The city of Chicago charges production companies $30 per hour per police officer. Sergeants command $35 an hour. A mounted police officer will cost a combined $80 per hour for the officer and the horse.
And a yellow barricade – just one – how much do those run? $3.50 per day. Blue barricades, seemingly fancier, are $4.50 per day.
But aside from hiring out municipal employees and street blockage, where can Chicago expect to cash in on the projected $2 million that Paramount Pictures will be dropping on the city for the filming of “Transformers 3?” Think services, lots of them.
“Money gets spread in ways specific to the industry, to the less predictable things like dry cleaning. When you have a production of that size with so many people, [you can expect they'll be] gobbling up services,” said Rich Moskal from the Chicago Film Office.
Final numbers won’t be available until after filming wraps, which may run until the end of the month.
- Also in this issue…
- Hollywood does Chicago: Transformers’ visit a benefit to Chicagoans, local economy — not just about Bay and LaBeouf
- Raking it in and dishing it out: The most lucrative and expensive Chicago productions
- Chicago Loopster chats with Chicago film expert Patrick McDonald
- What’s in it for Paramount? The incentives and expenses for filming in Chicago
- Movies in Chicago: Features of the past 60 years
- What’s the buzz on “Transformers 3?″
Hollywood is, of course, known as the movie capital of the world. People flock from all over the world to take in the glitz, glamour and starlight of Southern California. Naturally we associate movie production with the big movie houses located down there—Paramount, MGM, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, etc.—but what about other places in the states?
Sure, the New York scenery has inspired some epic films, and who could forget Woody Allen’s infatuation with the place? But what about the rest of the states, aren’t there other places that directors have racked up frequent flyer miles traveling to? Michael Bay is almost finished shooting “Transformers 3″ in downtown Chicago, Ill.—just the latest in a long, long list of films that have been shot on location in the Windy City. The Chicago Film office has the complete listing by decade, but here are some of the more notable pictures made in Chicago during the last 60 years:
Also in this issue…
Tax credits for motion picture filming is not as controversial as some may think, with 44 out of the 50 states and Puerto Rico offering a range of tax breaks. Michigan has likely drawn the most criticism by offering production companies credits worth up to 50 percent of personnel expenditures – without a stipulation about Michigan hires only – and up to 42 percent of production spending while a $1.6 billion budget shortfall looms.
In Illinois, there is a film tax credit for 30 percent of Illinois-based production and 30 percent of in-state salaries up to $100,000 per person. Revenues from the filming of “Transformers 3″ are not yet tabulated as shooting will continue through the end of August.
California, the U.S. film industry’s home, has been reportedly losing business as a shooting location for film production as other states have offered advantageous tax breaks. An estimated $2.4 billion in wages and $4.2 billion in total revenues have been lost from 1997 to 2010 as production has moved out of the Golden State, according to a recent study. Recent legislation has been implemented to stem the tide: 20 percent credit for feature film ($1 million to $75 million production budget), and 25 percent credit for independent films ($1 million to $10 million) with some guidelines about shooting dates.
Also in this issue…
Filming of “Transformers 3″ has taken over the city of Chicago for over a month now, but things are beginning to wind down. Here’s a look at what the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and other media outlets have been saying about a movie that has captured the city’s attention for a majority of the summer.
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.”
Also in this issue…
Patrick McDonald is a film critic for Hollywood Chicago and a tour guide for the Chicago Film Tour, which highlights movie locations from the famous to the obscure all around Chicago. He answered a few questions about Chicago’s lengthy history in film, and what the future holds for movies made in the city.
How did you get started with Hollywood Chicago and with the Film Tour?
Hollywood Chicago and the Film Tour are two distinct elements. For Hollywood Chicago I am a film reviewer and writer on the site, for the Chicago Film Tour I joined it when a guy named John Brinkman from Detroit noticed that Chicago did not have a film tour. I just basically answered an ad and became his primary tour guide. This is our second season, so that was in April of 2009
Are there more Chicagoans or tourists on the film tour?
Well interestingly enough I think it’s a mix. If it’s a Chicago person, they’re more of a film buff, seeing different parts of the city based on where the locations were, and we go into neighborhoods were some Chicagoans don’t necessarily go into because they have the film sites. With the out-of-towners it’s a mix of tourists and film buffs.
What are some of the most popular sites and features on the film tour?
I think one that generates the most “oohs and ahhs” is Hotel 71, where Bruce Wayne has his apartment in The Dark Knight, because it’s very distinctive and very obvious that it is that place. The Uptown Theatre also generates a lot of interest because of its unique position in the neighborhood and the fact that it’s been shuttered for a number of years. The Essanay Studio is probably one of the most well-preserved silent film icons in the country. And naturally the Biograph Theatre where Dillinger was shot is one of the prime elements in the tour.
What Chicago film sites are people most surprised to learn about?
I would say absolutely the Essanay film studio. Most people don’t have any idea that Chicago was once a film capital when the movies were first starting out. Two film studios in Chicago were putting out about 400 films a year up to around the second decade of the 20th century. Most of them were gone by the 1920s.
There is a resurgence in bigger movies filming in Chicago – What are some of the benefits that are drawing filmmakers back?
What happened in Illinois’ case was that a couple of very prominent movies had Chicago settings but they were shot in Toronto. The big one was “Chicago,” the 2003 Best Picture where not one frame was shot in the city. That got the legislature spurred on, with the help of lobbying from some agencies here, to get tax incentives in place so that filmmakers could come in and use the city and still get the kind of cost relevance that would make it essential for them.
Does Chicago allow more disruption of the city to draw filming than New York or other cities?
I know that Mayor Daley is making an effort to be more accommodating to movie crews and I think that Transformers was a way to show the rest of the country that Chicago is serious about being a filming location and that they will cooperate and will give them the cityscapes that they need to shoot bigger pictures like Transformers 3.
Are there downsides to filming in Chicago?
Film tax breaks have become a big issue for the states. There are currently 44 out of 50 states that offer some kind of tax incentive to filmmakers, so the competition is pretty intense. I would say Chicago’s biggest disadvantage is the months between December and May, or however long our winter lasts. That’s exactly why the studios closed in the early 20th century; there simply wasn’t a vehicle to shoot year-round here. I think that atmospherically, Chicago offers so much that a lot of filmmakers are willing to overlook that.
What are your favorite movies filmed here?
My favorite Chicago film is “Medium Cool,” which is sort of a cult film from the late 1960s directed by Haskell Wexler. It was a sort of a prose poem to the city. He took the situation around the Democratic National Convention of that year, with the Vietnam riots, and formulated a fictional film around those events. It’s a very fascinating snapshot into that time in the city. In fact I believe that was a film that was not pleasing to the first Mayor Daley because of the image of Chicago being a center for that situation.
I also love how John Hughes would use the city, both in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and in “Ferris Bueller.” I think that he made love letters to the city in those movies and that he wanted to make sure that he showed it off in the way that it needs to be showed off. I’m a big fan of that aspect of it, especially after delving into the tour and revisiting many of those films.
Also in this issue…
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It’s clear that not every movie filmed in Chicago has made money. Take High Fidelity, the John Cusack vehicle about record collecting, love and, unofficially, the Purple Line. That 2000 flick only pulled in $27 million at the box office, a few million fewer than its $30 million production budget, according to Box Office Mojo.
But there have been some Second City blockbusters over the years. (We can assume, too, that Transformers 3 will fall into this category.)
Director Christopher Nolan directed The Dark Knight, that venerable Batman flick from two years ago, here in Chicago. And despite not even earning a nod for the Academy Award’s Best Picture category, it is one of the top-grossing films of all time.
Do you know what’s cooler than making all that money? Do you know what’s better than a Best Picture Oscar? I’d have to say flipping a tractor trailer end-over-end on the Loop’s La Salle Street. But that’s just me.
Here, Loopster breaks down some of the highest grossing and most costly movies made in Chicago. (And we couldn’t resist throwing in a few of our favorites.)