It’s been a crappy weekend for Missouri’s filmmaking community.
After months of buttonholing state legislators to make the case that the film industry is good for the Show Me State, advocates for Missouri moviemaking have received hugely discouraging news.
Gov. Jay Nixon has eliminated the Missouri Film Office, which legislators had voted to continue funding to the tune of $200,000 a year.
Among other things the film office, headed by Jerry Jones, scouts film locations for out-of-state producers and acts as a liaison between filmmakers and local talent, vendors and movie professionals.
But as of July 1 the office will cease to exist.
It’s not like the film industry is alone in misery. Nixon trimmed $172 million from the General Assembly-approved budget, nearly $17 million of it from education. Missouri colleges and universities will now take a 7 percent hit, rather than the 5.5 percent one approved by legislators.
Driving the drastic budget cuts is this spring’s miserable weather, especially record-breaking tornado outbreaks and the likelihood of severe flooding as winter’s melting snow pack sends streams out of their banks. Dealing with these crises will put even more pressure on state coffers depleted by a slow economic recovery.
So what are Kansas City filmmakers to do?
They’ll make movies.
They’ll scramble for financing from ever-shrinking sources. They’ll beg, borrow and steal.
And somehow they’ll get the job done.
I’m one of those optimists who believe that Kansas City is on the verge of becoming an indie film mecca not unlike Austin TX. In recent years films by local auteurs like Patrick Rea, Todd Norris, Ty Jones, Steve Balderson, Bruce Branit, Kevin Willmott and Gary Huggins have done extremely well on the fest circuit.
And those aforementioned filmmakers are just the tip of the iceberg. Some day soon I fully expect a locally-made film to make the sort of big splash that will direct the industry’s eyes right here to River City.
We’ve got urban and rural locales. We’ve got a deep pool of film professionals. We’ve got state of the art sound stages and f/x houses.
Most of all we’ve got the talent.
So while the news out of Jeff City is discouraging, and while we will no longer have a film office to help bring productions like “Winter’s Bone” and “Up in the Air” to the state, I prefer to see the glass half full. I look around and see a city overflowing with creativity. I see the makings of greatness.
Maybe not today. Or this year. But soon.
| Robert W.Butler