'Cloverfield' says cheese to N.Y. shoots

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Paramount's monster-eats-New York movie "Cloverfield," which opens today, was shot under a veil of secrecy and under many fake titles, including "Slusho."

The secrecy was helped by shooting a good deal of the film on studio backlots in Los Angeles, but the production did go to the Big Apple for a few key scenes.

Director Matt Reeves said the production pared down its crew to a minimum and came up with the most mundane name they could -- "Cheese" -- but noted they were discovered even before they began shooting.

"(Production designer) Martin Whist was putting some destruction down on the lower east side of Manhattan, which is a really hip area," Reeves said. "There's a lot of young people who live there, and the moment they started seeing any kind of destruction, they put two and two together. And before we even arrived on the set to start shooting, they were posting to the Internet. And then they were filming us as we were preparing to shoot. It was very hard to remain hidden."

Yet at other times, the production managed to slip under the radar. On a subway shoot, this time using small handycams with a skeleton crew, Reeves and some actors blended right in. "People responded like it was a bunch of kids shooting. No one paid attention," he said.

Wisconsin after 'third coast' title

Is a filmmaking "third coast" one step closer to happening?

On Jan. 1, Wisconsin's new 25% tax credits for the film, television and video game industries kicked in, putting the state on competitive footing with many other leading film-incentive states.

But the state is taking its push to attract films to the next level by offering a guarantee that any movie shot in Wisconsin will receive theatrical exhibition.

Wisconsin-based Marcus Theatres has made an arrangement with Film Wisconsin, the state's film office, to offer its almost 600 screens in six Midwestern states to filmmakers as a way to help build a film economy in the state.

"Marcus Theatres will provide the foundation bookings that may lead to multiple playdates from other theater circuits in major markets across the Midwest and U.S.," Marcus president Bruce Olson wrote in a letter to Film Wisconsin. "The number and playdates will be determined by the final quality and appeal of the production."

Marcus retains the right to refuse to screen a film, but Olson said it "will make all reasonable efforts to accommodate the filmmakers' request for bookings" on films receiving a G, PG, PG-13 or R rating.

Film Wisconsin executive director Scott Robbe said the biggest impact of the commitment will be felt by independent filmmakers.

"The hardest thing for an indie filmmaker is to go to an investor and say, 'We have a guarantee to be in a theater,' " Robbe said. "With this deal, it makes investors more likely to give you money. It immediately increases the value of a project."

Wisconsin hopes the double combo of incentives and theater run, along with working with the nearby Chicago and Illinois film offices, will help establish an alternative to the Los Angeles and New York film scenes.

The incentives already are having their desired effect. Michael Mann, planning a Chicago shoot for his Depression-era Johnny Depp gangster film "Public Enemies," has been scouting the Milwaukee area for 1930s period banks, prisons and street scenes.

"The synergy we're creating is on its way to making the idea of an affordable film-friendly third coast a reality," Robbe said.

Sundance gets taste of N.Y., La.

While many at Sundance will be hitting the parties, crashing gift suites and maybe seeing a film or two, a couple of out-of-state film offices will be in Park City hoping to drum up business.

The New York State Governor's Office for Motion Picture and Television Development will host its sixth New York Lounge, presenting interviews with filmmakers and convening panels with indie experts on subjects ranging from film financing to controlling postproduction costs in its Main Street office. It also is flying in fresh New York bagels every day as well as apple cider from upstate New York.

"We come out here to celebrate all the New York filmmakers and New York films in general," said Pat Swinney Kaufman, the office's exec director.

For the second year, the Louisiana Film Foundation is throwing a Mardi Gras party on Saturday. The organization is flying a chef in from Louisiana and will have a jazz band on hand.

"Some of the people that most benefit from tax credits are the independent producers," foundation chairman Eric Skrmetta said. "Our goal is to meet in a forum where there are a lot of independent producers or executives from the independent wings of the big companies. Sundance is that place."
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