Hollywood does Chicago: Transformers’ visit a benefit to Chicagoans, local economy — not just about Bay and LaBeouf
By now, most have heard the buzz surrounding the “Transformers’” month-long takeover of downtown Chicago. They may even have witnessed the increased foot traffic and road detours or seen the explosive pyrotechnics firsthand.
The film’s crew is scheduled to leave Chicago for its next filming location at the end of August, but Hollywood is not done with Chicago just yet. Rumors hit the Internet last month that location scouting was already underway for filming of the next Batman movie.
Rich Moskal, director of the Chicago Film Office, offered several reasons why studios are increasingly selecting Chicago as a filming location.
“The successes that have come out of Chicago in recent years have helped cement the notion of Chicago being a good place to work,” Moskal said. Some of those recent productions include 2008’s “The Dark Knight” and 2009’s “Public Enemies.”
Chicago wasn’t as common a destination for film companies a few decades ago, Moskal said, but now all of the major films studios have had experience here. To date, more than 700 movies have been at least partially shot in Chicago.
A tax incentive enacted in December 2008 helps offset studio costs, but this isn’t the only thing that draws production companies to Chicago, Moskal added.
“Often times it’s a matter of budgeting one city or one state versus another and who ends up offering the best deal, not always the cheapest deal,” Moskal said. He credits Chicago’s look, building aesthetics and the availability of local crew with helping attract studios to the city.
The biggest benefit of allowing large-scale productions like “Transformers 3” to shoot in Chicago is the impact on the local economy, he added.
“What ‘Transformers’, and all productions, do is spend money,” Moskal said. “They hire local crew people, they hire the services of local businesses, they buy goods from local vendors, they stay in hotels. They become a rather mobile, portable, invisible factory.”
And you can’t put a dollar amount on what it does for Chicago tourism, Moskal continued. One of the most frequent questions asked of tourism offices? Where certain scenes from movies were filmed.
Despite the enthusiasm many have expressed over the “Transformers 3” filming, Moskal said he knows not all are happy when production companies come to town. Filming often means increased traffic and road detours and closures.
“It’s not lost on us, by any stretch. Film production comes with some baggage,” he said. “But I do think that the bigger picture – the benefits of what a picture can be, even given its frustrations – if managed properly can far outweigh the short-term inconveniences.”
Moskal said the most important thing is creating opportunities for Chicagoans.
“It’s not all about Hollywood. It’s not all about Michael Bay or Shia LaBeouf or blowing stuff up. It really is about the benefit to Chicago and Chicagoans despite what might seem as catering to the whim of Hollywood.”