DePaul University, in the fourth year of its 10-year studio rental lease at Cinespace, added a second sound stage in the program the school informally calls “DePaul-to-TV pipeline” because of the jobs it offers students.
DePaul’s new Cinespace facility, 12,500-sq. ft. Stage 16/17, one of Cinespace’s 30 stages, is a further commitment to Cinespace’s and DePaul’s larger partnership with the School of Cinematic ARts in the College of Computing and Digital Media.
The new stage has approximately 7,500-sq. ft. of shooting space with 5,000-sq. ft. of support facilities — offices, editing suites, classrooms and more.
DePaul’s original Stage 15, started in 2013 and unquestionably the reason for the Cinematic Arts’ enrollment spurt to 1,200 current students, is about 10,000-sq. ft. of shooting space with 10,000-sq. ft. of support facilities, including a scene shop, loading dock, equipment storage, offices and classroom / collaboration rooms.
The emphasis of the Cinematic Arts facility program is on hands-on instruction in cinematography, lighting and other technical aspects of filmmaking, says John Corba, director of DePaul’s Cinespace Studios, an adjunct faculty and Local 476 member.
“This has enabled the school to act as a “pipeline” to fill positions on the many productions at Cinespace, “even before the students graduate.
“All these Cinespace stages are peppered with working DePaul alumni. That’s very gratifying,” he says.
Classes are taught by such industry professionals with lengthy IMDB resumes as cinematographers Pete Biagi, Dana Kupper and Marc Manet; producer/director/editor John Psathas and assistant professor/filmmakers Shayna Connelly, Ron Eltanal, Megan Artes, Brad Riddell and Corba.
A dramatic growth in Cinematic Arts enrollment
Based in its Loop campus, DePaul’s cinema school was already using space for its student productions at what would become Cinespace, when the studio complex in 2010 began its extraordinary growth.
Cinespace president Alex Pissios was looking to add some type of incubator program to grow the studios organically and DePaul came on board in 2013.
“Kids were not staying here for their film education or careers. They were either going to New York or LA,” Pissios says. “These students would be my future tenants one day.
“We didn’t plan it to be a job incubator,” Pissios adds, “but it turned out that way, in part because DePaul jumped into the pool full blast.”
According to Corba, DePaul agreed to an initial $2 million investment, with the goal of creating a working studio alongside Cinespace’s commercial studios, with classrooms on the side.
“Everything we do there, we model after what students can expect to see in the production industry,” Corba notes.
Another key to enrollment growth, Corba says, was the school’s conscious decision to concentrate on digital media, more akin to film programs at New York University, the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, giving DePaul students a leg up in starting their careers.
Interestingly, DePaul is now drawing about 13-20% of its students from the East and West Coasts.
Pissios also touted his company’s CineCares Foundation, which looks to expand the approach to homegrown talent found at the DePaul studios and open it to local Chicagoans and Lawndale residents.
Pissios said he had already squired a couple of dutiful workers into regular positions at the studio through an unofficial apprentice program, and “now I just want to take it to another level.”