CDM program expands with second Cinespace soundstage

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For DePaul film students, access to one of Chicago’s premiere production studios is as easy as enrolling in a class, thanks to the university’s partnership with Cinespace Chicago Film Studio — and prospective students are taking notice.

The university’s partnership with Cinespace, which launched in 2013, has played a part in increasing the College of Computing and Digital Media by 40 percent since 2012, making it the fastest-growing college at DePaul. 

The appeal of Cinespace is evident in the numbers – the 32,000 square foot studio has over 17,500 square feet of shooting space, multiple free standing sets, professional-grade lighting and grip equipment, a green screen, sound equipment and a scenic shop, among many other features. What’s more, students share the space with shows like Fox’s “Empire,” and NBC’s “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago PD,” and “Chicago Med.”

Aside from the three classes that regularly meet in the space Monday through Thursday during any given quarter, students can also reserve the space for class projects, approved independent projects and the university-funded Project Bluelight, which allows students to shoot their own films. Because of this, students have sometimes had trouble securing a weekend time slot to work on their projects.   

In order to meet increasing demand, DePaul opened a second sound stage at Cinespace at the beginning of fall quarter. DePaul’s Cinespace director John Corba said the new addition seems to have alleviated some of the competition for extracurricular use, though it’s difficult to say for sure at this point in the academic year.

“The fall usually involves a little bit less in terms of demand, because students are starting to feel things out and getting to know their colleagues and their fellow students,” Corba said. “They’re putting together projects. It’s usually winter into spring where things get busier, because that’s when things are kind of coming together and larger projects are going into production.”

cinespace

Actors on set of the “Pale Moonlight” music video at DePaul’s Cinespace Studios soundstage last May. The CDM program recently expanded to a second soundstage. (Photo courtesy of CONNER PIERCE)

Even within DePaul, Cinespace’s presence has grown significantly since it first launched. Kate Harrington, a junior majoring in English and minoring in TV production, is taking her first production class at Cinespace this quarter. She started at DePaul as a Digital Cinema major, and although Cinespace wasn’t on her radar at first, she said she now sees it as a major draw to the school’s film program. 

“As soon as we heard about it, my mom was so excited for me,” Harrington said. “She was like, ‘This will be so cool!’”

For other students, Cinespace was a huge incentive for coming to DePaul. Senior Tyler Krawczyk said he “tries to take as many classes” at the studio as he can, citing the professional skills he’s picked up as a result of spending time in the space.

“DePaul is literally sitting on an academic goldmine through exclusively working with Cinespace,” Krawczyk said. “It’s one of the main reasons why I decided to come to DePaul, and to this day I tell everyone to choose DePaul’s Digital Cinema program over any other film schools in Chicago.”

With an increased presence comes increased opportunities for students post-graduation – all of the shows that shoot at Cinespace are potentially job sites for DePaul graduates. Corba said he gets calls from DePaul alumni in the industry asking for students to place in a variety of different positions, including costume, grip, sound, art design and other areas.

“Cinespace has been a real game-changer, to that degree,” Corba said. “Not just in terms of how much more work has come here, but also opportunities for everybody from actors to the trade to content. There’s just a lot more opportunity here.”

Because of the abundant job opportunities, DePaul is sometimes categorized as a more production-oriented film school —  a perception Corba appreciates but would like to challenge.

“There’s also plenty of opportunity at this facility for students that are looking to produce their own content and use their equipment to do such at a much higher level,” he said. “You’re also seeing opportunity for writers, post-production and visual effects. We’re trying to leave a broader brushstroke on things, and I think that you’re seeing that.”

Ultimately, Corba said he’d like to see students moving beyond the production realm and into leadership roles.

“Next step is to have an alumnus directing these shows, and directing their own content,” he said. “That’s the end game.”