© 2023 WVIK
Listen at 90.3 FM and 105.7 FM in the Quad Cities, 95.9 FM in Dubuque, or on the WVIK app!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Illinois Film Office Head to Visit QC

Illinois Film Office director Peter Hawley.

Because of the pandemic, film and TV production in Illinois last year spent nearly $362 million, down 35% from about $560 million spent in 2019. Doug Miller of Davenport – who heads the Quad Cities Production Coalition – wants to see some of that money come to the Illinois Q-C area.

He’s working with state and local officials to establish a regional film office in Rock Island, and is bringing Illinois Film Office director Peter Hawley to Rock Island on Thursday, Aug. 19, to talk about state filming incentives and financing. It’s among the first events in the Quad-Cities during the Alternating Currents festival.

From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., in a first-floor conference room at Holiday Inn in downtown Rock Island, Hawley will speak and answer questions with Ted Reilly, an entrepreneur, film financier, and producer. As executive director of Chicago Media Angels, he’s focused on organizing, educating, and accelerating savvy media investors in the Midwest.

Reilly serves on the board of Stage18 Chicago, a non-profit dedicated to providing education, community resources, and employment opportunities to independent filmmakers, visual artists, and entrepreneurs.

Hawley is an award-winning writer and director of feature films, TV commercials, and documentaries. In his role as director of the Illinois Film Office, he and his team try to make Illinois the best state in the country for film and TV production.

“I like Western Illinois and I like the Quad-Cities. And I have been a big advocate for creating more film production and studios in Western Illinois and around the state. And so, I've gone out there several times since I've been on the job for the last two and a half years, and met with union officials and Doug, and other people in in the film industry, and he put together this panel discussion during Alternating Currents, and Ted and I are going to go there and talk during it.”

Hawley has a personal connection to the Q-C, since his parents live in Bettendorf (they moved there after his dad got a job in the early ‘80s), and he worked during summers after his first two years in college at what is now KWQC-TV. He said it’s been hard to attract film and TV production to Illinois outside the booming Chicago area.

“It's challenging because so many places around the state outside of Chicago, do not have the infrastructure and by infrastructure I mean the studio facilities and the crew base. But that said, because we're doing more and more production and overall in the state there's more production and there's more infrastructure. It's getting easier and easier, and Hollywood is ultimately going to chase the dollar and they like it here and you're having a really gang-buster year and they're going to want to come to Illinois because of the tax credit.”

“That will make it easier, and if there’s ever an expansion of the tax credit, that will allow more non-residents to come and ultimately move here, and become Illinois residents as well.”

The Illinois Film Office awards a 30-percent tax credit for qualified production spending and labor expenditures, up to $100,000 per worker, within the state of Illinois. Gov. Pritzker extended the credit in 2019 to December 2026. Applicants can receive an additional 15% tax credit on salaries paid to people (earning at least $1,000 in total wages) who live in economically disadvantaged areas, whose unemployment rate is at least 150% of the state's annual average.

Statewide, there were 7,780 production hires in 2020, not including extras, compared to 15,168 hires in 2019, according to film office data. Film officials said more than 1,775 local jobs were added in the first few months of 2021. Even with the six months of 2020 when productions were paused due to COVID, Illinois maintained over 200 film projects, yielding over $360 million in estimated expenditures and 7,780 non-extra jobs hires generated by the film industry. By the end of 2020, film production had resumed for many shows – including the return of award-winning FX series, “Fargo;” NBC’s multiple “Chicago” series; and major studio feature “The Batman.”

Hawley says last winter, productions in the state were doing over 5,000 COVID tests a week, and had fewer than 10 positive cases each week.

“So they did a great job of tracking it and then as soon as they got a positive test, they would remove people for two weeks and continue on in most cases. It was a coordinated effort between the state, the city, and the unions and Hollywood and it really worked out. And again I really have always said we owe a big thanks to ‘Fargo’ because they came back and did it first and showed everyone that it was possible to do a large production safely and after they came and finished up, the floodgates opened.”

At the Aug. 19 event, he will discuss the Illinois tax credits and how filmmakers and companies can take advantage of them, and Reilly as an investor, will discuss how to use the tax incentives and film financing.

During this year's Illinois legislative session, State Rep. Mike Halpin from Rock Island helped secure $100,000 for northwest Illinois film production, including $65,000 specifically for the Q-C, which will mainly be used for marketing.

For more on Alternating Currents, visit www.alternatingcurrentsqc.com.

Formerly the arts and entertainment reporter for The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus and Quad-City Times, Jonathan Turner now writes freelance for WVIK and QuadCities.com. He has experience writing for daily newspapers for 32 years and has expertise across a wide range of subject areas, including government, politics, education, the arts, economic development, historic preservation, business, and tourism. He loves writing about music and the arts, as well as a multitude of other topics including features on interesting people, places, and organizations. He has a passion for accompanying musicals, singers, choirs, and instrumentalists. He even wrote his own musical based on The Book of Job, which premiered at Playcrafters in 2010. He wrote a 175-page history book about downtown Davenport, which was published by The History Press in 2016. Turner was honored in 2009 to be among 24 arts journalists nationwide to take part in a 10-day fellowship offered by the National Endowment for the Arts in New York City on classical music and opera, based at Columbia University’s journalism school.