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THIS WEEK'S MOVIE REVIEW
"The Whole Ten Yards"
 by Mike Smith

ODDSERVATIONS
My Afternoon With Forry Ackerman
 by Andy Lalino

VINNIE VIDI VICI
Introductory Column
 by Vinnie Blesi

SPLASH PAGE
Tampa Toy and Comic Convention
 by Brandon Jones

MIKE'S RANT
Play Ball!...A Part of History?....No Lawyers Allowed....Yikes....Passing On....Looney Lucas....They Write The Songs....Ice Cube Can Play The Thing....Meet The Beatkles, Part 12
 by Mike Smith

LETTERS
Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2003!
    Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our fifth calendar year!
    Number 211  (Vol. 5, No. 15). This edition is for the week of April 5--11, 2004.

   Tampa Toy and Comic Con
   Florida Filmmaker Incentives:
    Why We're Still Playing Catch-Up.  By Katharine Leis

In this year's MegaCon issue of PCR (and even in last year's), I recall saying that I often pined for a good, cheap SunCon--those small-ish affairs whose dealer's tables you could count on two hands and who might have one celebrity guest if the fates smiled. Not that the MegaCons of the world pale in comparison, heaven's no, that wouldn't be realistic, but the small independent cons are so much more friendly and accessible to me. And you can at least play with the idea of seeing everything in one day, which is good since they're usually only one day long. So while I'm grateful to have a be-all-and-end-all event as close as Orlando, plenty of good times can be had at your local Holiday Inn---or in this case, Doubletree Inn.

Advertised as "Tampa Giant Comic Con", this year's Doubletree event sported names like Dick Giordano, Mart Nodell, Ethan Van Sciver, Arne Star, John Dell, and our old friends from MegaCon, Cracked publisher Dick Kulpa, and B-movie thriller actor, Kenny Miller. With my stalwart PCR traveling companion Brandon Jones driving, and his 7-year-old son Jacob in the back seat, we headed out early Sunday morning.

Upon arriving there was some good news and bad news. First the good: Brandon had scored us a couple passes by directly contacting the promoter (you crafty devil you), one Tim Gordon, who was introduced to me later and who I found quite likable. The bad news: both Dick Giordano and Mart Nodell, legendary Golden Age/Siver Age comic artists were forced to cancel citing fragile health concerns.

As per my usual mode of operation this was at least as much as social visit as a speculative one. There were plenty of good deals to be had and a decent number of tables (85) to peruse. Mostly comics, but a few scattered bootleg videos and movie poster tables could be spotted.

Once again, sharing a moment with Cracked Magazine guru Dick Kulpa. On left is his fiancé Hara, with guard dog Rocky in the middle.
Funnily enough, one of the first friendly faces I saw here was also the first I saw at MegaCon: Dick Kulpa. He has with him his finacé, Hara, and little dog, Rocky. This time I asked him if he had retired to Florida affording him the opportunity to attend so many FL Cons. He basically replied no, he was pretty much touring everywhere. I related the MegaCon incident where Joshua and I vounteered to pick up scattered papers so a living legend like himself wouldn't have to. He laughed while vaguely remembering the incident, but seemed more delighted it was online somewhere. He scribbled down "crazedfanboy.com" on a piece of paper pledging to check it out. (I also passed along the URL of emerging comics talent, Josh Sullivan of joshcomics.com, as he also spoke very highly of Dick.) I was able to speak with Dick more at length regarding his tenure with The Weekly World News, the notorious tabloid that gave us the BatBoy. I'm going to have to to find a way to do a long video interview with him because the stories he has to tell as the main brains behind Cracked and the WWN are amazing.

Moving on, I ran into John Lewis (Creature's Corner) who I was not expecting, but is always good to run into (his friend Eddie had a dealer's table). John says his computer problems are what's keeping him from more consistent PCR contributions, but as soon as his tax refund appears, he's off to buy a new machine. He is optimistic regarding his movie aspirations, but admits the last couple years have been trying. Currently, all that business appears to be in limbo.

About noon-ish the Con started having those drawings for prizes. This attracted my attention to the back area where I spotted '50s B-movie actor Kenny Miller. A delightful gentlemen with a bubbling personality, I missed him at MegaCon, but now was our chance to catch up. He's another one I'll have to get on The World of Nolan sometime (you know, I keep talking myself out of bringing my camcorder to these things figuring there'll be no time...then I usually regret the decision.) Seated at the table next to Kenny was Miguel Insignares, brother of William Insignares, owner of the notorious South Tampa haunt, Demolition Comics. I learned the Insignares Bros obtained the rights to do the Dawn of the Dead comic adaptation(!), and Michael was signing art and answering questions regarding the movie and the comic.


Ciderview Project artist Michael Goodman, right, is one of several local talents I am keeping my eye on (see story).
We continued perusing the comics racks and talking with old friends and dealers (Don from Greenshift Music & Comics was there--haven't seen him in ages). I was attracted to a table near the front door carrying some original artwork by a local artist who I think I'll want to be following closely: Michael Goodman, whose comic creations are available online at www.ciderviewproject.com, and hard copies were available here. He gave me an autographed copy of "Emily vs Allan", for which I'm grateful. His comic artwork is comprised of moody and atmospheric B&W ink-washes, the dramas played out seem very personal. One of the main characters bears a striking resemblance to Michael, which is likely intentional.

Apparently, Michael is another one I missed at MegaCon (see, this is what I mean about the disadvantages of super-huge conventions), but my resolve is strengthened to try and cover the local underground comics scene more vigorously than I have done in the past.

Right about the time we're all fixing to skee-daddle, who, but who walks in the front door but our good friend, legendary make-up FX man and original drummer for my band BLADE (arguably his single greatest credit), Corey Castellano, back from a 5-month stay in the Bahamas shooting back-to-back action thrillers. Accompanying him was his nephew, Joshua.

Introductions were made (the first for Brandon and Corey), and after a few more rounds of the tables, we decided on one last group shot to mark the occasion. I'm sorry we didn't get 12-year-old Joshua in this shot, I assume he was busy elswhere.

The mini-Grand Reunion. At least for this season! From left, John Lewis, Corey Castellano, Jacob Jones (little guy), Brandon Jones (daddy-o), and yours truly. A good time can still be had at smaller Cons---some might argue they're even better because they're more intimate.
The pictures at right are a low-rez attempt at capturing the whole room. OK, well, so it wasn't that small!
Jacob Jones had been very successful obtaining some hard-to-find Transformers models, and was very happy. Daddy Brandon and I were satisfied that the state of collector's comics were pretty stable with all but a small minority of titles (all predictable) going for very reasonable prices in decent shape.

Be sure to read this issue's "Splash Page" by Brandon Jones for another perspective on the Con!


Guest Editorial
Florida Still Playing Catch-up with Filmmaker Incentives --
and why we lose business to other states.

by Katharine Leis

With the mad success of “Monster,” an independent film shot here in Florida (as if you hadn’t heard), you’d think that productions would be flying into The Sunshine State by the dozens.

Evidently not.

During a recent panel discussion at the Florida Film Festival, director Patty Jenkins could not praise Florida’s cast and crew enough. Camera Operator and Additional Director of Photography Stephen Campbell was noted as an incredible DP, and Steadicam Operator Grayson Austin was said by Jenkins to be “probably the best Steadicam operator in the world.” She also said that as far as actors, she found here exactly who she needed after an exhaustive and fruitless search of Los Angeles. Though the production had the funds to fly actors in for the shoot, Kimberly Mullen Casting sent her incredible talent from right here in Florida. She said of the cast and crew here, she was “blown away.”

So what gives?

Producer Clark Peterson made no bones about it. Aside from the good people and beauty of Florida, movies are not just art, they’re business.

“When it comes down to it, it all comes down to dollars and cents.”

Or should that be “dollars and sense?” It works both ways, so pick your pony.

Regardless, he went on to say that he had a very hard time convincing the investors to shoot the film in Florida, even though the events actually took place in here. Other locations suggested were Louisiana, New Mexico, Arizona, and even Canada.

Why, pray tell?

Incentives.

If a production company can save thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on a production, why would they not?

Peterson encouraged the crowd to take action and try to persuade the government to get some film incentives going. Supposedly our government is pro-film and wants movies to shoot here, but even the grandest intentions still do not beat out the tiniest actions.

So my first task, as I saw it, was to check out some of the other states, and see what they are doing to encourage production within their states. Below are Louisiana, Arizona, and New Mexico. To compare the US to Canada probably is not realistic. There are different laws and rules and such, but if other states are doing things within realistic parameters, aside from the risk of being called copycatters, why can’t we?

So here goes:
Louisiana (www.lafilm.org) has begun an aggressive pursuit of the film market. With a Sales Use and Tax Exclusion, an Employee Tax Credit, and an Investor Tax Credit, they are drawing production like Mardi Gras draws college students. The 10 % employee tax credit encourages the hiring of locals rather than flying them in, and the investor tax credit of 10% (for productions $300 000 to 1 million) or 20% (for productions over $1 million) encourages companies to form and grow within the state. To my friends who have been constantly working up there, thought I appreciate the sentiment, I have enough souvenir Louisiana license plates with my name on them.

Arizona (http://www.commerce.state.az.us/film/incentives.asp) also has seen a surge in production since the inception of their incentives. With a 50% sales tax rebate and a use fuel tax exemption, motion pictures, television shows and commercial productions can all see a benefit with productions valued at over $250 000 for commercial, and $1 million for motion picture.

Arizona also exempts hotel tax for stays over 30 days for productions, and probably most important of all, they have a guaranteed loan program.

This program is the ear perker for independents, who always seem to have a problem finding some money to make movies with.

They also provide on their site an interesting section called “E-Film Permitting” which enables productions to obtain fee-free permits online before they even enter the state. This saves not only a ton of back and forth travel time, but a lot of hassle and paperwork to boot.

New Mexico (http://www.nmsitesearch.com/incentives/incentives_1_20.htm) has three incentives; the Film Production Tax Credit, Filmmakers Gross Receipts Tax Deduction, and the Film Production Tax Credit. The first is a credit of up to 15% of all total production costs incurred in New Mexico. Thereby if a movie is shot in New Mexico but post production is done somewhere else, there will be less of a credit. This makes New Mexico’s editing suites (of which a great portion of time is spent in by filmmakers) seem much more attractive. The Gross Receipts Tax Deduction comes in the form of a 6% savings certificate, which can be and is used at the point of sale. From set construction and equipment to wardrobe and makeup, this immediate discount can add up to a healthy savings for production companies, as well as a great benefit to a wide variety of businesses in New Mexico that may not have otherwise had the sales. The last is the Film Production Tax Credit. This gets a little lengthy, but the details are for great benefit to New Mexico’s residents including stipulations that the majority of the crew must be New Mexico residents and the production has to be filmed wholly or substantially in New Mexico. Up to $7.5 million can be invested in a New Mexico film project, as decided by the State Investment Council. Now before you go running out there asking for money with your great script idea, know that you have to have distribution secured in advance with a reputable distribution company. That is much easier said than done. However, for the people who actually do have the ties, the incentive is nothing short of incredible.

Now we come to our beloved Florida (http://www.filminflorida.com/wh/news/news-150.asp). At first, I thought I was reading a joke. The first question in the FAQ page of the Film in Florida website states:

“Q - Does Florida have an Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive?
A - Yes, but currently it is not funded. Governor Bush has recommended $3 million dollars in the state’s 2004-2005 budget to fund the Entertainment Financial Incentive. It is now up to Florida’s Legislators to come to an agreement with the Governor’s recommendation.”

Ok, before we jump the gun and yell at the Legislators, let’s read on. After all, how long can it take them to come to a decision?

“Q - On what date will the Governor sign the budget?
A - The Legislature must come to agreement on the state’s budget before the Governor can sign the bill that makes it law. This can happen anytime between March 2 and June 30th, although it can take longer.”

I’m not making this stuff up. You can then be directed to another site, the Florida Senate site, which details the incentive in question.

That site link is: http://www.flsenate.gov/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View%20Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=CH0288/Sec1254.HTM

And the incentive is…:
“A reimbursement of up to 15 percent of its qualifying expenditures in this state on that motion picture, made-for-television movie with a running time of 90 minutes or more, commercial, music video, industrial film, educational film, television series pilot, or television episode that demonstrates a minimum of $850,000 in total qualified expenditures.”

Though first introduced on 9/26/03, as of 03/03/04, it is not yet passed, but is in the Appropriations Subcommittee…whatever the heck that means. If you can make sense of it, the timeline is here: http://www.flsenate.gov/session/index.cfm?Mode=Bills&SubMenu=1&BI_Mode=ViewBillInfo&BillNum=0156

The real kicker is the time that productions would qualify…

“Q - If the program is funded, when will the funds become available?
A - If your project has been certified, in writing, by the Office of Film & Entertainment, qualified expenditures may be made beginning July 1, 2004 and must stop by June 30, 2005. No expenditures made before or after these dates will be eligible for reimbursement.”

Apparently, though it’s taken five and a half months so far and is not passed yet, though it could be approved to be made a law by June 30th (but remember, it “could take longer”), producers would then have an ENTIRE DAY to decide to shoot here based on the incentive, somehow get approved and certified in writing by the Office of Film and Entertainment, then begin production. BUT they cannot take longer than one year from that day before doing all that plus beginning the process of approving a location with the producers and investors, scheduling, transporting whoever needs to be transported, location scouting, finding lodging, getting all the required permits, and actually shooting something here in Florida. Well, they CAN, but they won’t be eligible for the reimbursement.

The only current incentive I could find was here: http://www.filminflorida.com/ifi/incentives.asp
“Effective January 1, 2001, any qualified production company engaged in Florida in the production of motion pictures, made for television motion pictures, television series, commercial advertising, music videos or sound recordings may be eligible for a sales and use tax on the purchase or lease of certain items used exclusively as an integral part of the production activities in Florida.

In order to be exempt from Florida's sales tax at the point of sale, the production company must apply for a certificate of exemption to be presented to a registered Florida sales and use tax dealer when making purchases and rentals of qualified production equipment.”

So to get your 6%, you have to go to “a registered Florida sales and use tax dealer.” What if his or her prices are 10% higher than someone who is not registered? Exactly who is registered, and do they have an online catalogue so that a company can check their prices? These questions are not answered on the site, unfortunately.

It seems that Florida’s companies are trying to do their part, as you can see here: http://www.filminflorida.com/ifi/dd_other.asp

On the listing of “other incentives,” companies are offering services or discounts to film cast and crew. Hot Bunz tanning salon offers free tans, Film professionals can get 10% off books and magazines, Lion County Safari will give filmmakers 20% off of the general admission price for them and up to four guests, and Knollwood Groves will give them a free ½ hour tram ride through the orange groves.

Though I’m sure they are all well meant, I can’t see how a free tan or a half hour tram ride would be the deciding factor in filming here versus any other state.

In the section “other links and hotlines” made available to potential cast and crew members, there is a link for Orlando, http://www.film-orlando.org/wtnew/fa_crrnt.htm, but it doesn’t work.

Ironic, considering most likely, neither will Florida’s cast and crew.

So what to do?

Well, judging by the fact that other states are offering tangible incentives, it seems logical that it is possible and a financially worthwhile investment for any state. There are lots of actors and crew members here. There are lots of hotel, restaurant, and catering businesses here. There are lots of people here.

Recently, it was discovered that there was a surplus of funds over there in Tallahassee to be divvied up throughout the state. Whatever are they to do with all that money? Chances are, they will do what they feel is both best for the state, and most desired by the people.

People, it’s time to speak up.

If you are an actor and want to act, a crew member and want to…er…crew, a business owner and want more business, PLEASE go to your post office and pick up a postcard. Heck, pick up a four pack and convince three of your friends to send one in, too.

Write on the postcard:

Dear Mr. Bush:
I am writing this postcard to show my full support for a film and entertainment industry incentive program. I want to see more motion picture production in Florida, as it is of proven financial benefit, and we have the resources to accommodate a much greater amount of production.

Arizona, New Mexico, and Louisiana are three states aggressively pursuing production mainly through employee, investor, and equipment tax credits and it seems to be working. I’d like for you to add Florida to that list.

Thank you,
(your signature, printed name, and full address, otherwise he’ll think I sent them all).

If we want the state to invest in film, the least we can do is invest five minutes and twenty-two cents into a postcard. I am not delusional and realize that it will take a lot more than that, but the saying goes that you have to start somewhere, and I am not smart or crafty enough to think of anything else.

Send your postcard to:

Governor Jeb Bush
PL 05 The Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Or if you’re REALLY that lazy, you can email him at: jeb.bush@myflorida.com

My soapbox is now falling apart as I’ve been jumping up and down on it for the duration of this article, so I will step down. I thank you in advance for sending off your email, or postcard, or both, and look forward to the droves.

Appreciatively,
Katharine Leis
“The Independent Filmmaker”
yakh26@msn.com


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"Mike's Rant" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith    "Matt's Rail" is ©2004 by Matthew Drinnenberg     "La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty     "This Week's Movie Review" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith    "Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino    "Splash Page" is ©2004 by Brandon Jones    "Vinnie Vidi Vici" is © 2004 by Vinnie Blesi      All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova    
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