The Chicago "Atmosphere"

The Chicago "Atmosphere"
Yup, that's really lightning.

“Chicago has great clouds.”

I was speaking to a friend on the phone a few days ago and we were talking about the differences between California and Chicago.

“There’s so much sunlight here,” was my comment that precipitated the converstion. “It’s always sunny. It takes some getting used to.”

This isn’t strictly true, of course, there are cloudy days and rainy days just like everywhere else, but on the balance southern California is sunny. Every day.

From a film standpoint this is an ideal place to work. Your chances of having to reschedule around inclement weather are slim and your light will always be bright and clear. As a dry climate there is less chance of interference of humidity, and as a warm climate there is less chance of struggling with trying to work in the cold. Who could ask for anything more?

To try to make films in a place like Chicago is to add a huge gamble to any project, but can likewise have an equally huge payoff. The range of weather that Chicago can¬†experience opens up a whole palette of moods that can be applied to a scene- if you’re lucky enough to get the weather you want on the day you need it. It is possible to experience both sunny and stormy in the course of a single day. Humidity can manifest itself as softening mists or as saturating heat. A cloudy day can be cheerfully dry and overcast to damp and sullen to toweringly dramatic to outright raw.

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In general, filmmakers want consistency. To allow mother nature to play a role in your film is an act of faith and a lot of contingency planning. She is the biggest diva you will ever have to work with and there is simply no placating her if she doesn’t want to cooperate. She still has the ability to add that tiny element of transcendence to a picture that can make all the difference.

Is it worth the risk? It depends upon who you ask, but for my money the palette of atmosphere that Chicago can offer is too good to overlook for long. Chicago does have great clouds.

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