New group advocates for Minnesota as movie producer

  • Article by: KRISTIN TILLOTSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 4, 2013 - 7:53 PM

A new partnership wants to convince the Legislature to use Legacy funding to get a role for the state as part owner in films made here.

A newly formed group plans to ask the Legislature to invest Legacy funds in movies that are filmed in Minnesota, the goal being returns on those investments.

The four partners in the Association of Minnesota Motion Pictures (AMMP), including two seasoned Hollywood producers, want to use their connections to act as fiscal agents for major studios seeking public money from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund allocated by the state’s Legacy Amendment.

Unlike rebates or tax incentives, the investment would involve part ownership of a film. A hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday before a joint session of the House and Senate Legacy committee. An earlier news conference will be hosted by State Reps. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, and Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township.

“Usually the money given to films goes in just one direction, from the government to the producers,” said AMMP partner Denise Gardner, an attorney and television producer who also owns F-Stop Productions in Minneapolis. “We want to break with that tradition. Why shouldn’t Minnesota have a piece of the next ‘Fargo’ or ‘Purple Rain’?”

The other partners in AMMP that have been announced are Ralph Winter, a producer of high-grossing action films including three “X-Men” and two “Fantastic Four” titles; producer and former Minnesotan Robert Schwartz (“Iron Will”), and Jane Minton, who was director of IFP Minnesota for 25 years. Minton is married to Star Tribune arts and entertainment editor Tim Campbell.

Investing in films can be risky business, but Gardner said that built-in safeguards should minimize risk. They include focusing on “midsize” movies, with a budget of $20 million or less, and getting a studio guarantee that the films will be theatrically released, lowering the potential risk. Similar, successful programs exist in Canada, England and Australia, but she said she isn’t aware of any such public/private partnership elsewhere in the United States.

AMMP plans to negotiate “not one-offs, but long-term partnerships” with studios, she said. A three-movie deal with a Sony Pictures or Warner Bros. requiring that most of the filming be done in the state would mean millions spent in Minnesota, she said.

Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046

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