Filmmaking in Chicago is ‘significantly up’ with record breaking production

At the September 30th Committee on Budget and Government Operations meeting Retiring Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Mark Kelly said filmmaking is “significantly up” in Chicago.

A record 15 television productions are currently in the city including 61st Street, The Chi, Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, Work in Progress, Paper Girls, Light Years, Southside, The Big Leap, The Nanny, Be My Eyes, and Power Book IV: Force among others.

In addition to the TV shows mentioned, feature length movies are also seeking out the City by the lake for filming including Christmas films, usually shot in Canada, such as The Christmas Pitch. 

“We estimate the economic value of that for this year will be about $750 million. It’s now over 20,000 jobs. … And because Illinois’ tax credit is the only tax credit that has a minority hiring clause with additional benefits, over 50% of crews” in Illinois are either minority or female,” Kelly said.

In regard to the diversity within film and TV projects, Kelly added, “Is it enough? No. But compared to any other city, we’re off the charts.”

Cinespace Chicago Film Studios is the largest studio in North America

Kelly also noted Chicago-based Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, where NBC Universal’s One Chicago shows (Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, Chicago Med) are filmed, is now the “largest studio in North America.”

The state film tax credit Kelly mentioned was extended by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2019 through 2026, as a way to keep TV shows and movies along with their high-paying jobs in the state.

Effective July 1st, 2021, The Illinois State Film Tax Credit legislation created the Illinois Production Workforce Development Fund which is funded entirely by the qualified productions, to allow the Department of Commerce and Economic Development make grants to qualified organizations that provide film production workforce training programs. 50% of the grant funds must be allocated to minority owned organizations, or educational/training programs whose participants represent a minimum of 50% minorities and the Illinois Film Tax Credit applications specifically ask applicants what percentage of Women and minorities will be in all areas of production, not just talent.

According to The Chicago Recovery Task Force Advisory Report:

“Film and TV production can quickly create a variety of jobs that benefit our communities – a mix of high-paying and low-skill jobs including catering, security, construction, and more. Illinois currently has close to 14,000 jobs in film production, with 53% going to women and minorities.”

Within the 104 page report, it is stated several times that Lightfoot would like to “capture film and TV production opportunities given the lack of studio space in places like California.”

Production Studios are in development across the city

In addition to the already established Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, which recently announced their own expansion, Chicago Studio City, founded in 1985, and Essanay Studios founded in 1983, the new kid on the block, CineCity Studios is developing a “Work, Play, Stay” environment in collaboration with Cinespace, in an expansive state-of-the-art facility in nearby Pilsen. Knickpoint ventures intends to build a studio space at the former Marshall Field’s warehouse complex on the Northwest Side. Derek Dudley’s $60 million Regal Mile Studios which received city approval in July plans to include six sound studios for both film and television production, including the historic Avalon Theater. Resolution Studios announced the opening of The East Stage, servicing corporate and advertising clients. Pilsen Studios is up and running with two sound stages, a beautiful kitchen facility, and both a Bolt High-Speed Cinebot as well as a Milo Motion Control Rig.

Kelly went on to say that the importance of “this emerging film scene” cannot be overstated.

“Not just economically. Think of it as sort of like the Michael Jordan impact. Think of how this one individual sort of remade Chicago’s image in the world. Well, filming does that, too. We see L.A. and New York through the films that come from there. We, in Chicago, should emerge as one of the top film-producing locations in this country,” Kelly added

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