Sexton says goodbye to friends, heads for L.A.

THE WEATHER WAS FRIGID, but the feelings were warm as 50 guests said a fond good-bye to former IFO director Brenda Sexton at a party hosted by her friend, Chaz Ebert, at Gibson’s Monday night.

Sexton reminisced about some of the highlights and triumphs and individually thanked many of the people in the room for their support her during her four years at the IFO helm.

She remarked laughingly that she’d been told “nobody ever says no to me,” a testament to her sales ability as she sought sponsorship and cooperation for high profile IFO events.

On Feb. 10 Sexton heads for a film career in L.A. with five potential projects for production in her portfolio. She wanted everyone to feel she is their person in L.A. and hopes her efforts will return new business to Chicago and the state.

Of the 50 guests, the film trade was sparse in number and included Thea Flaum, Mark Androw, Mark Egmon, Tom Duff, Paul Oddo, Mark Hogan Eileen Willenborg and “The Weatherman” writer Steve Conrad, who directed “Quebec,” last summer’s sole Chicago-shot feature.

The IFO’s Megan Vidis, Todd Lizak and Joyce Davis were there, of course. New IFO director Betsy Steinberg was out of the country on a vacation planned long in advance of her IFO appointment.

CHRIS GARDNER, whose determination to succeed was chronicled in the Oscar-nominated movie “Pursuit of Happyness,” appears in a Wal-Mart spot celebrating Black History Month.

Directors Corners’ Al Hawkins directed for E. Morris, Barb Stieglitz produced for the agency, The Whitehouse handled post and Gamebeat Studios the music.

“HAVE A HEART,” says casting director Claire Simon and donate blood Feb. 15 at from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at their office, 1512 N. Fremont. For an appointment, phone Teresa at 312/202-0124, or Email teresa@clairesimoncasting.com.

TWO MAJOR FEATURES HEADED HERE start in April with three months of Universal’s “The Express.” It stars Dennis Quaid as Syracuse U coach Ben Schwartzwalder in the true life story of Ernie Davis, the first black college football player to win the Heisman Trophy.

Thereafter, Warner Bros. arrives for 13 weeks on a movie called “Rory’s First Kiss,” the “code” name (don’t ask why) for the “Batman” sequel, which is really titled “The Dark Knight” and stars Christian Bale. The film is slated for a July 18, 2008 release.

EA CHICAGO is collaborating with Softimage to create a 3D game in SOFTIMAGE|XSI software. They are exploring new technologies to develop a new generation of workflow model, said Scott Cronce, EA VP/CT worldwide studios.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ILLINOIS! the treasurer’s low-interest filmmakers loan program, is on hold for a month for review. LCI helped fund 16 movies since it was instituted by former treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, which in term fulfilled its goal of providing jobs and adding to the tax base.

THE MICHIGAN ASSN. OF BROADCASTERS is inviting non-members to to attend the presentation of Tom Peters, the best-selling motivational author, at the Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference and Expo (GLBC) March 14 in East Lansing. Contact the MAB at 800-YOUR MAB.

FYI: “HOLLYWOOD SOUTH,” A.K.A. LOUISIANA, expects more than $400 million revenues from movies and TV shows this year. Currently filming is a $150 million feature starring Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt called “The Mysterious Case of Benjamin Button” ? the biggest budgeted feature to film in the state to date.

The state’s determined plan to build a full-scale cheaper Hollywood, is predicated on irresistible incentives, topped by a hefty 25% tax rebate. And the plan is obviously working.

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