- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—When Barack Obama travels anywhere in 2015, the journey requires a motorcade filled with armor-plated limousines and black SUVs

When a young law student by the same name drove around in 1989, the lead vehicle was a tiny yellow Datsun that might have been followed by a Pontiac Fiero or a Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z.

Vehicles from the George H.W. Bush years could be seen rolling up and down Waukegan’s Amstutz Expressway on Monday as actors and crew for the independent film “Southside With You” looked to recreate the summer afternoon 26 years ago when Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson went on a first date that would lead to marriage.

“What they’re doing is getting the car from the side and then from the other side and then from the front as they go through their dialogue,” said Robert Teitel, a Mount Prospect native and Columbia College graduate who is producing the film, as a flatbed truck rigged with cameras toted the Datsun from one end of the Amstutz to the other.

“That’s called a process trailer, and by putting the car on the trailer, they can keep everybody on the same base, and shoot from several different directions,” added Teitel, whose previous production credits include Chicago-based films “Barbershop” (2002) and “Roll Bounce” (2005).

“Southside With You,” written and directed by Richard Tanne, stars Parker Sawyers as the future 44th President and Tika Sumpter as the first lady-to-be. Described as a romantic dramedy, the film chronicles a first date that is said to have been launched out of a law office where the duo worked and included stops at The Art Institute of Chicago and a South Side theater to see Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.”

“There have been accounts of Barack and Michelle’s first date — from a New York Times article to them being interviewed about it,” said Teitel, “so (Tanne) took those accounts and put it into the script, and it’s something that he’s had ready for a while now.”

Filming locations in and around Chicago this summer have included not only the Art Institute but the Music Box Theater on Southport Avenue — chosen for its historic look — standing in as the movie venue. According to Teitel, the production is slated to wrap later this year for a 2016 release, with the exact date and scope having yet to be determined.

The Amstutz, as in past practice with productions like “Contagion” and “Chicago Fire,” will be portraying a Chicago roadway for various drive-and-chat sequences. The city shut down the two-mile lakefront roadway from 9 a.m. through 9 p.m. to accommodate the crew, with traffic detoured onto Sheridan and Pershing roads.

A contingent of officials that included Mayor Wayne Motley and aldermen Sam Cunningham (1st Ward), David Villalobos (4th) and Lisa May (7th) visited the set in mid-afternoon to chat with Teitel, though everyone was told that Sawers and Sumpter were in the middle of filming and wouldn’t have time to greet them.

“They’re stuck in that car now,” Teitel said, “with no AC.”

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