100+ at Minority Vendors Summit learn film biz; unions challenged to change or lose tax credit

An estimated 100-plus vendors, many of them women and minority businesses certified to do business with the city and state, attended the Minority Vendors Summit to learn about business opportunities in the film industry.

Held Feb. 26 at the South Shore Country Club, the Summit was a collaborative effort to increase diversity hiring of workers and vendors, a key factor in determining an extended life of the wage tax credit bill. The bill is due to end January, 2006.

But the bill’s extension could be stalled or ultimately killed, stated state Sen. Ricky Hendon at the Summit, if minority hiring for feature film jobs is not increased. The present bill is slated to expire next January.

In terms of the Summit’s effectiveness, Mark Egmon, IPA vice president and an IPA founder, felt the Summit was successful in meeting its goals of describing the needs of the film industry to potential vendors.

In setting up the day’s events, Egmon said he, IFO diversity officer Joyce Davis and IPA diversity committee chair Sharon King divided the audience into three sectors.

There were primary vendors, Egmon explained, people who need to have knowledge of the industry; bridge vendors, such as accountants and caterers whose skills are applicable without film knowledge; and general vendors, such as limo services and paint companies.

A morning panel and one in the afternoon presented a production overview and addressed potential business opportunities to the three types of vendors.

Panelists included Local 476 president Mark Hogan, IFO deputy director Bob Hudgins, CFO director Rich Moskel, locations manager Valerie Bulinski, coordinator Margaret Orlando, production accountant Vivian Swan, Wardrobe Local 769’s Jennifer Jost, production manager Margaret Thomas, UPM Tom Busch, SAG’s Eileen Willenborg, Steppenwolf’s Aphia Parsons, Davis, King and Egmon, who is also president of Outer Radius, a branded entertainment company.

Egmon felt the Summit went a long way to promote diversity in a meaningful way and “do more than lip service.”

If people [who attended the Summit] are qualified, he said, “they have a chance to work in the film industry.”?Ruth L Ratny

State Sen. Hendon is revising tax credit bill to include “minority goals” to be met in job hiring; tax credit will expire in 2006 if goals are not met

Vendor Summit guest speakers from the Illinois legislature, Sen. Ricky Hendon and Rep. Ken Dunkin, urged the unions to open “their closed shops” to minorities and people of color or face losing the wage tax credit bill.

Hendon and Dunkin, among other legislators, originally sponsored the bill, which will end January, 2006. The IPA has vigorously worked for an extension so that Illinois can continue to capitalize on the advantage the tax credit gives the state in competing for Hollywood-based features.

Hendon exclusively told ReelChicago that he is rewriting the bill to include “meeting minority goals.” If those goals are not met, he said, “we will close the whole thing down and that will be unfortunate for everyone. Reach those goals and get a bonus.”

Hendon declined to provide details about will go into his rewritten bill. He did, however, tell Summit guests that the tax credit would be increased for greater local hiring and reduced for companies that import crews.

“I don’t want to put final numbers out,” Hendon said, “but we will make the tax credit more advantageous to producers when they meet minority goals.”

The legislators’ statements were “somewhat unfortunate,” noted IPA VP Mark Egmon, “given the fact there’s always room for improvement. Something that evolves over time can’t be fixed overnight. The people at the Summit were committed to change.”