Overwhelming industry support persuades Hudgins to keep IFO job

He’s back by popular acclaim. Bob Hudgins, deputy director of the Illinois Film Office, said he was convinced by “a long list of people” to remain on the job after he had tendered a Dec. 31 resignation.

Hudgins’ decision to get back to work caused a collective “whew” among the local community that has relied on his expertise for the past six years. They were also concerned about the consequences an unqualified replacement would have on the industry.

No one was more elated at Hudgins’ decision than IFO director Brenda Sexton, who called his retention “the best Christmas present I could’ve gotten. We all worked really hard to beg to him to stay.”

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

IFO presented the recommendation for his retention to the Governor’s Office and they supported it, said Sexton. “The community was all over him to stay. He realized he’d feel terrible if he left here and things didn’t go well and how much people appreciate him. He’s in a position now where he can contribute the most.”

DCEO director Jack Lavin also met with Hudgins to discuss his continued employment. “I’m really glad the director is supportive of this office,” Hudgins said.

What pleased Hudgins the most was his realizing the difference he has made to the people who work in film production, “and that the people out there are the direct recipients of my labors. I didn’t take this job for the big salary,” he chuckled. “My folks were missionaries and I took it because I could do things for other people. It’s fun to go into elementary school telling kids I love my job.”

Hudgins’ state title is public service administrator and he works for the state’s version of civil service. In order to continue seamlessly on the job, he had to submit a request for appeal to pull back his retirement papers ? the first time to anyone’s knowledge that occurred ? that would have gone into effect Dec. 31.

Back at work after paternity leave, following the birth of his first child last month, Hudgins is digging into three screenplays received from Hollywood companies considering Chicago locations.

“To get scripts before Christmas is unreal,” he said. “Nobody is working in L.A. this time of year, so I consider this a good sign for business next year.”

The office also is “scouting like crazy,” Hudgins said. High on “hopeful maybe” list is a Warner Bros. feature, “Lake House,” for which Chicago is competing with Toronto. Looking at the interest flowing into the office, “We could have a nice mix of three to four indies and studio pictures this spring as well,” he said.

IFO’s phone number is 312/814-3600.