Industry dismayed … Steinberg leaving IFO

filmPolitics being politics,  Illinois Film Office director Betsy Steinberg’s paycheck yesterday also contained a pink slip, telling her that Friday, Jan. 16 would be her final day in office, leaving the film industry surprised  and saddened by her imminent departure.

Her termination “wasn’t a shock,” Steinberg says, since  as a gubernatorial appointee she had expected to be fired after Gov. Pat Quinn lost the election.  “I’d been thinking about it for some time and have been weighing  my options and looking to choose the best step moving forward.”

The film industry expectation was that  Steinberg, who’d held the IPO post since January, 2007, would stay  onuntil her contract expired in February – or at least be around for a few  weeks after her successor arrived to assure a smooth transition.

Her state employment agreement,  however, prohibits Steinberg from working for a company that is involved  with the Illinois filmmakers tax credit for one year. 

Looking back on her long  and challenging tenure and what she called “a dream job,” Steinberg  says, “I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world.  It was  an amazing run, working with so many great people.  While I am really sad, I feel incredibly grateful for these  amazing experiences I was so fortunate to have had.”

The industry reciprocates  her feelings.  Her hard working efforts, within the difficult constraints  of government public service, resulted in a significant elevation of  the state’s revenues from film production, mainly from Hollywood. 

The state reported a record  $358 million in 2013, up from $185 million the year before.

Local 476’s president  Brad Matthys calls Steinberg’s department “a tragedy, a sad day  for the industry here.  She’s a big reason for the success we’re  having, the amazing results she achieved for the industry.  She  will be sorely missed and her successor will have Goliath-size shoes  to fill.”

 “It’s sad that  someone like Betsey, who brought a depth of experience to the industry,  coupled with intelligence and wit, and a strong motivation to help our  community, wasn’t retained in the job,” adds Essanay’s Wayne Kubacki, a long-time  Illinois Production Alliance board member. 

“I only hope whoever  replaces Betsy does half as good a job as she did.”

Mark Hogan, 476’s business  manager, is already feeling the loss of Steinberg in the job.   He is in Hollywood calling on industry decision-makers by himself, having  been often accompanied by Steinberg over the years.  The IFO’s travel  budget was radically cut in December, so she was unable to join Hogan  this time.  “But she did set up a lot of appointments for me,” he says.

“She was great for us,  for the industry.  We wish her every success in her new endeavors.”

Steinberg had been VP/development for Towers Productions when she was appointed by ex-governor Rod Blagojevich  after the resignation of Brenda Sexton.  A St. Louis native, Steinberg  arrived in Chicago in 1998 following a stint in Washington, D.C. where  she worked with a political media consultant and producer of PBC documentaries.

At the time of her IFO appointment,  Steinberg’s former Towers colleague, producer Bob Schneiger said,  “Betsy has extensive production experience, the intelligence, drive  and most important — the people skills to represent our industry to the world.”

She did not disappoint.


By Ruth L Ratny                             January 14, 2014