The television and film industry has been very good for Illinois.
How hundreds of millions of dollars worth of movies and TV shows like Wolf Entertainment’s long-running Chicago franchise (“Chicago Fire,” “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Med”) pump into the local economy each year, as well than the thousands of jobs that these productions generate.
And not just in Chicago. Last year, Amazon Prime’s sci-fi series “Papergirls,” about time-traveling 12-year-olds, was filmed in Wheeling and Hoffman Estates. The HBO series ‘Somebody Somewhere’, starring Bridget Everett as a woman coping with the loss of her sister, filmed in the Lockport/Lemont/Naperville areas. And director David Fincher (“Mank,” “The Social Network,” “Fight Club,” “Se7en”) filmed scenes for his upcoming Netflix thriller “The Killer” in St. Charles.
The economic impact will likely increase after the expansion of the Illinois Film Production Tax Credit takes effect on July 1, according to Peter Hawley, director of the Illinois Film Office.
Established in 2008, the program provides a 30% tax credit for all eligible Illinois expenses, including resident cast, crew, and vendor costs. The expansion of the program will extend the number of eligible “above the line” positions to nine, which include director, screenwriter, cinematographer, production designer composer and others.
Additionally, the expansion covers two non-resident actors for projects of $25 million or less and four actors for projects of $25 million or more, making a maximum of 14 positions available for the tax credit. .
“That means we suddenly became more competitive with other states like (New) Jersey and New Mexico,” according to Hawley, who says the film industry “begged us to extend the tax credit.” .
The expansion of credit is accompanied by the establishment of a manpower training program for those interested in cinema. That in turn will “expand the native Illinois crew base,” Hawley said, adding “a rising tide lifts all boats. More work is more work.”
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, TV shows, movies and commercials generated more than $360 million in the state and more than 7,000 jobs in 2020, according to the Illinois website. Movie Office.
A small film shot outside Rockford over 17 days spent $850,000 locally, Hawley said. The production hired 15 local crew members and actors and 200 extras and “all of those dollars stayed in the community,” he said.
Beneficiaries include restaurants and hotels, local merchants, transportation services, municipalities and individual property owners.
“People have to eat, drive and stay somewhere,” said Hawley, who is particularly optimistic about the training program which he says will help people, especially those from underrepresented communities, get well-paying jobs. in the film industry.
Chicago and the surrounding area have long been a hub of cinema beginning in the early 20th century, with the establishment of the pioneering Essanay Studios, which produced silent images and counted Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson and Wallace Beery among its stars.
Chicago’s film industry declined beginning in the 1920s when Hollywood became the movie capital of the world. A rebound began during the 1980s, with “The Blues Brothers”, “Sixteen Candles”, “The Breakfast Club”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Risky Business” and TV shows including “Crime Story”.
Fast forward to 2011 and the opening of Cinespace Chicago film studios on the 60 acres that once housed Ryerson Steel. The largest independent studio outside of California, Cinespace has been home to the Wolf’s Chicago franchise – which has called the city home for more than a decade – ‘The Chi’, ‘South Side’ and ‘Empire’, among others series.
According to Hawley, developers from all over the country have inquired about establishing studios here. One problem is finding the 80 to 100 acres that many studio developers seek, Hawley said.
The developers’ biggest competitor is Amazon, which has taken over warehouses and converted them into “Last Mile” fulfillment centers, Hawley said.
These owners are “expecting Jeff Bezos dollars as opposed to Walt Disney dollars,” he laughed.