SPRINGFIELD, IL — There is a movement to make Illinois as attractive as Hollywood for filmmakers.
If made into law, the bill would expand the state’s film tax and establish the Illinois Production Workforce Development Fund to help train people for jobs in the film industry. The bill also requires 50% of funds be allocated to minority-owned organizations or programs where at least 50% of the program participants are minorities.
Brad Tietz, vice president of government relations with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said the entire state benefits, especially when a project is filmed in an economically distressed area.
“The current program allows for a 15% bump on a 30% credit for areas of economic distress and residents from those areas, so that is not just for Chicago, that is across the state,” Tietz said.
The COVID-19 pandemic halted production in the state in 2020. Filmmakers and TV networks spent far less money and hired fewer people in Illinois in 2020 compared to 2019, but state officials said the film industry is returning to pre-pandemic production levels.
“2021 seems like it’s going to be a very strong year,” said Illinois Film Office Director Peter Hawley at a recent news conference. “We’re right at the same level we were in our record-breaking 2019 year.”
The state is estimating production spending, including cast and crew wages, was nearly $362 million in 2020, down 35% from the $560 million spent in 2019.
Some of the new and returning projects for this year include “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Paper Girls,” “The Big Leap,” and “61st Street.” The latest season for the FX series “Fargo,” starring Chris Rock, was shot on Chicago’s west side, just outside the city and downstate.
The state of Illinois has made over 500 grants totaling $21 million to arts businesses through the Illinois Business Interruption Grant program. The city of Chicago has also featured the film industry in its Recovery Task Advisory Report, the first such recovery plan released by a major U.S. city. The report identifies film production as a local industry poised for growth in the immediate recovery period.
Tietz said Illinois could top the $1 billion mark in production spending this year.
“We are never going to be California for film production, but right now Illinois is in the second tier for film production and we think with this bill we can get to the top tier in a couple years time,” Tietz said.