Film Wisconsin sets up shop in Milwaukee; names industry veteran Scott Robbe executive director

After two years as an effective volunteer organization, Film Wisconsin has opened its first official office and named Scott Robbe, industry veteran and a Film Wisconsin founder, its first executive director.

Offices are located within VISIT Milwaukee, the city’s tourist bureau, which Robbe calls “a natural fit.”

“Both organizations strive to further a positive image for the city and state and grow more business here,” said Robbe, a Wisconsin native with extensive production experience in New York and L.A.

The new film office ? the first since the state film office in Madison was shuttered two years ago ? has its work cut out for it.

“We have to find additional funding for the film office, work with the Department of Commerce to refine the incentive rules, market the state and build an infrastructure that will make Wisconsin a major player in the industry,” Robbe said.

At the same time, VISIT Milwaukee announced the creation of the Milwaukee Film Fund which is designed as “a bridge incentive” to help attract business until the state’s tax incentive bill goes into effect Jan. 1, 2008.

The Fund will be used “to help producers reduce their per diem budget lines by helping defray certain costs” when filming in Wisconsin’s largest city, said Film Fund president/CEO Doug Neilson.

“Bridge incentives” are available to feature, TV programming and commercials producers, and will be administered through the new Film Wisconsin offices.

$100 million worth of production expresses interest

The decision to form the Film Fund follows the recent filming of several productions in Milwaukee and the continuing interest by producers to film in the state.

The recent filming includes a companion documentary for Sony Pictures Television’s “Rescue Me,” and a big-budget Hyundai commercial that was filmed at the Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum and on city streets.

Robbe said that thanks to the incentives several major film projects, totaling some $100 million have expressed interest in shooting throughout Wisconsin for the second half of 2007.

When the incentives take effect next January, Wisconsin will offer one of the best packages of credits of up to 25% for qualifying productions.

Among the possibilities are a $10 million coming-of-age movie for Milwaukee and a $2.5 million for a Madison-set film.

Seven persons elected to Film Wisconsin board

Film Wisconsin elected its first, seven person board of directors. Elected for two-year terms were: George Tzougros, executive director of the Wisconsin Arts Board, Madison; David Fantle, VP/public relations, VISIT Milwaukee; Milwaukee Film Office liaison, Jay Schillinger, a Walt Disney Co. veteran, producer, Pulse Communications, Green Bay.

Also: Louis Fortis, publisher of the Shepard Express and founder of the Milwaukee International Film Festival, Milwaukee; Brad Pruitt, filmmaker, Milwaukee; Melissa Musante, filmmaker, Brookfield and Michael Ogrodowski, SVP/Marcus Theatres Corp. Milwaukee.

The office is located at 648 N Plankinton Ave., Milwaukee; phone 414/287-4251; Email scottrobbe@gmail.com. See www.filmwisconsin.net.

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