If 2016 was considered a great year for the Chicago media and entertainment business, 2017 is starting to shape up as even greater. It could even be the year when the Chicago market eases into $1 billion revenue from film status.
Thanks to Dick Wolf / NBC Universal and to Fox TV, six primetime TV series currently film here at Cinespace Studios, with three new TV series expected to start production in early February.
They are Showtime’s “The Chi” and two Netflix anthology series, Joe Swanberg’s “Easy” and Michael Dinner’s “Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick.” “The Chi” and “Easy” are set for Cinespace stages and “Electric Dreams” will film at Chicago Studio City.
Showtime’s new hourlong drama series, “The Chi,” is from actress / writer Lena Waithe (“Bones,” “Dear White People”), an Evanston native and Columbia College 2006 graduate and is based on her experiences growing up in Chicago. The pilot was known as “The Chicago Project” when it shot here last summer.
Waithe is an EP on the series along with Chicago-based rapper Common, showrunner Elwood Reid and Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment and Fox 21 TV Studios. Up-and-coming director Rick Famuyiwa (“Dope,” “The Flash”) will helm the premiere episode.
“The Chi” is a coming-of-age story, following a half dozen interrelated characters on the South Side and centered on Brandon, played by Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton”). He is an ambitious and confident young man who dreams about opening a restaurant someday but is conflicted between the promise of a new life and his responsibility to his mother and teenage brother on the South Side.
Netflix’ two, new series are both anthologies
Netflix will make its presence known here in early spring with two different anthology series. Joe Swanberg’s comedy drama “Easy,” is set in Chicago, with a cast of 26 actors, including Orlando Bloom and consisting of eight half-hour episodes.
“Easy’s” first under-the-radar season that bowed last September on Netflix, was shot non-union and low budget. It depicts a range of characters, from different cultures ranging in age from their early 20s to 50s.
Swanberg, who prefers making movies was at first was disinclined to produce a TV series, until he discovered “Easy” could take on the form of an anthology TV show, “but I could attack each (episode) as its own short film, basically,” he told IndieWire.
“Easy’s” upcoming second season starts shooting in March. Netflix reportedly will invest a healthy $400,000 to give each of the eight new episodes greater production value, and switch to union crews. Swanberg’s goal is to reach a point where “Easy” could be called “a portrait of Chicago, although right now it’s eight different stories,” he said.
EP / writer / director Michael Dinner’s big-budget “Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick” (“Blade Runner,” “Minority Report”) is a 10 part, two-hour long series based on the prolific sci-fi writer’s life and works.
Brian Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) stars in the title role and also will be an executive producer along with “Battlestar Galactica” creator Ronald D. Moore, the series’ writer.
Five episodes are expected to be produced in Chicago and five in Europe. Starting date to be announced.