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Iowa Filmmakers: Duck Farm Number 13

posted on November 5, 2007 at 11:07 AM

Earlier this year, Governor Chet Culver signed a law designed to promote and develop Iowa's film industry. The Iowa Film Promotion Act authorizes tax incentives that help make Iowa an attractive place to shoot a film. The law provides a 25 percent tax credit to film producers and investors on money spent exclusively in the state. Tom Wheeler of the Iowa Film Office, a division of the Iowa Department of Economic Development, says it puts the state on a level playing field, not only in the Midwest but across the country. And, he adds, Iowa's incentives go even further.

Tom Wheeler, Iowa Film Office: Well we offer two things that the other states don't do. One of which is that the investors into a project receive a direct benefit from the state, from the Department of Economic Development, and the vendors also receive a direct benefit from the state. The investors receive what the producers receive, which is the key core of the program. And the producers receive twenty-five percent of what they spend as a transferable income tax credit. So that means that the investor pool also receives twenty-five percent of what the producer spends, and the vendors are allowed to exclude one hundred percent of the income they're paid from any registered projects. So they get to work tax free, and that's particularly interesting to my colleagues because our program, like many others, requires the use of local companies and local individuals to count those expenditures in the state.

One of the first films to embrace the Iowa Film Promotion Act is just wrapping up production. Duck Farm Number 13 is written and directed by Iowa native Becky Smith. The independent feature film is a coming of age story that takes place on a September Saturday and is being filmed in McGregor. Smith says the recent law was the deciding factor in making her film in the state.

Becky Smith, Duck Farm Number 13: Investors looking for things in Iowa really want it to be something that brings more back to Iowa. To have the film become more viable, which it should be. It's a lovely place. People are not cynical. They really embrace the film community. It's a perfect place to have more filmmaking taking place. I think investors looked at the tax incentives. They looked at what kind of money can come into the community that are staying there for six weeks. It is tremendously helpful, and it's really helpful to us financially.

Wheeler notes, however, that in order to fully benefit from the tax incentives, Iowa will need to build its filmmaking infrastructure. He is concerned with the current depth of the crew base.

Tom Wheeler, Iowa Film Office: Actually all of the recent projects of any size have had trouble crewing up. They will always need to hire the core elements of the crew, which we don't have enough of, to be frank about it. We certainly have a very talented group of individuals out there. More often that not, though, they are already hired by either a television commercial or right now it's the political campaign season. And so those individuals who are sought after are found and employed. We would like to be able to grow that base of the production assistant, the grip, the gaffer and some of the ranks a little bit higher to make sure there are maybe as many as three crews available at any given time.

Wheeler says in the next year, he and others plan to work with the Iowa Workforce Development to see if there is federal money for job training and continuing education. Several Iowa actors and core crew members have been involved in the production of Duck Farm Number 13 which began mid-October.

Becky Smith, Duck Farm Number 13: We needed to cast maybe four of the significant roles and many other speaking parts in Iowa. We were committed to doing that. And seeing how seamlessly our Iowa cast integrated with our professional L.A. cast. The L.A. actors have said that several times. They really noted how good the Iowa actors are and how well they have incorporated into the film. So clearly, there is a lot of local talent.

Another potential benefit of the Iowa Film Promotion Act is the revenue it can bring to the state, especially the communities in which a movie is being filmed.

Tom Wheeler, Iowa Film Office: Well, the final season is a great example of what can happen. They shot in the Cedar Rapids vicinity, Norway, Iowa just last year. And they estimate spending directly into the community somewhere between seven hundred and fifty thousand and a million dollars.

Becky Smith, Duck Farm Number 13: All of our meals are here. One of the coffee houses does all of our craft services, so this is full-time employment for them for three to four weeks. We have been in the housing here, taking up a large number of the Bed and Breakfasts and motel rooms for about six weeks. Our transportation vehicles come from here. We fly in and out using local travel agents. Our crew shops here on their down time. And then, I also am assuming that once people see the film and see how beautiful it is and see the downtown, that perhaps there will be even more interest in coming to the area. Saying: this is a beautiful spot. I'd love to go check it out.

Reporting for The Iowa Journal, I'm Laurel Bower Burgmaier.

Tags: agriculture filmmaking films Iowa


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