By Taylor Hartz and Stephanie Racine | Staff Writers
Over the past few years, Chicago has become a film and TV star in its own right, with the city serving as the set for shows like Chicago Fire, Empire and Shameless. Last year was the biggest yet for the Chicago film industry, and glimpses of our city can be spotted in episodes airing throughout 2018, including some shots of New Eastside.
A total of 580 film projects were shot in Chicago in 2017, including eight full-season television series and three upcoming feature films starring the likes of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Goodman and Viola Davis.
Film production rates in 2017 spiked about 27 percent from 2016, with crews clocking 2404 full “production days” on city streets in the calendar year, according to the Chicago Film Office.
The office, located at 78 E. Washington St. regulates filming rights in the city, and last year issued 2200 filming permits, aver aging about 25 to 40 film permits a week.
And New Eastside hasn’t been left out of the spotlight.
Chicago Fire, the NBC drama that follows the work and life of firefighters, rescue squad members and paramedics, filmed at the III Forks restaurant near Lakeshore East more than a few times. The patio can be spotted in a rescue scene that aired last November, and other parts of the local restaurant were featured in the show’s most recent episode on March 29.
Resident Elizabeth Johnston caught sight of some celebrities at III Forks last October, capturing shots of Chicago Fire stars Jesse Spencer, David Eigenberg, Miranda Rae Mayo and Yuri Sardarov in action right in our own neighborhood. Last month, Johnston spotted the cast of Chicago Med during a shoot at local gym, Lakeshore Sport and Fitness. Chicago Med, a spinoff of Chicago Fire, also filmed on Lake Street at the beginning of March.
Richard Moskal, the Director of the Chicago Film Office, said New Eastside has a certain appeal.“Skyline vistas and its abundance of cinematic architecture is what makes the
New Eastside so compelling to producers and directors,” Moskal said.
The director said New Eastside looks especially compelling on screen, with our great vantage point of the city.
While New Eastside has certainly gotten its share of the fame, the building used as the main firehouse in Chicago Fire is a bit further south, in the University Village
neighborhood. And if it looks like a real, working fire station on TV, that’s because it is—
station scenes for the show are shot in a fully functioning Chicago Fire Department firehouse. When it isn’t packed with actors and camera crews, the firehouse, located at 1360 S. Blue Island Ave. at Maxwell St. between 13th and Racine Ave., serves as the headquarters of Engine 18.
The fire department has estimated the show films there about 22 times per year, drawing crowds of tourists year-round to check out the fictional firefighters’ home base.
While we probably all enjoy pointing at our screens excitedly when we spot a familiar setting in shows like Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med, some use
these series as a way to show their city, and New Eastside, to far away family members.
Shelley Stunard, who runs a New Eastside real estate office at 400 E. Randolph St, said the show has fostered a special bond between her and her father, connecting the two between Chicago and Dallas.
Stunard’s father, 88-year-old Charles Schneider, may live in Texas, but he wears
his Chicago Fire t-shirt with pride. “He wears it as proud as his Navy hat,” Stunard said.
Stunard’s parents, and many of her friends, live in her home city of Dallas, and her parents are not well enough to make the trip to Chicago for a visit. But thanks to Chicago-based shows, they’re able to connect with their daughter by spotting her neighborhood on TV.
“My dad always comments on scenes on Chicago Fire filmed in the New Eastside
neighborhood or where our buildings are in the background,” said Stunard, “It keeps
us a little more connected.”
As for the rest of Chicago, viewers can spot other city sights in three films that will come out this year. Rampage, which features The Rock and a King Kong-esque gorilla character, hits theaters on April 13.
On August 14th, movie-goers will get a glimpse of the city that they may not be too fond of—Goodman’s new film, Captive State, is set in a Chicago neighborhood a decade after it has been occupied by an extraterrestrial force.
Oscar-winner Viola Davis will star inWidows this November, following the lives
of four Chicago widows coping with their late husbands’ criminal debts. Chicago streets can also be spotted in FOX’s ongoing hit, Empire, and Showtime’s dysfunctional—yet lovable—South Side family, the Gallaghers, will return for a seventh season of Shameless.
Tune in online for Seasons 1 and 2 of a Netflix original series called Easy that focuses on modern romance in our city, or for Amazon’s release of a 10-episode standalone sci-fi series called Electric Dreams.
A few new shows will also be debuting this year set on the South Side. Showtime
is following their Shameless success with the launch of a new series called The Chi, set in the area, and Comedy Central is set to launch the pilot for a show called
Chicago Fire, Chicago MED and Chicago PD are all currently filming new episodes.
Beyond visible film and television productions, the Chicago Film Office also works with student filmmakers, television commercial producers, and independent filmmakers.
According to a Jan. 25 statement by Mayor Rahm Emanuel Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Film Office at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the film and television industry in Chicago is definitely on an upward climb.
Chicago has seen steady year over year increases in media production since 2011, the mayor said in a statement, resulting in an estimated $423 million in job creation
The Illinois Film Office—which awards a 30 percent tax credit to film makers–said television and advertising productions in 2017 employed 13,797 job hires, earning $251 million in wages.
“Chicago’s film and media community is diverse and growing, producing a wide variety of entertainment and commercial content,” Moskal said.