Whether you’re shooting a commercial for a subscription dog-toy company or a gritty epic film that captures all the desperation, excess, and tenderness that America has to offer –– Chicago is the perfect filming location. And Chicago is more than just a backdrop. It has everything that America has to offer. Diverse neighborhoods, top-tier restaurants, some of the best universities in the world, incredible architecture, skyscrapers, plenty of waterfront property, art scene, music scene, movie scene, and lights that you can’t imagine.
For a location scout, Chicago is a wonderful place to get lost in. It’s no wonder why the city has some of the best creative companies and freelancers in the country. In this blog, we will tell you everything you need to know about finding all the locations you need for your latest film project.
What you should know about hiring a location scout
Location scouts have a deep understanding of film, and basically think like directors, cinematographers, AND producers — this means that they’re thinking beyond just what a location looks like, and considering how easy it would be to film there, set up trailers, get electricity and lights, and so on.
Location scouts keep relationships with thousands of location owners and usually act as liaison between the production team and the owners of each filming location. Pretty much daily, they help smooth out problems.
Resources for finding Chicago-based location scouts
Here at Peerspace, we make it absurdly easy to scout for locations yourself. We unlock Chicago’s coolest spaces and make them a cinch to book, taking the grunt work out of finding the perfect place for your photo or film shoot. Rent a space by the day or by the hour, rather than signing a massive 14, 30, or 60-day lease, and choose from hundreds of loft spaces, warehouse, photo studios, bookstores, sound stages, cozy apartments, and beyond.
And when you find that location that just clicks, the one that makes you say, “That’s it, that’s exactly what I was imagining,” Peerspace makes it easy to schedule the shoot, communicate with the property owner, pay, and move on to the next step of your busy production schedule. Our production listings are curated with creatives in mind. They all have copious photographs of the locations from many angles, as well as reviews from actual people who have used the space. You can feel confident that you know what you’re getting when you book a Peerspace.
Production hub keeps a list of about 20 location scouts in Chicago. Some of their location scouts upkeep fairly detailed résumés on the site, whereas others pretty much just list their names and phone numbers.
The Chicago Creative Directory keeps a list of location scouts and photo stylists in Chicago. They keep a very simple list: just names, websites, and phone numbers, for the most part — but that’s pretty much everything you need to get started.
Location scouts stay busy, always on the move. That’s why sometimes it’s really much easier to find them on social media — especially Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, as we’ll explain.
Twitter is a great place to find location scouts discussing their work, sharing pictures, tweeting @ people in their social network. It offers a fascinating insight into their daily routines and work habits.
LinkedIn can help you explore the résumés of potential location scouts, even take a deep dive into their past work to get an understanding of what has influenced them.
And with Instagram, of course, you get to see their work. Do they have they eye? Do they “get it”? You can tell a lot about how it would be to work with a location scout in this way. And if you like what you see, all of these sites have ways you can get in touch with them.
Didn’t find what you were looking for?
If you still can’t find the right location scout, try giving the Chicago Film Office a call. They can also help you figure out what, if any, filming permits you might need. They’re a very handy resource for Chicago’s location scouts.
Websites for DIY location scouting in Chicago
If you’re filming an indie film, we know you’ve got to prioritize where you spend your money. There’s equipment, talent, renting locations, and more, and trying to find the cash for it all isn’t exactly “the fun part.”
That’s why we’ve also put together some of the best websites for finding and scouting Chicago locations directly.
The best place for the filmmakers of Chicago to location scout on their own— aside from Peerspace — are the following:
Chicago Artists’ Resource has nearly 300 spaces listed for lease. The leases are generally longer leases, but they do offer an interesting variety of spaces. This resource is set to migrate over to chicagoartistscoalition.org sometime soon, but as of the time of this writing it hasn’t yet.
Chicago Creative Directory has an extensive list of public and private Chicago filming locations, along with contacts for each location. If you’re looking to film in a public library, or along the shoreline, here’s an alternative starting place.
Don’t forget to ask people in your own network
We hope that between the dozens of location scouts and thousands of locations these resources have you’re able to find the right person and the right locations for your film. But don’t forget to ask the people in your network. Even if you’re still fairly new to the game, you might just know somebody who knows somebody. Asking for help saves a lot of time. And working with friends of friends is still how a lot of this gets done. Good luck out there, filmmakers. You’ve got important work to do.