A producer on a crusade to bring Hollywood back to Chicago.
Web2Carz Staff Writer
Published: July 31st, 2012
andy Gordon is a producer on a mission. She has spent the past ten years fighting to restore Chicago’s once-thriving film industry and entice Hollywood studios to return to the Windy City.
“Chicago has always had a strong production community dating back to 1907,” Gordon told us. “In fact, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Gloria Swanson made silent movies for [Chicago-based] Essanay Studios.”
It took six years to pass the tax incentive in Illinois, but it has been monumental for the film industry.
Always a big proponent of Chicago film, the Wilmette native came of age during a productive time in Chicago, when studios regularly descended on the city to make such classic motion pictures as Ordinary People, The Blues Brothers, Risky Business, Sixteen Candles, Thief, Crime Story, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, to name a few.
Gordon studied TV and radio at Ithaca College with hopes of eventually becoming a TV producer. After graduating she came home to a town rife with employment opportunities and immediately went to work. After a brief stint in the locations department on the motion picture Rudy, she ultimately found her niche as a production coordinator. She wound up in Los Angeles where her work with KCOPTV-13 non-news specials earned her an Emmy and before long she received an offer to return back to Chicago and work on TV's Early Edition.
Then in 1999 something unexpected happened that caught the entire industry off guard.
“All work disappeared overnight,” recalls Gordon. "The Canadian Government passed legislation which allowed Canadian cities to offer tax incentives to all motion picture and television production and my friends were forced to leave home and go to Vancouver or Toronto to find work."
Thousands of grips, make-up artists, camera operators, and producers headed north to ply their trades. Studios which historically filmed on studio lots or sound stages decided to take advantage of the Canadian tax credit and left their local crews in the lurch.
Rather than bemoan the dismal state of affairs, Gordon felt the need to take action. In 2000 she heard that a group of producers and union members were meeting to revive the flailing industry and she decided to join in the dialogue.
Not soon after, American state legislatures began to offer similar tax incentives—each attempting to one-up the other to lure studios to their towns. Gordon and her colleagues, now calling themselves The Illinois Production Alliance (Gordon eventually became president) decided to take their plight to the state legislature and get the same tax incentive for Illinois.
It took six years to pass the tax incentive in Illinois, but it has been monumental for the film industry. Since no studio will be awarded the tax credit unless they hire locals, there has been an exponential rise in work. The past couple years has seen blockbuster films like Public Enemies, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, Superman, and Transformers filming throughout the state.
But for Gordon, the fight is far from over. Getting the tax incentive was only half the battle, and she continues to try to galvanize the small community of film industry people and the State of Illinois Film Office to promote the city’s A-List crews so that Hollywood will maintain its interest in Chicago and see it as one of the more viable towns in the country to produce its projects.