“Produce Iowa” looks to rebuild Iowa movie industry

After scandal rocked the Iowa Film Office four years ago, a new leader is now hoping to rebuild the movie industry in the Hawkeye state.

In 2009, a tax credit scandal nearly put an end to the Iowa movie industry altogether. The tax incentive program was shut down after an audit discovered fraud, and Thomas Wheeler, the film office’s former head, was convicted of falsifying public records.

“It was a tremendous black eye, and it was because of an inexperienced film office,” said Quad City Film Coalition co-founder Doug Miller.

After a four-year hiatus, though, the film office is now back under a new name — Produce Iowa. Its new leader, Liz Gilman, visited the Quad Cities on Tuesday, and said she’s ready for the fresh start.

“It’s kind of exciting, because I’ve got a clean slate. To some people, they might think, ‘Wow, that’s a challenge.’ But to me, I’m a creative person, and I like to create things,” said Gilman.

From 2007 to 2009, nearly 20 feature films were shot in Iowa. The Quad Cities even provided the backdrop for movies like “Sugar” and “MegaFault.”

Gilman now has the job of returning Iowa to the spotlight, after only two films were shot in the state from 2010 to 2011. And although she doesn’t foresee tax incentives returning to the state anytime soon, Gilman said there’s still benefits to doing business in Iowa.

“I think Iowa has a lot of great people. We’re Iowa nice, and we’re hardworking, well-educated people, and I really think that once we say, ‘Hey, we’re open for business, come check us out,’ that people will,” said Gilman.