Veteran producer Dick Wolf talked about the highs (cooperation and support) and lows (a few days last winter) of shooting TV shows in the city Sunday at the inaugural Chicago Film and Media Summit.
Speaking to a crowd of roughly 300 attendees at the Cultural Center, Wolf defended his decision to use L.A.-based writers and post-production staff for his NBC drama “Chicago Fire” and its upcoming spin-off “Chicago PD.”
“There is a creative reason not to have writing staffs in the city of production: There’s a natural, creative push and pull when they’re not in the same place,” Wolf said, adding that those who come up with the storylines and those who execute them can become “a bit too supportive of each other” if they’re next door. “A little bit of a creative cauldron is a good thing.”
Dick Wolf (right) was the keynote speaker at Sunday’s inaugural Chicago Film and Media Summit.
The famously frank producer admitted “it’s also more convenient for me.”“Chicago Fire” continues to build on its ratings in its recently started second season. The police department spin-off will launch on NBC at 9 p.m. Wednesdays — right after Wolf’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” — beginning Jan. 8.
Both “Fire” and “PD” are filmed here. When asked why post-production work is shipped off to the West Coast — a reasonable question at an event meant for the local film industry — Wolf said it’s a not broke/don’t fix it kind of thing.
“I’ve had the same people doing it for so long,” said Wolf, whose television career spans nearly three decades. “Why would I not do that? It’s been working. To set up a new modality for us doesn’t make sense.”
Wolf got his TV start as an ad executive before branching out into writing and producing on series such as “Miami Vice” and “Hill Street Blues.” Exterior shots for “Chicago PD” will use the same old Maxwell Street station shown in “Hill Street Blues.”
“It’s a direct homage to ‘Hill Street,’ which was truly groundbreaking television,” said Wolf, best known for creating the long-running “Law & Order” franchise.
Despite his Emmys and a long career in TV drama, Wolf doesn’t turn up his nose at reality TV. His reality show “Cold Justice” on TNT was recently picked up for another season, and he’s been given permission to do another reality series about first responders in New York. His favorite reality show: Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid.”
Complaining about reality TV, Wolf said, is “like complaining about the weather.”
“People are obsessed with the singing competition shows,” he added. “Thank God because it’s my lead in.” (“Chicago Fire” trails NBC’s hit “The Voice” on Tuesday nights.)
The key to a great television drama is simple, Wolf said. You need great writing. And for that, he prefers a writers room with a few wrinkles and a bit of gray hair.
“Twenty-three year-olds don’t have much mileage on the odometer,” he said. “It’s weird to think they’re going to be able to write realistically about marriage and jobs. They should write comedies at 23.”