Springfield film pros create a private film commission to promote Central Illinois region

Steven Spielberg is in preproduction for a movie about Abraham Lincoln and the Springfield Film Commission would like to see the 16th president’s story actually filmed in his home town.

Selling Hollywood on the many advantages of filming Central Illinois is the mission of the newly-hatched, independent SPC. And not just for the diversity of scenic and historic locations.

It turns out that Springfield, 196 miles south of Chicago, has a core of 65 major league film professionals. They either work in Hollywood, or have worked there, but prefer living in Springfield, said SFC founder/executive director.

Three hundred persons with connections to the business turned out for SFC’s Dec. 19 inaugural meeting, and immediately signed up as members. Another 300-350 are expected at the upcoming Jan. 19 meeting.

A meeting of the Springfield Film Commission takes place at the Municipal League, 500 W. Capital St., 7 p.m. All are welcome.

The Springfield Film Commission?name approved and blessings given by Springfield mayor Tom Devlin?was founded by executive director Dean Williams, a genial, enthusiastic Local 600 still photographer member. He has shot stills for 150 movies since 1978’s “The Awakening Land,” filmed in New Salem.

The executive board is comprised of Jim Betts, a retired scenic department head at Paramount Studios with 145 films on his resume; Roni Betts, a former Paramount studio accountant; Dr. Karl Luthin, who is nationally famous in historical reenactment circles, and Williams.

While film commissions are traditionally a function of a state’s Economic Development department, the new Springfield organization is a completely private venture.

“We have no ties to state or city government. We don’t operate with government grants, and we don’t charge dues,” Williams emphasized. He has paid for all operational expenses to date.