Des Moines: the new Hollywood?
Sep 22, 2009
Last weekend, I was strolling through the annual Beaverdale Fall Festival, and there was Peter Fonda. And a full-on film crew.
Photo © 2009 Stan Brewer
By Shoshana Hebshi
Last weekend, I was strolling through the annual Beaverdale Fall Festival, and, as usual, there was not all that much to see or do for a street fair. My kids, however, have gotten to the age where they want to go on carnival rides, so we headed over to the church parking lot where the carnies had set up shop.
And there was Peter Fonda.
And a full-on film crew.
I think that even might have been Mira Sorvino he was sitting next to doing a scene. Right there. In my neighborhood. We were alerted by several signs posted around the parking lot that we, like it or not, were agreeing to be part of a film in production called “Smitty.” We were officially extras. It was a little surreal.
Last month, I was standing in line at the Gateway Market and turned to my right to see someone who looked an awful lot like the actor Adrien Brody. You know, the Academy Award winner who smooched Halle Berry in a Hollywood swoop when he found out he had won for “The Pianist” in 2003. Turns out he was in production of a film called “The Experiment” shooting in Des Moines. He was buying lunch that afternoon. And I didn’t ask him for his autograph, but I did think it was neat to have such a huge star in our little Iowa town.
Being from California, I am not easily star struck, but I am about to announce to all my California family and friends that Des Moines is the new Hollywood. And, with all the brouhaha in The Des Moines Register lately about abuse of film tax credits, it seems timely to talk about the issue.
What is the draw of Hollywood to Des Moines? It is scenic, the state government seems easy enough to work with (even if they are skirting laws), and it is inexpensive. Currently, according to The Register, there are six movies filming in Iowa right now, many with big stars like Fonda, Sorvino and Abigail Breslin and Louis Gossett Jr.
Iowa has hit the big time.
And that’s OK.
I like the fact that I can go about my business here and there and bump into a film in production or a hot Hollywood actor. It’s exciting, and it puts Des Moines and Iowa on the map. Being on the map can’t hurt, especially in these economic times.
Perhaps these film crews are coming here because of the generous tax credits that are under siege right now, but maybe once Hollywood gets a dose of Iowa hospitality it will not matter to filmmakers what incentives are offered to get them to shoot here. Perhaps Iowa is the next Hollywood. And we are all witnesses to a burgeoning industry that makes us all feel just a little more special.
Shoshana Hebshi is a freelance writer, editor and Des Moines transplant. Read her blog at http://shebshi.wordpress.com