Movies & TV shows can film again …

Movies and TV shows can film again in Illinois — with limits — after shutdown for coronavirus



JUN 22, 2020  12:20 PM


Movies and TV shows will be allowed to shoot in Illinois as soon as Friday if the production operates at no more than half the capacity of the sound stage or filming location and crowd scenes are limited to 50 people.

Chicago will move to phase four of reopening from the coronavirus Friday along with the rest of the state, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday. Film production here has been mostly shut down since March, when the Illinois stay-at-home order went into effect, though some reality TV stars have been shooting scenes themselves.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity laid out guidelines for film production that include having cast and crew members wear face coverings unless they are performing on stage or doing another task that doesn’t allow for it. Workers should complete COVID-19 health and safety training when returning to work, and common areas of sets should be cleaned and disinfected frequently.

Hair and makeup technicians should wear face masks and eye protection such as protective glasses especially if their clients are not wearing masks. Castings should be done by tape or a virtual platform. If that’s not possible, auditions should be held by appointment only (no open calls), and employers should remove shared items such as magazines from waiting rooms and configure seats to allow for social distancing.

DCEO is encouraging cast and crew to undergo a one-time nasal swab within 48 to 72 hours before the start of work on set or location. Employees should be screened for coronavirus symptoms when they arrive at work, and screened again during their shift if it is longer than five hours. Enforcement is up to local municipalities or law enforcement agencies.

It’s unclear when “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.,” and “Chicago Med” — Dick Wolf’s franchise of Chicago shows for NBC — will return to Cinespace Chicago Film Studios to shoot their new seasons. Those three TV shows typically film in Chicago for several months each year, but usually take a summer filming break in between seasons.

“Empire” used to film in Chicago for most of the year, but Fox recently aired the drama’s series finale. Production of the first season of “Next,” a Fox drama that is slated to premiere in the fall, wrapped before the shutdown. There were plans for other TV shows to film in Chicago as well this year.

Some productions wrapped quickly in mid-March after a “Next” crew member reported testing positive for the coronavirus. That show’s sets are housed at Cinespace.

Elsewhere, the teams behind “Judge Mathis,” which tapes at NBC Tower in front of a small audience, and “Windy City Live,” which tapes weekdays at WLS-Ch. 7 studios in front of enthusiastic fans, have not announced studio return dates. A “Windy City Live” representative said a phased return is expected. The first phase will not include a studio audience.

Last week, the Chicago Film Office began issuing permits to casts and crews of 10 people or fewer such as those who work on commercial productions.


Tracy Swartz reports on Chicago TV and film production. She joined the Tribune A&E staff in April 2015. She previously covered Chicago transit and homicides for the Tribune's RedEye edition. She has a political science degree from the University of Florida and a master's in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

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