Film represented at Governor’s Summit

When the Governor’s Economic Summit convened at UIC a few weeks ago, the film industry was one of the eight sectors the governor’s office and DCEO deemed important enough to be included.

Gov. Blagojevich, who spent some time talking to the panel as he made the rounds of the eight sessions, “is really excited and optimistic (about the film industry),” said the DCEO’s communications director Laura Hunter. “He will go to the legislature in the spring and develop more initiatives.” She did not elaborate as to what those initiatives might be.

(Let us suggest one: Rescind the reimposed tax on the purchase of graphic arts equipment. That’d be the best dose of medicine for the ailing industry.)

Invitations had been sent to “several thousand persons” in those sectors, said DCEO communications director Laura Hunter, based on lists provided to the Governor’s Office by DCEO and, presumably by the IFO for the film industry. Guests could choose to attend two of the eight sectors that interested them.

The well-informed industry panel, regrettably, did not draw outside the film industry. The 40 guests were largely IPA members. Wayne Kubacki, an invitee and IPA board member, said the handful of people he didn’t recognize probably came from other sectors.

Panelists were IPA president Mark Egmon, SAG/AFTRA’s Eileen Willenborg, the Teamsters Bob Hogan, with a wider perspective provided by writer/director Harold Ramis and “Barber Shop” producer Bob Teitel. The moderator, appropriately, was producer Bill Kurtis moderated.

The panel had several points it wanted to emphasize, said Egmon. “We focused more along the lines of what else the state can facilitate, like attracting new visual media companies to locate in Illinois, and educating the investment community to embrace not only features, but helping new and existing companies.”

Ramis emphasized that the key to building the film business is to finding to lower production costs, so movie companies would want to shoot in Illinois. A stage is not a problem, he said, since warehouses, such as those he used for “Groundhog Day,” can be converted into stages.

But according to Hunter, stages are definitely on the state’s agenda. “We are aggressively going to acquire and find avenues to build the infrastructure, like a sound stage, that would help the industry,” she said.

Asked what those “avenues” might be, Hunter replied, “We’re keeping all options open to do what we can to facilitate developing the film industry.”

She did not describe what those options were, and summed up her position with, “We’ve addressed some of the issues we’ve addressed.”