Why Chicago needs a Film Campus

Chicago needs to step up its game if it plans on competing in the film industry.

But, if Chicago is happy competing with Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, then Chicago is headed in the right direction. The old factory conversions are just what Chicago needs.  Illinois, mostly Chicago, created around 22,500 jobs and $980M in wages for the film industry in 2010 similar to Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

If Chicago wants to compete with LA and NYC, though, it has to set up the game.  California, mostly LA area, is responsible for 193,220 direct jobs and $16.0 billion in wages in 2010.  New York, mostly NYC, is responsible for 86,768 direct jobs and $7.7 billion in wages in 2010.

Chicago at one time not too long ago was number three in film production behind LA and NYC.

Chicago needs the Film Campus because it needs something new for the industry.  Chicago needs to show that it wants to compete on the next level.

For me, the Film Campus needs to be located on the lakefront right in the heart of the city on Notherly Island, the old Meigs field area adjacent to McCormick Place. The Film Campus is a film production center right off Lake Shore Drive, next to the Museum Campus, the Chicago Yacht Club, Soldier’s Field, just down the street from Buckingham Fountain and Navy Pier. Midway Airport is just down the Stevenson Expressway for private jets! By adding the Film Campus, Chicago has created one fantastic entertainment district along Lake Shore Drive. The Film Campus is a NEW, built for the industry, film production facility in a great location that caters to the film industry.

Understand we are talking about the film industry … Hollywood, as most people know it, – the glitz, the glamour, the money. People in the film business, sorry to say, think they are special that they deserve the best. Look at the stars, the producers, the directors!  Look at their salaries. They expect the best because they can afford the best.  What Chicago offers to these people are converted factory buildings in enterprise zones for production centers. Chicago just doesn’t get it.

The film industry has grown over the years to a high profile business.  If Chicago is going to compete in the film industry, now, is the time to build for that.  The Film Campus offers Chicago that opportunity.  Instead of landing the Transformers for six weeks (in 2010) and accumulating $25M in revenue (making 2010 a banner year for Chicago), what if Chicago landed the whole project like the Transformers with a rumored final budget of $400M?  What if these big budget projects started lining up to use the Film Campus?  Now we’re talking money! What if a TV series actually stayed in Chicago for more than one season?  Early Edition in the late 1990’s was the last long running TV series in Chicago. The current popular TV series Mike and Molly is set in Chicago and so is Good Wife … neither are shot in Chicago.

Chicago needs to build a new state of the art film production center for today’s filmmaker with an eye on expansion for the new upcoming filmmaker in the digital/film industry which is already here. Notherly Island, 92 acres, offers that opportunity for Chicago.

Understand the film industry has become not just an industry but a way of life just as texting has replaced the phone call, Facebook has changed social interaction, 3-D printing will change manufacturing, just as cloud computing (good-bye, privacy!) will change the computer world as we know it and Bit coin might change the national currency standards to Internet currency.

The film industry has become a high-tech industry.  Building a set for a movie is being replaced by creating a scene on the computer. Chicago is in the right place at the right time.  Although there will probably always be a need for soundstages and the controlled space that they provide, the new era of filmmaking won’t need as many because scenes will be/are created on the computer using plates and digital animation instead of set construction and actors.

Times are changing and Chicago can build for these changes with the Film Campus by building for today with an eye on tomorrow.

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