Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Greener Pastures

Posted By on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Last year, I, like many proud Hoosiers, was shocked to learn that The Fault in Our Stars, the New York Times bestselling young adult novel by Indianapolis transplant superstar John Green, was being filmed in Pittsburgh.

Yes, Pittsburgh.

Now, no offense to the Steel City, but the book takes place here -- in Indy, thank you.

Can you imagine seeing Breaking Away filmed at Kansas State's velodrome as a stand-in for IU's Bill Armstrong Stadium? What about football and campus scenes for Rudy being filmed at Tulane University? Or the scene of Sonny and Gunner having a midday drink shot in St. Louis' Silverleaf Lounge instead of The Red Key for Dan Wakefield's Going All the Way?

Preposterous, right?

If all of those films were being made today, each of those states would be better options than Indiana. Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and, yes, Pennsylvania all offer tax credits of 25 percent or more for film production. What's Indiana's production incentive? "An accommodation that is rented for thirty (30) days or more is exempt from both county innkeeper's tax and sales tax."

We can do better.

Indiana gives all sorts of competitive tax credits and incentives to attract new businesses here or to steal corporate headquarters from other states. So what's wrong with providing a competitive incentive to film production? Combine that with our lower cost of living and some seasoned production pros who live and work right here, and the Hoosier State should be a beacon for producers and site scouts.

But for some odd reason, the once robust Indiana Film Commission was downsized. From 1992 to 2005, under the guidance of its wonderful and classy director, the late Jane Rulon, great movies were filmed right here in Indiana. From 2002 through 2004, MovieMaker Magazine cited Indianapolis in its rankings of "10 Best Cities in North America for Independent Moviemakers."

The downsized FILM Indiana (which has a website that doesn't even reside within IN.gov) seems hamstrung, reduced to cheering from the sidelines rather than quarterbacking true economic development. And now we're losing out to cities like Austin, Portland, bankrupt Detroit, Albuquerque, Atlanta and San Antonio.

Yes, Albuquerque.

Need I remind us at this point that we hosted a Super Bowl, for cryin' out loud?

The Fox 2000 film version of TFiOS is set for a June 6 release, and yes, I'm excited to see it. (And yes, I will have the book finally read long before, along with a good, long cry.)

But I can't say I'll appreciate the scene when Augustus takes Hazel to Funky Bones. According to Green, the set design crew replicated the IMA's sculpture. Talk about irony; the novelist's wife, Sarah Urist Green, helped curate that piece during her tenure at the museum.

As another example, I present the upcoming  independent movie Walter, created by a triumvirate of I.U. grads and set in Indianapolis. From the trailer, you'll see plenty of scenes of Indy, but those key shots represent only three days of shooting here. They filmed the rest of it in L.A.

When another YA bestseller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, was picked up by Hollywood, guess where it was filmed? I'll give you a hint: The book is set in Pittsburgh.

I guess I'll wait patiently for the day when a Pittsburgh-based bestseller is filmed in Pittsboro. But I'll settle for Indy-based books and screenplays being filmed here. And I won't wait that patiently for Indiana to get competitive and incentivize filmmaking.

Jane would be right there with me on that one.

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About The Author

Hugh Vandivier

Hugh Vandivier

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Hugh Vandivier is an online editor for Angie’s List. He’s a proud alum and volunteer for Wabash College, holds an MSJ from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and was a board member and director of grassroots arts nonprofit Primary Colours. He also interviewed Indy native Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in 2002.

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