Thursday, April 8, 2010

“Fired Iowa movie head said others to blame too - Globe Gazette” plus 3 more

“Fired Iowa movie head said others to blame too - Globe Gazette” plus 3 more

Fired Iowa movie head said others to blame too - Globe Gazette

Posted: 07 Apr 2010 08:42 AM PDT

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The former head of the Iowa film office doesn't deny making mistakes at the job, but he does say in his first interview since he was fired from the post that others are to blame, too.

In an interview published Wednesday in The Des Moines Register, Tom Wheeler said legislators, revenue officials and others should share the responsibility. The film office has been beset with claims of mismanagement and is the focus of a state investigation.

Wheeler faces a misdemeanor misconduct charge and other employees also were fired.

Wheeler said much of the questioned activity stemmed from a broad tax-credits law. He also said two years of his e-mails will prove he was told by the Iowa Department of Revenue to approve unusual expenses as tax breaks.

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Two years after tax law, Michigan’s making movies - The Oakland Press

Posted: 07 Apr 2010 09:57 PM PDT

LANSING (AP) — Michigan's bid to become a star in the movie business is drawing mixed reviews.

Two years into one of the most generous tax incentive programs in the nation, the state has lured some big-name productions, from "Gran Torino" with Clint Eastwood to portions of "Up in the Air" with George Clooney.

Since the measure became law on April 7, 2008, 89 movie or TV productions have been completed. Hotels, caterers and others getting some spin-off business can't wait for the industry to expand.

But some lawmakers are questioning whether Michigan is getting its money's worth.

The tax credit program is projected to cost the state nearly $69 million for projects completed in 2009, not counting incentives given for permanent infrastructure projects, according to the Michigan Film Office. The potential annual bill is higher — more than $100 million — but some projects weren't finished and won't get the tax credits.

A few lawmakers would prefer to use part of the tax incentive cash to help fill in a state budget shortfall of at least $1.5 billion headed into the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Other detractors say the jobs created are just temporary.

Janet Lockwood, director of the Michigan Film Office, disagrees with the program's critics. She says Michigan's film industry is already contributing to the state's economy and will become an even bigger player.

"You have to remember, we're still building a whole new industry in the state of Michigan," Lockwood said. "It's going to take some time to evolve. We all know that. But I believe this program is working."

Michigan allows companies to file for tax credits worth up to 42 percent of a film's production costs. Sixty-two of the 126 companies that applied in 2009 were approved for the credits, the state's film office said. Industry expenditures were estimated at nearly $224 million last year, up from $125 million in 2008.

The Michigan Film Office says companies reported nearly 3,900 temporary jobs attributable to 2009 productions. That would be the equivalent of nearly 1,600 full-time jobs on an annual basis.

The transient nature of the business draws some criticism. East Lansing economist Patrick Anderson has said all Michigan has to show for the film tax credits are "one or two buildings and a whole lot of 'Clint Eastwood slept here' signs."

Rep. Pete Lund, a Republican from Macomb County's Shelby Township, says the program subsidizes Hollywood — and that it's tough to take when lawmakers are forced to make harsh budget cuts.

"I don't see how come we're cutting education and we're laying off police officers all so that we can subsidize an industry that basically is headquartered outside the state of Michigan," Lund said. "I don't think there's any industry we'd be getting our money's worth out of when we're subsidizing it at the rate of 40 percent. That 40 percent has to come from somewhere."

He says that means businesses are paying higher taxes or benefits to communities are being cut.

Backers say that as the industry matures, the state will add more full-time, permanent jobs.

Production facilities are started in Walker near Grand Rapids, Manistee in the northwest Lower Peninsula and Allen Park in suburban Detroit. More are planned.

The ripple effects are also apparent. Hotels in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area, which has seen a lot of filming activity, reported roughly 20,000 hotel room nights attributable to the film industry last year. Party rental companies, caterers, gas stations and high-tech equipment firms have benefited from shoots across the state.

"It gave my guys some overtime that they were happy to get," said Frank Rymill, co-owner of DeSantis Trucking in Warren — a company that did site cleanups for the sets of "Red Dawn" and a few other projects. "It's the trickle-down effect. They're going to run to the store, they're going to need this, they're going to need that. ... It's been all welcome work. I'm hoping to see more."

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Blockbuster reaches more favorable terms with movie studios; shares jump - San Francisco Examiner

Posted: 07 Apr 2010 05:36 AM PDT

DALLAS — Blockbuster Inc. has reached new terms with Twentieth Century Fox and Sony Corp.'s movie studios that will give the struggling DVD rental company quicker access to new films and better financial terms.

The deal sent Blockbuster shares soaring ahead of regular trading Wednesday, though its stock is still well below the $1 mark. It rose 6.9 cents, or 27 percent, to 32 cents.

The move comes as Blockbuster tries to convince its creditors to re-negotiate the terms of its debt in order to avoid a bankruptcy filing.

The company said late Tuesday that Twentieth Century Fox, owned by News Corp., and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will deliver new films for its traditional stores and by-mail service on the same day they are released for sale at retail outlets. It already has a similar deal with Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Home Video.

Blockbuster is also getting "enhanced payment terms" — presumably cheaper prices on new films — from the studios in return for a first lien on the assets of Blockbuster Canada, meaning the studios will have first priority on those assets in case of a Chapter 11 filing.

Blockbuster has been struggling with competition from Netflix Inc., which has pioneered delivering films by mail and over the Internet, and Redbox, with its $1-per-night rental kiosks.

It also announced Tuesday that it has a plan to cut operating costs by $200 million this year, though the company did not say how it will meet that goal.

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Soap Box Derby movie begins filming in Akron - Canton Repository

Posted: 07 Apr 2010 07:24 AM PDT

The debt-ridden All-American Soap Box Derby got some help from Hollywood on Wednesday, when former "L.A. Law" star Corbin Bernsen started shooting a derby-theme movie project.

Bernsen, who adopted the derby when he read about its money problems, wrote the movie's script, is directing it and will star in it.

The movie began filming at the hillside starting line of the gravity-powered race. In the initial frames, Ralph Waite of "The Waltons" gives pointers to "Marley & Me" star Nathan Gamble, who plays an 11-year-old in need of some direction.

Bernsen conceived the idea to help the derby, which has gone two years without a corporate sponsor. The race will get a cut, with Bernsen handing over a $50,000 check to the derby organization.

Gamble seemed impressed with the early pace.

"The easiest film ever," the 12-year-old said, agreeing that his age gave him an edge on how to play an 11-year-old.

The 81-year-old Waite said playing the older, wiser adult figure fit his career.

"I've played fathers most of the time," he said. "It has that paternal quality to it that I always enjoy. I guess I have that quality in me. It's fun, it's fun to work with kids."

Bernsen said Waite's work in "The Waltons" dovetails nicely with Waite's role in the derby film. Despite the Depression-era hardships portrayed in the TV show, "There was always this feeling that there was hope and that's the human spirit," Bernsen said.

"That's what Ralph represents, that's what I want this movie to represent," Bernsen said. "There's always hope, there's always hope."

Bernsen predicted people would connect with the movie's message.

"People want this kind of entertainment, people want this kind of uplifting message, people want to go back to their roots, they want tradition and they want history," he said.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic got a bit role in the first day of filming, saying, "Action," on Bernsen's prompt.

To make sure news photographers got it, Bernsen let the mayor reprise the moment a second time.

"How was that? He was good," Bernsen said.

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