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By New Times Staff
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Concluded the mayor: "I felt that since he represents your department, you should be aware of this."
@body:Nothing quite so chemically dysfunctional first set Becca Korby-Sullivan on Bill MacCallum's trail.
Korby-Sullivan, the organizer of the Biltmore "symposium," was a casting director in 1987 who had been hearing from clients about the failings of the state's film bureaucracy when, one day, "someone I know called the film office and asked for a list of casting directors," she says, "and my name wasn't mentioned.
"I got fed up," she continues, not just for herself, but for all the "working stiffs" around the state.
As a solo practitioner, she saw the state film office as "my marketing director." By Korby-Sullivan's own well-documented account (still archived in a black, three-ring notebook), she devoted most of the next two and a half years to getting her marketing director canned.
Korby-Sullivan wrote letters to state officials, peppered bureaucrats with phone calls--even applied to serve on the governor-appointed motion picture advisory committee.
(The state has two governor-appointed units that supposedly advise the governor on film- and TV-related matters. One is a small board made up of a couple of lawyers, several legislators and Arthur Loew, grandson of the Loew's theatre chain founder. The other is a larger group made up of a wide variety of types, some of whom--moviehouse magnate Dan Harkins is one--have a connection to the contemporary TV and movie business. Neither outfit is a genuine oversight element that can have much effect on what the state film office does. "They're dilettantes," says local producer Bob Warner. "It's a social event." Board chair Robert "Bob" Fannin scheduled, then later canceled, an interview with New Times.)
Believing she had made no headway by April 1990, Korby-Sullivan wrote in her log entry for that month: "I have decided the only way to get the attention of the people who are decision makers is to call a meeting of all the industry people and let them voice their own concerns in a forum conducive to the truth."
In late May 1990, she mailed an open letter to film people around the state detailing her grievances with the film office, in hopes of rallying some support. A copy of the letter came across the desk of Steven Chanen, then chairman of the governor's board.
In June 1990, Chanen replied to Korby-Sullivan's letter, opening his reply with a complaint that it hadn't been written on any kind of official letterhead.
Noting that MacCallum had in the past served as president of the national organization of film offices, Chanen then wrote that "the Director of the Film Office . . . is well-respected, locally, nationally and internationally," adding that Chanen had attended industry social functions at which he witnessed "unwavering respect paid to Mr. MacCallum as one of the leading film commissioners in the United States and the world."
Unimpressed by Chanen's nine-page missive, Korby-Sullivan rented a conference room at the Arizona Biltmore and held her "symposium." Most in attendance seemed genuinely confused about the film office's role. Was MacCallum running an employment agency? Or a marketing office? Or a social club? Or what?
Most also seemed miffed at a MacCallum sound bite captured by a local TV news reporter, in which the state director supposedly said the state was incapable of fully staffing a major film production.
(The quote, according to MacCallum defenders, was taken out of context, and dealt not with workers so much as the lack of postproduction facilities and technical gear.)
So a parade of speakers blistered the director of the film office, who was invited but naturally didn't attend. In fact, nobody official--except for a couple of low-wattage political candidates--showed. MacCallum did eventually sort of reply to some of the charges leveled at him that day.
"In the 19 years I've been in this position, never in the history of this office, never has anyone handed out or mailed r‚sum‚s out of this office," he told a writer from a newsletter published by a local film, theatre and television association. "Anyone who has proof, bring them to my office. And about nepotism, this industry is bounded [sic] on nepotism . . . but bring in front of me a director, producer, location manager or any responsible person involved with shooting in this state in the last 20 years whom I asked to hire one of my relatives. I have never asked."
As the article continued, MacCallum admitted that he "has on occasion recommended people, certainly. If a producer calls me and says they don't have time to read the whole directory, but they need a casting person, I will say Bobby Ball [a venerable local talent-casting figure] has been doing business here longer than anyone I know. If they're looking for a location manager, I'll slip open our directory and read the first three names. But just because their name is in our book doesn't mean they're wonderful or poor."
Korby-Sullivan, who had helped cast such local film productions as Raising Arizona and Campus Man before the symposium--and who cast extras for last week's Michael Jordan-Charles Barkley shoot for Nike--says she hasn't worked an Arizona movie since.
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