Amazon Prime series will film in Woodstock next week
Downtown Woodstock's historic square will host a film crew later this month from a new Amazon Prime series called "Lightyears" starring J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek.
Other parts of McHenry County already have been or could soon be shot for potential use in the show, according to local officials. Last week, crews for the show were in Island Lake and Wauconda, shooting at a pharmacy and grocery store there.
The show's team will be filming June 23 in the square and then June 28 in downtown Woodstock, again on the square and also potentially on Calhoun Street near the square, said Jane Howie, the city's executive assistant to the city manager and mayor's offices. The crew also may come back to the area next month, Howie said, although details on that still are being worked out.
The times crews will be using the public areas during the days are fluid, Howie said, and could require some closures of parts of the square. City officials will be on hand to assist with any such closures and flow of traffic and to help the crew.
Plus, McHenry County Deputy Administrator Scott Hartman said an area near the intersection of routes 14 and 120 in unincorporated Woodstock already was shot by the crew and some filming has either taken place or soon will along a stretch of Cherry Valley Road off Bull Valley Road.
Local officials are excited about the area getting chosen to be a part of the production.
"Anytime we can showcase McHenry County, we're in," Hartman said.
It marks the second time since 2018 a TV series shown on a cable channel or major streaming service such as Amazon Prime has selected parts of McHenry County and Woodstock for filming. That year, some of HBO's "Lovecraft Country," which debuted in August, was shot in Woodstock, Hebron and Marengo.
Nick Rafferty, the Chicago-based location manager who helped bring "Lovecraft Country" to McHenry County to film shots used in its pilot episode, said filmmakers are becoming more interested in Illinois and are starting to look farther from the city of Chicago, boosting the chances of smaller cities and villages getting eyed by producers.
"In terms of filming in McHenry County, what I would say is that as Illinois becomes more attractive to filmmakers, producers are casting a wider net beyond the city of Chicago. And they're exploring all the state has to offer in terms of different looks and locations to set the story in," said Rafferty, who also worked on the FX series "Fargo," part of which was shot in Elgin.
Both the HBO and FX shows, Rafferty said, were "looking for Americana in a way that places like Woodstock and McHenry County and also other rural parts of Illinois really have in spades."
Howie said the crew behind "Lightyears" was searching for a setting that would be similar to the looks in towns in the northeastern region of the country.
"Apparently, they loved the square so much. It really was conducive to exactly what their vision was," Howie said. "So as soon as they came here, they were like, 'Yeah this is the spot.'"
Both the brick architecture of downtown Woodstock buildings and its cobblestone streets, as well as its association with movie history for being featured in the 1993 hit "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray, are magnets for videographers, said location managers based in Illinois.
"As far as what McHenry County has to offer, it's definitely small-town charm. They have a lot of these classic places like Woodstock where the roads are still cobblestone and the buildings are still from a certain time period," said Daniel Marcus, a Chicago-based location manager who helped bring a crew to McHenry County to film a Jeep commercial featuring Murray that debuted on the Super Bowl LIV broadcast in 2020, which coincided with Groundhog Day on Feb. 2 last year.
The county's location within a driving distance of two urban centers in Milwaukee and Chicago also gives it appeal for major video projects, Marcus said.
"You can pull in big talent and be able to work in the right location. That's a big draw for big studios to come out here and do that kind of stuff," Marcus said.