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Illinois Film Production: The Snowball Effect

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 24, 2005 4:05PM

Sometimes, if you can see your way past all the celebrity fluff puff, Terry Armour’s Sunday Tribune column has some honest-to-God news in I wholeheartedly agree!  love jones is the joint!it. Yesterday he mentioned the efforts to increase the visibility of Chicago’s multicultural film community, which has been a long time coming. Chicago has had a rich history of Black films made in and around the city. Armour’s column mentions the upcoming Roll, Bounce; Hoop Dreams; Soul Food; and love jones (which Chicagoist believes is one of the most underrated romantic dramas of the 90s). We’d throw Raisin In The Sun, Uptown Saturday Night, Mahogany and Cooley High in there too. ‘Cause we’re old school.

While New York, Denver, and San Francisco all have their own Black film fests, Chicago is sorely lacking in this department. Joyce Davis, the head of the Illinois Film Office’s diversity division, is seeking to bring an event similar in size and stature to the American Black Film Festival in Miami to Chicago. This follows her work with State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka on a Minority Film Initiative (sixth item) that would use $15 million in state funds to encourage local financial institutions to invest in minority film productions.

The momentum for this project could largely be credited with producers Bob Teitel and George Tillman Jr. who have been partially responsible for bringing four films over the last three years to the city. Granted that three of those movies were some variation on Barbershop, but still.

Their work has contributed to a veritable windfall for the state. The governor’s office issued a press release this month that trumpeted a 200% increase in revenue generated over the last year (about $77 million) from television and movie productions in Illinois. Of particular note was the first television pilot to film here in five years: Prison Break, directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) and starring…uh…a bunch of people we’ve never heard of. Except for Stacy Keach (whose badass-ed-ness is likely due to A Boy Named Sue Syndrome) and hometown girl Robin Tunney (who we’ve been crushing on since Empire Records). Illinois still has a long way to go to beat the cinematic ass-kissing that the Louisiana Film Office has been doing. Thanks to investor, labor, and sales tax credits, Louisiana has brought in $300 million in revenue over the past two years.

Image: MGM