DOWNTOWN — Jack Brandtman, the "Chicago Aussie," is using videos to help newcomers like himself find their way in the city.
Brandtman, 28, grew up in Sydney, Australia, but moved to Lincoln Square in mid-October. He had visited Chicago before — even meeting his wife here — but once he moved he found out he still has a lot to learn about navigating the streets (and making it through a Chicago winter).
A video producer by trade, Brandtman decided he could learn about the city through videos — and maybe they could help some other city newbies.
"My sort of way that I approached it is I wanted to learn more about the city, and I found the best way for me to do it was to create a video about it," said Brandtman, who's done commercial and personal work. "When I moved to Chicago I was just trying to keep myself busy, and so I decided I'd start making YouTube videos."
The videos have another use, too: Brandtman's family is still living in Australia, and because of the time difference it can be difficult for them to chat. His Chicago Aussie videos mean they get to see him while learning about his new home.
So far, Brandtman's videos have highlighted Downtown bridges, Blackhawks practices, the Cubs' World Series win, the "L" and the Thanksgiving Day parade, among other things.
One of Brandtman's most recent videos shows him riding the "L" to every single CTA station in just less than nine hours, an event dubbed the CTA Challenge, to beat an unofficial world record.
"It's quite a rewarding and interesting video to make," he said. "The city changed so much. ... I [saw] places that I've never seen."
Many of the videos are informational. Brandtman talks about the history of bridges over the Chicago River in one, and he also tries to keep the videos entertaining.
Brandtman aims to put out a new video every three days, traveling across the city so viewers can see Chicago. One of his next projects will tackle Chicago's street grid system (he's still getting used to all the street names and numbers, he said, though his Chicago-born wife can easily find her way around).
Brandtman also expects he'll be making plenty of videos about how to make it through the winter. He's never lived in a city where it snows, he said, and people keep asking him if he has the right clothing for a Chicago winter.
"It's definitely going to be an adjustment to make," he said. "You see photos and things like that [of the snow], and it almost looks surreal.
"I find when I push myself, [the video is] more interesting and it's less likely to be done before. I feel like the winter's going to be one of those factors. People aren't going to want to go outside and do filming. I definitely want to push myself to do that, and probably end up making a lot of videos about how to find things that make the winter bearable in Chicago," he said.
The videos have been well-received by viewers, Brandtman said, and he's met a lot of people while making them. Once he explains to people that he's from Australia, they ask if they can show him around the city and are very welcoming, he said.
Chicago's "been such a great muse to me," Brandtman said, "and that's why it just inspired me to keep making films about it."
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