Located at a strategically and commercially important portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed, Chicago has been a cultural and economic hub for the Midwest since the early 19th century. Rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1871 that destroyed nearly a third of the city, Chicago’s architecture is a marvel unto itself, with its multicultural heritage resulting in many unique building styles, such as skyscrapers with neoclassical elements and Polish cathedrals.
The city features structures by many famous architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright. Inspired by its history, Chicago is a thoroughly modern city, with a thriving nightlife scene in Logan Square and River North, and a diverse food scene that includes specialties not found anywhere else. You’ll also find a wealth of museums, public art, professional sports and other activities.
Chicago is a bustling mix of historic and modern. The city was once the leading edge of architecture and innovation, leaving many unique structures perfect for both traditional and performance art as well as special events.
Film Shoot Location Options in Chicago
The city of Chicago has many stories, and just as many options for places to tell those stories. Whether you’re portraying the gritty, urban feel of West Loop or the posh mansions in Lincoln Park, you’ll find a host of available buildings that capture the feel of the Windy City.
- Industrial Warehouses
Nothing captures Chicago’s hardscrabble, industrial, blue-collar past (and sometimes present) like the hulking warehouses, factories and meatpacking plants dotting the lakeshore, river and urban neighborhoods. These spaces make excellent locations for large ensemble cast scenes, but they can also serve as a blank canvas, allowing you to build a set of your choice with plenty of room for lighting, sound equipment and more.
- Private Homes
Chicago is a city of immigrants – its first permanent settler was likely born in Haiti – and its many neighborhoods reflect the styles of the residents that called it home. You’ll find homes personifying every era, from mid-century modern masterpieces to bungalows, elegant greystone townhouses and Greek revival mansions. Many of these locations retain their period charm and some even come appointed with vintage furniture and finishes.
If your film is set in Chicago, requiring numerous scenes in the city’s famous places, but you can’t find the perfect indoor film set, you’re not out of options. Chicago has many film studios with state-of-the-art equipment. You’ll be able to film your on-set shots from an expertly-designed studio, complete with dressing rooms and optional green room setups, before heading out into the city to capture the rest of your film.
Film Shoot Location Companies in Chicago
If you’ve got an idea for a film shoot location in Chicago and some talented personnel but just need a little help with the technical or artistic aspects, you’re in luck. Chicago has several film production companies that can help you achieve your vision.
- Blue Plate
Blue Plate Catering has more than awards to brag about but they certainly deserve a mention. From 2019, 2018, 2015 Achievement in Catering Excellence (ACE) - Best Caterer, East Region - Catersource to 2018, 2016-2014 Couples’ Choice – WeddingWire, these are just a few of the accolades. Born from a passion to cook and a van, founder Jim Horan created Blue Plate and this catering company has only gone up from there. Big gathering or small, they’ve got you covered.
- One Tree Forest Films
In 2005, Chad Cooper founded One Tree Forest as a way to help brands and individuals tell stories without being subjected to the hustle and turmoil of a big Hollywood production studio. Together with his wife Abby, the production team focuses on adjusting the workflow to the story at hand, keeping the feeling authentic and artistic while finding ways to avoid rising costs and extra workload. The company has worked with national brands including McDonald’s, Gatorade, GNC, American Family Insurance and more.
- Click Play Films
Based in New York City with offices in downtown Chicago, Click Play Films specializes in production and animation with an emphasis on creativity. The firm has worked on feature films as well as national ad campaigns for brands including Netflix, Domino’s, Sony, LinkedIn and Facebook. The production team at Click Play Films is a diverse group of tech-savvy and creative individuals from all walks of life with a variety of different educational backgrounds to call of to help you achieve your vision for your film.
Pros and Cons of Film Shoot Locations in Chicago
With a wide variety of unique venues and talented film production services, Chicago is the perfect place for a film shoot location. There are a few advantages and disadvantages you should consider before making a final decision, however.
This city has the ideal ambiance for filming. Chicago’s skyline features many recognizable landmarks and looks amazing day and night.
Chicago has long been an innovative leader in building and architecture, featuring structures in a variety of styles.
- Outdoor spaces
The city has a large number of urban and suburban green spaces, as well as miles of shoreline and riverbanks for filming outdoors.
Chicago is called the Windy City for a reason, and the weather is usually brutally cold and often snowy during the winter months.
A good budget is wise. Food, transportation, lodging and other amenities cost considerably more than other cities in the region.
Some neighborhoods are considered unsafe for filming any time of the day. Be aware of these areas by asking those in the industry for information.
Famous Locations in Chicago
- Chicago Riverwalk
The Chicago Riverwalk is a 1.25-mile path through the heart of downtown Chicago following the namesake Chicago River. The district offers a number of attractions, dining opportunities, boutique shops, public art and Instagram-worthy photo opportunities of the city’s unique skyline and architecture. Visitors can also embark on a variety of entertaining and education river cruises from the dock and explore the large community marketplace and innovative play spots for children.
- 360 Chicago Observation Deck
Take in some of the best views of Chicago, Lake Michigan and the Chicago River from the 94th Floor Observation Deck of John Hancock Center. Standing more than 1,000 feet over the famed Magnificent Mile, visitors to the observation deck can also experience TILT, one of the world’s tallest thrill rides, and have a drink with a view at BAR 94.
- Chicago Maritime Museum
Chicago has always occupied an important location at the confluence of the Great Lakes and the Chicago River. The Chicago Maritime Museum houses artifacts from the region’s history as an economic hub and trading post – visitors can walk through exhibits featuring the Native American tribes in the area, French fur traders, sail and steam-powered freight and passenger ships, and modern commercial and private vessels. The museum also features the Ralph and Rita Frese Canoe Collection.