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Bringing Hollywood to the Heartland
Bringing Hollywood to the Heartland
Teresa Sabatine's bold vision for film in Indiana

With a shift toward more independent filmmakers and less reliance on the giant corporate film companies, the film and television industry is rapidly evolving. Pivot recently spoke with one of Indy’s newest film enthusiasts—Indianapolis Film Commissioner Teresa Sabatine—for her thoughts on the changes and the future of film in Indiana.

Teresa Sabatine is only one month into her role as Indianapolis Film Commissioner, but she already recognizes an opportunity for Indy. While Hollywood remains the mecca for films, there is an increasing disconnect between filmmakers and studios. Filmmakers are the artists who want their films to be made and seen, while the studios often fund production and then distribute content. Increasingly, however, filmmakers are opting to remain independent and self-fund in order to retain their artistic freedom. These autonomous creators are ideal targets for up-and-coming film cities like Indy.

“My hope is to bring together filmmakers, export our story, gain exposure for Indy, and elevate us into a place for film,” Teresa said. “You do not have to live in Los Angeles. That is the beauty of this industry.”

Exporting authentic stories works. Consumers are interested in real people, as evidenced by the success of HGTV’s Good Bones, which depicts a mother-daughter remodeling team focused on revitalizing emerging Indianapolis neighborhoods. Teresa describes Indy as “… an affordable city that you can scout in one day. We have the opportunity to present ourselves as an efficient, welcoming, and creative place.”

Teresa and other local film champions are currently working to emulate Chicago’s recent success by making Indiana a more attractive film location through tax incentive legislation. According to a May Chicago Tribune article, tax incentives have made Chicago an attractive location for productions, as demonstrated by seven broadcast network television shows that were filmed entirely in the city. It’s estimated that in 2013 the state of Illinois made $358 million in television and film revenues, approximately $174 million more than the previous year. A tax credit that works as the state’s film incentive contributed to the increase between 2012 and 2013.

In addition to tax incentives, it is important to keep in mind that resources and facilities also play a crucial role in attracting filmmakers. Interest in locating outside of California is at an all-time high, but filmmakers want to be sure facilities and resources are available. Beyond Illinois’ favorable tax policies, it was Chicago’s Cinespace soundstage complex that helped lure film producers.

“My mission for the Indianapolis Film Commission is to elevate film production locally and, as a result, young creatives will want to live here, creating and telling stories from our unique perspective,” said Teresa.

The future looks bright for the film industry in Indiana. Through legislative efforts, increased awareness of the state’s offerings, and passionate people like Teresa, it seems possible—even likely—that Hoosiers might soon be seeing a few more stars of the silver screen around town.