Wisconsin Film Tax Incentives Under Discussion at the Orpheum in Madison, Dec 8

Posted on December 1, 2010 by Stephen Kastner | 6 Comments

The Pierce County Herald and tons of other so-called mainstream “news” sites report the following story:

“Film-makers will hold a panel discussion next month on the future of Wisconsin’s tax breaks for making the Badger State a back-drop for movies. The forum will take place on December eighth in Madison, at a screening of the Door County film “Feed the Fish.” Green Bay native and Emmy-winning actor Tony Shalhoub starred in that movie. “Feed the Fish” received tax breaks when it was filmed on the Door Peninsula last year. But it didn’t get as much as the Johnny Depp film “Public Enemies.” That show got four-and-a-half million dollars, which caused outgoing Governor Jim Doyle to dramatically scale back the incentives. Republican Governor-elect Scott Walker has said he would re-work the movie tax incentives. Producer Mark Metcalf will moderate discussion on the subject. Four film-makers from the state will also take part, along with three board members from the group “Film Wisconsin.”

But none of them actually say exactly where or when the event is taking place… and the Film Wisconsin Website says, “We are currently overhauling our site to better serve you.” Nonetheless, I finally fell upon the complete details at  FilmWisconsin.us, a site  operated by Badger Guide LLC, publisher of the Wisconsin Production Guide (billing itself as the most complete directory for film, video, television and commercial production in Wisconsin).

Here’s the scoop and I do mean scoop, because of the “investigative journalism” required to deliver the following:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The Orpheum Theatre, 216 State Street, Madison, Wisconsin

A panel discussion on the proposed improvements to the Wisconsin Film Tax Incentives heads an evening of Wisconsin filmmaking. Following the panel discussion will be an opportunity to speak one-on-one with some of the panel members and then a screening of the Wisconsin feature film, Feed the Fish.

Panel Discussion is free and open to the public. Feed the Fish is $7.50 general admission and $5.00 for Students & Seniors.

6:00-7:00 p.m. Panel Discussion (WI Film Tax Incentives)
7:00-8:00 p.m. Social Hour (One-on-one questions w/panel)
8:00-9:30 p.m. Screening of Feed the Fish (Ticket required)
9:30-9:45 p.m. Q&A with the film’s Wisconsin based crew

Funding for the WI Department of Commerce-backed program, originally launched in 2008, was reduced to $500,000 per year. In it’s first year, there was no limit placed on incentives. The budget thresholds for eligible productions were also lowered to $50,000 for film projects and $100,000 for game developments. For more information about Wisconsin’s film tax credit programs, contact Steve Sabatke, Economic Development Consultant, Bureau of Business Finance & Compliance, Wisconsin Department of Commerce, 201 West Washington Avenue, Madison, WI  53707-7970. Phone:  608.267.0762 or email:  Steven.Sabatke@Wisconsin.gov.

The debate circles around the subject of benefits harvested in Wisconsin vs. the investment. In reporting on the cutback, the LaCrosse Tribune explains the situation regarding the film Public Enemies: “Starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, the movie generated a lot of exposure and excitement for the state. It did not, however, generate much money. According to the Commerce Department, the production received $4.6 million in tax rebates and credits but only generated $5 million in economic activity.”

The producers and actors of “Feed the Fish” camped out in Door County for several weeks, but failed to spend much money here except for gas and groceries, expecting locals residents to “volunteer” to work with them. Shalhoub confirms this in a recent Business Journal interview saying, “A lot of people donated a lot of time, including the locals in Door County. They donated hotel rooms and there was a lot of support. They rallied around the project.”

It was disappointing to see the numerous missed opportunities to really connect locally, but none was greater than their failure to include the actual Jacksonport Polar Bear Swim. Instead we get a weak reenactment of one of the largest such events in the nation. The authentic filming of this event alone, might have justified the investment from a publicity standpoint and helped to salvage a somewhat mediocre production.

While the Wisconsin arts community rallied to save the film incentives program from Doyle’s hatchet, no one spoke up for an alternative to funding big-ticket Hollywood productions. “Feed the Fish” filmmakers received $40,000 in tax credits for their film. What if ten independent Wisconsin filmmakers each got $4000? At this point “Feed the Fish” is floundering with no national distribution. I’d like to see ten chances to launch an up-and-coming local filmmaker and crew over one chance at seeing Hollywood stars hanging out in my neighborhood for a few weeks.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 at 10:24 am and is filed under Screenings and Film Festivals. You can follow any comments to this post through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


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6 Responses to “Wisconsin Film Tax Incentives Under Discussion at the Orpheum in Madison, Dec 8”

  1. Mike Matzdorff Says:

    Mr. Kastner,
    Your statements regarding the spending of FEED THE FISH LLC are conjecture and largely incorrect. We will be publicly releasing some spending numbers as information to be discussed (or not) at the upcoming debate. They will be categorical summaries of sections of our budget in which the most money was spent locally in Door County. We did negotiate good deals with most merchants who welcomed the business during what is traditionally a desolate time of year(from the standpoint of tourist dollars entering the local economy).

    Regarding floundering without distribution, please order your advance copy of the movie from Amazon.com or add it to your Netflix cue, it will be available on January 25, 2011 in North America. Links are on feedthefishmovie.com

    I wish you luck with your projects and am anxious to hear details about why you consider this a mediocre production.

    Feel free to email me back at mikematzdorff@gmail.com with any questions and please watch your local papers (the reminder and the pulse) for our press release.

    Regards,
    Mike Matzdorff
    Writer/Director/Producer/Editor
    FEED THE FISH (the feel-good movie of the winter)

  2. Stephen Kastner Says:

    My comments are experiential, having visited the Sister Bay Town Hall several times and talked with the crew – none of whom were locals. Please, provide the tally of wages paid to full time residents of Door County and the other financial benefits – before the meeting on December 8. Everyone I know, including myself who sought work with the crew were told to volunteer their time and contribute their assets.

    The very idea that there is a “desolate” season in Door County betrays your lack of connection Mr. Matzdorff. Your film failed to get national theatrical distribution because it was a dud. I can sell my own DVDs on Amazon.

    It’s a shame that you failed to connect with the true local flavor of Door County. With a little local collaboration you might have discovered the legends that abound regarding our dear and deceased local sheriff, Baldy Bridenhagen. He was a monumental character, had a daughter and four sons and hundreds of local fans who might have helped you paint a beautiful image. Face it… you came here as outsiders and remained aloof – your loss. We have tons of talented writers, actors and techs who would love to have been included… and paid for their efforts.

  3. Mike Matzdorff Says:

    Well Mr Kastner,

    As a Green Bay native and someone who has visited door county nearly every year of my life, Your response was also experimental and uninformed. I look forward to seeing some of your work and I am appreciative of your comments about the film even though they are negative. Opinions of creative endeavors are almost always subjective and I feel that I always learn something from them.

    Good luck

  4. Stephen Kastner Says:

    Please, provide the tally of wages paid to full time residents of Door County. ZERO… right?
    The idea that you think you know Door County because you live in Green Bay and vacation here every year is comic… but the results are dismal.

  5. Michael Matzdorff Says:

    Stephen, Nick Langholff will be writing you note on the subject and posting it here. I find your hostility inappropriate.

    Regards,
    Mike Matzdorff

  6. Nicholas Langholff Says:

    Stephen, This is Nicholas Langholff, one of the Producers of Feed The Fish. You say that you sought work on Feed The Fish; did you send me your resume? We had information out on every post looking for LOCAL crew, and I personally did around 25-30 interviews. Our PAID Costume Designer, Karin Kopischke lives in Door County, our PAID Script Supervisor lives in Door County, and our PAID Make Artist grew up near Sturgeon Bay. We also made it a point to bring in any local folks who wanted to gain experience working on a feature film. These people, most with ZERO experience were given an opportunity to learn from a highly experienced crew. We even reached out to the film community in Green Bay and brought on several PAID crew members from there. I welcome you to call me (920.222.3050) and we can discuss how you tried to get hired on the crew. The small crew that we had was made up of some of the best crew I know, many of whom are personal friends of mine, and that were doing me a favor. I hire crew on every one of my productions, if you came by “several times” I hate to say it, but there is a reason I did not hire you, perhaps it’s because you did not have experience, or perhaps there was another reason… You say that we “failed” yet the film ran for 8 WEEKS in Sturgeon Bay and is returning again on Dec 31st. If you know anything about independent filmmaking, then you can understand, appreciate, and respect how difficult it is to get your film into theatres. Feed The Fish continues it’s theatrical run this Friday in Eau Claire, Lake Geneva, and Chicago, with more upcoming theatrical runs this January in Stevens Point, Baraboo, Dubuque, IA and more. Yesterday Feed The Fish won it’s second consecutive Award for Best Feature Film. Stephen, you can continue to hide behind your misinformed blog, or you can call me at 920.222.3050 to get your facts straight. If Feed The Fish is a “dud”, then week number 9 in Sturgeon Bay beginning 12/31 would not be happening, and I welcome you to come check it out one more time. I assume you attended one of the FREE screenings we did in Door County last November. Most filmmakers view that first screening as an opportunity to sell tickets and make money, that’s not what we did. The FREE screenings in Door County and also in Green Bay were a gesture of thanks, continuing the wonderful connection we had with so many Door County folks. So come check out the film again, I will even purchase you a ticket. Or perhaps it’s more enjoyable for you to just write in your own blog.
    >

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