Actress Helen Hunt directed a spot here

ACTRESS HELEN HUNT was in Chicago last weekend with Chelsea Pictures/L.A. to direct a 60-second spot for Frito-Lay’s new TrueNorth healthy snack brand that will air on the Oscars’ Feb. 22 telecast.

TrueNorth launched a consumer contest last summer for stories that described how they or someone they know had the pursuit of their life’s passion. The winner, out of 2,300 entries, will be featured in a spot and receive a cash prize of $25,000.

The Oscars’ spot will kick off the brand’s 2009 ad campaign which will highlight real people who pursued their life’s passion.

OSCAR NOMINEE MICHAEL SHANNON is “one of the good ones,” says screen/playwright Paul Peditto about the Chicago actor and Red Orchid Theatre ensemble member who was nominated for best supporting actor for his role of a former mental patient in the otherwise Oscar-snubbed “Revolutionary Road.”

“He was answering phones (even when he didn’t need to) at Red Orchid theatre even last year. He contributes to his theater without the pomp and pomposity of a David Schwimmer. And he delivers in performances, time and again (don’t believe? Run his name on IMDB), says Peditto.

STEVE CONNER, DRAFTFCB’S NEW SVP/GCD will co-lead the Kraft account as well as work on other agency business.

Earlier, Conner succeeded agency founder Tom Burrell as CCO and managing partner of Burrell Communications, and most recently had been a brand consultant on convergence. During his varied career, he worked with such major brands as Budweiser, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Toyota.

AUDITIONS HERE SATURDAY Jan. 24 for gospel singers to compete on BET’S “Sunday Best,” a la “American Idol,” at the Hyatt Regency at 151 E. Wacker, 9-11 a.m. Kirk Franklin is the show’s host and judges are Mary Mary and Bebe Winans.

JUDGE JEANINE PIRRO flies to Chicago from New York for three to four days a week to tape her nationally syndicated show, “Judge Pirro,” at Ch. 9. A native New Yorker, Pirro is a former prosecutor, county judge and candidate for the U.S. Senate and New York attorney general.

L.A.-BASED SCRIPTSHARK “was so impressed with the writers who attended our workshop in Chicago last year,” says Lee Zahavi Jessup, Scriptshark director, “that I’m making Chicago the first stop on our lecture tour in 2009.”

The dates are March 19 for an evening lecture and March 21 for an all-day workshop at Columbia College.

RYAN JEWELL, who started his new job as director of 21-year old IFP/Chicago Monday, says his main goal, “is to offer amazing programming to our members and be fiscally responsible to the organization during this difficult economy.”

He is also working with committees and sub-committees on organization planning that includes “spreading out events consistently throughout the year,” he says.

Oklahoma native Jewell, who comes to IFP from two years of running Cinema Chicago’s business side and also has the prerequisite grant-writing experience, spent five years with distribution company Magnolia Pictures in Dallas, and through its merger of theatres with the Century Landmark chain, which brought him to Chicago.

A MEMORIAL SERVICE

for Linda L. Leemaster, one of Cinema/Chicago’s oldest and most devoted board members, will be held Feb. 1 at Los Nopales Restaurant, 4544 N. Western at 3 p.m.

Ms. Leemaster died Jan. 17 after a 5-year battle with leukemia Jan. 17.

In 1985, she joined the Associate Board of Cinema/Chicago and in 1991 joined its Governing Board. She served in many capacities: marketing consultant, special projects development, events manager and audience development consultant.

Ms. Leemaster was the Executive Committee secretary from 2002 until her death. She had been a member of the American Marketing Association and retired owner of The Leemaster Group.

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