A community college course for people who want to work as technicians in the film industry was a sell-out this spring and organizers say there’s a need for more classes like it. The state of Iowa has extended a series of tax breaks for moviemakers who choose Iowa locations for their filming and Kent Newman of the Iowa Motion Picture Association says the state needs to help educate a workforce for those movies.
"We applied for and received a $50,000 targeted industries grant from the Department of Economic Development this year to do workforce training," Newman says. "So, the Iowa Motion Picture Association worked with our own members internally and Iowa One Source Training which is through the community colleges that delivers what they call custom training to do five weekend Grip 101 training sessions in March and April."
All 125 spots in those classes were taken and many who took that "Grip 101" course have worked on "South Dakota" or "Peacock" — two movies that have been filmed in Iowa this year. Grips are the "worker bees" of movies, according to Newman. The "Grip 101" classes also helped some Iowans land jobs as production assistants. Iowa is becoming a popular base for technicians in the movie industry.
Iowa law allows Iowa residents to earn an income from movie-making and not have state income taxes assessed on that pay. "We’ve got several people working on "South Dakota" who have experience working in LA, New York, they had Iowa connections or Iowa roots, heard about the incentives and thought they’d come back and try it and I believe that they’re going to be sticking around. In addition, we’ve attracted some other people," Newman says. "I have an assistant who came over from Nebraska."
A movie-length feature employs about 100 people every day when filming, according to Newman. Iowa is now home to several film-related groups, like the Iowa Scriptwriters Alliance and the Iowa Digital Filmmakers Guild as well as the Iowa Motion Picture Association.