A Chicagoland native and the son of Greek immigrants, Alexander S. “Alex” Pissios received a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Northern Illinois University. As a student, he dedicated many hours to working with and mentoring a young man with autism. Alex Pissios contemplated following in his father’s footsteps as a special education teacher until another calling came into the picture, real estate. In 2003, he began developing real estate in the neighborhoods surrounding the United Center.
After the great recession of 2008, Pissios, just as many other real estate developers, came close to losing everything. It was a twist of fate and the bond of family that ultimately changed the course of not just his life, but of his family’s and many more people. An unyielding vision to improve an impoverished neighborhood and contribute to a better Chicago persisted.
Decades earlier, Pissios’ uncle Nick Mirkopoulos had launched a film and television production facility in Toronto. That Canadian campus had been used for notable productions like the major motion picture Chicago, which won the Best Picture Oscar, and The Handmaid’s Tale, which garnered a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination.
Pissios’ drive and spark inspired Mirkopoulos, and the two chose to collaborate on a similar production facility in Chicago. They purchased the former Ryerson Steel complex in 2011. Those over 60 acres in the North Lawndale neighborhood became Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, the largest independent movie studio outside of Los Angeles.
Understanding the importance of giving back to the community and remembering where you came from, Pissios and his brothers Dean and Nick created The CineCares Foundation. It was created to honor the memory of Uncle Nick Mirkopoulos with innovative programs that empower Chicago residents through film and TV education and job training. The Mirkopoulos Apprenticeship Program partners with community-based programs to train area youth and young adults for the opportunity to work on productions created on the Cinespace Chicago campus.
To continue to move progress forward in the film and media industry, Pissios inaugurated the nonprofit film incubator program Stage 18, which has merged with a second nonprofit and is now called, the Independent Film Alliance (IFA Chicago). The organization provides the community and resources needed to build a diverse and sustainable industry of independent content creators.