"We are not looking for any financial assistance from any entity at this time," Pissios told me. Privately, he indicated that in addition to possible TV shows next year, he was also in the final stages of talks with three big-budget movie projects — one of which is based on a major book property. If it comes through, it would be a huge get for the city. Pissios expects that one will shoot in Chicago entirely "from A to Z," but nothing is certain until the contracts are signed.
As for "Jupiter Ascending" and the Wachowskis, most of the soundstage work will be done in the U.K., where Warner Bros. owns a 160-acre production facility. It is one of the largest in Europe with nine stages, one of which has 45-foot ceilings and another that is essentially a gigantic water tank. All eight "Harry Potter" films as well as "The Dark Knight" were shot there. These films, of course, are Warner Bros. properties. So is "Jupiter Ascending."
Financially, you see how it would make sense for a studio to shoot in a facility that it owns. No matter how much space is ultimately available in Chicago, those kinds of considerations may always win out — although it is possible that if Cinespace continues to build out, the Wachowskis might be in a position to make a decent case for shooting a least a portion of the soundstage work in Chicago.
Lana Wachowski did at least offer this piece of news when she was on WBEZ: "We're going to shoot all our exteriors in Chicago." Rich Moskal, of the Chicago Film Office, tells me filming is expected to start next summer and will last about four-six weeks.
The lineup for this year's Chicago Comedy Film Festival is a shaggy dog affair, including a pair of wearing mockumentaries: "A Portrait of Female Desperation" (about a filmmaker who turns the camera on her man-crazy roommate) and "Red Balls: The Chronicle of the Chicago Underground Dodgeball League" (entirely improvised and a good example of what a riddle the unscripted format still is when it comes to shaping a feature film). There is one legitimate documentary on the schedule, however, that pulls its own weight: "Road Comics: Big Work on Small Stages," about a trio of stand-up comedians who have no name recognition but eke out a decent living traveling from club to club. Also on the lineup is "Bad Parents" starring Janeane Garofalo as a soccer mom in over her head, followed by a Q&A with writer-director Caytha Jentis. The fest runs through Sunday at the DePaul University School of Cinema and Interactive Media. Go to chicagocomedyfilmfestival.com.
The world's largest Polish film festival takes place every year in Chicago. The 2012 fest includes 70 features and documentaries, including "My Father's Bike" (three generations of men come together after a marriage dissolves); "Big Love" (a toxic romance between a teenager and a biochemist); "Letters to Santa" (a comedy of interrelated stories in the vein of "Love Actually"); and "Fear of Falling" (a young TV anchor grapples with his father's diminishing mental state). Through Nov. 18 at pffamerica.com.
Raised in Danville, Ill., Gene Hackman hasn't acted in a film since 2004, and last year he told GQ that he has retired. When urged by the interviewer to do one more film, he replied, "I don't know. If I could do it in my own house, maybe, without them disturbing anything and just one or two people." Some of his best performances live on this weekend as part of the Embarras Valley Film Festival in Charleston, Ill., which is dedicating its focus to all things Hackman with screenings that include "Unforgiven," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "Hoosiers" and "The French Connection," along with a Hackman exhibit at Eastern Illinois University called "Gene Hackman: From Danville, Illinois, to Hollywood." Go to castle.eiu.edu/evff.
The Midwest Independent Film Festival has a special election night screening of the Kartemquin documentary "As Goes Janesville" about the closing of an auto plant in Wisconsin, and the town's efforts to redefine itself in the wake of the recession. The screening includes a post-show Q&A with the filmmakers. Tuesday at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema. Go to midwestfilm.com.