Hollywood, meet the Second City

On Monday October 4th, La Grande Orange in Santa Monica hosts Windy City West, a private party for those from Chicago working in the entertainment industry.  It is a hot ticket item and is over-RSVP’d I’m told with a crowd expected to top 400.  Expect to see all the top names of Chicago walking the red carpet to be greeted by Bill Zweker, the evening’s MC.

Chicago is a tight-nit community with everyone knowing at least someone who is somebody in the buisness by at least one degree of seperation. It’s a great group of people to be a part of and as with most tribes, is very loyal to their own.

The Entertainment Industry may not be as small as Second City, but I thought I would take a moment to share my thoughts on making sure my readers take stock of their reputation so that it continues to stay intact.

You’re only as good as your word.  Sure, deals go south, and everyone understands that, and not everyone will be your friend, but too many of these and you may never work again. I don’t care if you were the manager of a hundred million dollar fund or the director of five 1 million dollar movies that didn’t recoup. For example, both Alec Baldwin and director John McTiernan were on top of the world after Red October, but due to negative industry word of mouth, they each had to rebuild their careers from scratch.

Point being, use the connections you have from the communities you are in and don’t burn them. My relationships are the people I look to before a play is executed. Do I know this person? If not does someone I know know this person by at least one degree of separation?

Now, back to Chicago and film…  I still think that Chicago is one of the best (and most underrated) production centers in the country.  In addition to first rate crews and talent, there is a strong 30% transferable tax credit, so if you’re considering shooting in Chicago your first call should be to Betsy Steinberg at the Illinois Film Office  — she’ll help you navigate the entire process.  On the production side, seek out Julie Friedman at Friedman Properties — they manage the best new and historic buildings for shooting (like Public Enemies), as well as the top hotels, restaurants, clubs, banquets halls, office space, and more (see FriedmanProperties.com).

Brenda Sexton, the former Illinois Film Commissioner, is hosting the event and is one of the best connectors ever. The Melman boys with their siter Molly will also be flying in from Chicago to host the evening.  If you plan on attending, please introduce yourself on this blog or at the event.  Look forward to hearing whether you’re Cubs or Sox.


  1. I just read Jeff’s blog on Chicago and he’s spot on. It’s long been a dream of my wife and I to create a studio in Chicago that would mirror smaller companies like Tribeca Films or The Weinstein Company in New York.

    Speaking of The Second City, one of my writing partners is now a writer on “Saturday Night Live.” LA should be constantly mining Chicago for talent in the same way the Lorne Michael’s has been for 36 years. There’s a lot of gold to be uncovered.

    Wish I could be at the LA event.

    • Shawn, you’ve heard correct.
      Eric, I support your aspirations. Lakeshore Entertainment has its origins in Chicago (hence the name) — Tom Rosenberg is from there, and his principal investor still lives there. Back in the day, the entertainment industry actually started in Chicago before moving out west to Hollywood. I strongly believe that technology has once again made financing and producing from Chicago both practical and attainable.
      I also agree regarding Chicago’s talent — it’s world class.

      • Hi Jeff – Yes, I actually was aware of Lakeshore’s origins because of a cousin who used to work for the company. I’d love to see a studio started in Chicago that stays in Chicago. Our theater community is second only to Broadway, and we originated improv comedy, and it would be nice to give these talented actors and actresses an option other than moving to one of the coasts. The city is filled with writers, directors, artists, musicians…not to mention the fact that Chicago is one of the most beautiful (and cleanest) cities in the world.

        Yes, I’m a homer. And for the record…Go Cubs! (Although Go Bears! seems like a more winning prospect at the moment.)

  2. Your report reminds me of what a curmudgeon I’ve often been. I spent three months in Chicago with Keys, Madden & Jones. The weather killed me. One of the account execs asked me once, “Were you ever a cowboy or a sailor? You’ve got a kind of roll to your walk.” I said, “I only do this in Chicago where the constantly changing weather gangs up on my bum knee and I try to hide what might look like a limp.” I hated it there so much that I went out of my way to get myself fired. When I got back to New York, someone asked, “What did you think of Chicago?” I said, “Nicest, folksiest folks I ever despised.” But, in truth, it wasn’t the people. It was the weather.

  3. Chicago is awesome! And let us not forget the vibrant theater scene from which was born so much talent working both in front and behind the camera today. The landscape is authentic, the people sincere and the culture sophisticated.
    Go Cubs!

  4. Hey Jeff,

    I was born in raised in the heart of Chicago, Lincoln Park to be exact. I am friends with Brenda Sexton and RSVP’d, so I believe I will be coming, but I think I may have been put on the waiting list as the response has been substantial. So if we don’t meet in person on Monday, possibly at AFM or another time. Oh yeah, and go CUBS, there is no way they can go 2 centuries…

  5. Hey Jeff,

    Just got around to this posting. Thanks for mentioning Chicago and asserting for your readers what we Chicago natives have always believed.

    I’m headed out to L.A. in the near future, but I sincerely hope to work often in Chicago and someday bring many productions back to town (we’re definitely loyal as you mentioned).

    Lastly, definitely a Cubs fan through thick and thin, though mostly thick these days.

    Take Care,


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