The stars are aligning to give a big boost to the Quad Cities film scene, but don’t expect any actual stars in the area soon to film a new flick.

Progress is slow going with the city of Rock Island Economic Development team as it works with an experienced film and media consultant to formally establish a new QC Regional Film Office.

In June, the City Council approved a one-year contract with Davenport’s Doug Miller and his firm, Two Rivers & Associates, funded by a $65,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Film and media consultant Doug Miller

The contract has a one-year term and will be paid from the funding allocated for Film Office start-up. The contract (which is paying Miller $1,665 a month through June 2023) includes an option to extend the term by an additional year if the need exists.

Miller said recently he has had over 50 meetings so far with local filmmakers and stakeholders (such as school districts and foundations) to gather information on the needs for a film office. There may not be a physical office established, but a virtual “one-stop shop” to market potential filming locations and experienced professionals available to serve production needs in the area.

“How we communicate is totally changing,” Miller said of the film/media business, noting he is working on setting up a marketing plan and website to help sell the QC worldwide. “Everything now is a little movie. It’s content creation and film is the richest form of content creation.”

According to Miller’s contract for the film office, his responsibilities are to:

  • Advise city staff in the creation of an ordinance for Rock Island to streamline the application and permitting process.
  • Recommend any needed city permits.
  • Work with city staff to develop a Memorandum of Agreement to be signed off by participating communities/stakeholders of the Film Office.
  • Develop a website to showcase the Quad Cities region as a filming destination and provide information about the region.
  • Make a recommendation for membership to the Association of Film Commissioners International.
  • Identify and create a report for available workforce, workforce needed, required training including cost and a plan to conduct the training, and recommendations on how to grow workforce.
  • Prepare documentation for facilities that can house productions.
  • Advise staff in efforts to support existing and emerging local filmmakers.
  • Guide assessment of feasibility of the concept of a film festival either as a stand-alone event or as a complement to an existing event.

Augustana College recently announced it is launching a new film major, to start in fall 2023 and has hired a director for the program, Stacy Barton.

Stacy Barton is director of the new Augustana film program (photo by Jonathan Turner).

The college is investing $250,000 for new state-of the-art film production facilities on the first floor of Sorenson Hall (at 38th Street and 7th Avenue, Rock Island), which is undergoing exterior renovation.

It will include a new shooting studio, professional lighting and grip equipment, iMac computers, high-quality, high-definition video cameras, audio equipment and LED lighting. It will also offer equipment for student checkout.

The program will include narrative fiction and documentary formats, Barton said, to help students build a strong portfolio of work.

Acclaimed filmmakers (and Bettendorf natives) Scott Beck and Bryan Woods also plan to open a new independent two-screen movie theater, the Last Picture House, on Davenport’s East 2nd Street (near the Government Bridge) in mid-2023.

The Last Picture House will be a two-screen movie theater with rooftop bar, to open in downtown Davenport in mid-2023.

Miller said these two moves will help energize the QC film scene and raise the area’s profile.

“Doug has been advising on industry insights as we develop ideas and make decisions about what the film office will look like,” Tarah Sipes, Rock Island’s economic development manager, said recently.

“The work on the film office slowed a bit here at the end of the year due to other time sensitive tasks, but there have been exciting conversations happening and I look forward to turning my attention back to the work in the new year,” she said.

Miller also is close to Illinois Film Office director Peter Hawley, whose father lives in Bettendorf and was a consultant for Augustana in developing the new film major. Hawley came to Rock Island to speak on the film industry in August 2021, as part of Alternating Currents.

“These are exciting times, not just for Augustana College, but for the film industry in Illinois,” Hawley said in a letter for Augie’s film announcement, noting the catalog of famous films shot in the Land of Lincoln, including “The Blues Brothers,” “Groundhog Day,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

In 2018, the state did about $475 million in film and TV production business, which grew to $700 million this year, Hawley said. By the end of 2024, he expects film production in the state to be a $1-billion industry.