J.B., Rahm cheer record $474M in state film production

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Chicago’s Cinespace Studios leads way in 2018 for state’s 520 film, TV, media projects

Gov. Pritzker and Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel visit a barroom set Thursday at Cinespace Studios. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Gov. Pritzker and Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel visit a barroom set Thursday at Cinespace Studios. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Rahm Emanuel applauded a record $474 million in media production statewide last year, led by Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, home of the hit TV shows “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Med,” “Empire,” “Shameless,” and “The Chi.”

Pritzker and Emanuel held a news conference there Thursday to trumpet the 520 media projects shot last year in Chicago.

“The Illinois film industry is on the rise, and it’s not slowing down,” Pritzker said, pointing out that the industry had pumped $2.5 billion into the state economy since 2012. He also cheered the DePaul University School of Cinematic Arts, the 13th-ranked film school in the nation, which has a Cinespace studio where students learn the craft and where Pritzker and Emanuel held their news conference.

Emanuel cited the hit NBC TV show “ER” from the 1990s and 2000s, filmed in Los Angeles with only location shooting in Chicago. “That would not be the case today,” he said.

They said the DePaul cinema school served as a “pipeline” to a burgeoning industry, with Emanuel adding, “We don’t want to graduate people and actually fund L.A.’s growth” in Hollywood.

Emanuel thanked Pritzker as a partner in boosting that industry and said, “He’s going to ensure that this goes to the next stage.”

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“The Illinois film industry is on the rise, and it’s not slowing down.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker

In addition to the hit shows named above, Pritzker touted new projects for Comedy Central, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon Studios, and, for the first time, HBO — all choosing Illinois.

Independent films shot in Illinois last year and being released this year include “Hala,” “Native Son,” “Knives and Skin,” “Come as You Are,” “Saint Frances,” “Girl on the Third Floor,” “Beats,” and “Canal Street,” with Amazon also shooting the TV series “Utopia” this year, under the guidance of Chicago author Gillian Flynn.

Emanuel credited the state’s 30 percent tax credit on media production, which Pritzker said produced almost 14,000 jobs and $282 million in wages, so the state got its money’s worth and more. “An entire film ecosystem of businesses and services has built up around this industry,” Pritzker added.

State Sen. Elgie Sims of Chicago announced he’s sponsoring new legislation in the General Assembly to make the tax credit permanent.

Pritzker and Emanuel both credited Cinespace President Alex Pissios, who created 31 sound stages out of a 1.45-million-square-foot abandoned steel mill in the North Lawndale neighborhood, with plans to expand to another location under construction on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

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February 28, 2019 at 05:59PM

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