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10 Tips for Shooting Video in Chicago

Posted by Kacey Trent on September 15, 2014

Chicago is the third largest city in the United States; it is just under New York and Los Angeles with nearly three million residents. Architecture, monuments, public art, and famous sky scrapers make it stand out from other cities. Chicago is home to 11 Fortune 500 companies, while the rest of the metropolitan area hosts an additional 21 Fortune 500 companies, more than 200 theaters, nearly 200 art galleries, more than 7,300 restaurants, 77 community areas containing more than 100 neighborhoods, 26 miles of lakefront, 15 miles of bathing beaches, and 36 annual parades. All of these aspects make Chicago a popular place to shoot video.

We asked our represented video crews and Crews Control Production Manager Cricket Capucci for the best tips to remember when shooting video in Chicago. Crews Control represented crews Russ Rayburn, Amy Stewart, Jon Otto, and Dave Cosby brought us some great advice! Here is what we found to be the 10 best tips for shooting video in the Windy City.

TEN: “ Liability insurance is required to film in most buildings in the Chicago Loop; some buildings now require up to $4 million in liability insurance” says Russ Rayburn. It can take several days for the video crews’ insurance provider to prepare documentation for the property management company.

NINE: Russ Rayburn informs video professionals to “Make sure the Video Producer calls the building’s property management company to request passes to bring video equipment into the building., Be sure that client does not refer to the crew as a ‘contractor’. The building manager maythink in terms of construction crews and all the potential liability problems. You want to be sure the Video Producer refers to your crew as ‘photographers’ or as ‘small film crews’ with portable equipment.”

EIGHT: “The other issue is the time it takes to load in and out. Most large buildings in the Loop require the use of loadings docks, which in Chicago are often below street level entrances. (Sometimes not easy to get to, and you might have to turn into an alley to go below street level a few blocks away.) Be sure to allow plenty of load-in time” said Russ Rayburn

SEVEN: Amy Stewart adds “When shooting in downtown Chicago, be clear about whether the crew’s call time is simply arrival on location, or if the crew is to be unloaded and in the shoot location. Most buildings downtown require loading in through a loading dock and using a freight elevator. Often docks are crowded and there is a line to load into the building. Outlining clear expectations with the crews, as well as obtaining all pertinent loading information from the location contact is crucial.”

SIX: “It’s important for producers to understand travel time in Chicago. Simply mapping out the distance to a location and expecting the travel time to fall in accordance with that distance is a misconception. A 20 mile drive during rush hour, on various expressways, can take about 75 to90 minutes, so it’s important to factor in travel time when planning the production day” says Stewart.

FIVE: Jon Otto says “When shooting in Chicago, it’s important to know venue requirements. Many hotels, exhibition halls, even the Navy Pier requires a union crew. This affects cost, as union crews work 8 hour days versus the typical 10 hours, and OT rates vary depending on day and time of day. Also there aren’t any half-day rates for union crews. Skipping a meal break will also incur additional expense or have you wearing cement shoes in Lake Michigan!” Other additional costs may be incurred by the need to add video personal. One man crews to capture video, record sound and plug into the house power aren’t allowed under union rules.

FOUR: Crews Control Production Manager Cricket Capucci adds “Always speak with the venue, Chicago is very union friendly! McCormick Center, the Navy Pier, and many hotels downtown, and some near the airport (O’Hare) are union.” The shoot schedule will need to be adjusted to comply with union rules.

THREE: Dave Cosby says “We have a saying here in Chicago ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes it will change’ when planning any outdoor shoots here be patient and plan ample time for weather changes. It is rare that weather patterns stay consistent here but if you have planned enough time into your day you may still be able to pull it off, often with spectacular results.”

TWO: Dave also warns crews that “February however may not be the time to shoot outdoors because of the freezing temperatures!”

ONE: The Chicago Film Office states on their website that “Small portable productions that do not impede the public (news crews, documentaries, b-roll, etc) often do not require permits.”

“Since 1980, more than 1100 feature films and television productions have been shot in Chicago contributing $2 billion in local revenue. Chicago attracts hundreds of commercials and photo shoots each year that are produced for both national and international clients.” says the Chicago Film Office. Chicago is truly an incredible place to shoot video but can also be stressful at times. Now that you a few inside tricks-of-the-trade we know your video shoot will be a breeze in the Windy City!

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