Industry dismayed by Steinberg leaving IFO Friday

Betsy Steinberg

Politics being politics, Illinois Film Office director Betsy Steinberg‘s paycheck yesterday also contained a pink slip, telling her that Friday, Jan. 16 would be her final day in office, leaving the film industry surprised and saddened by her imminent departure.

Her termination “wasn’t a shock,” Steinberg says, since  as a gubernatorial appointee she had expected to be fired after Gov. Pat Quinn lost the election.  “I’d been thinking about it for some time and have been weighing my options and looking to choose the best step moving forward.”

The film industry expectation was that Steinberg, who’d held the IPO post since January, 2007, would stay onuntil her contract expired in February – or at least be around for a few weeks after her successor arrived to assure a smooth transition.

Her state employment agreement, however, prohibits Steinberg from working for a company that is involved with the Illinois filmmakers tax credit for one year. 

Looking back on her long and challenging tenure and what she called “a dream job,” Steinberg says, “I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world. It was an amazing run, working with so many great people.  While I am really sad, I feel incredibly grateful for these amazing experiences I was so fortunate to have had.”

The industry reciprocates her feelings.  Her hard working efforts, within the difficult constraints of government public service, resulted in a significant elevation of the state’s revenues from film production, mainly from Hollywood. 

The state reported a record $358 million in 2013, up from $185 million the year before.

Local 476’s president Brad Matthys calls Steinberg’s department “a tragedy, a sad day for the industry here.  She’s a big reason for the success we’re having, the amazing results she achieved for the industry.  She will be sorely missed and her successor will have Goliath-size shoes to fill.”

 “It’s sad that someone like Betsey, who brought a depth of experience to the industry, coupled with intelligence and wit, and a strong motivation to help our community, wasn’t retained in the job,” adds Essanay’s Wayne Kubacki, a long-time Illinois Production Alliance board member. 

“I only hope whoever replaces Betsy does half as good a job as she did.”

Mark Hogan, 476’s business manager, is already feeling the loss of Steinberg in the job.  He is in Hollywood calling on industry decision-makers by himself, having been often accompanied by Steinberg over the years. The IFO’s travel budget was radically cut in December, so she was unable to join Hogan this time. “But she did set up a lot of appointments for me,” he says.

“She was great for us, for the industry.  We wish her every success in her new endeavors.”

Steinberg had been VP/development for Towers Productions when she was appointed by ex-governor Rod Blagojevich after the resignation of Brenda Sexton.  A St. Louis native, Steinberg arrived in Chicago in 1998 following a stint in Washington, D.C. where she worked with a political media consultant and producer of PBC documentaries.

At the time of her IFO appointment, Steinberg’s former Towers colleague, producer Bob Schneiger said, “Betsy has extensive production experience, the intelligence, drive and most important — the people skills to represent our industry to the world.”

She did not disappoint