Imagine if you could soar, swoop, dive, and spiral through and around Chicago’s landmarks, neighborhoods, and suburbs – with a familiar voice providing engaging commentary along the way. CHICAGO FROM THE AIR, a new special filmed entirely with a drone camera and narrated by WTTW’s Geoffrey Baer, makes this dream a reality on Thursday, November 19 at 7:30 pm on all WTTW platforms. This innovative production sets the audience free on an adventure of discovery at a time when activities and exploration are limited.
With Geoffrey Baer as your guide, CHICAGO FROM THE AIR is a sweeping bird’s-eye tour of the city and beyond. Through the lens of a high-flying drone camera, we get a breathtaking view of the city that stretches as far as the eye can see. Zoom in to trace the remnants of long-lost roads and landmarks and learn what has replaced them, discover the ways industry literally reshaped our region, and marvel at how Chicago truly lives up to its motto, urbs in horto or “city in a garden.”
On the journey, Geoffrey shows us the ghosts of lost neighborhoods, familiar streets that were once Native American trails, and abandoned transit lines that can be seen only from the air. And the program takes us over and around eye-popping architectural marvels and high above the city’s lakefront and beaches, lakes and lagoons, parks and sports arenas, museums and cultural institutions, gardens and sculptures, houses of worship, bridges and expressways, and much more. Through it all, hear Geoffrey’s fascinating stories and historical context about everything we’re seeing, much of it not visible at ground level.
The companion website (wttw.com/air) will explore what we can learn by viewing Chicago from above, and features exclusive behind-the-scenes content and interviews.
Highlights from the Special:
Grant Park, its connection to the Great Chicago Fire, and the department store magnate who made it possible
A heart-stopping dive into south suburban Thornton’s 450-foot-deep limestone quarry, one of the largest in the world
A bike trail over an abandoned rail line named for an athlete once dubbed “the world’s fastest man” who also had to overcome racist opposition for the right to compete
Vestiges of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair
Visible signs of the Ice Age and a once much larger Lake Michigan
Riverside, America’s first planned suburb, and its revolutionary winding street pattern designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted
What lies beneath the city’s diagonal streets
How redlining altered some parts of the landscape on Chicago’s south and west sides
“CHICAGO FROM THE AIR represents an extraordinary opportunity for WTTW to take our inherently curious audiences on a journey of discovery in an innovative way,” said Sandra Cordova Micek, President and CEO of WTTW. “At WTTW, our purpose is to enrich lives, engage communities, and inspire exploration. With this new special, we hope to foster curiosity about our great city while inspiring people of all ages to set off on their own adventures.”
“As we were thinking about new and exciting ways to explore Chicago, we came up with the idea to film with a drone from high above the city – the ultimate in social distancing!” said narrator-writer Geoffrey Baer. “In this show, we not only rediscover our dramatic lakefront, iconic buildings, and parks, but we also see the heroically scaled industry and sprawling infrastructure that have transformed our region – and all from a thrilling perspective.”
CHICAGO FROM THE AIR is produced and directed by Eddie Griffin and narrated and written by Geoffrey Baer. Aerial photography is by local filmmakers from Soaring Badger Productions. Editor: Paul Thornton. Graphic Design: Reed Marvine. Associate Producer: Yasmin Rammohan. Executive Producer: Geoffrey Baer. The website is produced by Meredith Francis, designed and developed by Justin Henderson, and executive produced by Anne Gleason.
Leadership support for CHICAGO FROM THE AIR with Geoffrey Baer is provided by BMO Harris Bank and The Negaunee Foundation. Additional support is provided by AAA in partnership with Hertz; ComEd; ITW; Mark and Lisa Pinsky; Donna Van Eekeren, CEO & President of Springboard Arts Chicago; The Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation; Judy and John McCarter; Ken Norgan; Joan and Paul Rubschlager; Chris and Priya Valenti; Carl Buddig and Company; and an anonymous donor. As of 10/20/20.
Geoffrey Baer - Narrator, Writer
Geoffrey Baer is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning public television writer, producer, and program host. He has been a fixture on Chicago’s PBS station WTTW for 30 years, known for feature-length programs about the architecture and history of Chicago and weekly appearances on the news program Chicago Tonight. He hosted the PBS primetime series 10 that Changed America about the built environment across the country, and hosted and co-wrote the PBS primetime special Weekend in Havana. Geoffrey has been a docent for the Chicago Architecture Center since 1987. He has been honored by the American Institute of Architects Chicago, the Society of Architectural Historians, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the Chicago Headline Club.
Eddie Griffin - Producer, Director
Eddie Griffin is a three-time Emmy Award-winning producer, and has produced the WTTW documentaries Chicago by ‘L’, Chicago on Vacation, The Chicago River Tour, Navy Pier: A Century of Reinvention, Chicago’s South Side, and the street quiz show Where in Chicago? Partnering with Chicago comic Pat McGann and host Ana Belaval, Eddie developed and produced the Emmy Award-nominated series The Chicago Stand-Up Project. In 2007, he took over the long-running WTTW independent film showcase Image Union, which won two Emmy Awards.
WTTW is the PBS member station in Chicago, committed to creating and presenting unique media content across distinct television and digital channels – WTTW, WTTW Prime, WTTW Create, WTTW World, WTTW PBS Kids 24/7, wttw.com, and the PBS/WTTW video app. Recognized for award-winning journalism and local productions – such as CHICAGO TONIGHT, THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE, CHICAGO BY ‘L’, and CHECK, PLEASE!; digital-first series FIRSTHAND, URBAN NATURE, and FOODPHILES; and national productions PREHISTORIC ROAD TRIP and NATURE CAT – WTTW presents the very best in public affairs, arts and culture, nature and science, history and documentary, and children’s public media content. Connect with WTTW on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.