Among the Illinois facts that surprised guests at the IFO Producers Breakfast in L.A. last week was the availability of a four-lane, 2.9 mile, virtually unused strip of highway in Waukegan.
The Amstutz Highway was one of 60 unique Illinois locations displayed to some 100 high-level production and studio executives at the Beverly Wilshire hotel meeting.
While the Chicago Party Alliance held a day earlier was characterized as “disappointing” by some of the Chicago party-goers, the Production Breakfast scored big.
IFO director Betsy Steinberg, accompanied by locations manager Todd Lizak and tax credit manager Joyce Davis, pitched details about the tax credit in a power point presentation that explained and emphasized the IFO’s new slogan, “You shoot, you save, it’s simple.”
Steinberg attributed the recent spate of Chicago-shot features to the tax credit, and pointed out that hiring Illinois’ strong union crews adds to the tax credit and reduces down the cost of importing film workers from L.A.
To help advance tax credit use, Steinberg said, “We had a group of seven tax buyers there, who represented three financial organizations, talking about how tax credits can be transferred and sold.”
Clearly the high point of the morning were the 60 unique statewide location photos presented by Todd Lizak.
Among the visually enlarged pictures were the Garden of the Gods, Galena, gritty Chicago scenes, rustic towns and farmland, Starved Rock, town squares, the Chicago skyline, and brooding mansions overlooking a river.
“The reaction to the locations, many of them little known to Hollywood, was amazing,” noted Local 476 business manager Mark Hogan, who attended both the party and the breakfast with Teamsters business manager Bob Hogan.
But the biggest buzz was caused by the potential use of the Amstudtz Highway, the controllable highway strip utilized in “Groundhog Day,” “Batman” and “The Ice Harvest,” which Hogan called “a hidden treasure.”
The Chicago Party Alliance held Sept. 24 at the Peterson Automobile Museum was not sponsored by the IFO, but presented by L.A.-based event promoter Jonathan Scott.
Its estimated 300 guests were considerably fewer than the nearly 1,000 who attended the 2004 and 2005 IFO-sponsored “Sweet Home, Illinois” parties, in which then-IFO director demonstrated her considerable event-planning skills.
“This wasn’t at all like ?Sweet Home, Illinois,'” sniffed a former Chicago filmmaker, recalling the copious food varieties flown in for the previous two parties.
“For my $75 [paid at the door] I got two free drinks, hot dogs and Eli’s cheesecake,” she said.
Nonetheless, everyone agreed, the entertainment was great.
Tom Dreesen, who’s been attending Chicago-in-L.A. parties since the first Windy City West soirees in 1987, hosted a program with Joe Mantegna, who never misses this event, Adrian Zmed, Judy Tenuta, Mark De Carlo and the Old Blues Eyes Band and blues queen Koko Taylor.