4. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago may have doubled for Gotham in Christopher Nolan’s first two Dark Knight films, but its own personality is hard to disguise even with Hollywood magic. Joe Chappelle, executive producer of NBC’s Chicago Fire, also filmed a thriller in the city this past summer called The Pages, with Jamie Lee Curtis, with a do-it-locally ethos: Chicago locals were set to account for 80 percent of speaking roles and 90 percent of the budget was to spend in-city, while Filmworkers Club, a Chicago post house, was contracted to handle VFX. Steve McQueen’s heist film Widows also laid down track in the city over summer, with Liam Neeson starring.
Chicago’s prestigious documentary house, Kartemquin Films, also had a big 2017, with two films selected for Sundance 2018. Director Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap tells the story of Liu reconnecting with two childhood friends in Rockford, Illinois, while America to Me is a ten-part series from director Steve James, focusing on a special Chicago high-school. James previously directed Kartemquin’s biggest hit, the basketball documentary Hoop Dreams that shone a light on two underprivileged kids with big dreams. “We believe in the necessity of diverse voices—racially, culturally and geographically,” says Betsy Steinberg, Executive Director of Kartemquin. In fact, Illinois is currently the only state with diversity hiring provisions attached to its incentive.
“Chicago’s film industry has evolved in recent years into one of the country’s buzziest production cities,” says Steinberg. “The production scene is tight-knit, supportive and generous towards newcomers, while the cost of living is reasonable compared to the coasts. The city’s film creatives are extremely talented, with important stories to tell, and we share a commitment to ensuring business remains viable here.” Maintaining that viability will be partially a question of maintaining the 30 percent tax credit for film and television producers, a program up for renewal in 2021. (Minimum spend for projects over 30 minutes is $100,000).
With all it offers, there’s little chance of Chicago not remaining a top draw. Director Nash Edgerton, who shot parts of the upcoming Charlize Theron-starring action film Gringo in the city in 2016, sang Chi-Town’s praises: “It was so great shooting parts of Gringo in Chicago, especially as a good portion of the film is set there,” he said. “I loved the wonderful architecture, in particular work by Mies van der Rohe. I also got to enjoy my first Chicago deep dish. The other exciting thing for me was having Alan Ruck in the movie: I just couldn’t in good conscience have a film set in Chicago without including someone from one of my favorite films, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”