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TV and movie crews spending more time filming in Chicago

The number of days movies and TV shows spent filming in Chicago is up 45 percent compared to 2011, according to the Chicago Film Office.

The office’s director, Rich Moskal, said the city saw a record increase in the number of production days: 1,808 days in 2012 compared to 1,235 the year before.

Although the number of productions themselves held largely steady, Moskal said the production day figure gives a fuller picture of the amount of activity here. TV series could spend as many as 150 days filming, compared to the production of a commercial, which only has a presence for 2 to 3 days. 

“Each day a production is filming translates into days of employment for local crew, additional days of business with local vendors, hotel nights, etc,” he said. “The more days a production is here, the more they spend locally.”

In 2012, Film Office data shows, local film and TV industry spending hit a high of $170 million. That’s up from $160 million in 2010 and $154 million in 2011. 

Last year’s increase is mainly due to four TV shows: Chicago Fire (NBC), Boss (Starz), Underemployed (MTV) and Mob Doctor (Fox), Moskal said, adding that 17 independent movies also were filmed in the city. So were several reality shows including Mob Wives Chicago, Chicagolicious and Hardcore Pawn: Chicago.

“Chicago looks great on film, it’s a great place to tell a story creatively, but it also has great depth of talent and resources to outfit the productions when they are here,” Moskal said.

He said a 30 percent tax credit also helped bring in the film business: “The tax incentive has done a tremendous job in terms of attracting production and keeping (it) here in Chicago, not just for Hollywood productions, but locally produced productions as well.”

Although two of last year’s TV shows were cancelled, and the fate of a third looks uncertain, Moskal said that’s just part of the gamble.

“You never know if it’s going to last or not,” he said, adding that this year, the city will have four other pilots filming and three Hollywood films including Transformers Four.

Bruce Sheridan, who chairs the Film and Video Department at Columbia College Chicago, said he’s already seeing an increase in the film industry this year.

“We have six features that we are putting out students interns onto this coming summer, which is much higher than last year or the year before,” Sheridan said. “So, we think the trend is continuing.”

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