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Ready for our close-up: Stroger aims to form county film office

Friday, October 09, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan\

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger wants to hear the siren call of "Lights, camera, action" just a little bit more around these parts.

So his staff is working on plans for a Cook County film office, aimed at eliminating the bureaucracy filmmakers navigate when obtaining permits to shoot ads, movies and television shows in the forest preserves and unincorporated parts of the county.

"It's designed to cut out some of the red tape which can be extremely costly to production companies," said Stroger aide Johnathan Winbush.

Simply put, time is money when crews have to spend days not only scouting out locations but searching for the right people for a road-closure permit.

Chicago already has a film commission for the city, and the county is not looking to duplicate that effort. But in addition to the 69,000 acres of forest preserve and unincorporated areas, Cook County's film office plans to eventually handle film-related permitting for the 128 municipalities under the county umbrella.

On Thursday, Stroger's staff met with various members of the film production industry to talk about some of the problems

Afterward, local filmmaker John Bosher offered a list of hurdles, from the northern suburbs to the south, to obtaining permits -- or even permission -- to block sidewalks, roads, even to set up temporary toilets for actors and the crew.

He said there have been times where he's needed both a city scene and a suburban scene, but has had to fudge and do both in the city because it's easier.

"It would be better for the movie creatively, aesthetically, etcetera if we were able to go out to the real sites we want to shoot, but there's the sense of fear that we're just not protected by the municipality the way we are in Chicago," said Bosher, who is behind the new film "Chicago Overcoat."

The film office would have to be approved by Cook County commissioners.

Contributing: Bill Zwecker

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