CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Iowa hopes to rejuvenate its film industry after a scandal linked to a tax credit program shut down the state's film office in 2009 and sent some people to jail for exploiting incentives for personal gain, The Gazette reported.

The state audit that found $26 million in tax credits were improperly issued led to 10 criminal cases in which seven people were eventually convicted.

Wendol Jarvis, who served as film office manager during Gov. Terry Branstad's previous four-term stint as governor and is Branstad's choice to reprieve the role when the office reopens, said the fiasco that developed under then-Gov. Chet Culver was the result of incompetency and greed. He said it could take years to undo the damage.

"The effects of the Iowa Film Office scandal have had ripple effects through the whole industry. It's damaged the industry very severely," Jarvis said.

Iowa's low production costs and camera-friendly locations led to the state serving as locations for such movies as "Field of Dreams," ''Bridges of Madison County," and "Twister."

But it may be harder to attract films now. Lawmakers appropriated $200,000 - half of Branstad's funding request for film tax credits — last session. There will be no state financial incentives when the office reopens, and no time frame has been set for that.

Jarvis said whatever Iowa does to attract filmmakers, it must be sure to establish trust and security because it will only get one second chance.

David Roederer, Branstad's director of the Iowa Department of Management, agreed.

"We can't mess it up," he said.

Mary Cownie, director of the state Department of Cultural Affairs, said the new office is envisioned as a one-stop clearinghouse to provide prospective filmmakers with contacts for music, production, labor, locations, community networks and other information they may need to bring a project to Iowa.

"We just need to start back from the ground up and build a strong foundation in terms of being able to sell Iowa," she said.

Cownie said there is filming going on in Iowa even without an incentive program, but there are few calls to her office. What calls they do get, she said, are referred to Kent Newman, a former board member with the Iowa Motion Picture Association who does production work in the Des Moines area and remains connected to the film business.

"I don't believe that there's a black cloud over Iowa," Newman said. "We're not the first state that has mismanaged a program like this. I think the main thing is we've all learned a lot. I think if we have a chance to do it again, we can do it right."


Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazetteonline.com/