Why does it seem so good?

June 29, 2011
Illinois Film Office Announces “Transformers 3”
Brings in $24 Million to State
More than 400 People Hired During Production of Blockbuster Film

September 13, 2011
Governor Quinn: Illinois Film Industry Boosting State Economy
Blockbuster Productions Like Superman ‘Man of Steel’
Put Illinois on Pace for Another Record Year

March 12, 2012
Governor Quinn Announces New NBC Production Coming to Chicago
Syndicated Daily Show “Steve Harvey” to be Produced in Chicago, Creating Jobs and Boosting Tourism

This is what the Illinois Film Office and the Chicago Film Office does … it’s their job.  They get paid to promote Illinois’s film industry and Chicago’s film industry.  The film offices don’t find work for the people who work in Chicago's film industry or Illinois film industry-- they never did; they promote the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago.  The sad fact is that their hype doesn’t have to be true!  And, it isn’t.  Who out there is going to dispute them?  Not the entertainment reporters.  The numbers sound good!  People like to hear good news, especially, now.  The entertainment reporters aren’t going to go behind the scenes and check anything out … they’d get blacklisted and would never get invited to the promotional partying and seemingly good life of the film industry.  They like hobnobbing with celebrities, they want to be associated with the LA life style that the film industry projects.  People want to be a part of it.  People flock to see a piece of it.  They will stand out in the rain for hours for a glimpse of a star or a look at make believe.  I’ve got to tell you that I really enjoyed working in and being a part of the film industry until I came back to Chicago in 2008.

The hype from the film offices and the reality of Chicago’s film industry are two different worlds.

The film offices aren’t responsible for work in Chicago or Illinois.  It’s not their job; their job is to promote Chicago’s and Illinois’ film industry.  The big problem is--is that there is nothing to really promote, anymore, in Chicago’s film industry.  Sure, the city itself is worth promoting … it’s a great looking Chicago.  It’s a top tourist destination and has a great history.  But, as far as services that the film offices can promote –there really isn’t much anymore.  Maybe, this is why there are so many independent films, news stories and Judge’s shows listed under projects shot in Chicago and Illinois over the past few years … so Chicago looks good on paper! Take Transformers and how it demonstrated Chicago as a film center. The reality was the majority of the crew including office staff was from LA.  Chicago filled in with local talent. Equipment was shipped in because Chicago didn’t have what they needed for their production but Chicago did once-- but not, anymore. The budget for Transformer was $200M but rumors have it at $400M. Chicago was a location not a production center. Transformers was just passing through.  Although $25M is nothing to sneeze at-- it’s not … especially, for Chicago at this point in time! The reality-- $25M is the budget of a B movie.

I understand the people in the film offices are fighting for their jobs-- but at the expense of our film industry?  The positions in the film offices are appointed government jobs.  Who hired them? Pretty obvious.  They are on the government payrolls. Does that make it political?  You answer the question.  They are in a government funded salaried job and they will get a pension … the pensions that are sandbagging the state's and the city's economy.  The lowest paid film office employee makes around $83K (public records), top end just shy of six figures (again, public records).

We’re talking a lot of money to misrepresent Chicago’s film industry.  As the film industry slides into oblivion, these people are riding high.

My information is from the film office web site … take it for what it is worth.  From my first post, I made a comparison of film production from 1999 and from 2010 … 1999 won easily—24 major productions in 1999 to 3 productions in 2010. How can these times be banner times for filmmaking in Illinois and Chicago?  Please, enlighten me.

I can’t name names because I don’t want to get sued, but take a minute--can you think of a new facility in Chicago today that can handle a feature film? Not a rusted out steel distribution plant in an enterprise zone.  Did the city really finance a Canadian?  In fact, the very one who built the studios in Canada.  You know --the people who were low-balling Chicago in the 1990’s when the rate of exchange was killing the US film industry.  Maybe, someone in Chicago had visions of copying Silvercup Studios in NYC … a converted bread factory which now has 13 sound stages which, also, expanded to Silvercup Studios West.  If you’ve been to Chicago’s dream studio that the Canadian built with Chicago’s money, you know it isn’t going to happen.

Any city that has seen the potential of filmmaking has built for it, encouraged it … new facilities, great incentives; instead Chicago found old warehouses and has a film incentive comparable to other states.  Vendors have left Chicago, people have left Chicago.  Indies are big, now, with budgets as low as my kid’s allowance!  What happened?  Chicago was number three and pushing the big two-- LA and NYC.

It seems as though no-one isn’t or enough people aren’t working for Chicago's future but are looking out for themselves. We had the Chicago Coalition and the AICP grew from that; we all supported it.  Even though I wasn’t a producer, I was an associate member of the AICP.  I really think we brought work to Chicago because we worked together; we invested our lives and our money in it.  I don’t see that today.  Chicago is just a location, not a film center like the film offices portraying Chicago. People just go to work when/if there is any. Like I mentioned in the earlier post-- for the most part, people, today, are working on flat rates, caps on benefits (if you're working union) and/or low-ball rates.

The point being if you want to be in the ‘biz’, you have to find your own work! Don’t look to the film offices for that; but, they were never  labor brokers.  It’s always been that way.  In better times, (hopefully, those days will come back!), you weren’t looking for work as much as you were jockeying for the better job. If you want to help Chicago re-gain its prominence, though, you have to invest something in it.

 

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