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Ind.-made film overcomes financial, site hurdles

NEWBURGH, Ind. – An Indiana-filmed comedy about a high school reunion will hit theaters soon thanks to a Hoosier native who valued authenticity over financial help.

Filmmaker Michael Rosenbaum told the Indianapolis Business Journal ( ) that he chose Newburgh, Ind., over places like Los Angeles to shoot “Back in the Day” because he wanted it to accurately depict the movie’s Midwest setting.

“I said, `You know, for authenticity, I don’t feel it’s going to capture the essence of where I grew up in the Midwest,”’ he said.

But doing so likely cost Rosenbaum money. Indiana’s tax credit for filmmakers, which equaled 15 percent of production costs, expired in late 2011, and state officials told him there was no financial assistance available.

Indiana has been the site of some well-known films, including “Breaking Away” (1979); “Hoosiers” (1986); and “Rudy” and “A League of Their Own” in the 1990s. But it has found itself overlooked in recent years as its incentives disappeared.

Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania offer studios generous tax incentives for filming within their borders. Massachusetts landed the shoot for “The Judge,” an upcoming film about a fictional Indiana town that stars Robert Downey Jr.

Another movie, “The Fault in Our Stars,” is set in the city but was shot in Pittsburgh.

Indiana’s expired tax credit puts the state at a disadvantage when filmmakers go looking for locations. Illinois offers a 30 percent tax credit on expenditures, as well as an additional 15 percent tax credit on salaries of individuals who live in economically disadvantaged areas, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The nonprofit Indiana Media Production Alliance is proposing legislation that would include a 30 percent rebate or refundable tax credit on expenditures and nonresident labor, with minimum spending of $50,000. It’s hiring a lobbyist to help in hopes of pushing the measure through.

Rosenbaum wasn’t daunted by Indiana’s climate and found ways for his company, Rose & Bomb Productions, to make the movie for less than $1 million.

He and cast members sometimes stayed with Evansville-area residents. He even overcame the odds when pitching the roles to actors during pilot season.

“Who in their right mind is going to southern Indiana for very little money, and in the midst of pilot season,” he recalled.

Actress Morena Baccarin, who plays Jessica Brody in the Showtime TV series “Homeland,” said she loved the script. Rosenbaum also stars.

The movie will hit theaters Jan. 17.

Rosenbaum said it’s proof that “for very little money you can still make a fun, entertaining movie.”


Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal,