Illinois #2 in Top 10 locations; RIP gaffer Jimmy Miller

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ILLINOIS RULES! To make up for painful omissions in Best Location lists compiled throughout the year, venerable international locations publication P3 Update Magazine named Illinois #2 in its annual roundup of the 10 best states in which to shoot a movie.

P3 ranked Illinois one spot below #1 Louisiana and three slots above California. 

The Top 10: Louisiana, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, California, Connecticut, New York, Utah, New Mexico and Michigan.

Illinois’ five-deep crew base is only one of the reasons the state made the P3’s top-10 roster.  Other reasons were our 30% tax credit and our infrastructure, which P3 noted was pumped up by the addition of Cinespace. 

The ranking is a much appreciated kudo from the knowledgeable 25-year publication and helps compensates for other publications’ the sins of omissions, such as The Hollywood Reporter’s neglect of Columbia College in its list of top 25 film schools.

A PRESTIGIOUS AWARD NOMINATION from the American Society of Cinematographers went to 28-year old local DP Kevin Moss, for his camera work on Chicago-made “Chicago Overcoat.”  He is one of five DPs competing in the “Best TV/Miniseries Movie” category, going up against the more seasoned DPs of “Mildred Pierce,” “The Kennedys” and two PBS documentaries. 

The feature was produced in 2009 by Beverly Ridge Productions and aired on Showtime.  

Moss was also a co-producer on “Chicago Overcoat,” which starred Frank Vincent, Mike Starr, Danny Goldring and Katherine Narducci and was directed by Brian Caunter, written by John Bosher, Brian Caunter, Andrew Dowd and Josh Staman. 

Currently, Moss and his Beverly Ridge partner/collaborators are currently seeking funding for two thrillers, one of which is being written and coproduced in L.A. 

Associate ASC member Tom Fletcher of Fletcher Camera and Lenses notes that the last two Academy Award winners for cinematography hailed from Chicago: Wally Pfister, who lives in L.A. and Mauro Fioro, of Palatine; Michael Goi leads the ASC and Steve Poster heads national Camera Local 600.

The awards ceremony will be held Feb. 12 in Hollywood.

IN MEMORIAM.  Veteran gaffer and lighting director Jimmy Miller, 75, credited with being the first lighting expert to own his own lighting and grip truck, died Dec. 26 in a Barrington hospice after a short battle with cancer of the appendix.

Mr. Miller was a highly regarded and skilled film technician. “He was like an artist,” said Essanay’s Jules Tomko, who credits Mr. Miller for giving him his start in the business. “He could create just about any effect he needed with light.”

His personality was as highly regarded as his lighting abilities. “He could charm anyone,” said Mel Mack, Mr. Miller’s best boy for more than three decades. “It didn’t matter if you were a director, cameraman, or temperamental actor, Jimmy had a way of making everyone around him feel good.”

He was also known for his raunchy sense of humor that didn’t offend.

A North Sider who grew up in Lakeview near Wrigley Field, he attended the University of Toledo on a football scholarship but dropped out after a week to join the Marines for a two year hitch.  He also played football at Camp Pendleton where he was stationed.

Mr. Miller’s first job was with Wilding Studios in 1959, where his father was a set painter.  He worked his way up to gaffer and left in 1968 to offer the first independent lighting service at a time when the film industry was undergoing great changes.

During his four decade career, he was primarily a chief lighting technician on 16 features and nine TV movies that filmed in Chicago, and was a gaffer/lighting director on countless commercials and corporate films.

He is survived by his wife of 44 years, a son and daughter, two granddaughters, his mother and a brother.  Services have been held.

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