Thursday, September 06, 2007

That big movie production

Well, you've all heard about it by now but I'm still getting some calls since I got back to town. So here are the essentials culled from John Beifuss' story in the CA last week:

Big-time moviemaking returns to Memphis in October, when Matt Dillon, Kate Beckinsale, Alan Alda, David Schwimmer and Vera Farmiga come to town to shoot "Nothing But the Truth," a political thriller from Los Angeles-based writer-director Rod Lurie.

Lurie and his producers were lured here in part by recently passed state and local financial incentives for filmmakers. "For the first time, we're really competitive with other states," Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commissioner Linn Sitler said.

"Our current plan is to shoot the whole thing in Memphis," Lurie said. He said shooting is scheduled to begin in mid-October and will continue for seven weeks.

"That is the true test of a city's marketability as a filming site, when it can double for somewhere else," Sitler said.

Lurie described "Nothing But the Truth" as "a local production" that will hire numerous Memphis-area residents as crew members, extras and supporting actors. "I'm honestly convinced that much of my talent will be found not just within Tennessee but within Memphis," he said. "We will cast many parts out of Memphis, including a lot of speaking parts and some strong supporting parts."

He said he's not sure yet whether the film will host a public casting call.

Inspired in part by the "CIA leak case" involving outed agent Valerie Plame and New York Times reporter Judith Miller, "Nothing But the Truth" features the acclaimed Farmiga ("The Departed") as a CIA agent and Beckinsale ("Underworld") as a reporter who is jailed for refusing to give up her source.

Dillon plays a special prosecutor, and Alda is an attorney who specializes in First Amendment cases.

Perry Gibson, executive director of the Tennessee Film & Music Commission, said South Carolina was poised to beat out Tennessee for "Nothing But the Truth" until Lurie and producer James Spies, a resident of Nashville, were recruited for a Memphis location visit.

"The incentives are what bring 'em in, but what gets 'em is the location, and how welcoming the people are, and how exciting the city is," Gibson said. "They saw that the talent -- the stars -- could be entertained and have a great time there."

"Many states have incentives, but few states have such dogmatic and hardworking film commissioners," Lurie said. "Linn is like a ball of fire."

Even so, the production company has established a Department of Revenue-approved, Tennessee-based headquarters in order to take advantage of the financial incentives established by the state legislature in 2006, which include combined rebates of up to 32 percent for "qualified spending" within the state.

The local production offices will be on Beale Street, in free space provided by district landlord John Elkington.

The production also will be the first to take advantage of a new program in which Memphis and Shelby County government will pay half the salaries of local residents who work on the film as trainees, in hopes of increasing the local crew base for future productions.

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