“If you build it they will come” is the plan for the recently opened Champaign County Film Office the only other official state film office outside of Chicago.
The Film Office, in the person of Terri Reifsteck, is part of the Champaign County Convention & Visitors Bureau, of which Reifsteck is marketing and business development director.
While Champaign is notable for the University of Illinois, historic architecture and pristine farmlands, it has only a bare sliver of indigenous production. Currently, there’s one production house, 10-year old Shatterglass Studios and a host of enthusiastic part-time hobbyist filmmakers.
What the city does have, says Shatterglass co-owner / producerBrett Hays, the filmmaker behind the Film Office formation, “is a micro-urban hub of creativity and a lot of business and city support for film projects that come to Champaign County to film.”
Hays and his partner, director Luke Boyce, make features, corporate and web pieces in a 6,000-sq. ft. office with two editing suites, three offices and a sound stage. Two years ago they worked on a Hollywood feature, the thriller “Consumed,” set in farmlands, whose cast included Taylor Kinney, Victor Garber, Danny Glover and Anthony Edwards.
It was this large, extensive and professional film experience in their midst that made Hayes realize, “We need an infrastructure here.”
He pursued the idea, talking to the mayor and city officials, but nothing materialized until last summer when he pitched Reifsteck and the Convention & Visitors Bureau. By the end of August, Reifsteck says, “We were committed.”
Reifsteck spent several months researching the wide-spread permit process within the county, “so we wouldn’t be overstepping our boundaries,” she says. “I talked to like-minded film offices in similar sized markets. Ann Arbor was a good example, since it’s also a college town. By January I felt we were at a place where we could put our name out there.”
With the permitting system now in place, Reifsteck is working on creating a database of area locations and ultimately will publish a resource directory.
“We will be reaching out statewide for productions to film in Campaign County and working with people in the state to build our infrastructure,” she says.
The Champaign County Film Office is located at 108 S. Neil St. Reifsteck may be reached at 217/351-4133 ext. 4; email firstname.lastname@example.org.