A new Film Wisconsin board of dedicated filmmakers is starting the revitalization of the state’s film industry, five years after Gov. Scott Walker wiped out the state’s successful film incentives, with its first initiative, a Sept. 7 Boot Camp in Madison led by a Hollywood-based producer and local film professionals.
The Boot Camp’s intent, says Film Wisconsin board member and spokesperson Nella Citino, is to develop entry-level crew members and begin developing an infrastructure that assures a larger future pool of qualified film workers.
The original Film Wisconsin was organized in 2005, by former New York TV producer Scott Robbe, who had returned to Madison for family reasons. Film Wisconsin grew to earn the support of legislators on both sides of the aisle, filmmakers, businessmen and arts leaders, who agreed on the need to bring the economic benefits of film production to a state that ranked high in unemployment.
Their hard work culminated in 2006 with the state legislating incentives of a 25% refundable tax on production costs and other perks along the way. During 2007-08, Wisconsin had enjoyed $75 million in revenues, which helped create new jobs and shored up its infrastructure.
All that came crashing down in 2009 when Gov. Jim Doyle wiped out the incentives, 18 months after they had been initiated The incentives were replaced with a tax rebate budget limited to $500,000, which went nowhere.
The film incentive disappeared entirely in June when the budget approved by the State Assembly eliminated the tax credits as part of a part of package meant to streamline the state’s tax code.
Now a reincarnated nonprofit Film Wisconsin board has emerged to attempt to reenergize the state’s film industry, starting with “increasing the industry’s presence in Wisconsin,” says Citino. The ultimate goal is to convince the legislature to reinstate incentives that had been a proven economic engine for the state.
Citino admits going forward will be “a tough road to hoe,” but their starting with an educational program that ultimately will lead to new jobs should be attractive to legislators.
Board comprised of dedicated filmmakers
The new Film Wisconsin board is led by Jay Shillinger, owner of NorthCoast Production Studios in Green Bay; producer/director Michael Graf, Spot Filmworks, Madison; Chris Novotny of OnSite Productions, Green Bay Emmy winning director Brad Pruitt, Milwaukee; technical product developer Mike Crowns, Madison; producer and Citino, chair of and Chair of the Video and Film Department at Madison Media Institute and co-owner of a small production company in Madison.
If the Sept. 7 Boot Camp proves successful, says Citino, it will be held in other locations across the state.
Leading the all-day instruction is LA-based Allan Hagan, producer/director of HBO, NBC and WB TV shows, Universal and Paramount and indie cinema. He is joined by Lisa Kerr, former LA production manager, Travis Moody, owner of lighting/grip Red Star Pictures in Madison, and Milwaukee-based production manager Brendan Jones.The Boot Camp will be held at the Madison Media Institute, 2702 Agriculture Drive, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Half of the space for 40 applicants has already been filled. Cost for the day is $49.
Attendees completing the seminar will receive a Film Wisconsin Certification and their name placed in the Film Wisconsin Production Guide and database. Attendees can sign up here.