassador
“Camera Ambassador is very homegrown, and we’re run by artists and business people, and we’ve focused over the last couple of years on being that one-stop-shop with the grip trucks and all the equipment you could ever need,” she explains. “That’s similar to what 2112 is doing — where there’s art, the music, film, and tech all under one roof — so our missions were very much aligned.”

After founding Camera Ambassador with husband Brandon Werlin in 2014, Duffy helped transform the company from an equipment rental business into a multifunctional vendor and partner operating adjacent to the Cinespace campus.

She is also a driving force behind Camera Ambassador’s inaugural Community Builder’s Grant, a production package worth nearly $10K that will be awarded to a filmmaker at the company’s June 7 birthday party.

2112’s Rob Tovar believes that the Camera Ambassador attitude is the perfect complement to The Hangar, a 7,000 square-foot film studio that houses the Cinema Division of the entertainment industry incubator.

Along with the premiere band rehearsal space called Fort Knox and the office suites of 2112, The Hangar forms a block-long network of of film, music, and technology innovation.

“Camera Ambassador’s rental program — as far as equipment and service and insurance — is a great choice,” he says. “Plus, they’re a great husband and wife team; very approachable.”

A 2112 collaboration
A 2112 collaboration

A former Director at Resolution Digital Studios and Vice President at Answers Media, Tovar helped launch The Hangar while introducing 2112’s Film Division in 2013.

The doors opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel that was attended by hundreds of filmmakers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and an A-list of supporters.

Since then, the facility has been fashioned into a number of different sets for films, TV shows, and music videos. It was home to the wrestling arena featured in the award-winning indie, Signature Move, and it held City Hall in the new CBS series Red Line.

With 28-foot ceilings, The Hangar also provides a space where bands can not only shoot music videos, but also “set up light stages and go through the whole concert” before performing live. Acts ranging from Night Ranger to Smashing Pumpkins and Chance the Rapper have taken advantage of the location.

The possibilities grow from there. The Hangar is part of the 2112 entertainment industry incubator, which holds “about 115 startups,” including a soon-to-be-launched digital broadcast studio currently being built by KARP Designs visionary Kevin Rodgers, who also resides within 2112.

Spontaneous creativity appears to happen every day at the collective.

“We have a couple other rooms commonly used for band rehearsal,” says Tovar. “But because they’re so large, we’ve done a lot of digital commercial and traditional terrestrial television commercials, casting calls, table reads, and all sorts of fun things in there.”

Duffy intends to extend a Hangar-esque kind of flexibility to 2112 members who take advantage of the partnership.

“There are structures that we’ve set up for our partnership — for example, if you want to pick up at our satellite office at 2112 the order has to be over $1,000 and placed 24 hours in advance — but those are basically guidelines,” she says. “We’re the decision makers, and if there’s a unique situation, the people who have the power to come up with a solution are accessible.”

This helpful mood will also dominate the gear demos that Camera Ambassador will offer at 2112 every month.

“Our equipment demos are designed for the seasoned professional as well as the people who are not really involved in film but want to be more knowledgeable for when they might talk to a production company,” Duffy continues. “It’s a stress-free, no-judgment environment, and we want all the members to feel that they can come out.”

Tovar believes that the partnership’s attitude, combined with a multitude of disciplines converging at 2112, will not only help individual filmmakers succeed but also boost the city as a whole. “If we’re all playing in that sandbox together, we’re going to continue to bring projects to Chicago at all levels from the big boys at Showtime all the way to indies and music videos,” he says.

Duffy, who is also a producer herself, knows that the skills are already here. “Chicago’s pretty on point,” she says. “We have some of the best talent in the country.”

Send your production updates to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton,