Smile Politely

Champaign filmmakers, meet a new friend

Now lovers, creators, and friends of the world of film in the C-U community can more easily begin the steps to create a world before the lens. Shatterglass Studios, the award winning film production company, and the City of Champaign have collaborated to form a film office for both local and Hollywood directors wishing to call C-U home for their characters.

“Last summer when a film — Consumed — was happening here in Champaign County, Shatterglass Studios worked really closely with the producer [to] find locations and do the work that a city office would traditionally be doing,” said Terri Reifsteck, the Vice President of Marketing for Visit Champaign County.  Realizing it was something the community needed and lacked, the tourism board decided to have something a bit more focused instead of going the state-wide route. After Brett Hays, co-owner of Shatterglass Studios, reached out to them about the potential, it wasn’t long before the idea became a reality. She says, “it was a natural fit for our organization to get involved with this project.”

Hays was one of the primary figures that led to the creation of the Film Office. He says filmmakers would often call him to inquire about the possibilities of filming, and he would direct them to the Illinois Film Office at the state level. Wanting a localized option, Hays took action by first speaking with the mayor (at the time), Don Gerard, followed by the Economic Development Council, the City of Champaign, and finally the Visitor’s Bureau where a pitch regarding “education to get students working on film and to bring economic development to this area” gained him the support he needed.

“Champaign-Urbana is very supportive of the arts,” said Hays. “We have things like Krannert and lots of students and businesses support it, so it’s the same with film. Champaign is a really great place that has potential for film. The support C-U brings is really unique.  We don’t have a film school, but we have students here interested in it. We have such a positive film community here, so I wanted [a] Film Office to keep this going.”

As a creative outlet for community members, Champaign’s Film Office welcomes business owners in the community to expand their talent to the big screen. Ripe with a range of services, community members can showcase their talent and dedication. In this sense, the Champaign Film Office not only calls national filmmakers to the community, but talented community members to national filmmakers.

“There are businesses in town that feel that they want to be involved with film and have been in contact with us to let us know how they can benefit films that come to town,” said Reifsteck. “By being able to promote the different things we have here [like] the tremendous amount of facilities or the diverse location and just the sheer amount of professional services, […] businesses will benefit by having a Film Office that is actually promoting their services.”

This connection between filmmakers and community members also helps to benefit Champaign financially.

“When you bring a film like that here, not only does the community get excited that a film is happening here—there’s just a lot of energy and vibrancy around that—but it also provides an economic benefit  to those places that are being utilized,” said Reifsteck. “Oftentimes, producers and filmmakers will pour money into the community that they’re filming for the services they use whether it’s location or hotels or restaurants or makeup.”

Besides the creative and economic benefits the Film Office offers for Champaign-Urbana, a social advantage comes along to add another positive factor.

“In addition to the economic impact, [filming in Champaign] will also help as a tourism destination,” said Reifsteck. “You can imagine places like Atlanta where The Walking Dead is filmed or out in Arizona where Breaking Bad was filmed. You get a lot of tourists that travel to those locations because they love those shows or they love those movies. We do anticipate that, with more things that end up being filmed here, people will find a passion within that specific film and want to travel to those locations here where those films were shot.”

The Champaign Film Office is still in its beginning stages, but Reifsteck says in the next six to twelve months, she hopes to see this project on its feet.  

“We are in the process of really getting this off of the ground,” said Reifsteck. “Having a Film Office is a tremendous opportunity to showcase the film community. I think it’s a very good representation of Champaign County.”

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