In early November, several Illinois Quad-Cities locations were used to shoot exterior scenes for a series for the new streaming service Quibi, directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly who are known for “There's Something About Mary,” “Dumb and Dumber.”
“The Now” centers on Ed Poole (Franco), who's about to take his own life when his mother tells him his brother just died by suicide and his dad did in the past. Ed realizes the only thing that will make his life worth living is to “forget the past, screw the future and just live in the now," according to a synopsis.
None of the series stars were in the local filming, which was done over three days and featured shots in downtown Moline, Rock Island, Schwiebert Riverfront Park, and Port Byron (including a police chase in its downtown with a mock Moline squad car). The crew was based at East Moline's Hyatt House/Hyatt Place, which was remade as an emergency-room entrance for a morning shoot, hotel general manager Ray Stoddard said this week.
“That was fun to watch,” he said, noting the production resulted in about 150 room nights for the Hyatt at The Bend, including scouting for area locations before filming.
“I don't know if it will give the hotel any exposure, but what it did more than anything else, it showed guys tied into that industry, what the Quad-Cities has to offer,” Stoddard said. “There are people here they can hire to do jobs, and there are plenty of different venues they can film at."
Alex Hess, operating partner of Ram's Riverhouse, 102 S. Main St., Port Byron, was one of many Q-C residents thrilled to see “The Now” filming here. “It was pretty cool they chose Illinois,” he said of the shooting on Main Street for two and a half hours.
“It's always exciting to have exposure for the Quad-Cities, and Rock Island in particular,” said Dan Gleason, Rock Island parks special events and fundraising manager. “Schwiebert Park is such a beautiful park — the views of downtown Davenport, the Centennial Bridge, you can't beat another location like that.”
The park and river footage used drones to film, and the production company was great to work with, he said.
“It's very positive; great to have activity in the city this way,” Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms said. “It brings out-of-town people to the city. It's great to see that somebody's thinking about us, the Quad-Cities, let alone Rock Island. The city is willing to be very accommodating, not only for this, but for future ones.”
Illinois and film
“Bobby Farrelly did scouting; Peter and Bobby have driven across the country several times, and they just happened to like the Quad-Cities,” said Peter Hawley, director of the lllinois Film Office. “They needed something that looks like the Midwest, and they landed on it.”
“What's interesting here, they didn't file for the tax credit,” he said, noting any film project that spends at least one day and minimum of $100,000 in Illinois is eligible.
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“Clearly, we were going to have over $100,000,” Hawley said. “I'm thrilled about it; I hope it bodes well for more production in the northwest part of the state.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker this summer signed an extension of film tax credits (which were due to expire in 2021), through 2026. The incentives give companies 30% tax credits on production costs and salaries up to $100,000 per worker. The state also offers an additional 15% tax credit on salaries of people (making at least $1,000 in total wages) who live in economically disadvantaged areas whose unemployment rate is at least 150% of the state average.
In Illinois, 2019 is on target to be a record-breaking year for film and TV production, Hawley said. In 2018, total production was at $478 million (mainly in the Chicago area), and the state has never exceeded $500 million, he said. “We're teed up very well for 2020.”
“The Now" is one of dozens of series in the works at the short-form content platform (each episode about 10 minutes), which is slated to launch in April 2020, according to variety.com.
Led by former DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman, Quibi is attracting A-list talent across the board, and has announced projects including Steven Spielberg’s “After Dark,” a horror series users will be able to watch only between sundown and sunrise local time.
Other partners include Guillermo del Toro, Antoine Fuqua, Sam Raimi, Jason Blum, Steven Soderbergh, Catherine Hardwick, Anna Kendrick, Doug Liman, Laurence Fishburne, and Bettendorf natives Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (of “A Quiet Place,” writing and directing an episode for the upcoming Quibi anthology “50 States of Fright,” to be released next year).
Film professionals from across North America worked with several Quad-Cities area counterparts in production, including grips, gaffers, hair and makeup, extra casting, production assistants, security and support services totaling over 30 people, said Doug Miller of Davenport, location manager and director of the new Q-C branch of the Northwest Illinois Film Office.
"The interiors of 'The Now', with its stars, were being shot in Vancouver as we were setting up the exterior shots in the Quad-Cities area,” Miller said. “The interior and exterior scenes are then edited together as if it were all happening here in the Illinois Quad-Cities area."
Miller said the local cities, Rock Island County and local law enforcement were very supportive and cooperative in the production, which came as the new Q-C branch of the Northwest Illinois Film Office is being established “in response to productions like this that want to make the Quad-Cities their production hub."
The state has approved $100,000 in new funding for the Whiteside County-based film office to expand in the Q-C, including advertising, workforce development, training, staffing, and participation in industry groups.
“We're hoping more and more work grows out there,” Hawley said. “We're putting out a notice for funding opportunities, geared to train young people in entry-level positions in film.”