Iowa film office, "Troll" take time to ramp up

Posted Online: April 04, 2011, 5:49 pm
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By Jonathan Turner,
Quad-Cities' film backers waiting for a resurrected Iowa Film Office and local production of the animated film "Troll," will have to wait a good deal longer.

Work on the $15-million "Troll" -- based at the former Argus building in downtown Rock Island -- likely won't start until summer, and re-opening of the Iowa Film Office may not happen until fall, according to Doug Miller of Davenport, line producer for "Troll" and principal in Great River Productions.

They're finalizing long-term financing and getting new computers, equipment and technology in place, he said of the 3-D, computer-generated film that will use "motion capture" style filmmaking. The script, based on a Norwegian story, also is being rewritten to be more attractive to Americans, Mr. Miller said.

The production was supposed to start in January with 100 employees, but only five have been hired. For now, they're "sitting tight until other things fall into place," said Mr. Miller, who expects "Troll" to taketwo and a half to three years to complete.

Producers are working to get financing through investors and state and federal tax credits, and plan to attend the Cannes Film Festival in France to gauge international interest, he said.At Cannes, he said, $1 billion worth of films are sold in 10 days.

Great River chose to produce in Illinois partly because Iowa's film incentive program was shelved in September 2009, because of mismanagement.A state investigation found mismanagement and fraud, with more than $25 million in tax credits improperly issued.

Criminal charges were filed against four people, and one has pleaded guilty. Former film office manager Tom Wheeler will be tried April 25 in Polk County District Court on charges of felonious misconduct in office, fraudulent practices and conspiracy. Chad Witter, a tax credit broker from Bettendorf, will go on trial Sept. 26, on charges of theft, fraudulent practices and ongoing criminal conduct.

Iowa lawmakers suspended financial assistance for filmmakers until 2013, but Mr. Miller is part of the new Film Alliance of Iowa that has asked Gov. Terry Branstad to reinstate the film office without tax credits.

Mr. Miller said without a statewide film office, there isno point of contact, no film production guide and only a website of outdated and misleading information. He and Gov. Branstad support re-hiring Wendol Jarvis, the first film office director, who worked under the governor in the 1980s when the office opened.

"The database has to be re-established, the production guide, sites for potential use, as soon as possible," Mr. Miller said, adding that the 2012 presidential campaigns are starting to gear up and Iowa is crucial in its first stages. "A lot of Iowa crew are hired by networks and cable channels."

Without a new film office, "Iowa won't be prepared to respond to incoming film, television and video production requests and will miss countless opportunities to provide work for Iowans, creating jobs and enhancing Iowa's economic vitality," according to a petition sent to Gov. Branstad.

Gov. Branstad supports reinstating the Iowa film office he created, spokesman Tim Albrecht said recently. "It is definitely an economic development opportunity the governor believes in."

However, the governor is "notinterested in reinstating tax credits," Mr. Albrecht said. "They were poorly administered. These tax credits in the last couple of years were just misused. We're still exploring those options."

He agreed there are talented film and television professionals in Iowa who could be of use for the 2012 presidential campaign, including filming of TV commercials."They don't know we have high-caliber, high-quality people here."

Mr. Albrecht said theIowa Film Office operated for many years before the tax incentive program, and was responsible for bringing high-profile projects to Iowa, such as "Field of Dreams," "Bridges of Madison County" and "Twister," as well as commercials and other productions.



Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, April 24, the 114th day of 2014. There are 251 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: We learn that it is a contemplation to start a paper mill in Rock Island during the summer by a gentleman from the East.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The gates of Oklahoma were swung open at noon today, and a throng of more than 30,000 settlers started over its soil.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Iowa Coliseum Co. was incorporated with $40,000 capital and planned a building on 4th Street between Warren and Green streets in Davenport.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans are being discussed for resurfacing the streets in the entire downtown district of Rock Island.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Some 45 jobs will be created at J.I. Case Co.'s Rock Island plant in a expansion of operations announced yesterday afternoon at the firm's headquarters in Racine, Wis.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Gardeners and farmers cheered, but not all Quad-Citians found joy Saturday as more than an inch of rain fell on the area. Motorists faced dangerous, rain-slick roads as the water activated grease and grime that had built up during dry weather.

(More History)