My friend and sometime cousin Sharyn McCrumb, whose novels you may have read, is in a tizzy wanting to get the movie treatment of her book The Rosewood Casket made in Craig County. The book is set in a place much like Craig, but the producers of the movie are thinking economics and are looking for the best deal. So far, Virginia is charging into last place for deal-making. Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee are running a tight competition for the economic bonanza with Georgia--the least appropriate site--having the most money to offer.
Sharyn wants to change that and is forging ahead with some alliances here that could help her. Her first call was to me, asking if she should call Morgan Griffith, her General Assembly delegate. "Oh, Lord no!" I yelled in an e-mail. The best place for Morgan Griffith as regards your Rosewood Casket is in it, I advised. Don't let him get anywhere near an argument for you; he'll probably be on the other side, anyway. He's never been on the right side of anything. But, hey, that's just me. (I mentioned that Griffith is the clogged artery of state government. My wife countered that he is the "hard stool." I liked her metaphor better.)
I put her on to Bootie Chewning, the local representative for the film office and a dynamo who already has a film shooting in Craig County. Bootie was a cheerleader at Virginia Tech about 50 years ago and she's never lost that flair (if not flare). I'm calling a couple of (capable) local pols, as well, to see if they can help.
What's at stake is a heck of a lot more than some exposure on a 40-foot screen. This is a green deal and we're not talking environment. It's long green. The movie companies are followed by money blowing around like flies on spilled spaghetti. And a lot of it could land right here in this economy.
Sharyn says the Virginia Film Commission doesn't seem up to the job of landing the movie. "We've promised the Virginia Film Commission a chance to match other state incentives from their fund, but don't know if they can do it. Georgia has upped its incentive to a 30 percent" rebate on in-state spending and there is pressure to shoot there. Georgia, however, hasn't "been able to show us real, dense mountains." Meanwhile, North Carolina and Tennessee have15 percent offers (with mountains). Virginia offers nice scenery.
Here's "the word from Lotusland," says Sharyn (sharing an e-mail from one of the film execs):
"I'll wager your politicking will be immensely helpful. Belaureled local trumps Hollywood every time ... Muckety Mucks want to know how much money we'll be spending in state and I wish I could say. Best guess is anywhere from $5 million to $8 million ... In spite of what some state legislators [Morgan Griffith would be one] think these rebates aren't hand-outs to greedy moguls. We'll literally spend the entire rebate in-state on production elements (good for the state), which results in a more beautiful, more richly detailed, more emotionally nuanced movie (good for us)."
So, as Sharyn suggests, it's time to take to the streets. Get some wooden pitch forks and tiki torches, form a mob and get these film people to act now. I get to lead the first mile.