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Perspectives: Action in Indiana

Author : Mark Bennett

First published in , the online edition of the Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Indiana on 27th June 2005

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Indiana, known for flicks such as 'Hoosiers' and 'Rudy,' hopes to lure more motion picture projects, with one possible in Terre Haute

Let's say you've taken a new job at a bigger company. Now you're wondering if those talents you displayed in a small business will succeed in this larger setting.

Seeking inspiration, you turn to - of course - a scene from "Hoosiers." When Coach Norman Dale and his awestruck Huskers from tiny Hickory High School walk into massive Hinkle Fieldhouse, he measures the height of the rims above the basketball court. Ten feet, the coach reminds them, just like they are back in Hickory. The moral? Don't let intimidation shake your faith.

Genuine life lessons rarely emerge from the enhanced glitz of Hollywood. Yet when the movie industry visits Indiana soil, something meaningful - or at least entertaining - usually emerges.

From their first home-plate collisions in Little League (I know, that's not supposed to happen, but it does), our sons - both catchers - have always picked themselves up with no traces of emotion, except for maybe a grin and proof that they held onto the ball. Each time, my mind instantly replays that scene from "A League of Their Own" when hungover Rockford Peaches manager Jimmy Dugan lectures one of the weeping members of his all-girl baseball team, saying, "Are you crying? There's no crying in baseball. There's no crying in baseball."
That flick was shot in southern Indiana.

And there's ironic 21st-century relevance to the frustrated father of a son whose infatuation with Italy has pervaded their home in the 1979 cycling movie "Breaking Away." Finally, that dad bellows, "I want some American food, dammit! Bring me some French fries."

That classic was filmed in Bloomington.

Indiana is ripe to become the site of more cinematic gems, says a coalition of people trying to entice moviemakers to pick this state as a location for future films.

Already, according to their statistics, the entertainment industry generates about $350 million a year here, though only $7 million to $10 million of that comes from major motion pictures. And, they say, Indiana can't afford to lose future revenues to other states with more attractive incentives to production companies.

"We have to be able to persuade them that we can help stretch their budgets as much as North Carolina will," says Greg Malone, chairman of the new Indiana Media Industry Network.

Imagine that - Indiana and North Carolina going head to head, and without Bobby Knight trading wisecracks with Dean Smith.

States try incentives

Malone's mention of that Southern state isn't mere coincidence. Both Indiana and North Carolina are being considered as the site for the upcoming film "Home of the Giants," which will star Haley Joel Osment, he explained.

"Home of the Giants" is set in present-day Indiana high school basketball. And its director and screenwriter is Marion native Rusty Gorman. Those ties would seem to make Hoosierland a no-brainer as the picture's location. "So we're hoping that we can have that here," Malone says.

But rival North Carolina, he concedes, also has "incentives on the table that will help producers stretch their dollars."

Still, a couple of enticements to attract more film industry business emerged from the recent session of the Indiana General Assembly, including the Hoosier Business Investment Tax Credit. It gives a 10-percent break to motion-picture production companies when they spend money here for equipment, machinery or special buildings. The Legislature also authorized the use of state- and university-owned property free of charge as a location for motion picture production, hoping to capitalize on the talent produced there. Programs at IU and Ball State were specifically mentioned. (Malone says, his group should probably "reach out to Indiana State" more in the future.)

And, last month, the responsibilities of promoting Indiana-based film production shifted from the former Indiana Film Commission to the new Indiana Media Industry Network - a task force of in-state entertainment industry volunteers - and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

"It makes it a lot easier to work on this from the perspective of economic development," says Weston Sedgwick, spokesperson for the IEDC.

Some components of that movie-industry growth bill did not survive the legislative process last spring. Those included training for production jobs, state sales tax exemptions for some production-company purchases, and a transferable investment tax credit. Some of the legislators' resistance to the enticements is understandable, Malone says, and IMIN is re-evaluating those incentives and hopes to present a new plan in the upcoming General Assembly session.

"No, we didn't get exactly what we wanted [in the spring session], but we brought the issue up and a lot of legislators heard us," Malone says.

Other states are after a greater slice of that market too. Film production in Illinois, according to IMIN statistics, increased 140 percent after incentives legislation passed in early 2004.

Nonetheless, Indiana hasn't been overlooked by filmmakers. A USA Today poll ranking its readers' 20 favorite sports movies included six that were filmed here. ESPN's ranking of the best sports flicks ever put "Hoosiers" at No. 4, "Breaking Away" 14th, "Eight Men Out" 19th, and "A League of Their Own" 22nd. Some other sports-related movies shot here include "Rudy," "Blue Chips" and the recent "Madison."

That genre could be Indiana's niche. Filmmaker Angelo Pizzo, who crafted "Hoosiers" and "Rudy," is living in Bloomington again. And the state has plenty of venues for such filming, from vintage small-town gyms like the one in Knightstown used by Pizzo and David Anspaugh in "Hoosiers," to League Stadium in Huntingburg which was retro-built for "A League of Their Own," to Notre Dame's Golden Dome used as the setting for "Rudy."

Plus, sports movies typically are low-budget, compared to blockbusters such as "Batman Begins." Most films shot in Indiana will be low-budget, which Malone says are those under $8 million.

On location in the Haute

That would include "Redefining Normal," which Terre Haute-born screenwriter Anthony Bruce hopes to shoot on-location in his hometown early in 2006.

Bruce, a 1984 Terre Haute North High School grad, intends to produce the independent movie based on his path from boyhood days here to a troubled big-city existence in Fort Lauderdale and New York. With the backing of investors, his goal is to film "Redefining Normal" entirely in Terre Haute with a budget under $800,000. Like other low-budget films, key actors and production crew members would be augmented by talent from Indiana.

If the cost of filming it completely in Terre Haute is excessive, "Plan B" would be to shoot interior scenes in Los Angeles, Bruce says, mixed in with exterior shots of Hautean buildings and images.

He's already rejected outside suggestions to film "Redefining Normal" in a California town, such as Bakersfield.

"I said, 'No. I don't want to do that. I want to shoot it in Terre Haute. That's where I come from,'" Bruce said.

And, he says, he's also turned down "a nice amount of money [offered] for the script," because Bruce would have to relinquish creative control and rights to his life story.

That desire is one thing that could help the project end up being filmed here. "Terre Haute has an advocate - me," Bruce says. And Indiana does not charge for a permit to film a movie, as does Hollywood, where Bruce now lives. "It is so expensive," he says of that typical fee.

In the meantime, plans to make Indiana more competitive in the filmmaking market are in the early stages but are already gaining notice, Malone says.

"We have a lot to do over this summer," says Malone, who also is the executive producer of Road Pictures in Indianapolis. "We're definitely moving forward. And people in the industry around the country know that we're working hard. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding."

Maybe a pep talk from Coach Dale would help.

Mark Bennett can be reached by telephone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 6, Ext. 377, by email at or by fax at (812) 231-4321.

Be sure to read the ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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