TUFF seeks action on diversity officer

The United Filmmakers Foundation (TUFF) is gearing up to do battle with DCEO, the Illinois Film Office and the governor, if necessary, to fulfill their promise of a diversity officer.

“It appears the issues concerning diversity seem to have been forgotten,” charged TUFF executive director Lun Ye Marsh.

IFO director Brenda Sexton promised a diversity officer, an IFO staff person, at a June TUFF meeting, said Marsh. The meeting of 50-plus African Americans was also attended by state representative Ken Dunkin and state senator Ricky Hendron.

Funds for the diversity officer had been okayed by the governor, “yet nothing has been done about it,” said Marsh, who founded TUFF in 1996 with other African Americans in the film industry in who felt they were being shut out. TUFF’s membership is around 100.

The diversity officer would be a liaison between the state and the productions that come into the state, Marsh explained, “to assure economic parity for everyone in industry and do away with unfair hiring practices.”

Now an action-oriented, non-profit 501c3 organization, TUFF will present the IFO with its Blueprint for Success. “It will show how information about jobs may be received and disclosed simultaneously so everyone can have equal access to this information,” Marsh noted.

The present practice is for key players who sign with a production to tell their friends and many jobs are locked up before word of it reaches minorities, she charged. “But if you don’t know there’s a job in town, you can’t apply for it.

“And if the talent pool isn’t being fully utilized, then the industry is not working to full capacity,” she said.

TUFF sent a list of qualified diversity candidates to the Task Force that DCEO is putting together from all segments of the industry. “We’ve not been given any information and we’ve not been included in anything,” she noted.

On the TUFF executive board are president Gloria Sharrieff; VP/director of community affairs Greg Jackson; VP Dr. Cornelius Collins; director of communications John Bellamy; and executive director Marsh, who co-chaired the Sub Committee on the Film Industry Report to the transition team.

A general election will be held shortly, to be followed by a launch of events and workshops.

TUFF is currently located in the Artistic Communications Center, 118 N. Halsted. To join, send an Email to tuffonez@aol.com.