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Lawton promotes creative industry growth in Wisconsin
Wisconsin lieutenant governor returned from lobbying at Sundance Film Festival

The new film incentives for Wisconsin are already bearing fruit barely two weeks after going into action was the message delivered by Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton at a press conference held Tuesday afternoon to promote the growth of the "creative industry" in the state. Broadly defined as business working in film, television, advertising, documentary, corporate videos, video games, and photography, this industry is now the subject of a sustained promotional effort from the state government and its collaborators in Film Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Arts Board.

Lawton is recently returned from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where she promoted Wisconsin's new incentives package to film industry executives at a presentation on Monday. "We are after that 'Third Coast' title," she declared, referencing an article in The Hollywood Reporter last week addressing the state's new efforts to attract filmmakers. The lieutenant governor also discussed her efforts selling Wisconsin's natural settings as potential film locations, and spoke with a representative for Robert Redford, founder of both the festival in Utah as well as the new upscale cinema chain that made its debut at Hilldale last spring.

An industry presentation at the fest for states wooing filmmakers "was probably the best attended event at Sundance outside of the movies themselves," explained Lawton, and "Wisconsin was introduced as having one of the most competitive packages."

The lieutenant governor's and Arts Board's rationale for these efforts: "Creative industries mean jobs for Wisconsin." Specifically, Lawton made several announcements regarding new business and productions coming to the state as a result of the incentives. These deals discussed at the Tuesday press conference include:

  • The national film and digital camera equipment sales and rental company Fletcher Camera is opening an office in Milwaukee.
  • Third Coast Studios in Milwaukee is opening a sound production operation named Third Ward Records in the neighborhood of the same name this summer. It also has a production facility in St. Francis, and is planning two new studios.
  • The $2.5 million budgeted independent film Blue World by Frontsight Productions in Chicago is scheduled to shoot in Milwaukee this year.
  • The $1 million budgeted independent film The Violinist about Arab and Israeli immigrants is scheduled to shoot in Green Bay this year. "We will be filming a large part of the movie on a campus -- either UW-Green Bay or Saint Norbert College -- and in the downtown Green Bay area," said producer Jay Schillinger of Pulse Communications in the official statement.
More details can be found in the press release in the related downloads at right.

"This is the beginning of seeing how these films are going to come with these new incentives," said Lawton. All of these business and productions will be taking advantage of them. In bigger name news, she noted that producers of the Universal film Public Enemies directed by Michael Mann and likely starring Johnny Depp and Christopher Bale has submitted its incentives package application to the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. "We hope not so long," was her response to a question as to when any formal announcement about the Public Enemies shooting in Wisconsin might be made.

Lawton additionally extolled the recent deal made by the state with Marcus Theatres, which will now offer a guaranteed theatrical run on at least of the major chains screens for films made in Wisconsin, and noted The Violinist would be taking advantage of this agreement. One member of the Arts Board said that this could significantly benefit independent filmmakers in Wisconsin, along with their crews looking for work within the state.

The Arts Board will be seeking a budget increase this year, hoping to grow it to a level of $1.00 per person in the state. If approved, it would be the group's first funding boost in 15 years. A video introducing its new logo was screened at the press conference, a symbol of the group's new efforts to assist with building the creative industry in Wisconsin.

"These very early indicators I bring from you from Sundance today are indicators of the strong magnetic pull of these incentives, and this bodes well for the future of working families in Wisconsin," declared Lawton. "When you start to build the possibility of these industries that don't have to be in a specific place," she continued, "more young people will remain in the state."

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