Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Director: Milwaukee a fresh alternative for Hollywood

Business Journal of Milwaukee

The director of a new television series set in Milwaukee said he would like his cast and crew to return here to shoot scenes for future episodes.

Actors Lou Diamond Phillips, Billy Burke and a crew for an NBC series with the working title "The Watch" are in Milwaukee for three days shooting at outdoor locations for a pilot episode. They took a break from their work this morning to participate in a press conference at O'Donnell Park at the lakefront. Also present were politicians, tourism officials and supporters of the Wisconsin TV and film industry.

"The Watch," which revolves around a suburban neighborhood watch group gone awry, is scheduled to debut in February 2008 with an initial run of 12 to 13 episodes, said director Charles McDougall, whose credits include "Desperate Housewives."

A majority of scenes will be filmed at indoor sound stages in the Los Angeles area.

McDougall said that 90 percent of TV series tape and film outdoor scenes in the Los Angeles area and all the locations there have become overexposed with viewers. He said he hopes to explore Milwaukee as a fresh alternative.

"I'd rather shoot here," he said.

Pete Schindler, vice president of production with Sony Pictures, which is producing the series for NBC, said the return of "The Watch" crew will depend on financial incentives from the state and the presence of a larger sound stage in the Milwaukee area.

The incentives are scheduled to start in January 2008 under the Film Wisconsin legislation that is designed to encourage the development of the film, television, TV commercial and video game industries in the state.

"That's how you compete with Toronto," he said, referring to the Canadian city that's the backdrop for many TV shows and movies.

In the meantime, VISIT Milwaukee, the local convention and visitors bureau, established a $100,000 fund for productions that are conducted prior to the state incentives. "The Watch" is receiving about $25,000 from the VISIT Milwaukee fund, said CEO Doug Neilson.

Schindler said the television series will need an indoor sound stage of at least 12,000 square feet, and preferably as large as 20,000 square feet.

Scott Robbe, executive director of Film Wisconsin, a private Milwaukee company supporting the industry in the state, said plans are under way to create a sound stage of that size in the area. He didn't identify who was creating the sound stage or where.

"The Watch" is employing a crew of 40, mostly from the Milwaukee and Chicago areas with some Los Angeles staffers.

Lou Diamond Phillips and Billy Burke were in scenes in the downtown area and along the lakefront.

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