Group Seeks New Minnesota Movie Magic

Updated: 01/18/2013 1:54 PM By: Tom Hauser

You might call the period from 1990 to 1995 the Golden Age of Minnesota Movies.  There were 49 feature films shot here with production revenues of nearly $200 million. The best year was 1995 when nine films were shot here, including "Fargo," "Grumpier Old Men" and "Mighty Ducks D3."  The movies that year resulted in $128 million spent in Minnesota.  

Fast forward to 2010 when there was one feature film shot here, "A Serious Man," resulting in about $7 million dollars in spending.  Anne Healy Shapiro knows there's only one way to improve those numbers and keep so many movies from going to other states. "The only thing that drives production going to locations in other states are tax incentives," she says.  "Unless we have tax incentives, we don't need a film board."

Shapiro doesn't think the Minnesota Film and TV Board is doing enough to persuade the Minnesota Legislature and governor to approve new financial incentives.  So she's among a small group of film industry workers forming a new lobbying group called the "Minnesota Motion Picture Association." She's trying to round up hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies, chambers of commerce--anyone who benefits when big movie productions come to town. Shapiro says the sole focus of the group will be getting the legislature to create incentives and finding filmmakers to take advantage of them. "We want Warner Brothers. We want 20th Century Fox. We want Disney back! Those were our clients. They loved it here. We'd love to have them come back."

Lucinda Winter, executive director of the Minnesota Film and TV Board defends the board's work during difficult budget times in the state.  After former Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed incentive funding a few years ago, the board had to rely on a million dollars in funding from the "Legacy Fund."  That's a small fraction of the $10 million request the board is making to the state this year.  Filmmakers would be able to get rebates of up to 25% of the money they spend in the state.  Winter is anxious to find out if the governor will include the money in his budget proposal due to be released January 22.  

Until there is money available for film productions, there's not likely to be many people yelling "action" in Minnesota anytime soon.