New financial incentives help draw movie to Memphis
By WOODY BAIRD
Associated Press Writer
MEMPHIS (AP) — The newsroom of the city’s largest newspaper had a crisper look that usual and several of the journalists on duty were particularly attractive. But then it was all make-believe.
The Commercial Appeal is one of the filming sites in Memphis for the first major-movie production drawn to Tennessee by new financial incentives approved by state lawmakers.
“In the end it came down to being between here and South Carolina. The incentives here are very aggressive. They’re very film friendly,” said Rod Lurie, writer-director for “Nothing But the Truth,” starring Matt Dillon and Kate Beckinsale.
Though supposedly set in Washington, D.C., the movie is primarily being filmed in Memphis where film crews are expected to be at work through the middle of next month.
The story line for the movie focuses on a news reporter (Beckinsale) who goes to jail rather than reveal a confidential source for an article that names an undercover CIA agent.
The financial incentives program, upgraded by the state Legislature last year, offers rebates and sales-tax breaks to filmmakers based on a percentage of their in-state spending.
The program, with $10 million for rebates, is designed to make Tennessee more attractive to production companies that can spent hundreds of thousands of dollars while in the state.
Filming in The Commercial Appeal newsroom began Thursday and was expected to run into the weekend.
The newspaper’s real reporters and editors went about their duties throughout the filming, surrounded at times by dozens of production workers, actors, directors and camera operators.
Stacks of movie making equipment left little open space in the newsroom and its adjoining hallways.
Disruptive? “I suppose so, but I see their newspaper came out today,” Lurie said Friday.
“We’re discussing a subject that’s extremely important to journalists, so I would think most newspapers would find a way to accommodate us. We’re on the same team,” said Lurie, a newspaper and magazine reporter before moving to movies.
The film company also paid an undisclosed fee to the newspaper.
Filming in Memphis was scheduled, too, in a federal courtroom, at the county penal farm and at several private homes.
Financial incentives played a big part in bringing the movie to Tennessee, but other help from state and local film commissions helped, too, Lurie said, adding that producers considered cities in several states before focusing on Columbia, S.C., and Memphis.
“They found us exactly the right homes. They somehow got us into the U.S. District Court, which South Carolina couldn’t do,” he said. “They just wanted it more than the other guys.”
The Yari Film Group, which is producing the movie, refused to say how much money would be spent in Tennessee, and the state film commission declined to discuss potential rebates.
Also starring in the movie are Alan Alda, Angela Bassett, Noah Wyle, Vera Farmiga and David Schwimmer.
Published in The Messenger 10.22.007