The state of Iowa has shut down its tax incentive program for filmmakers and has launched a criminal investigation into the operations of the Iowa Film Office following the release of an accountant's review showing widespread abuse of the program. In one instance, director Bruce Isacson was able to purchase a new Range Rover for $61,000 by listing it as a production expense, a spokesman for the Iowa Economic Development Department said. Somewhat ironically, Isacson told the Des Moines Register last year that he had decided to film his movie South Dakota in Iowa because of the state's generous tax-incentive program. No mention of the film appears in the Internet Movie Database's (IMDb) listings, and Isacson has only one credit -- as an actor in a movie released in 1995. Another filmmaker, the horror film producer Donald Borchers, reportedly chalked up a $67,783 Mercedes Benz to his production costs for his TV movie version of Children of the Corn , which aired last month on SyFy. Neither filmmaker was accused of wrongdoing. However, the manager and staff of the Iowa Film Office were accused of failing to provide sufficient oversight of film projects and wrongly approving unqualified expenses. Tom Wheeler, who was hired in 2004 to head the Iowa Film Office, was fired last month. The state's decision to suspend the tax-incentive program has brought filmmaking to a halt in Iowa. Neil Wells, an actor who has worked on three recent films in the state, told the Register, "You don't shut down a whole industry because of a couple bad actors. ... [Gov. Chet Culver] has actually taken about $400 million away from Iowa's economy because filmmakers are starting to go elsewhere."

07/10/2009