With no exotic scenery or filmmaker incentives, Indiana isn’t exactly one of Hollywood’s top locations for filming.
But the movie "Back in the Day", set for release this month, was shot in 2012 in Newburgh, largely because star and director Michael Rosenbaum grew up in the Evansville suburb.
The actor, who portrayed Lex Luthor in the Superman television series "Smallville," will return to Indiana Jan. 10 for the premiere of his film, in Evansville. The theatrical release is set for Jan. 17.
"Back in the Day" is a comedy about high school friends who return to Castle High School—the name of Rosenbaum’s actual alma mater—for a reunion. Rosenbaum’s character starts pining for an old high school flame, played by actress Morena Baccarin.
Bacarrin is perhaps best known for her current turn as Jessica Brody in the Showtime TV series "Homeland," and as the attractive leader of an extraterrestrial race invading Earth in the recent remake of the ABC television hit "V."
Rosenbaum said he could have filmed "Back in the Day" in Los Angeles and have received a tax credit to boot. However, “I said, ‘You know, for authenticity, I don’t feel it’s going to capture the essence of where I grew up in the Midwest,’” he said.
The screenplay for "Back in the Day" also is by Rosenbaum. His first work as a screenwriter was the 2011 short film "Ghild," about a boy who grew up as a giant.
Rosenbaum tried to raise money from investors but found it difficult. He said he sought financial assistance from Indiana but was told there were no funds available. Indiana’s tax credit for filmmakers, equal to 15 percent of production costs, expired in late 2011.
Other states are much more aggressive about attracting film productions than Indiana, typically enticing them with tax credits and/or rebates. For example, Illinois offers a 30-percent tax credit on expenditures, as well as an additional 15-percent tax credit on salaries of individuals who live in economically disadvantaged areas, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The not-for-profit Indiana Media Production Alliance plans to hire a lobbyist in hopes of getting incentives for filmmakers restored. The group is proposing legislation that would include a 30-percent rebate or refundable tax credit on expenditures and nonresident labor, with minimum spending of $50,000.
Despite the challenges, Rosenbaum’s company, Rose & Bomb Productions, which includes his brother, Eric, shot the movie in Newburgh in 2012 on a budget of less than $1 million.
At times he and the cast stayed in the homes of his old buddies or with other Evansville area residents who were generous enough to help the aspiring filmmaker.
“For very little money you can still make a fun, entertaining movie,” Rosenbaum said.
The odds were against him. Not only would he have to convince fellow actors to head to Indiana, but he also pitched them during pilot season, when many actors are auditioning for new shows.
“Who in their right mind is going to southern Indiana for very little money, and in the midst of pilot season,” he recalled.
Baccarin looked at the script and said she loved it. The rest fell into place.
Parts of the movie were shot at the Knob Hill Tavern in Newburgh, a surreal experience given that his old teachers and pals used to hang out there.
The film is rated R, largely for some raunchy banter.
Some of the best known films shot in Indiana are "Breaking Away" (1979); "Hoosiers" (1986); and "Rudy" and "A League of Their Own" in the 1990s.
But in recent years, Indiana has found itself overlooked. States such as Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania offer studios generous tax incentives for filming within their borders.
Another of those states, Massachusetts, landed the location shoot for "The Judge," a film to be released this year starring Robert Downey Jr. about a fictional Indiana town.
Another movie, "The Fault in Our Stars," is based the novel of the same name by Indianapolis writer John Green and is set in the city—but was shot in Pittsburgh.