Shortly after I moved to Chicago, I heard someone say ‘thank god for the winters or else everyone and their cousin would move here’. After basking in two summers and surviving one winter, I’m beginning to understand that sentiment. Chicago is an amazing city and as an aspiring filmmaker, I learned that there are even more reasons to fall in love with this city.
For the past few months, I’ve produced a web series in the city of Chicago and I can’t imagine accomplishing what we did in any other city. Here are the top three reasons I believe Chicago is the best place to make a web series as a young, independent filmmaker:
Let me preface this article by explaining the challenge we took on with the web series, Diagnosis: Boring. The director and I set out to make a show that given our resources would rival something you might see on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon, YouTube Red or the videos at the Shell pump (damn, there are a lot of places to watch TV these days). Long story short, we wanted this web series to feel bigger than a video shot in my friend’s living room with my phone. However, compared to the budgets of those companies, our budget was basically garbage.
Producing a web series was no small task, but after completing principal photography and seeing the episodes come together in the edit, I am happy to report that I think we did it. And a lot of that is thanks to Chicago.
I’d say this is the number one reason to shoot a web series in Chicago. It goes without saying that Chicago is home to some of the best performers in the world. Improv theaters and schools like The Second City, iO, and The Annoyance are hotbeds for talent. The community is talented, supportive, and hard-working. The casting was only difficult because we met so many great actors.
The improvisational spirit that runs through this city is also a huge advantage when trying to make an independent web series. Production is never going to go exactly as you planned. We were met with problems on set every day. But every actor we cast had the attitude of rolling with the unpredictability. And in many cases, they found solutions that made the series even better.
From the shop owners to the City of Chicago, everyone we met was extremely accommodating and excited to help our group of young independent filmmakers. Every location we wanted to film at, we were able to. Unlike cities like L.A. or New York that have constant productions year-round where business owners are jaded or had bad experiences, Chicago business owners want to help. Just make sure to plan ahead by giving enough time for them to prepare and provide all the information they need to know up front. No matter what your location need is, Chicago most likely has it. It may take some time to find, but it’s out there. Besides mountains. Don’t try to find a mountain.
If I haven’t made it clear yet, Diagnosis: Boring was an extremely low-budget project. We did our best to compensate our crew as much as possible, even though in independent film and TV, a prop can cost more than a person. In order to cut down on costs – took on the roles of both producer and assistant director simultaneously. On day one, I thought this was a huge mistake. Juggling both roles seemed impossible because an A.D. should be on top of everything happening in real time on set, while a producer is thinking about the entire production, days into the future. By the second day of shooting, we probably didn’t even need an A.D. Our crew was humming along, moving from shot to shot efficiently.
We were able to bring together a crew that was both professional and a joy to work with. Chicago has young filmmakers with so much talent but without a lot of the politics and cynicism that comes from years on the job or being surrounded by the pressures of the big studio system. One of the most rewarding parts of this web series was bringing together people that are now planning to work on future projects together.
Creating a web series of this caliber was daunting and it took a lot of hard work. In fact, I have never worked as hard as I did on this project, but I also have never enjoyed working on a film project so much before. A lot of that is thanks to what Chicago has to offer. I highly recommend creating in Chicago.