Film Wisconsin advocates didn’t alter Decker’s position on changing state incentives start date

Proponents of the Film Wisconsin incentives bill eager for the incentives to begin July 1, 2007 instead of January, 2008, got a chance to express their views at the Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Finance hearings in Madison Tuesday.

Unfortunately, their turn to speak didn’t come until the end of the hearings on the Governor’s 2007-2009 Biennial Budget.

The proposed SB24, the incentives package, has been blocked from starting July 1, 2007 by powerful Joint Finance Committee co-chairman Sen. Russell Decker.

A contingent of filmmakers turned out in the hope of having a chance to “educate” Sen. Decker about the value of immediate passage since it would provide some $20-$30 million worth of potential feature business for the state.

Scott Robbe was the Film Wisconsin spokesman at the hearings, “but this wasn’t the appropriate forum,” acknowledged Dave Fantle, a Film Wisconsin member, who coordinates the Milwaukee film office.

Sen. Decker said he was perturbed by the amount of people who deluged his office on the issue, said Fantle, who was told by some of Decker’s staff members that some of the messages “crossed the line in terms of appropriateness.”

Caught up in the emotion of the calls and Emails did not place Decker in a good mood to listen to the film community Fantle reported.

“Certainly in a democracy people can voice their opinions, but we don’t condone people who communicate in less than a civil manner,” he said.

Decker publicly said Film Wisconsin got what it wanted, when the incentives bill was passed last May, “so we move on from there.”

But Film Wisconsin disagrees. “We didn’t get what we wanted. We didn’t want July 1, 2007 but we’ll live it,” said Fantle.

When he meets with one of Decker’s key staffers, Fantle hopes they getting a compromise or movement going to start the effective date earlier than January, 2008.

“But under the present scenario, it’s doubtful that Decker” will move on his position, Fantle said.

Fantle noted that Wisconsin was one of six states that did not register one production out of the nearly 700 movies produced last year.

The Milwaukee film office phone didn’t start ringing until last year, when Wisconsin’s generous film incentives became the industry buzz. “So we know the interest is there,” he said.

“With one stroke of the pen our state can be a player overnight,” Fantle stated. “If this is the bottom of the ninth inning, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” such as activating the private/publicly-funded film office, morphing into a 501C corporation and marketing the state.

A film office executive director should be named within the next three months. Key candidate is producer Scott Robbe, a Film Wisconsin organizer and spokesman, who returned to his hometown of Madison nearly three years ago after 20 years producing films and TV shows in New York.

In addition to his Film Wisconsin involvement and serving as the one-man Milwaukee film office, Fantle is VP/PR for VISIT Milwaukee visitors and convention bureau.