New Normal: Cinespace more than just a studio


New Normal: Cinespace more than just a studio



Editor’s Note: The world changed right before our very eyes. We now work, live, exercise and entertain ourselves in our homes. This is the new normal. In this new on-going series, we check in on ad agencies, production companies, post-houses, and anyone else who wants to talk about their personal experiences during this coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Located on the west side of downtown Chicago, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios occupies 1.45 million sq. ft. of what use to be the old Ryerson Steel Company.


The normal vibrancy and the hustle and bustle that is part of daily life at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios has given way to an eerie quiet.  It is the quiet we all experience on our streets right now. Typically, at this time of the year, we would be preparing to enter the seasonal hiatus when we host promising pilots and hope that they will get picked up, but our stages have a different purpose today.  The steel edifices that are the hallmark of our location are repurposed back to the original intent –storage.

For us, the pandemic came early, when one of our tenant’s employees tested positive and required isolation. It was a few weeks before the rest of the businesses in Chicago had to face the reality of COVID-19. We instantly began the mitigation process. The health and safety of our staff and tenants are paramount, so we took immediate action by cleaning and educating, just as directed by the CDC. However, the nature of film production makes six-foot social distancing hard to achieve, so the decision to close down operations when we did was a good one, and I believe saved lives.

Alex Pissios at home with faithful Athena

There is a strong family dynamic here at Cinespace, which makes not seeing each other every day difficult.  My brothers and I still come in several days a week to conduct the allowable security checks under the quarantine and to do what we can to support those on the frontlines.

In addition to our space donation to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, I was proud to see members of the Cinespace community come together to donate Personal Protective Equipment that was scheduled for use as props. We have also had production fabricators develop a start-up business to produce much-needed safety gear for healthcare workers. Those are just a few examples of how the Chicago film community cares and walks the talk.

Kate Maehr, executive director and CEO of the Food Depository

It feels good to be able to do something that makes a difference for people when they are in crisis. We’ve always been very involved with the community and job creation, and we always will. Giving back is a pillar of the Cinespace culture.

What’s really interesting is that even though we are not all on the campus, our communication hasn’t changed very much.  Historically, the phone and email are primary tools in film production; that’s even more true with today’s reality. We are all very comfortable using the phone to drive the business forward and plan for the future.  Now, it’s a little more time on the phone for all of us and a lot fewer of my bad jokes.

Many of us, myself included, have ramped up our digital skills and hold virtual meetings.  The conversations are all just a little different as everyone tries to deal with reality and figure out the next move.

Film watching has become more than a past time during this pandemic.  It allowed people to be distracted and soothe the anxiety and fear that we all feel.

More than ever, the Cinespace family is unwavering in its efforts to grow the film industry in Chicago and expand job opportunities. I believe the creative forces that have helped drive this business will have a new sense of commitment to each other, the craft, and especially to the audience. We look forward to being back together again—safe and healthy – nurturing a business sector that is becoming essential to Chicago.

What’s your New Normal? Send your story to editor, We want to hear about it.


17 April 2020



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