Governor Chet Culver fired the head of the Iowa Film Office Monday afternoon amid questions about the way Thomas Wheeler handled state tax credits for the film industry. Officials with the Iowa Motion Picture Association say Wheeler was simply overwhelmed. The association’s Kent Newman suggests an application fee could be assessed on movie makers applying for a tax credit in order to raise money to hire more staff for the film office.
“We’re currently recommending maybe a quarter of one percent of the budget and that those funds go back to the film office for staffing, for training, for industry development,” Newman says. “It’s a logical, reasonable funding stream that’s very common in other states.” Newman and others from the film industry spoke at a more than hour-long news conference Monday afternoon.
The group pleaded with the governor to quickly restart the tax credit program for those making films in Iowa. Eric Dean Freese of Cedar Rapids says he quit his job with an advertising firm last year to fulfill his dream of making movies. The 38-year-old Freese has served as director of photography on two movies shot in Iowa this year.
“My transition into becoming a full-time film maker came directly out of the tax incentives making it possible for the films ‘The Offering’ and ‘Splatter’ to be produced,” Freese said. “Without the incentives, those films would not have occurred and I don’t know if I would have been able to make the career change.” Freese says he’s busy now working on a new film, but is worried he won’t be able to find more movies to shoot if the tax credit program isn’t reinstated.