Bob Hudgins exits IFO, weary of DCEO’s petty harassments and unkept promises

Barely two months after he resigned as IFO deputy director, Bob Hudgins walked out of the office at 2 p.m. March 10 in what was a final end to his eight-year tenure at the film office, the last two as the preeminent go-to- guy. ?

Although Hudgins was not available for comment, he had confided to close friends that “nothing had changed” since he was urged to return to his job in January, 2005 after resigning as of Dec. 31, 2004.?

“His power and his ability to do things had been limited,” said a friend who works on feature crews.? ?

“I’m shocked and I’m distressed,” said IPA president Eileen Willenborg, expressing the feelings of the film community. “Bob will be missed.?He’s given outstanding service for these past eight years.?It’s great if Brenda Sexton can bring features here?but we need someone knowledgable like Bob to run the myriad details of the production side.” ?

Hudgins finally got fed up waiting for DCEO director Jack Lavin to make good on promises made when Hudgins returned to the film office, insiders said. It was also known that petty harassments emanating from Lavin’s office, particularly from a highly placed staffer, frustrated him and wore him down. ?

At a meeting after his return, Lavin assured Hudgins that he would resolve the troublesome issues that Hudgins brought to his attention. As for the promised raise, consider it done.?But after weeks of getting evasive answers from Lavin about when the raise would be effective, Hudgins saw the futility of his position.?

A particularly prickly frustration was DCEO’s three week delay in giving him the go-ahead to attend the Austin, Texas South by Southwest film festival next week, known to be one of his favorites and most productive. ?

Whatever caused Hudgins’ departure is moot?he’s gone and won’t return.

Without him as the IFO’s reliable anchor, the film industry is concerned about the future of the state’s feature business.?They also worry about the conflicts that may prevent the state legislature from extending the wage tax credit, which has been helpful in selling features on filming in Illinois. ?

“We are very dismayed to see him go,” said Essanay Studio & Rentals VP Wayne Kubacki, also an IPA member.? “His departure will be a tremendous blow to the film office.?I’m sure there will be serious concern how the IFO will function in the immediate future, particularly considering that there are several features about to start.”?

Kubacki was one of many industry members who prevailed upon Hudgins to withdraw his resignation.?

Especially influential in Hudgins’ decision to remain were Locals 476 and 714 and the DGA.?They made his retention an agenda item at union meetings, and made him feel that changing his mind was for the greater good of the community.

“Bob was touched by the tremendous support he received when he returned and the accolades he received from everyone in the industry,” Kubacki said.

Who will replace him is a big black question mark.? The tendency of the Blagojevich administration is to put into place “somebody that somebody sent”?a person accompanied by a large contribution. ?

Willenborg said the IPA will try to convince Jack Lavin that “he must look for someone for the skills Bob possessed” as a replacement.? “Those are big shoes to fill, but the DCEO must strive to do so.”

Lavin has not been receptive to IPA recommendations in the past.