Shortly before lunch, Chicago Med Unit Production Manager Jeanne Caliendo is preparing for the show’s regular “medical meeting,” which she describes as, “the biggest, most important meeting of every episode.”
“We run through what the actor/doctors will perform, so that we have the correct props, prosthetics, makeup and special effects,” she says. “We’ve got blood gurgling and pumping and sucking all the time.”
In addition to reviewing gurgles, pumps, and sucks, Caliendo works behind the scenes to coordinate much of the action that transpires on the show. For the 2015 premiere episode of Chicago Med, she helped purchase and prepare several automobiles for a crash scene at Wolf Point in River North.
“We had to scrap’m and screw’m up and we put’m on the street underneath the el tracks,” she says.
This year she arrived on set about a month before most of the crew, in June, to help finish construction on a new intensive care unit for the show.
“We have to do it when everyone’s on hiatus,” she explains. “So we came back early to work on that.”
Caliendo works on the second floor of a two-story black glass building near the northwest corner of and Rockwell and W. 16th St. Two doors to the east is the main entrance Cinespace — the one with the marquee style canopy that the mainstream media publishes all the time.
On busy days, the bustle of film and television production is everywhere. Food trucks, equipment dollies, and emergency vehicles that will be used as picture cars line the streets. Walkie-talkie wielding production assistants move with purpose, and uniformed security guards keep a friendly watch.
Chicago Med’s office is surrounded by what appears to be the business end of every hit show in the city. The stroll to Caliendo goes past the back-ends of Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD.
Everyone takes the stairs, because the stairs are the first thing that people see when Oscar, an unfailingly polite front desk manager, grants them permission.
The interior could pass for a mid-70s grade school, except that the halls are filled with catering stations and people running around with clipboards and scripts. Today, the Chicago Med crew is having pizza.
Caliendo is a born and bred Chicagoan who graduated from Columbia College with a degree in film. By her own admission, she has had “one fulltime job my entire life.”
“I worked at Studio Lighting, which was absorbed by Essanay,” she explains. “I did a little bit of everything, until I found my niche as an AD.”
“My very first 1st-AD job was a pilot for Dick Wolf called the “Human Factor,”” she continues. “When it got picked up they offered me the position.”
Caliendo now resides in Arizona, but she has rented a town house in Little Italy for the season.
“My husband and my dogs will stay until the weather is bad, which is right around Thanksgiving,” she explains. “Who wants to be here January, February, and March?”
The answer is obvious: people who love the city and have a passion for their work learn how to ignore the cold. Caliendo is among them.
“It’s like shooting in Rome,” she says. “No matter which way you point the camera, it’s Chicago, and it’s great.”
To read more “Day in the Life of Cinespace,” click here.