Cinespace is also home to Keslow Camera Chicago (see photos in slideshow below) and four TV series currently in production: Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med, and Empire. Periscope Post & Audio has a full floor and DePaul University School of Cinematic Arts has a 20,000 sq ft stage and classroom.
Shia Kapos (Crain’s) described Cinespace: “Chicago real estate developer Alex Pissios was struggling through the recession in 2007, like everyone else, when a chat with his uncle at a wedding in Toronto changed his life.
“The family patriarch asked how business was in Chicago. “Good,” Mr. Pissios lied.
“The uncle, Nick Mirkopoulos, knew better. The recession was starting to hit hard. Mr. Mirkopoulos suggested Mr. Pissios consider opening a branch of the family business in Chicago. “It was a life-changer for me and my family,” Mr. Pissios recalls.
“The business was Cinespace Film Studios, a Toronto company that converted old factories into soundstages and pulled business from Hollywood.
“Hoping to do the same in Chicago, Mr. Mirkopoulos and his nephew purchased the closed Ryerson Inc. steel-processing plant on the Southwest Side for $18 million. A $5 million state grant helped them build Cinespace Chicago, now home to “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Fire,” television shows created by producer Dick Wolf…
“The company is building a 6,000- to 8,000-square-foot tank for underwater filming. It’s adding 10 soundstagesto the 18 on its 58-acre property. And it’s looking for city approval to create a back lot.”
AbelCine Chicago Learning Point
The AbelCine facility consists of a sales showroom and offices, a training theater, and community lounge. Pete Abel said, “We’re branding this a Learning Point, because we see industry education as the combination of formal programs, hands-on experience and networking / discussion. We do not plan to service or rent out of this location. We are concentrating on supporting and being a resource for the local rental houses including Keslow, Daufenbach, Cineverse, Schumacher, Magnanimous, Zacuto and Progear.”
AbelCine’s Training Theater has 90 seats, and is designed as a classroom, hands-on workshop, and presentation space. There’s 2K/4K projection, surround sound, audio recording, multi-camera video systems, live switching, and internet streaming. There’s an overhead lighting grid and many displays to accommodate almost any camera, lighting, or post-production related workshop.
The Interactive Sales Showroom is the central area of AbelCine Chicago. It is festooned with the latest cameras, lenses, audio, lighting and post-production products for film, television and new media markets.
The showroom has a fully lit studio area. Customers can try out, test and compare products. Camera outputs can be patched into various monitors, displays and projectors throughout the entire facility for critical technical evaluation, as well as educational purposes. Gear from all major manufacturers is there: ARRI, Canon, Sony, Panasonic, RED, Fujifilm, ZEISS, Angenieux, etc.
Expendables. To supply the many productions on the Cinespace lot, and around Chicago, the salesroom has a very big inventory of expendables.
The Cafe / Community Lounge is open to professionals on the lot and students during normal business hours as a place to eat, meet or relax between takes or classes. It also serves as an integral part of the Training Theater during events.
Together, these facilities provide a functional and welcome home base for the Chicago independent film community to come together for meetings, seminars, panels and workshops. They are also a welcoming space for graduating film and media students to help bridge the gap between school and work. And for working professionals, the space is a place to meet, try out the latest equipment, get tech education and tech support, and spend time in the cafe/lounge.
I asked Pete Abel why they chose Chicago. He said,
“We’ve had a sales office in Oakbrook Terrace for a number of years. Kari Hess and her team, as well as Megan Donnelly, our lead Chicago Trainer, have had deep ties to the Chicago production community for many years.
“The rate that equipment technology currently changes, the range of products we currently offer, the wider range of customers we currently have in the Midwest market at every level of production, the needs of the local community, and what’s going on at Cinespace–are the factors that prompted us to expand at this particular point.
“Before Rich designed the space, I spent most of last year meeting with the local Chicago community to find out what services and support were most needed in the market. Access to technology and ongoing education were always at the forefront of those discussions. This is why the facility was designed as it was.
“What I have noticed since we’ve opened is how much the community has enthusiastically embraced us and this approach. We’re already beginning to speak with local organizations like the IFP, DGA and Local 600 about ways to collaborate and use the facility and our resources in the future, for the good of the local community.”
AbelCine’s Chicago Learning Point is a welcoming, well-designed space for professionals and students. As the Open House slideshow below shows, it’s a new focus and locus for the Chicago motion picture industry.
Click on any picture to begin slideshow. Photos by Lizz Sisson.