In documentary, DePaul filmmakers explore Bears' possible move to Arlington Heights
Ryan Deitch was only a sophomore film student at DePaul University when his curiosity was piqued about the Bears' possible move to Arlington Heights, and he set out to film a documentary about it.
After more than a year of researching, writing, tracking down sources, gaining access, doing interviews, shooting and producing, the 21-year-old amateur filmmaker has released his short documentary: "The Handoff -- A Look into The Bears' Possible Exodus from Chicago."
The 15-minute presentation, available on YouTube and at ryandeitch.com, includes interviews with Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes, state Sen. Ann Gillespie of Arlington Heights, Chicago Alderman Scott Waguespack and University of Chicago sports economist Allen Sanderson. Deitch and cameraman Josh Ho, a fellow junior at DePaul, got special access to shoot scenes in and around Soldier Field.
"You'd be surprised when you play the card of, 'We're college filmmakers from DePaul, we're looking to tell this story, we don't have vested interests or are trying to make a pro-Arlington Heights or pro-Soldier Field piece. We're just trying to tell an objective story.' And people are really receptive to that," Deitch said.
Shortly after the Bears announced their tentative $197.2 million purchase of the Arlington Park property in September 2021, Deitch thought delving into the city versus suburban Bears stadium debate would make for a good documentary topic.
The Dallas native (a Cowboys fan) enlisted his classmate Ho (a Bears fan) to start working on what they call a passion project. The film wasn't for any type of class assignment.
"I've seen what a big modern stadium in the suburbs is like," Deitch said of the Cowboys' stadium in Arlington, Texas. "And coming up to Chicago, I was fascinated and amazed by Soldier Field's unique location, but also having been to a couple games there, understood its drawbacks."
Deitch served as the film's producer and director -- spending months on editing, scoring and coloring in postproduction -- while Ho filmed all the interviews at office locations, and B-roll at Soldier Field and Arlington Park.
"When you make a film like this, you end up with hours and hours and hours of content and interviews," Deitch said.
"We could sit there and watch a 10-hour film about this and still be entertained, but the challenge is to trim it down to 15 minutes -- and not just 15 minutes, but 15 minutes that is engaging information and is digestible to an audience that has no background knowledge on the topic. I wanted my family in Texas and people not from Chicago to be able to understand the film."
Deitch says his career goal is to become a documentary producer at a network or streaming service; his dream job is to be head of documentaries at Netflix.
His next documentary -- also in the urban affairs realm -- is about the current state of the CTA, for which he was awarded an incubator grant at DePaul covering production expenses. The film will be out this summer.
"I just love storytelling. I love telling real-world stories," he said. "And I think film is the best way to do that."