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Inside the world of Chicago location scouts

In Excerpts, Thoughts on August 3, 2011 at 9:47 am

The making of The Dark Knight, much of which was filmed in Chicago with the help of the city's location scouts

In the Tribune today, a profile of Chicago’s location scouts—men and women who look at our built environment with very different eyes and can see the kinetic energy of ordinary things like traffic circles, trees, and town homes. A portrait of Joe Amari was especially intriguing:

Amari started as a scout for John Hughes; today, he maintains thousands of location photographs, digitally archived, but also kept as hard copies in green filing cabinets on the third floor of the James R. Thompson Center downtown, sorted by zoos, homes, parks, banks, gymnasiums, heliports, ad infinitum. 

If you’re part of a big-deal production, chances are he’ll give you the official state treatment — which means he’ll send you scores of location pictures, then drive you around in a blue Illinois state van with about 118,000 miles on it, showing off every location to consider.

He’s given that tour to director Christopher Nolan, the Wachowski brothers when they were making the The Matrix sequels, and the producers of the upcoming Iron Man 3.

But the most fascinating detail of all was the fact that Amari is a state employee, working for the Illinois Film Office. The state does have an economic interest in drawing filmmakers so it’s only logical it would employ such a team, but it’s the type of thing I’ve never really thought about.

The crux of the article was the news that the new Superman movie would use Chicago as Metropolis, challenging the assumption that New York would always be home of The Daily Planet.

Al Cohn, a Chicago location scout, takes pictures at North Avenue Beach. Photo: William DeShazer.

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