Production Tips for Filming a TV Commercial in Chicago

The intricacies of filming a TV commercial vary from city to city.  Filming in Chicago has many advantages with the beautiful skyline, lakeshore, and iconic landmarks.  However, there are factors unique to Chicago, that should be considered when producing a commercial in the Windy City.

Chicago Weather:

Do you plan to film indoors or outdoors?  If you are planning an outdoor shoot in Chicago, there are weather-related considerations.

  • Filming late-May through early-October is somewhat safe if green trees and grass are your ideal backdrop. Otherwise you are likely to have bare trees, brown grass, and colder weather.
  • Filming in July or August can present extreme heat. Be sure to provide shade (Affordable Backyard Tents) and lots of water for the cast and crew.  Take longer breaks than usual and provide extra wardrobe for talent so they can change sweat-stained clothes often.
  • Pro Tip: Weather Insurance is not cheap but very nice to have when filming in Chicago. It’s an insurance policy that protects your hard costs.  Insure any amount and choose the desired precipitation threshold.  The lower the threshold you choose, the more expensive the policy.

Chicago Locations:

Chicago has many diverse neighborhoods, landmarks, and beautiful scenery to choose from.

  • Set Scouter is a great resource for finding a location on your own.
  • Hire a location scout to do the heavy lifting for you, such as Levinson Locations or Mira Wolf Locations.
  • Find your perfect Chicago street, sidewalk, or landmark using Google earth. Walk the streets virtually, from anywhere in the world.
  • The Chicago Park District is a helpful resource for finding beachfront, community, and park locations.
  • Pro Tip: Search for nearby businesses with public restrooms and contact them to see if you can use their facilities. Some restaurants will allow restroom usage for free, for a fee, or in exchange for catering.  If there are no local businesses nearby, a porta potty can be rented and delivered.

Chicago Permitting

To avoid production delays, it’s important to follow these 4 steps when requesting a film permit from the Chicago Film Office.

  1. Fill out a Permit Application at least 5 days prior to your shoot and provide payment ($250 per day per location + small application fee).
  2. Fill out a City Services Form to apply for no parking signs, parking privileges, tow trucks, street barricades, police/fire personnel, etc.
  3. Provide a Certificate of Insurance and follow the minimum insurance requirements.
  4. Create a Community Notification Leaflet and distribute to neighboring residents and businesses near your location 48 hours prior to your shoot.
  • Pro Tip: You may not receive approval or denial from the film office until a few days before your shoot, no matter how early you submit, so have a back-up location ready. And be sure to check the Chicago Events calendar before choosing a date.  High traffic areas, busy intersections, or filming on weekends, can be problematic.

Chicago Talent:

SAG eligible, non-union talent in Chicago is common, as many working actors have chosen to forego their SAG status for more frequent non-union work.

  • When hiring non-union talent in Chicago, you can expect to pay a session fee for each shoot day, a usage buyout fee, and an agency fee.
  • When negotiating a buyout fee, be sure you don’t pay for unnecessary usage. Chicago usage only would fall under a local buyout vs. regional or national. You can also save money by shortening the usage term.
  • A few talent agencies in Chicago that are easy to work with, Shirley Hamilton Talent, Paige Talent, Paonessa Talent or cast your own talent using Backstage.
  • Chicago is home to Broadway in Chicago and The Second City. Great resources if you are looking for a specific type of character actor and aren’t afraid to cold call.
  • Pro Tip: Consider applying for the Illinois Film Tax Credit, you may be eligible for a tax credit.

Any questions?  We’re here to help with your creative needs.

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