The man who served as a temporary manager of the Iowa Film Office says he warned officials six years ago that the man hired to do the job permanently wasn’t qualified.
Steve Schott was hired as consultant to the Iowa Film Office in the fall of 2002 after former Film Office manager Wendol Jarvis resigned to open a “Papa Murphy’s” pizza store in Kansas City. Schott says he ran the Film Office for about a year, until Tom Wheeler was hired as its manager.
“When I saw his resume I questioned his experience and capabilities to be able to do the job,” Schott says. “And even though he is a nice man, he was totally unqualified for the job, in my opinion.”
According to Schott, Wheeler had no experience “managing staff or large budgets.” Schott says back in 2003, he took his concerns about Wheeler to his immediate boss and to Mike Blouin, who was director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development at the time.
“The response was that they had selected him and they felt he was the right person for the job,” Schott says. “I also wrote the governor at the time, Governor Vilsack, and questioned (Wheeler’s hiring) and I was told that that was the decision that they made.”
Others in the state’s film industry say they more recently warned state officials Wheeler was swamped and unable to handle the volume of documents related to the state tax credit applications, but problems in the office weren’t publicly disclosed until last month.
“I was incensed, upset, angry — still am,” Schott says. “We had this wonderful opportunity to bring films and build a film industry in Iowa and it looks like it’s being unraveled and destroyed.”
Schott has worked for over 30 years in the film industry. Most of that time was spent as a freelancer, with stints as a producer on “The Jeff Foxworthy Show,” on reunion shows involving Carol Burnett, and on the movie “The Final Season.” In 2007, Schott became an executive producer at Hawthorne Direct, a Fairfield, Iowa-based agency that’s in the production business — writing scripts, shooting the videos and buying the time on television and radio to air what they’ve produced.
His company has worked on five projects that applied for the state tax credits for TV and film production in Iowa and received the credits for three of those. The other two are pending. “But now we have another client that was hoping to get the tax credit that we’ve had to inform the program has been suspended,” Schott says. “And we may or may not get that work.”
Governor Chet Culver ordered the film tax credit program suspended on Friday, September 18th and he fired Wheeler the following Monday.