By Amy Ross
Although 2014 was a smaller year for Chicago as a destination for filming Hollywood features, local productions and television series helped maintain the city’s steady uptick of filmmaking. Richard Moskal, director of the Chicago Film Office since 1996, estimates that the revenues and total number of shooting days of 2014 would continue the growth trend of the last five years.
Aside from films and television series, commercial production also played a key role in boosting the filmmaking statistics of 2014 to a record of 2200 filming days and approximately $358 million dollars in local spending towards actors, equipment rental and facilities, among others. “What we are very enthused about is the growth of the local filmmaking community making independent features that may not be Hollywood films but do well in festivals and ideally secure theatrical releases,” said Moskal.
The Chicago Film Office is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and is in charge of attracting and facilitating the production of local screen entertainment, including feature films, television series, commercials and documentaries. The Office comprises four people and functions as a “one-stop liaison” for filmmakers who need support obtaining permits and accessing city services, among other things. According to Film Office director, the competition for attracting Hollywood producers is fierce and the business is often fickle in term of where to film.
The state of Illinois currently provides a 30 percent tax credit on all local spending, as do many other states across the country. However, Chicago offers other production incentives, including its architectural and its cultural life. Others involve the variety of resources available, like the birth and consolidation of CineSpace film studio, which undoubtedly aids in attracting filmmakers.
“Chicago is built on its reputation as a theater town with a host of large and small theater communities that offer nationally and internationally recognized talent,” Moskal said. “That is a huge benefit for casting in the city because it cuts time and the costs of flying people in from other places.”
The Chicago Film Office also often accommodates unconventional requirements such as low-flying helicopters and explosions for films like the upcoming Batman v Superman and last year’s Insurgent. In terms of television series, Chicago Fire and Chicago PD continued shooting locally as they had the previous year, joined by new projects like the musical drama Empire which will air over the next months on FOX. The Chicago born Wachowski siblings also shot their upcoming sci-fi show Sense8 in the city. That show will be available on Netflix Sense8 this spring.