Films wanting help from the state of North Dakota should be eligible for the same kinds of financial support and incentives as other business. There shouldn't be a special pool of money for movie companies. The state's past experience in funding film projects should be enough of a caution to warn off dreams of Hollywood on the Prairie.
As for re-establishing the job of film commissioner, that work could be absorbed by the Tourism Department and the North Dakota Council on the Arts. Funding and staffing an office of film commissioner would get the state only a modest return on investment at best.
However, the state should not discourage serious filmmakers from coming to North Dakota with economically viable projects. There are many things the state can do to help filmmakers short of providing capital.
The issues of filmmaking and a film commission pushed to the surface as a group considers creating a family-centered film here - "Young Four Eyes," about Teddy Roosevelt. The group will host a "banquet" on July 3 at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park to pitch its film mini-series. Hopefully, the project will be strong enough to attract the necessary investments to make the film. We like the idea of making family-friendly films in North Dakota.
Films have been made in North Dakota before. The most recent, and therefore top of mind, was "Wooly Boys," filmed in western North Dakota in 1999. The Bank of North Dakota wrote off a loan of $1.66 million on that project. Nor was it an artistic success.
When people think of North Dakota and film, they think of "Fargo," which wasn't a North Dakota-based project, nor did the state participate in its funding.
Good quality, family-oriented films could be made in North Dakota. But as a business decision, it would be risky. Typically, people come to states like North Dakota to fund film projects after they've failed to raise capital and support in California's film industry, where they know what they are doing, at least when it comes to film.
To be fair, the people interested in making "Young Four Eyes" aren't asking for state money. And we're glad of that. The past, however, has made us skeptical about such things. And U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer and Gov. Jack Dalrymple have lent their names to the project.
TR's life in North Dakota would be a rich project for film. It's a topic that lends itself to family viewing. We hope the backers of "Young Four Eyes" have great success.
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OCTOBER 31, 2014
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