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Chicago's Film Industry Booms: See Which 'Hoods Were in the Spotlight (MAP)

By  Emily Morris and Tanveer Ali | February 7, 2014 6:36am 

 Six full-time TV shows and three big-budget movies filmed in Chicago in 2013.
Chicago Filming 2013
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CHICAGO — In January, the city announced 2013 was a record year for filming TV shows and movies in Chicago. Now, see which neighborhoods had a share of the spotlight.

TV shows "Chicago Fire," "Chicago PD," "Sirens," "Mind Games," "Crisis" and "Betrayal" as well as upcoming Hollywood movies "Transformers: Age of Extinction," "Jupiter Ascending" and "Divergent" all filmed here last year, and while locations in the Loop were some of the most popular spots, film crews also hit up communities around the city.

Note: "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago PD" have the same production companies, Wolf Films and Universal Television. They are grouped together in the city's film permits. The same is true of "Crisis" and "Mind Games," which are produced by 20th Century Fox Television.

"Years ago ... every location that producers wanted to shoot in Chicago had to be within a stone’s throw of Downtown," Chicago Film Office Director Richard Moskal said. "These days, [shooting] the city from every possible corner and every possible angle is something that producers want to do."

Incentives like the state's 30 percent film tax credit, space at West Side studios Cinespace Chicago and Chicago Studio City along with access to Illinois vendors were among the many reasons producers came here, Moskal said.

Streets were shut down and local haunts made over in areas like Lakeview, which saw L&L Tavern become a white supremacist bar for "Crisis," and Uptown, which watched as "Transformers" filmed at the Green Mill and Uptown Theatre.

"Transformers" location manager Al Cohn, whose other credits include "Continental Divide" and "The Break-Up," said director Michael Bay already had some idea for where to shoot after filming "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" in the city in 2010.

Chicago even served as China for portions of the series' fourth installment, which included a set at the Damen Silos off the Stevenson Expwy. and Damen Avenue.

In Bucktown, Lottie's Pub was a frequent set for "Chicago Fire," a show that also brought cameras to Logan Square, Lincoln Park, Pilsen, East Garfield Park and Chinatown, among other locations. The spinoff "Chicago PD" has made appearances in neighborhoods such as Kenwood and Bridgeport.

The show "Shameless" also typically films in Chicago two or three times each year, including at the "Gallagher" house, which is set in Canaryville on the South Side but is actually filmed on the West Side.

Of course, part of filming in communities also means blocking off parking and generally getting in the way.

"It's a very invasive thing," "Chicago Fire" location manager Bob Hudgins said.

Hudgins, who has worked on films such as "Rudy" and "Field of Dreams," said it's all about keeping residents informed and being gracious guests, which sometimes included valet parking residents' cars or altering shooting schedules around school dismissal times.

"How generous people are with allowing access into their neighborhoods is just remarkable," Hudgins said.

But as some might remember, it wasn't always clear in the beginning whether a fire was real or TV magic.

"We've gotten pretty good at looking like we've burned the house down without burning anything," said Hudgins, who noted, "We haven't lost a house yet."

And at the end of the day, some of the filmmakers become familiar faces at various coffeeshops and restaurants in town.

"Certainly Michael [Bay] had his favorites, the crew had their favorites," said Cohn, who cited Italian restaurant La Scarola at 721 W. Grand Ave. and Uptown's Inspiration Kitchens, 4715 N. Sheridan Road, as such popular spots.

Choosing the locations that will help make scripts a reality also has a bit to do with where filmmakers call home, Moskal said.

Hudgins, a Logan Square native, helped "Chicago Fire" choose his neighborhood as the location for the apartment of Matthew Casey, played by Jesse Spencer.

And quite a few of the recent projects have filmmakers and creators with local ties, including the Wachowskis, whose "Jupiter Ascending" was shot in their hometown, and Veronica Roth, who grew up in the area and set "Divergent" in Chicago.

"I think there’s a good reason to see Chicago, not just as a destination for Hollywood, but as a creative hub for the industry," said Moskal, who cited other examples like the folks at Kartemquin Films and director Joe Swanberg (who received buzz for "Life Itself" and "Happy Christmas," respectively, at this year's Sundance fest).

After all, it wasn't just the big productions that racked up a record 2,198 collective filming days in the city; indie films and local commercials also helped the city earn the distinction.

"The city just looks great on film," Moskal said. "It's a very cinematic, diverse city that offers vintage architecture as well as big-city metropolis locations [and] very textured neighborhood locations. It's got grit, it's got glamour, it's got things you can’t find anywhere else."