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Film Locations: Chicago Architecture

Written on September 9, 2016

An Introduction

Chicago is one of the most architecturally diverse cities in the United States. The iconic Chicago skyline is home to works by famous architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Gehry, Skidmore Owings Merrill, and Helmut Jahn.

In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed most buildings in the downtown area. Room to build coupled with increasing wealth in the city led to the  construction of many cutting-edge original designs, including some of the world’s first modern skyscrapers.

Structures of note include Marina City, The Chicago Merchandise Mart, John Hancock Center, Wills Tower (formerly Sears Tower) with its Skydeck Ledge, reflective Cloud Gate sculpture, Pavilion at Lincoln Park Zoo South Pond, Crown Fountain, The Rookery, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, The Carbide and Carbon Building, Lake Point Tower, Chicago Cultural Center, Aqua Tower, Museum of Science and Industry, Tribune Tower, Crain Communications Building, and 35 East Wacker, to name a few.


Chicago Film Permits

The City of Chicago issues permits for filming on city streets, sidewalks and other city owned property. Any filming that intends to occupy the public way with vehicles or equipment, or intends to control vehicle or pedestrian traffic, will require a permit from the city.

Small footprint productions that do not impede the public, such as news crews, documentaries, and handheld or tripod b-roll shoots, generally do not require permits.

Filming on private property, including many of Chicago’s great architectural works, must be approved by the property owner or management.

A Certificate of Insurance is required for a permit to be approved.

Processing time is determined by the scope of the project. Allow at least 3 business days. A shoot involving special effects, prop weapons, stunts, or other complex logistics may require additional time to permit and may also require the presence of a Chicago Police Officer on set.


Chicago Film Fixers, Crew & Equipment

Chicago is a major film production center. All key and supporting crew are available locally. A range of studios exist including Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, a custom built facility able to cater to larger productions with 20 soundproof stages on offer. Several rental houses offer a range of standard and specialised camera, grip and lighting equipment. If you’re planning to shoot in Chicago and require production support such as a film fixer, service company or locally based shooting crew, contact us for recommendations.