IPA rally lays out details of wage-
tax credit bill in state legislature

Chicago Studio City’s John Crededio and Ron DeRosa were among the 200-plus filmmakers who attended the Illinois Production Alliance forum and membership rally at the Hilton hotel April 28.

Crededio listened intently to the speakers’ reports and plans, which had included the state’s acquisition of CSC’s West Side five-stage complex, although it may be a case of locking the barn door since the horse was stolen.

Keeping the largest stage complex between coasts alive and viable is critical to the revival of Hollywood feature production here, a point made to the Blagovejich people early in his gubernatorial campaign and earnestly emphasized thereafter.

Speeches informing the guests of plans and progress proceeded smoothly and to-the-point. PR expert and IPA board member John Digles, a filmmaker in his own right, MC’d remarks from new IFO director Brenda Sexton, a former realtor; her boss, Jack Lavin, director of the Dept. of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, who stressed that his department and the governor were solidly behind the Illinois film industry; and Chuck Hagopian, an aide to state treasurer Judy Barr Topinka, who promoted the treasurer’s Lights! Camera! Illinois film-loan program.

The DGA’s Dan Moore presented the meat of the meeting: The proposed wage/tax credit legislation still bobbling in Springfield that would rebate 25% on the first $25,000 paid to each Illinois resident employed on a shoot.

The bill was proposed by Rep. Skip Saviano, son of the late Pat Saviano, who for 40 years had been a leading figure in film production. If the bill passes, the rebate would mark the first time the state has a major incentive to compete with Canada and other states with similar and sometimes more monetary lures. Bundled in combination with other factors, it could work to attract film business.

One of those key factors is the existence of Chicago Studio City. It has been dark and silent since ABC sent the Joan Cusack TV show packing two years ago, and was lit briefly for several months last summer when “Barber Shop” moved in.

A frustrated Crededio, CSC’s founder and owner for 20 years, had put the studio up for sale after he saw film after film, even those written specifically for Chicago, succumb to Canada’s siren call of rebates, low labor rates and favorable exchange rates.

He had been saying for five years that the state should acquire the 37-acre property. The closest they came to a deal was when former IFO director Ron Ver Kuilen attempted a real estate swap that looked very promising but then fell through after months of negotiation.

As of this moment, Crededio has two letters of intent on the table and is awaiting a contract. In a meeting with Jack Lavin, the DCEO director said the state wasn’t buying any buildings. Crededio said he wasn’t soliciting the state, and that he would sell to a credible buyer.

De Rosa has gone overboard in giving concessions to Hollywood filmmakers. Recently, a Miramax movie was considering Chicago. Despite the offer of free offices, low stage rates and other concessions, the movie opted for Winnipeg where it will receive a 35% rebate on below-the-line costs.

Introduced at the rally were newly elected IPA officers: president, Mark Egmon, also president of the local AICP; first vice president, Bruce Sheridan, head of Columbia College’s film department; second vice president, Mike Stein, consultant; secretary, Dan Moore, DGA and treasurer, Sandy Gordon of The Whitehouse.

In terms of signing new members, the IPA forum was a success with more than 30 guests signing up. Annual memberships are $1,000 for a company with employees and $250 for individuals. Dues are being used to fund lobbyists John Corrigan and John Digles to help move the wage/tax credit to passage during this legislative session.