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Erin Payton, Development Manager

When I was on the JV Badminton team in high school, a good partner was someone who I could trust to successfully get the birdie when it went over my head … without whacking me with her racket. Although I loved the challenge of singles, it was great to play doubles because my partner and I were working toward a common goal - usually to beat Naperville North.

Working with sponsors for the past year at Cinema/Chicago, I’ve realized that the goal for partnership hasn’t changed much in the ages since I graduated high school. We still have each other’s backs, and we still have a common goal - to have a successful event where we both benefit. And while I have had a few sponsor banners whack me on the head, it was entirely through user error!

One of the things I try to bring up at every sponsor meeting is that our organization is in it for the long haul. We never want to have a ‘one and done’ relationship. We are so proud of the long relationships we’ve had with such sponsors as American Airlines, Stella Artois, Columbia College Chicago, AMC Theatres, and DePaul University School of Cinema and Interactive Media. It is super important to me that each sponsor receives the specific Return on Investment as outlined at the beginning of the partnership; anything less would be a failure on my part. Managing expectations is the best way to do this. If we can’t have the CEO of a sponsor’s company parachute down onto the red carpet on Opening Night, it’s imperative that I am up front with that fact before a helicopter appears over the Chicago Theater on October 10. We can then brainstorm a workable alternative, like having the CEO arrive on horseback or in a DeLorean.

I am so excited to continue to develop relationships with our current sponsors and build ones with new sponsors as we plan our upcoming events: the 49th Chicago International Film Festival Television Awards (April 23), our 10th Annual International Screenings Program (May 1 - September 25), the 9th Annual CineYouth Film Festival (May 9-11), and of course, the 49th Chicago International Film Festival (October 10-24)!

If you are interested in becoming a partner (of Cinema/Chicago only  - I have officially retired my badminton racket), please contact me at or 312-683-0121 x 108.