Chicago helps grow diversity in Illinois productions

The cast of "The Chi"

The cast of “The Chi”

Women and minorities represented 53% of all crew hires reported in 2017, according to a January 25 press release issued by the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity. The amount marks a new record for diversity in the state’s film industry.

“These productions generated $423 million in estimated Illinois spending,” the document continues, “and resulted in 13,797 job hires over the course of the year.”

As an epicenter of Illinois’ film and television production, Chicago has and will continue to play an important role in achieving and maintaining these worthy milestones.

A significant amount of the activity is located within the campus of Cinespace Studios, home to Empire, The Chi, Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, Chicago PD, numerous commercial and independent productions, and film-related companies.

Shameless, which was just renewed by Showtime, is also helping to make a difference.

The Windy City diversity extends from set to screen, and along with it has come success. Telling stories that accurately reflect the country’s gender and racial composition has not only entertained millions, but also elevated known actors and newcomers alike.

Common and Lena Waithe, who star in and wrote The Chi respectively, are credited among the show’s executive producers. Writer Fatimah Asghar and director Samantha Bailey signed their indie series, Brown Girls, with HBO. Writer / Director Rhyan LaMarr’s feature length drama, Canal Street, wrapped last year with a cast that most filmmakers can only dream about.

Common in "The Chi"
Common in “The Chi”

“We’ve become a hub for film production that extends to every stage of the process, attracting editors, artists and innovators who have traditionally fled to the coasts for work,” said Illinois Film Office Director Christine Dudley. “The rising demand for original content across media platforms has kicked the doors wide open to new voices, creative ideas and unique prospectives, all of which can be found right here.”

In 2017, the city also welcomed key organizations dedicated to ensuring that the prosperity will flow without regard to race or gender:

The CineCares Foundation formed a joint partnership with Wolf Films, NBC Universal, and the Motion Picture Studio Mechanics Union to place young adults from neighborhoods like North Lawndale, Garfield Park, and Austin into paid internships at Cinespace;

Leaders from the Chicago independent film community established the Chicago Media Standards, a guideline for industry professionalism.

The state itself can also claim some credit for the good news. In 2008, a bill that established a 30% tax credit for productions spending money on Illinois goods, services, and wages paid to residents became a significant draw for new business.

“I am proud that we maintain a diversity standard to expand opportunities for women and minorities and address the systemic issue of underrepresentation,” says said Governor Bruce Rauner. “This has been a major priority during my administration, and I look forward to building upon this trend in 2018.”