Pritzker extends film tax credit
Entertainment industry employs 16,000 in Illinois, spends $500M, provides training for college students
By Ted Cox
CHICAGO — Prolific TV producer Dick Wolf joined Gov. Pritzker Thursday as he extended the state’s film tax credit to 2026.
“It’s my job to bring jobs and industries to the state of Illinois, to grow the economy of the state, and that’s why this is such an important tax credit,” Pritzker said in a ceremony signing the extension into law at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.
The Illinois Film Office reported that the industry created almost 16,000 jobs in Illinois last year. State Sen. Elgie Sims of Chicago, lead sponsor of the extension, said it produced almost $500 million in spending and wages last year in Illinois.
Sims said the stars may get the glory and the big bucks, but the average industry salary is $56,000 — decent jobs for those working on production crews. He also credited the provisions for diverse hiring in the tax credit.
According to a news release put out by the Governor’s Office, “The Illinois Film Production Tax Credit Act, originally passed in 2008, offers a 30 percent tax credit for qualified production spending and labor expenditures, up to $100,000 per worker, within the state of Illinois. Applicants can receive an additional 15 percent tax credit on salaries paid to individuals (earning at least $1,000 in total wages) who live in economically disadvantaged areas whose unemployment rate is at least 150 percent of the state’s annual average.”
“Chicago is the main character of our show.… She’s sometimes temperamental, but that’s what makes her great.”
“Chicago P.D.” actor Jason Beghe (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
Wolf said it was critical to Hollywood beancounters making sure productions are profitable.
“If the tax credit goes, we have to go,” he said. “Without the tax credit, we would not be able to be here.”
Pritzker added that the industry provided entry-level internships and apprenticeships for some of Chicago’s 500,000 college students, especially those majoring in entertainment fields at DePaul University — which has a production space at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, where much of Wolf’s so-called “Chicago” franchise is shot — as well as Columbia College, which also has a thriving film and video department.
“This tax credit helps grow tomorrow’s leaders in acting, in screenwriting, and in production,” Pritzker said, adding, “Kids are investing in their curiosities — and bringing home paychecks, too.”
The governor said the extension was key to giving producers like Wolf the security to know they’ll get the support to remain settled from season to season. “We’re guaranteeing that these jobs aren’t going away any time soon,” Pritzker added. “Longer is better.”
Wolf, the longtime “Law & Order” producer whose “Chicago” franchises shot in the city include “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.,” and “Chicago Med,” as well as the since-canceled “Chicago Justice,” praised the professionalism, enthusiasm, and commitment of the city’s film-production workers, even on outdoor shoots in the middle of winter.
“Chicago is the main character of our show,” said “Chicago P.D.” star Jason Beghe. “She’s sometimes temperamental, but that’s what makes her great.”
The raspy-voiced Beghe said he has a personal connection to the city and state, as his great-grandfather was Gov. Charles Deneen, who served two terms in the early 1900s, and his parents grew up in Chicago.
“They would’ve gotten a hell of a kick out of this, their son coming home,” he said. “So it’s a special place to me.”
Pritzker said the tax credit could spur another production studio on Chicago’s Southeast Side, rumored for the old U.S. Steel South Works location, and that it may help Illinois lure away movies and TV shows from production centers like Atlanta, which have come under criticism from Hollywood liberals for being in states that recently tightened anti-abortion laws.
“We’re working on that,” Pritzker said. “We reminded leaders in Hollywood that this is a welcoming place.”