‘Chicago Fire’ and other TV shows halt production

‘Chicago Fire’ and other TV shows halt production due to COVID-19 concerns

 

Production on NBC’s “Chicago Fire” — shown here with Eamonn Walker as Battalion Chief Wallace Boden, Annie Ilonzeh as Emily Foster, and Kara Killmer as Sylvie Brett — will wrap early, due to COVID-19 concerns.
Production on NBC’s “Chicago Fire” — shown here with Eamonn Walker as Battalion Chief Wallace Boden, Annie Ilonzeh as Emily Foster, and Kara Killmer as Sylvie Brett — will wrap early, due to COVID-19 concerns.(Matt Dinerstein/NBC / HANDOUT)

NBC is wrapping production on “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med” in the next day or so, in light of concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

The news comes on the heels of both the city and state banning gatherings over 1,000 for the next 30 days. Organizers of public and private events expected to draw more than 250 people have also been encouraged to postpone until May 1.

The number of crew employed on each of the NBC shows can be anywhere from 200-250.

Based out of the Cinespace soundstage complex on the West Side, each show films several weeks ahead of when each episode airs. It appears likely the seasons for all three shows will end with Episode 20 out of a planned 22.

As a reporter from the BBC once stated, "When [Mount] Everest takes a life, it also keeps it." One of Everest's most famous residents, Green Boots, resides at a particular location...“Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med” were recently picked up for an additional three seasons, and, for now, plans for next season have not changed, with production expected to start up as usual in mid-summer.

The upcoming fourth season of “Fargo” for FX has been filming in Chicago for several months as well, and Alex Pissios, who heads up Cinespace, confirmed that the series has halted filming for the next two weeks. Set in 1950 Kansas City, the season stars Chris Rock, Glynn Turman, Jason Schwartzman and Timothy Olyphant, among others. The show was originally scheduled to premiere April 19 but has been delayed indefinitely.

Earlier this week it was reported that a crew member who worked on the forthcoming Fox show “neXt” tested positive for the coronavirus. The sci-fi crime drama starring John Slattery was based at Cinespace and wrapped at the end of February.

On Friday the Chicago Film Office announced it would be implementing the following permit restrictions effective immediately and until further notice, based on the guidance of public health officials

  • Chicago City Hall is temporarily closed to all filming and scouting requests.
  • On-location filming involving city-owned property is temporarily restricted to productions with a combined cast & crew of 50 persons or less. This includes the Chicago Park District and public libraries.
  • Permits for on-location filming at all locations are temporarily restricted to productions with a combined cast & crew of 250 persons or less.

How does the halting of filming on the NBC shows and “Fargo” affect local crews? Bradley Matthys, president of IATSE Studio Mechanics Local 476 union, said crew members are paid by the day, so their wages will be directly affected. “We’re going to have a lot of people not working for, at minimum, two weeks. We’ve been on a very good run in Chicago for several years with a lot of projects shooting here, and that’s given people a lot of financial stability,” he said. “I know for some of our members, this will just be an early hiatus for them. People get it. The great majority understand.”

Matthys said union members who don’t have a financial cushion can file for unemployment. “Not that this isn’t going to be a hardship, but this shouldn’t break the bank,“ he said. “In this business, things can change quickly. In the short term, I think this will be a blip for us. There will be some hardship for people and we’ll all try to get together and help, but the bigger picture is what’s important — everyone’s health — and this is a worldwide issue.”

The union’s international president Matthew D. Loeb said in a statement that the “COVID-19 crisis requires decisive action from our federal government to support displaced entertainment workers,” noting that “this isn’t just about us. Economic studies demonstrate that entertainment spending reverberates throughout our communities worldwide.” He called on the federal government to “pass a relief package that prioritizes workers whose incomes have been lost as a result of this crisis … and enact a special emergency paid leave benefit geared to include our members.”

In Illinois, an estimated $560 million was spent last year on cast and crew wages as well as other expenses. It’s too early to know how or if shutting down filming will affect those numbers for 2020, but the budget for each episode of the One Chicago shows on NBC is several million — money that likely won’t be spent on a total of six episodes across the three series.