Sweet Home Illinois a sweet night in L.A.

SWEET HOME CHICAGO was a spectacular success Monday at the Le Grande Orange restaurant in Santa Monica, when 350 Chicagoans in the industry turned out for a night of meetups, fun and some down home Chicago food favorites.

Sweet Home was picked up by former IFO director Brenda Sexton after a four-year hiatus, Lettuce Entertain You’s Rich Melman and entertainer Tom Dreesen, who emceed the first party 20 years ago and most of the 15 since then.

Some of the highlights, as reported by Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker: Bob Teitel said he and partner George Tillman Jr. are “definitely” coming to Chicago to make “Barbershop 3” …

Producer Tom Rosenberg arranged a special private screening of his “Fame” movie Friday, prior to the film’s opening, for the new Chicago High School for the Performing Arts … Virginia Madsen’s doc made with her mother, Elaine, “I Know a Woman Like That,” will premiere at Chicago International Film Festival.

Part of the fun for Chicagoans who now call L.A. home were the food favorites flown in for the party — Lou Malnati’s pizza, Portillo’s Italian beef sandwiches.

SHORT TAKES: Essanay was hired to supply lighting, grip equipment and camera dollies for “What’s Wrong with Virginia,” the feature of Holland, Michigan’s Tick Tock Studios and Next Door Productions. Shoot starts Sept. 28 for five weeks in West Michigan.

*Chicago’s 16 month movie dry spell gets a one week break Oct. 2-8 when Universal’s “Little Fockers” shoots here.

* Joan Philo is casting adults and children to work as paid, non-speaking extras/stand-ins in “Little Fockers.” The children would work as photo doubles for two of the child actors in the movie, she says.

*Biscuit Films of L.A. is here on a long shoot this week for U.S. Cellular — all this week and next Monday night.

* The Oprah-Tyler Perry-produced “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” won the top People’s Choice at the Toronto International Film Festival.

* Liz Laine Reps, Inc. signed Salt of Culver City, a diverse creative agency for directorial, editing sound design and visual effects services, for Midwest and East Coast representation.

“NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS,” the movie Filmworkers Club Reid Brody produced last year in Chicago and starring John Leguizamo, Debra Messing and Freddy Rodriguez, won three awards at the recent Alma Awards that recognize achievements by Hispanic artists in film, TV and music.

Leguizamo, screenwriter Rick Najera and director Alfredo De Villa were each awarded trophies for their work in the film category.

UMA THURMAN, who stars in the comedy “Motherhood,” the official opening selection of the 45th Chicago International Film Festival Oct. 8, will tread the red carpet with the film’s writer/director, Katherine Dieckmann. First night takes place at the AMC River East 21 Theatre at 7 p.m.

DOES ANYONE KNOW anything about a West Coast video production company that’s supposed to be setting up shop in Chicago this fall? We suspect Company X may be reality TV show and web videos shop. Stay tuned.

DISHING. We hear that multi award-winning director Joe Pytka, who shot here last week (see Mixed Media), and known as a tough SOB to work for, surprised his crew by his courtesy to everyone and even thanking the crew for their good work.

SAG-AFTRA’S EILEEN WILLENBORG will retire as executive director of both unions Dec. 31 and the search committee is ready to present their selection as Willenborg’s successor to the SAG-AFTRA boards for approval.

IN MEMORIAM. Talented and well-liked video editor Mike Sherry, who worked at Harpo Studios, died Tuesday morning in his sleep following a heart attack and a series of strokes.

A wake will be held Thursday from 3-9 p.m. at Countryside Funeral Home at 950 S. Bartlett Road in Bartlett. A funeral mass will be held at St. Mary’s church in Elgin Friday morning. Phone, 630/289-7575.