When I first came to this town
I was gonna be—oh,
there were a lot of things I was gonna do. Become famous. But Chicago’s
the big melting pot, and I got melted, but good.
—Sally “Angel Face” Connors, City That Never
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods—from the artsy Bucktown
and Wicker Park areas to the tony Gold Coast shores—each
of which provides a distinctive and exciting backdrop for moviemakers
of all tastes, budgets and sensibilities. It’s the city that
spawned such cinema classics as North by Northwest, Bullitt and The Sting and carried Gen Xers through their adolescence (and beyond)
with such John Hughes favorites as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Today, Chicago
still offers some of the most diverse locations and hard-working
crews anywhere, as evidenced by this group of moviemakers who recently
spoke with MM about their Windy City experiences.
Chicago has taught me that to be a successful independent
filmmaker you have to work harder than the
next guy and play the typical politics. The toughest part is always
raising the money because you have to be a real bullshit artist in
a town that takes no bullshit.
—D.P. Carlson, Producer/Director (Chicago Filmmakers on
the Chicago River)
Chicago is an untapped canvas beyond the bounds of the Loop, Lincoln
Park and Wrigley Field. Blue-collar neighborhoods, rich in tradition
and story, provide a goldmine of locations and characters, from meat-packing
plants to junkyards to trailer parks. We saw, we shot and the world
—Michael Hirsch, Producer/Co-Writer (Bad Meat)
Besides the compelling skyline and culturally
diverse neighborhoods, Chicago proudly boasts one of the most independent
and spirited film communities anywhere. It is deep with intelligent
and talented people who know that the name “Chicago” is more than the title
of a popular musical—it’s an important filmmaking location.
Artists of all types call Chicago their home, and this generosity,
enthusiasm and endless energy has convinced our production company
that we can and will be successful in our hometown. Go Cubbies!
—Louis Coty, Craig James Pietrowiak & Dale Spencer, Squid
Chicago has had a profound influence on me as
a visual artist. Slung across the canvas of our city is the history
of modern architecture, from Adler & Sullivan to Frank Gehry. And our city hugs a remarkably
expressive lakefront. This city is about ambition and loneliness.
That’s what my films are about.
—Tom Silva, Writer/Director (The Quiet)
Diversified architecture, Lake Michigan, diesel
and electric trains, 24/7 buses, alleys that whisper stories in
the dark… Chicago
is brimming with locations that scream to be filmed. I feel moods
with the shifting weather, attention to past and present; elements
absorbed so that I may capture the honesty of life.
—Patricia C. Stewart, Screenwriter/Script Supervisor, PatriciaCStewart@aol.com
Chicago is unconcerned with image and therefore it is the
most honest city. And the most hard-working. Chicago was built
on the ashes of its former self. The city intimately knows both
pain and joy. All it asks is that you judge it for what it is.
Chicago bleeds history.
—Chris McKay, Director/Editor, Manning Productions
Chicago’s towering lakefront skyline and numerous architectural
landmarks give it a flavor distinctively its own. The gritty industrial
sections, the Magnificent Mile and the Chicago River bridges illustrate
that the city can create a set design to help solidify any story.
Travel west one hour and you’re surrounded by open prairies
and farmland (as captured in Road to Perdition). The ethnically
diverse neighborhoods give life to any character in a script. The
infrastructure of film personnel is solid due to the size of the
metropolitan area, which makes it possible to have multiple features
or episodics filming at the same time. Chicago’s pool of
talent is also very deep due to the thriving theater scene. I left
Los Angeles in 1995 to work on My Best Friend’s Wedding… and I haven’t
left the Windy City since!
—Richard Lederer, Assistant Director-DGA (My Best Friend’s Wedding,Road
to Perdition, The In-Laws)
With the diversity of NYC and the weather of
LA (well, three months of the year), Chicago is a city with the
heart of the Midwest. The cultural diversity paired with Midwestern
values result in a film community that is ready to explore ideas
and be supportive to members of the artistic community. Drawing
on a rich and vibrant theater scene, Chicago is a filmmaker’s
paradise. Just dress warmly.
—David Gulbransen, Director/Producer (Cold Calling; Chestnuts
Chicago is a hardcore city of artists. If you’re interested
in the lifestyle more than the work, you’re not living here.
The vital theater scene keeps the writing fresh and means if you
live here you probably know a host of good, dedicated actors. The
architecture rocks and forces you to see in new ways.
—Hurt McDermott, Writer/Director (Nightingale in a Music Box, Serious
A City of Broad Shoulders and Broad Film Choices
A leading distributor of art, cult, foreign and hard-to-find videos.
Facets also has its own theater, The Facets Cinémathèque,
and presents the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.
African American TV & Filmmakers
AATF’s mission is to “become a cultural resource organization
established to educate, train and mentor emerging African Americans through
television and film.”
Columbia College Chicago
Seeks “to cultivate artists with a unique vision and the desire
to express that vision on film.”
Community Film Workshop of Chicago
Offers film production classes in 16mm and digital media as well
as grants to members making independent films.
Gene Siskel Film Center
Part of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Gene Siskel Film Center
seeks to place film in a historical and cultural context, educating
the public through courses, panels and screenings in the Midwest’s
most state-of-the-art theater.
University of Chicago
Film Studies Center
Providing viewing facilities, collections of film and video and
reference materials to all University of Chicago faculty, staff
Chicago International Children’s Film Festival
Presented by Facets Multimedia, CICFF is the only children’s
festival in the world to be recognized by the AMPAS as an Academy-qualifying
Chicago International Film Festival
“North America’s oldest competitive international film festival.”
Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival
Created by Chicago Filmmakers, the fest is in its 21st year, and has
screened such indie films as Rose Troche’s Bedrooms and Hallways and Sherman Alexie’s
The Business of Fancydancing.
Chicago Underground Film Festival
“What you get for your money is not just admission to the films but admission
to a subculture,” says Roger Ebert of the event.
A co-op offering seminars and classes in production techniques, editing,
budgeting and screenwriting. They also help members find equipment
and hold frequent film and video screenings.
Formed in 1932, DocFilms is the longest continuously running student
film society in the country, according to the
Museum of Modern Art.
Women in the Director’s Chair
Promotes and exhibits media made by and about women and girls in an
effort to increase the diversity with which women are represented in
Bullet Proof Films
Media 100 and Final Cut Pro suites, with PAL support, sound mixing
and scoring. Other post-production services include video graphics,
compression and DVD authoring.
Chicago Film Office
The Chicago Film Office leads the city’s effort to attract
and accommodate feature film, television, commercial and
all forms of film and video production.
Film Branch Chicago
Offering 16mm camera packages, lighting, grip equipment and sound gear.
Specializes in high-end High Definition equipment, including Sony and
Panasonic packages, and Zeiss, Tiffen, Canon and Fujinon accessories
and much more.
Schumacher is a popular rental house providing camera packages to productions
of all sizes.
SMS Productions Inc.
Rentals and sales of everything from HD rigs to 16mm to full 35mm
Music Box Theatre
Reopened in 1983, 54 years after its original opening, the Music
Box Theatre has been screeningindependent and classic films ever
since. It presents a yearly average of 300 films, and bills itself
as Chicago’s year-round film