Film Wisconsin in serious trouble
Remember when it looked like Wisconsin was about to become a viable location for big-budget film productions? According to an alarming story from The Business Journal Of Milwaukee, our days of spying Johnny Depp working with Michael Mann on the set of Public Enemies could end up being an anomaly. Thanks to Gov. Jim Doyle, whose veto pen removed most of the juice from film incentives implemented in 2008, the organization in charge of promoting and recruiting movie projects for Wisconsin no longer has the money to actively pursue productions, and just laid-off its executive director in order to stay afloat.
The Business Journal reports that ED Scott Robbe was let go because Film Wisconsin currently only has between $30,000 and $40,000 in its coffers. Board president Dave Fantle is now answering the phones at Film Wisconsin—not that the phones have been ringing much lately anyway. After Doyle put a cap on tax credits available to productions that come here to just $500,000 in 2009, inquiries into filming in Wisconsin virtually dried up.
Before then, Wisconsin boasted some of the best incentives in the nation, including a 25 percent tax credit for spending on film projects and a 15 percent credit on infrastructure expenditures. In 2008, eight feature films and 16 TV shows were made here. The most notable was Public Enemies, but some balked when the production was paid $4.6 million in tax credits for spending $5 million. Still, considering the attention and excitement Public Enemies generated—and the fact that we still came out $400,000 ahead, which is money the state wouldn’t have seen otherwise—it seems shortsighted to gut the program after it produced results so quickly.
For now, Film Wisconsin hopes its fortunes will improve with a new governor and legislators. Hopefully something can be done to regain the lost momentum before it’s lost completely.