Local screenwriter Shawn Otto, who wrote House of Sand and Fog, has another treatment in development about wild rice. Perfect for Minnesota, right? You would think so. Slam dunk.
Not so fast.
At one time, under the leadership of then-Governor Arne Carlson, Minnesota had a thriving film production community. With an abundance of in-state talent, Hollywood started coming to Minnesota to shoot major productions—think Grumpy Old Men, Jingle All the Way, and The Mighty Ducks. But then a new governor, who, ironically, had strong film-industry ties, wrestled away incentives for production companies to shoot here, and Hollywood took its business elsewhere.
States like Louisiana, Georgia, and Massachusetts have aggressively pursued television and film production, primarily by offering tax incentives for production, and it’s paying off significantly in generating jobs and revenue.
So, what’s happening to Otto’s screenplay about wild rice? Producers are asking, “Does it have to be wild rice?” Adding, “Maybe it can just be about rice in general.” Why? Because you can grow rice in Louisiana, where they also offer some of the most generous tax incentives for filming. Since 2006, more than 300 productions have been shot in Louisiana, and in 2011, production companies spent more than $1 billion in the state.
It’s time for Minnesota to apply some innovative thought about how to bring back film production. Does it have to be wild rice? That’s up to legislators to decide.