Wednesday, May 20, 2009 By Aaron Brown
On the surface I agree. The filming of "North Country" on the Iron Range was ultimately a good thing economically (and culturally, even if we have a very uncool way of handling famous people in our midst). But I have one fundamental counter argument that runs parallel with some of the problems I have with northern Minnesota economic development in general.
Lawmakers allocated only $2.5 million, which later was reduced to $1.2 million, which, late last week was nixed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty via a line-item veto.
But that chilly reception should have come as little surprise considering the state’s massive budget deficits and the difficult economy.
“Not this year” doesn’t have to mean “never,” however. Minnesota shouldn’t turn its back on Hollywood and the millions that film projects bring. When the economy improves and the time is right, [a program offering film incentives] deserves support.
Here again we are trumpeting the need to offer up something impersonal (money) that we don't have much of to entice outside forces (great, powerful forces we do not understand) to come in and save us. Since we're talking about movies, let's call this the "Three Amigos" approach. We saw on a movie somewhere that Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short could protect us from bandits and are now pooling our money together to do hire them for just such foolish purposes. (Yes, I know it that the Three Amigos succeeded in the movie, but that was a MOOOOVIE).
I'm all for making movies in Minnesota. Why aren't we encouraging Minnesota filmmakers to do just that? Why not tell our own story to the outside world and showing them what can be done here? By helping several dozen smaller, local productions based on artistic merit we might have a better chance at the big bucks in the long run. When some good Minnesota films demonstrate the versatile landscape and seasonal appeal of this state, maybe we won't have to waive a bunch of damn money at people who don't respect us. Once we have trained a stable of film production professionals available to work perhaps some of the logistical barriers of filming in Minnesota could be broken down.
Movies are a tricky business, in that they are business-driven but based on art. If you sacrifice the quality and importance of the art the business will fail anyway, no matter how much money you pump in. "New in Town" is not our goal. Our goal should be to show that quality productions can happen organically. The same is true of just about any industry we're trying to build here.