Producer calls for deep incentives, not stages, to restore business

(The idea of converting all or part of County Hospital, as proposed by Lerner columnist Ed Schwartz in the Jan. 7 issue of ReelChicago.com) is a great idea, but our problem in Chicago is not a production space issue. Having more studios will not bring one dollar more to this city in business. We can’t keep CSC busy as it is.

The problem is that we need deep deep deep incentives to drive production back to Chicago. The incentive plan recently put into law has so many rules and is so complicated I’d be shocked if anyone ever takes advantage of it. On top of all of that, it’s not enough of a savings to sway someone from Canada to Chicago.

Sure, I read that last year we had a 100% increase over the previous year. Well, that’s not hard to do when only one feature shot here. We need to convince this city to be film friendly, as we once were ? from permits to removing lease and rental taxes, to tax credits to hotel deals and fund matching. I know, the usual response is that “we can’t afford these things.”

We need to look at the bigger picture to see how much money would be returned to the city down the road. That’s what businessmen do and that’s what cities and governments should do. The problem is with the city/state. What they need to realize is that when a movie is set in Chicago, people see how great our city is and they want to come and visit. They want to host conventions here, they want to hold world class events here, they want to invest here.

I’ve read many articles recently about the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun,” saying that Toscana has had a large bump in tourism. I can’t say exactly, but my wife and our friends booked a vacation there this September. Coincidence? I don’t think so. All I know is that if it was called “Under the Chicago Sun,” I’d be saving a lot of money.

Having your city depicted in films reinforces our image of being a world-class city and those images help you get convention business and events like the World Cup. Hence, the city and its constituents and businesses make more money.

? Steve Weiss, president, Zacuto rentals

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