By Ray Pride
How much is too much of a great thing? In celebrating the surge in television and film production in Illinois and its injection of billions of dollars through the economy, a question that tickles outward is whether Chicago could become a victim of its success, especially if the industry finds itself unable keep pace with its rising ambition.
Is the capacity to produce television and film in the region finite? How many experienced, even trained crews can be assembled? How many actors actually live and work in this great actors’ city? In coming months and years, can we honestly say something called “the Chicago filmmaking community” is economically and artistically sustainable?
Last year was the most successful ever for film production in the city of Chicago, due in large part, of course, to State of Illinois tax incentives that encourage production and spending money in Illinois on employment of state residents. The film services tax credit, running through May 2021, offers producers a credit of thirty percent of all qualified expenditures, including for post-production. An additional fifteen percent is available for filming in areas with high unemployment. Chicago’s major location rivals include Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, California, Ontario and British Columbia. Among them, Illinois is the only government to establish diversity standards for production hires of women and minority crew, a bonus for sustaining the industry.
Illinois Film Office figures indicate that local production generated a million dollars shy of half-a-billion dollars, an increase over 2015 by fifty-one percent. (The previous record was held by 2013, with $358 million reported.) The 2016 return came from 345 feature, television and commercial projects, generating an estimated 13,377 jobs over the course of the year. Among the complete series shot on the streets and soundstages of Chicago in 2016-2017: “Sense8,” “Patriot,” “Easy,” “Empire,” “The Exorcist,” “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Med,” “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago Justice” and “A.P.B.” (“A.P.B.” was cancelled in May; the low-rated “Chicago Justice” was cancelled in late May.)
The Dick Wolf shows and “Empire” are expected to return, with three features, four series and one pilot now shooting, including Steve McQueen’s follow-up to “12 Years a Slave,” the female ensemble heist thriller “Widows.” For the second season of “Patriot,” his Amazon Studios series, writer-director Steven Conrad hopes to stay here, but there’s a chance the production won’t. “We haven’t drawn conclusions yet about whether the city can accommodate us. It’s very crowded but there may still be a chance.”
The boss of bosses of this Chicago empire is Dick Wolf, who has paralleled his long-running “Law & Order” brand with the four-and-counting “One Chicago” NBC series. The quartet pulled together for crossover episodes shot in March, including scenes shot at Blackhawks, Bears and Cubs games. “I have literally petitioned them to have all the Chicago shows to be nominated or put up for one ensemble,” Wolf told the Television Critics Association at its August 2016 previews. “That would be fascinating,” he said of his fleet of imaginary characters with heightened melodramatic conflicts. “The universe doesn’t have supporting players. All these people carry stories on their own. I think it’ll be interesting to have them be recognized as One Chicago.”
What one Chicago do other film figures live and work in? Writer-director Spencer Parsons, who also teaches at Northwestern, picks up “conflicting signals in this arena. I’ve heard stories about deeply inadequate production infrastructure for filmmaking in relation to the boom. Provided we’re not just in the midst of a peak series-fueled production bubble, maybe resources can be built up enough to make Chicago competitive with a city like Atlanta, but I know that still seems pretty far off to some.” (Georgia, it’s important to note, unlike Illinois, is in a “right to work” state, which reduces the power of the trade unions.)
At the same time, Parsons observes, as others have, “all this production seems to be keeping local professionals working enough to stick around, and the city has become more of a positive draw. I’m seeing graduates of film schools stick around and make connections with other young and hungry filmmakers, so that suggests good things for the growth of a scene. But the question remains whether Chicago can support more producers and directors, whether more productions will originate here, and whether there will be enough local investment in those productions to bring profits back to Chicago and truly establish a freestanding industry.”
The clock is ticking. Not only will the Dick Wolf shows eventually run their course, but there’s no guarantee that the tax credit will be renewed by the state when it expires. And there’s a growing backlash against the “chase-the-credit” mentality prevalent in the industry.
Recently, Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos declared the company would relocate production to California for as much as possible of its 1,000 hours of original content, in which they plan to invest $6 billion a year. “I personally believe instead of investing in tax incentives that we should invest in infrastructure,” he told The Wrap. “When you think about productions chasing tax credits all over the world, it puts the onus on the cast and crew who have to travel.”
Rich Moskal, head of the Chicago Film Office for over twenty years, is sanguine. “This recent growth was built on a solid foundation that’s taken years: crew and actors honing their craft, investment by local businesses and vendors, and strategic government support. It’s not a new industry. And as a result, it’s sustainable. Chicago is a mature and recognized industry hub. The fact that the city has been at this a while is all in our favor.”
ALL ACROSS TOWN, baseball caps with the names of productions of the day run in the wild again: the “Chicago Justice” logo seemed to be all over the place in the first days of spring. Chicago reveled in a thriving film-production industry in the 1980s-1990s boom, eventually dashed by local politics and a succession of economic shifts worthy of a book-length study. Memorable movies included Martin Scorsese’s “The Color Of Money” (1986), John Hughes’ productions including “The Breakfast Club” (1988) and “Home Alone” (1990), Ron Howard’s “Backdraft” (1991) and Andrew Davis’ “The Fugitive” (1993), and “Chain Reaction” (1996). Davis, for one, took pains to reflect the city, or at least the fine details of its grid, as he had walked them his entire life. Long stretches of streets with vintage neon signs were sluiced with photogenic water for movie after movie, and the John Hancock profile against the lakefront would provide a preordained thumbs up. (Nearby, the El rattled.)
“When I arrived in Chicago in 2001, film and television (if not commercial) production had collapsed,” Bruce Sheridan, Columbia Cinema Art and Science Chair recalls. “The last gasp was ‘The Joan Cusack Show,’ which had just shut down. I came from the New Zealand industry, which experienced the same thing a decade before, but by 2000 was stretched to the max for crew and resources because of ‘Lord of the Rings.’”
Sheridan was part of the formation of the Illinois Production Alliance, bringing a handful of clear concepts from his Kiwi experience. “No single place ever wins the movie location game,” he remembers. “There are too many factors unrelated to scenery, architecture, weather and price that come into choosing locations. Plus, sustainability has to be founded on long-run production: studios are a high-throughput-low-profit margin business and can need up to eighty-percent occupancy, plus long-form is a better development context for newer craftspeople.” The syndicated series “Hercules” and “Xena,” Sheridan points out, made crewing and resourcing “Lord of the Rings” possible, a construction that could be repeated in similar fashion in Chicago. The group made several proposals about studio space and other resources to the state, but the tax credit eventually won the day.
AN OLD SCREENWRITER JOKE: The most exciting day on a movie set is the first day; the least exciting is each and every one that follow. “Dawn is coming and there are still half a dozen bodies to burn,” is how I reported on a set visit to an ill-fated sequel to John McNaughton’s “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.” “Actually, a bridal shop and a restaurant left to torch, that’s all. Then, as an assistant director puts it, working a weary cliché, ‘Stick a fork in it, it’s over, it’s done.’ The call sheet for the last night’s shooting of ‘The Wanderer (H-2)’ lists seven scenes, including ‘Int. Young Couple’s Bedroom (Young Couple Found Dead)’; ‘Int. Blonde Woman’s Apartment (Apartment a Wreck With Head on Turntable)’; ‘Ext. Country Road (Police beat/release Henry)’; and ‘Int. Texas Steakhouse (Fire rig burns).’ All in one more day’s—make that night’s—work.” It is, after all, work, work that sometimes becomes art, but in its essence, filmmaking is a feat of production and an act of commerce. (“Money into light” is filmmaker John Boorman’s memorable summation of what fuels movies.)
CREWS ARE “CARNIES,” Alex Orr, producer of “Easy,” Joe Swanberg’s Netflix series, says. Work brings workers, the Atlanta resident believes. “Atlanta was a small market” a few years ago, he says, “Then they give the tax incentive, and it starts booming. And then quickly people from North Carolina and parts of Florida and Austin, Texas, Louisiana, people from Shreveport, even Los Angeles, they come to Atlanta. It happens everywhere. Then your crew base gets better because people who are experienced come in. I mean, we’re all carnies, we’ll just go wherever for money. I’ve worked all over the place. They’ve got the money, and the show sounds cool, you just go and do it.”
Then the vendors? “When they see that the business is consistent and they know that they need to set up a shop there so they qualify for the tax incentive for production companies, they’ll just do it. I don’t know exactly the vendor situation because I’ve only done a few Swanberg things, but I know Panavision just reopened. Once you can rent more lights and more set dressing and more crap like that, it just makes it easier to shoot. As long as the government wants to give away incentives for business to come, I mean, I think it’ll come. Because Chicago’s a unique city. You can’t just shoot Austin, Texas or Toronto for Chicago. You can a little bit, but a filmmaker would rather have the real thing.”
Rich Moskal sees years of providing that “real thing” as an enduring draw for talent. “Chicago’s film schools and theater companies have long been farm teams for the industry on a national scale, particularly on the coasts. Those hometown institutions are now finding greater opportunity here at home, and [helping to meet this] growing demand for qualified talent.”
Orr says Atlanta saw growing pains like Chicago appears to be experiencing, owing to a “lack of traditional production support and a large enough crew base. But if there are productions shooting here, crew will come, vendors will come.”
Cinespace Chicago Film Studios is a hub of much of that spending and those film-related jobs. “The booming demand for television and film production space in Chicago has been extraordinary,” Alex Pissios, Cinespace CEO relates. “We’re proud to not only provide the stages for these productions, but offer an all-inclusive campus where filmmakers can utilize local crews, vendors, equipment and facilities.” Cinespace has kept up with the surge, Pissios says, “but we are nearly at capacity at our stages. As Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and the major networks create more original content, we will soon run out of space. Cinespace is currently looking at new options to develop more stages. We would hate to turn away any new productions and miss out on the jobs and revenue it would bring to our great city.”
“If there’s money to be made, people will come to make it,” Alex Orr says. “I left where I grew up to go to LA, I ditched LA and worked in Miami and New York and Vegas and wherever. Wherever someone would pay me. And sometimes they didn’t!” he says, laughing. “I live in Atlanta where it’s totally slamming busy, but I carve out this time of the year to come up here because this is a really fun show to make.”
“Easy” is a union show, but it’s a smaller crew. “If I had to get a bigger staff, I’d be in competition with the other shows to staff up,” Orr says, “and that’s when the rates start to get competitive. On a union television show, you can’t just bring people from out of town, willy-nilly. The union contract dictates you gotta pay them ‘X’ amount of money for travel and housing and idle days. So it costs you money not to find the locals. The union does a good job of incentivizing the production to hire people who live here. People who live in the city where you’re shooting get the benefit. I don’t tend to hire a lot of strangers, we tend to work with the same people.”
Nicole Bernardi-Reis’ role as executive director of the Independent Feature Project (IFP)/Chicago is to expand that pool, to bring the strangers together: so that “the same people” come from a wide swath of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. “We have a larger pool of experienced workers who have been able to stay in the city and find gainful employment on the shows,” she says. “There’s enough work to go around, so they’ve stayed. You have people who are film workers on the big shows, who are also being really productive filmmakers, or indie film workers, during hiatus [between a production’s seasons]. That’s a huge positive.”
But, Bernardi-Reis continues, “The flip side is that everyone is so busy that it’s harder for smaller projects to get experienced crews, unless they are very strategic. Even with the multitude of film schools, there is an ever-growing need for crew. Are we at capacity? Not yet. Do we need to look at ways to continue to rapidly develop film workers for both specialized roles and entry-level positions? Of course.”
Toward that end, IFP Chicago initiated a Production Assistant Training Program. “We did a one-day intensive geared to give people interested in breaking in to the industry the essential skills needed to show up on set and start working. The secondary goal with this program is to get emerging filmmakers familiar with how to run a safe, professional set and contribute to the rapid growth of the sector. I’m working on a multi-day proposal that would enable us to reinforce those skills, test participants and offer a stamp of approval for successful participants. I think it’s a great way to open up the industry to people who don’t or can’t go to film schools. Of course, the unions are also thinking about this type of thing and the more skilled positions that they represent.”
Those jobs aren’t just in front of the camera and on the set. Chicago is also increasing its post-production economy, including editing, sound editing and scoring. “I’m certainly not turning work away!” composer Tony Scott-Green says. “There’s a strong talent pool in Chicago and the nature of post is that, these days, it’s not geo-dependent. People in Chicago have already been collaborating electronically with the East and West Coasts seamlessly. The successful Chicago-based post people I know also work hard to keep up a personal presence in Los Angeles and New York. The growth here means that that process of developing and maintaining those relationships becomes easier, but also that the demands are greater too. From my experience, Chicago’s growth means that it’s on the radar of New York and Los Angeles as not just an emerging competitor, but also as a legitimate collaborator.”
TRAINING PROGRAMS MATTER, according to Beckie Stocchetti, Chicago Film Office Coordinator. “What’s exciting right now is that more programs to better train the local workforce are beginning, with many in early, incubation stages,” she says. “Chicago Track and Free Spirit Media’s Pathways program is an example, as well as smaller more boot-camp-style programs like IFP’s production assistant seminar and workshops organized by the unions. This was the motivation for the Chicago Film Office and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events [DCASE] to start workforce development initiatives.”
Stocchetti sees a divide that needs to be joined. “The balance in ecosystem of crew and creatives is necessary to support a thriving industry in Chicago, which is the mission of the Chicago Film Office. Chicago has and needs people with skill (craft) as well as vision (creative). We are working with organizations to help develop programs that support both of those paths. Chicago has always had a thriving creative film scene, and now with the addition of so much big work and opportunities with television and studios that support and develop local talent, we are nationally shifting perception as a city with a thriving media sector. The city’s Independent Film Initiative is about creating a hub for independent filmmakers to thrive, and that’s possible due to work coming into Chicago as much as it is work being developed in Chicago.”
One of the more bustling of incubator programs is Stage 18, located on the Cinespace campus. “We know our own Hollywood of talent exists right here in the Midwest,” executive director Angie Gaffney says. “A group of writers, directors, cinematographers and storytellers that have the potential to shoot, execute and develop some of the best content our industry has yet to see. Uniting people through a shared workspace environment, Stage 18 works to create qualified development that connect creatives with the business tools necessary to produce their projects, and ultimately influence the greater Illinois economy: building a self-sustaining entertainment industry in Chicago that’s financially and creatively independent from LA and New York.”
And what unique factor can Chicago bring to the table? “Two things have to continue to happen to meet these goals: talent attraction and talent retention. Just like any industry, growth takes time, and I have every confidence that Chicago’s resource, crew and talent base will continue to expand so long as there is a consistent output of film and television production.”
“There will always be growing pains,” Gaffney says. “The growth of the industry means the growth of the unions, which is a great thing for all parties. The independent productions might have a harder time crewing up if they’re filming during television season. But I’ve witnessed our crew base grow the past few years, and it’s moving in the right direction.”
What role do incubators play in pushing the industry in the direction of sustainable growth? “The establishment of incubators and growth of educational organizations is a direct result of the growth of the economy. They absolutely feed each other,” she says. “I think one of the most important things that incubators like Stage 18 and 2112 are doing is building local, independent infrastructure. At Stage 18, we’re creating an educated and talented network of investors, directors and producers that are based in the Midwest and creating here. At any point, any of these big network shows could get cancelled, so it’s important we take advantage of this boost in production to simultaneously build our local industry and content infrastructure.”
The two incessantly cited factors, Cinespace and the tax credit, are enormous, but can’t support an industry alone. “Obviously, Cinespace has been crucial along with the Illinois tax credit in making this happen,” Gary Novak, director of the School of Cinematic Arts at DePaul says. “We need to take advantage of this renaissance in order for it to continue. We need to foster, promote and empower local talent. We need Hollywood and the rest of the industry to see Chicago not as just a place to shoot films and television shows but as a place that great content is created. I want to see the time come, in the not-too-distant future, when a network picks up a series that was created and filmed here. At DePaul, we are laying that groundwork with the education and opportunities we provide our students.”
DePaul partners with Cinespace on providing those opportunities. “DePaul’s School of Cinematic Arts has a 32,000-square-foot space at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios that houses three professional stages as well as post-production facilities.” Novak says. “Our students take classes there and shoot their films there. The stages have the latest cameras, lighting and grip equipment including a three-ton grip truck. All of this is for student use. We also have a scene shop allowing production-design students to learn their craft in a professional environment. Our alliance with Cinespace is a key component in educating and training the next generation of filmmakers.”
Columbia’s Bruce Sheridan has argued since 1999 that traditional internships were no longer an adequate bridge to the industry. “Successful graduates of a four-year program had to be at the level of four-year professionals, not just stepping out of school at a kind of zero-level start point. By the time I arrived at Columbia, two years later, I knew that getting some students alongside professional production on commercial sound stages wasn’t cutting it. All students had to have access to that level of soundstage throughout their time in school and, most importantly, the whole curriculum had to model professional practice by incorporating the ‘learn alongside advanced peers’ aspect of apprenticeship in an environment of self-reflection and intellectual rigor. While some film schools had reasonably well-resourced shooting spaces, none had true sound stages designed and operated as laboratories for professional practice. This is unheard of in other professions: medical schools have complete operating theaters; university chemistry programs have fully professional labs on site; the fine arts use a conservatory approach to this end. I knew for sure that the commercial realities of film production and the studio business meant students could be on site and learn very little—that was happening all over the world. Commerce always takes priority in a commercial studio business; in education the priority has to be flipped: exploration, experimentations, risk-taking—even failure!—is where dynamic learning takes place. Craft skills on their own are only a few notches above robotic.”
“One thing that works against Chicago filmmaking is geography. We’re all so spread out,” Northwestern chair of Radio-TV-Film David Tolchinsky says. Plans are underway for the university’s Abbott Hall property on Lake Shore Drive to be transformed into a downtown Performing Arts and Media Center. “The dream is that this will be an incubator for new works in theater and film, that it will be a place where our MFA students from all our programs can intermingle, that the public can come see all these new voices and new works as they’re being created, that, in terms of film, it will also be a go-to location for meetings about Chicago filmmaking, whether for filmmakers to socialize, or to share works-in-progress in a creative way, or for pitching sessions to funders along the lines of Good Pitch. Whatever we can do to help, to organize, to promote and to create—we’re excited to do so. Bottom line: if I weren’t feeling bullish about Chicago filmmaking and how NU may play a role, we wouldn’t be including film as a focus in our new center. This is an expensive endeavor!”
Any fears for the future? “We can’t depend on the whims of Hollywood,” Tolchinsky says. “We have to continue to support our own. That’s why I think filmmakers like Stephen Cone, Jennifer Reeder, Melika Bass, Kyle Henry and Joe Swanberg are so important, who choose to work as much as they can in Chicago. There is the possibility of keeping filmmakers here, and not just keeping them here, but putting them to work, not just creatively but financially. So am I fearful? Mostly I’m excited. It’s really a great time to be in this city.”
Leonine Dick Wolf is also here to stay, weaving a tapestry of vivid Chicago backdrops with old-fashioned melodrama in the foreground. “Is it old-fashioned?” Wolf asked rhetorically of his economic juggernaut to the New York Times in May 2016. “Or is it comfort food? I much prefer to see it as comfort television. It doesn’t disappoint you. And you can keep coming back and coming back.” Mixing metaphors, Wolf says the series, all of “One Chicago,” are meant to last. “We make Mercedes S-Class sedans. They’re designed to run basically forever and be comfortable and you don’t have to think about much. We don’t make Ferraris. I love ‘Homeland’ but after six years it’s got, what, fifty-two episodes or something?”
NBC’s door (and wallet) will be open as long as the customers come. But other finance, finance for filmmaking of different scale, of different drive, remains, as always, tricky. Is there any prospect of Chicago stories being told by Chicago filmmakers, taking advantage of the infrastructure and labor pool? “It’s always the funding,” Stephen Cone, director of six low-low-budget features says. “I know a handful of films trying to get off the ground that are being delayed because the money just isn’t there. But that’s not a new problem, and will never go away.” And the money doesn’t necessarily move around. “I remain a skeptic when it comes to industry and independent overlap, especially in Chicago. Mine and others’ ability to scrape together a micro-budget production seems to be the same whether things are booming or not. It doesn’t change funding prospects one iota. It steals cast and crew away, and good for them, truly! But it doesn’t provide previously untapped opportunity for directors or access to high-profile talent. And I’m not sure extra sound stages or fancy production offices really change things all that drastically for local film artists. It’s mostly a separate deal, and, at its worst, creates the mere illusion of productivity and success.”
Not to seem entirely disinterested, Cone continues. “On the other hand, I do think the flow of interesting television and film work flirts with creating a slightly higher profile for the community, which in turn can make Chicago work more far-reaching and appealing to the coasts and beyond, which can in turn come back to help us.”
Producer Colleen Griffen’s first feature was for her husband, Joe Chappelle, in 1993. In the years since, Chappelle has directed episodes of “The Wire,” “CSI: Miami” and “Fringe.” Directing twenty-seven episodes of “Chicago Fire” brought him home. “Now that he’s back, I directed a mockumentary about a fake boy band in 2014-2015. Joe watched what we did and saw how much fun we were having, so during the last hiatus [from “Fire”] Joe wrote a feature and this hiatus we’re gonna shoot it. The movie that Joe and I are doing, called ‘The Pages,’ we feel like it’s the right step toward making things even more sustainable. This is my theory. Everybody has their own. We have all these shows that are coming in, movies from the coasts, that are these big-budget projects that you’re gonna have the top-tier crews working on. The first wrap party for ‘Fire,’ there were so many people who came up to Joe and were like, ‘This show saved our marriage, this show saved our mortgage.’ Of course, that’s really important and we want to sustain that. I don’t want any of those shows to go away and I want them to keep coming in.”
Dick Wolf agreed in another of his infrequent public appearances. “I think it’s a failure if [a series like ‘Chicago Fire’ runs] only one-hundred hours,” he said at a 2016 discussion at Los Angeles’ Paley Center for Media. “The idea is to go eight, ten, twelve years or longer.”
As the “One Chicago” series continues, perhaps even for decades as Wolf intends, Griffen says, “Joe and I are trying to bring homegrown projects in the two-to-ten-million-dollar range, and then you might be in a situation where maybe your [key positions] are from the big shows or have that experience, or the [key positions], say you have a guy who’s a best boy on ‘Fire’ or one of the shows, then you elevate them to key on your project. Not micro-budget. Not big budget of LA and New York. For years, you couldn’t get into 600, you couldn’t get into 476 [International Cinematographers Guild Local 600, I.A.T.S.E. Studio Mechanics Local 476]. There just wasn’t enough work for people already in. People now are getting in, and they’re getting in quickly. But now it’s on the producers’ and the directors’ shoulders and department heads to groom people and encourage them to make that step when they’re ready. If we can keep recent graduates here, the people who are on the first rung can move up to the second rung. It is sustainable. But it’s about finding investors who are willing to invest in homegrown projects. And to get Hollywood to recognize that we’re another important production center.”
And an economic center. And a cooperative community. “Yes,” Griffen says. “We’re keeping these great, hardworking kids in Chicago, we have three of the best film schools in the country, keeping them here if they want to stay here. Yes, you can make money, but you’re creating jobs, these are great jobs that pay well. As long as you’re not a producer taking advantage of people! I don’t think we’re at capacity. We want to encourage our writers and our directors to stay here. What happened in the 1980s and the 1990s was that we had directors who were just very committed to shooting in Chicago. And they had power. So now we have Joe Swanberg, he’s filling one of those roles, and we’re going to see more and more people like that. Get some traction, and be able to say, ‘I’m committed to Chicago, I want to stay here, I want to shoot here.’ That will bring more and more people here.”
OF COURSE, THIS BEING CHICAGO, the Man at the End of the Bar would like a word. One brisk April evening, a Wicker Park thoroughfare is dotted with brightly colored traffic cones, lampposts papered with notices for yet another new series that will be shooting on that avenue the next morning and night, North Side passing for South Side. A couple of police cruisers idle. The man at the end of the bar is middle-aged and bullet-headed and his eyes are electric. Tax dollars and steady employment are far from mind: it’s about the dibs. He owns property a few doors down. “And there is not a single goddamn place to park! Where am I supposed to park? The trucks will come up, huge trucks will drive up at three in the morning, not my favorite time to wake up in the morning, and I will have to walk ten blocks again to find my car! Not every person on the street, but every property owner, why not fifty dollars? A hundred! I don’t know,” he says, slugging at his whiskey-ginger. “I won’t see any money and I won’t see this show, whatever it is! It seems like it’s every week now.” It’s good for the economy, I begin to relate, it’s— “I want to be able to park on my street,” he says, “This is my Chicago, too.”
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.