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Produce Iowa: A best friend to filmmakers and television producers

Produce Iowa

Because of its hospitality, convenience and prices, television producers and filmmakers love shooting in Iowa.

“Shutting a road down in LA is a bit of a hassle, but shutting one down here usually isn’t that big of a deal” Liz Gilman—Executive Producer of Produce Iowa—says. “And we’re very hospitable.

“The key is getting people here and they stay.”

Produce Iowa is part of Iowa’s Department of Cultural Affairs with the Iowa Arts Council and the State Historical Society. Gilman has been the executive producer since it was started by former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad in 2013.

Gilman is responsible for facilitating media production and connecting the resources and solutions in Iowa to producer’s wants and needs.

She points producers and directors to an online database that has locations with pictures from old barns, school houses, main streets and more. There are also links to production tools, permits and grants.

“I have a database of locations with different property owners who want to be the next, ‘” Field of Dreams,'” Gilman says. “We supply the platform and it’s free so somebody with a house or business can create your own listing on our website so producers can see what your property looks like. All Iowans have a chance to be part of the industry.”

What attracts out-of-state producers

Gilman said after CNN reporters visited Iowa while covering the Caucuses, they returned after writing the political comedy series Embeds.

“The reason they are here is they came about a year ago from Los Angeles to shoot a series about journalists being embedded in the political process,” Gilman explained.

Gilman said the same producers of Embeds were producing another television series— Play by Play—when they stumbled upon Roosevelt High School.

“So I connected them to the school and they just stayed here and shot eight episodes,” Gilman said. “I just met with the producer and he estimated they had a $4 million direct spend into our economy over the last year.”

Gilman says she will get calls from national advertising agencies for commercials or projects like House Hunters International and American Pickers.

And while Gilman works to attract television producers with million dollar projects, she says Iowa has a strong presence of independent filmmakers.

The ‘Film Lounge’

To encourage Iowans to enter the film industry Gilman and Produce Iowa started The Film Lounge—on Iowa Public Television—that celebrates the work of Iowa filmmakers.

Gilman said they’ve had three episodes since launching in February and she’s working on a student edition because you must be 18 to submit a film.

“There’s a lot of great young talent that we don’t want to exclude,” Gilman says.

To expand on a student edition of The Film Lounge, Gilman said she’s identified 26 media departments in Iowa colleges and universities to work with that can add more workforce and professional development opportunities for students.

“So if you are a senior you can go job shadow a film happening,” Gilman says. “Just so they can learn some of the real world business experience to get people to learn and hopefully stay here to have jobs.”


Produce Iowa: A best friend to filmmakers and television producers | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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