Let’s talk about a film campus for Chicago (like Chicago’s museum campus) and how it could be funded.

One reason people in the film business don’t stay in Chicago is because there is always something new and exciting in LA or NYC.  Chicago is a safe place there will always be a film or two running through and the pilots seem to shoot here a lot and occasionally, like now, there are a couple of series possibly lined up for the year … for the year!  No one really stays in Chicago, though.  People do their stuff and leave.  There isn’t room to grow in the Chicago’s film industry … there is a point in one’s life that one has to leave Chicago to see if there is more.  And, once they leave, they usually don’t come back to Chicago. People know what is in Chicago … nothing new—locations are good, weather sucks a lot of the time, the history of Chicago is intriguing; when filming in Chicago, most equipment has to be brought in for a feature or TV series, key people and their staffs are usually brought in and put up at the nicer accommodations in Chicago for the job and, then, there are a couple of refurbished industrial sites that can house a feature or TV series. Chicago can do the job ... that’s it.

What if Chicago took a giant step and tried something new?  Other cities and other states have built facilities to bring in business without much luck but Chicago always seems to attract business from day one of the film industry in the early 1900’s but it just can’t seem deliver the whole package the way that LA and NYC can.

Why can’t Chicago build for the film industry?  Then, it could deliver the whole package.  The other cities that built for the industry had nothing to offer besides their new facilities and their one dimensional locations. Chicago has proven over the years that it can attract the business. Chicago just never bothered to put it all together like LA and NYC.

Maybe, it is time to do that.  Times are changing in the film industry.  This would be a golden opportunity to change with it.

Look at LA; it is a film community, basically. It has power drops for film productions on some of its street corners! La doesn’t have a film campus because it’s a film city – it has everything a filmmaker needs and more. NYC has the Silvercup Studios (thirteen sound stages) that the city originally funded.  It has grown to a second production center on the east side (six more sound stages).  We won’t mention the hundreds of other facilities available to the film industry that are scattered around both cities plus the vendors that are on almost every street corner … everyone wants a piece of the industry … not only is it fun and glamorous, it’s very profitable for everyone involved -- from the movie moguls in LA and NYC to the person owning the coffee shop around the corner from the location shoot. The point being everyone wins with the film industry. Why can’t Chicago see that?

Chicago should build a film campus funded by revenue bonds. Revenue bonds are used to fund projects for Chicago that will eventually create revenue directly, such as a toll road or lease payments for new building or a ‘film campus’! The revenues from the projects are used to pay off the bonds.  Everyone wins on this one!  The city’s outlay is minimal if any.  People, now, have the opportunity to own a piece of the film industry.  Like other cities that built for the industry, producers would take a closer look to Chicago just to see the new Chicago and its film campus.  Unlike other cities that tried this and stumbled, though, Chicago already has an established track record for film making from day one with Essanay Studios built for the budding film industry way back in the early 1900’s.  The other cities were hoping to establish a track record by building for the industry.

I think if Chicago expects to have a future stake in the digital/film industry it has to seriously consider this option or something concrete to move forward.  People have to see that Chicago is serious about the film industry.  Building for the future would be a step in the right direction.

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  • There is already the Siskel Center if the aim is to show movies.

    There is Harpo Studios if anyone wants to do any post production here.

    Other than that, there is the competition for tax breaks. Apparently, if Illinois doesn't have a tax break to compete with the Canada Film Tax Credit, the production goes elsewhere.

    In any event, unless this is going to be another giveaway of tax money, there has to be some coherent business plan about what facilities the movie conglomerates (like Comcast-Universal, Sony-Columbia, Disney, and Fox) would need and why they can't build it on their own. Wishing does not make it so, except as a boondoggle.

  • In reply to jack:

    We're talking about film production in Chicago ... not going to a theater or post production. Read up on the film incentive programs. Although Chicago isn't a leader in film incentives (does Chicago have to be?), Chicago has a respectable incentive that's competative, nationally.

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    I've worked my whole adult life in the film industry. While in Chicago, I worked with (and learned from) some of the best people in the industry and worked for some of the best , if not the best, production houses in Chicago. What I came back to though ... was sad.

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