State Treasurer Topinka okays funding for new Minority Filmmakers Initiative

State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka has committed a substantial amount of funding to the new Minority Filmmakers Initiative of the Lights, Camera! Illinois (LCI) film funding program.

Versatile filmmaker and Chicago native Robert Townsend lent his voice to the group that met for two hours with the Treasurer on Aug. 23 to hammer out an incentive that would provide minority filmmakers with financial resources otherwise not available to them.

Townsend feels so strongly about the initiative that he flew into Chicago at his own expense at the behest of state Sen. Ricky Hendon and Rep. Ken Dunkin to meet with the Treasurer. Townsend pointed out that Illinois’ initiative would be a first for the U.S. and a boon to minority filmmakers.

Rep. Ken Dunkin said a committee within the Oscar Micheaux Film Society (named for an early African American independent filmmaker) will raise funds for a 501(C) non-profit corporation. The committee also will review the proposed projects and if approved, send them to the LCI Minority Filmmakers Initiative.

The 501(C) would be used strictly for collecting funds to be used for collateral purposes. Basically, applicants could use the fund as insurance for their review by financial institutions.

A bank has to first approve the filmmaker’s credit worthiness and the collateral against the loan. Once this is done, an application goes to the Treasurer’s LCI program for a low-interest loan enabling the filmmaker to produce his movie in the state.

For the past six months the Treasurer’s Office has been laying the groundwork by meeting with Hendon, Dunkin and Dunkin’s attorney, Randy Crumpton, along with the unions and film offices to formulate a workable strategy. Topinka at the meeting agreed to set aside money, which could be as much as $15 million, to launch the Initiative.

Lights, Camera, Illinois! has funding available to credit-worthy filmmakers who seek a low-interest loan for local film production.

Also attending the meeting were Clayton Harris, Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; Rich Moskal, Chicago Film Office; Joyce Davis, Illinois Film Office; financier Alvin Boutte, Jr.; Oscar Turner, VP/Financial Planning/Paramount Pictures; Alisa and Donzell Starks, owners, Ice Theatres and commercial producer Darryl Manuel.