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Iowa's dashed field of dreams

Chinatown-2

Listen -- hear that? It sounds just like Professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man”: “Ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here in River City.”

The Times reported Wednesday on the state of Iowa’s troubled film tax-credit program. The office, which sought to steal  --  sorry, lure -- film production from its rightful home in California, apparently lost its way. Its functions were suspended in 2009, and criminal charges have been lodged against Tom Wheeler, the state’s former film chief.

Among the alleged transgressions: Hollywood types bought a Land Rover and other luxury vehicles with the state’s money; filmmakers used estimates rather than actual expenses, as well as counting out-of-state salaries toward the tax credits; and in one case, someone --  gasp --  “provided no proof of payment for nearly $500,000 in expenses.”

You’re kidding.

This is what happens when amateurs try to deal with professionals. There should be warning signs, like in the car ads on TV: Professional Hollywood people only. Closed-set negotiations. Do not attempt at home, or in Iowa.

Take the Land Rover purchase, for example. Did the folks in Iowa actually think that a big-shot movie producer was going to be content snorting coke in the back of a Chevy Malibu? 

Iowans are honest, hardworking, God-fearing folk. They’re nothing like the people in Hollywood.

In contrast, dealing with Hollywood comes naturally to Southern Californians. Practically everyone here is a veteran in the ways of moviemaking. I myself have extensive experience. For example:

-- I was an (uncredited) consultant on about three or four of the six episodes of the TV show “Night Stalker” that actually aired in 2005.

-- I once ran into Jane Seymour (she’s shorter than you’d think but just as pretty in person), and Ed Harris and his wife, Amy Madigan, at a museum function; not to mention the time I saw Nicolas Cage at the Ferrari dealership in Beverly Hills (he was buying; I was killing time with my kids).

-- Finally, my best friend’s dentist is the wife of the guy who directed “The Longest Yard” (not the good one; the one with Adam Sandler).

So I know what I’m talking about when I say to the good people of Iowa: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

That’s advice you can take to the bank.

Although you’d better cash it quick.

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-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: "Chinatown." Credit: Paramount Pictures

 

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