Cinema program goes Hollywood with new studio Cinespace

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While touring Cinespace Chicago last March, DePaul professor Matthew Irvine marveled at the facilities. A stage was the final piece to complete his vision of a fully functioning film and television studio.

Fast-forward through a year of negotiations and the deal is signed.

DePaul University’s School of Cinema and Interactive Media announced a partnership with Cinespace Chicago April 8, providing an exclusive cinema production space offering hands-on learning opportunities for students.

“There’s no other film program like this,” said Irvin, director of the School of Cinema and Interactive Media. “It’s going to be a one-of-a-kind opportunity for students to work shoulder-to-shoulder with industry professionals who are working on current productions.”

NBC’s “Chicago Fire” currently films at Cinespace just doors down from DePaul’s stage.

Located in North Lawndale, the facility will span 1.5 million square feet when completed, projecting it as the largest studio in the U.S. outside of Hollywood.

Irvin said he hopes this partnership will bring more attention to DePaul’s program.

“We believe we are already a top ten film and television program but we’ve been flying under the radar for a while now,” Irvine said. “This should bring us more into the spotlight.”

Junior digital cinema major Taylor Spence looks forward to the studio space.

“I think this partnership will definitely help the program’s reputation and bring in a lot more students who need a change of scenery from New York or Los Angeles and help Chicago’s film and television market grow,” Spence said.

Classes will be held in the studio space this summer for two Project Bluelight shoots to “test out how the whole set-up will work.” In the fall, advanced cinematography and directing will be held on the soundstage, Irvine said.

The university’s production space includes a 10,000-square-foot soundproof stage with a new Alexa camera system, green-screen stages, 3-D camera rigs, a three-ton grip truck and more.

The stage space will serve multiple purposes for the college.

“We will have classes there so that students will learn in a professional environment and use industry tools and techniques,” said David Miller, dean of the College of Computing and Digital Media. “Outside of regular classes, we will have the ability for students and faculty to build sets and so professional filming of their own work.”

Kristyn Jo Benedyk, screenwriting chair for the School of Cinema and Interactive Media, explained the benefit for screenwriting students.

“As directors and producers look for more material to shoot on the new stage, we hope that they will turn to the film and television writers within the cinema program to find their material,” Benedyk said.

Irvin credits the partnership to the students.

“I think at Cinespace they like the fact that we’re hungry, we’re young and the students sold it for them,” Irvine said.

The opportunities for students go beyond a physical studio.

“Cinespace will offer three content-creation grants per year to give creative DePaul students the opportunity to graduate with their own completed projects as their calling card,” said Cinespace business partner Alex Pissios.

Cinespace Chicago is also working to create an apprenticeship program to connect students with industry leaders and include student interns with other production space tenants, according to a university announcement.

Spence plans to take advantage of this partnership to help her stand out.

“The connection DePaul has with Cinespace will hopefully give me the edge to get hired instead of someone else without that real-world connection and experience,” Spence said.