News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 2, 2006

City office withdraws support for movie

By Deb McKee

The script is written, the cast nearly complete and now Tony Bruce is wondering if he’ll be totally welcome to shoot major parts of his upcoming movie where he wants, in Terre Haute.

David A. Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau called Bruce at his Los Angeles home early Thursday morning to withdraw support for the movie “Redefining Normal,” Bruce said.

Bruce, a movie producer and Terre Haute native, signed several major Hollywood actors in January to star in the film. At that time he confirmed his intention to shoot much of it on location in Terre Haute.

Bruce was taken aback by Patterson’s telephone call, he said. According to Bruce, Patterson told him that he was taking a lot of heat for “Redefining Normal,” and that he couldn’t support it.

Before the exchange, Bruce felt he had the support of the community and the state of Indiana, he said.

Over the past several years, Bruce has received letters of encouragement regarding filming in Indiana from Indiana State University President Lloyd Benjamin (in 2004); the late Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon (in 1999), and Patterson (in 2000).

Patterson’s letter, sent to Bruce in late 2000, offered assistance “with information regarding catering, lodging, extras and other services available in the Wabash Valley.”

The letter was in response to a meeting between the producer and Patterson regarding another film project, Bruce said, on the subject of the murders of four brothers in Parke County in 1977 (also known as the Hollandsburg murders).

The letter did not mention a particular movie or project by name, and in it, Patterson suggested that Bruce “utilize our office as a local contact and support service.”

Patterson told the Tribune-Star that Bruce had wrongly assumed his letter of October 2000 was a general offer of assistance from the Terre Haute Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

“He assumed since I was going to support a film about [the Hollandsburg murders] I’d have no problem with this. He wasn’t detailed about what assistance he needs this time,” Patterson said. “I don’t want to help this guy until he comes to me with a specific request, something that falls within my office’s mission.”

Patterson said the mission of his office includes bringing people to Terre Haute, having them stay overnight and showing the community in a positive light in hopes of attracting more visitors.

“Redefining Normal” is mostly autobiographical, and deals with substance abuse, homosexuality, self-destruction and redemption, according to Bruce.

Patterson said, “It’s not my job to censor what’s filmed or not. Personally, I feel bad for the guy and what he’s been through.

“By the same token, I don’t know that drug use, rape and all these other things of a young kid growing up in Terre Haute is necessarily in my bailiwick,” Patterson said.

Patterson said he has not read the “Redefining Normal” script, nor had he read the screenplay for the Hollandsburg murders project in 2000, which is still in development.

Mayor Kevin Burke said he doesn’t yet know enough about “Redefining Normal” to determine if it would add value to the community. “Anything that wants to portray Terre Haute in a negative manner, I’m going to have very little energy for,” he said.

Burke invoked the 1st Amendment, saying the city has no role in deciding the content of a movie. He added, however, “The city has no business backing anything that puts Terre Haute in a bad light; that runs contrary to all our marketing efforts. If someone wants to do that, they have the right, but they need to do it on their own dime.”

Bruce denies any intention to portray his hometown in a negative manner.

“If I wanted to make Terre Haute out to be a terrible place, I wouldn’t come back to it,” he said. “I’m trying to bring something that Terre Haute has never seen before. A movie has never been filmed there before.”

Bruce said the project could mean great things for Terre Haute. Producing a movie is expected to bring exposure and economic benefits to the city, he said.

Indiana Film Commission Director Whitney Overturf said she has had preliminary discussions with Bruce about “Redefining Normal.” Once they receive further information from Bruce, the commission will do an economic analysis and determine what incentives might be available to the production team.

The movie “Madison” (2001), filmed in Madison, Ind., was studied by the film commission for its economic impact on the state. It was a $3.5 million production, according to Overturf, and only about 1/4 of that amount came to Indiana because much of the movie was filmed in Hawaii. The study found that for every dollar spent on production, there was an 83 cent spillover into the Indiana economy.

“Bringing people in, getting costumes together, lodging, food, restaurants, things like that are the actual spillover,” Overturf said, “and if they’re employing local crew, that figure could go up a bit because of payroll taxes and whatnot. ‘Madison’ caused large economic growth in Indiana.”

Teresa Exline, university spokesperson for ISU, said the university is still behind Bruce’s creative pursuits.

“We’d be interested in the community being utilized in that fashion,” she said. “We continue to maintain contact with [Bruce] and offer support. I don’t know what nature that support would take, but because of the economic development opportunities and attention to the university and community, we are interested.”

Burke said, “The whole idea of movies in Indiana, this makes a lot of sense for us to pursue this … If there’s a way for someone to make money and provide opportunity and prosperity and appeal to our young people, that’s what we’re about.”

Deb McKee can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or deb.mckee@tribstar.com.