When producers look to film in Indiana, it's Jane Rulon they call

Midnight in 1996. Jane Rulon's catching up on some sleep. The phone rings - it's the road manager for the film Going All the Way, then shooting in Indianapolis.

They're in a fix: High-speed film is being delivered for a night shoot, but it arrived late at the airport, which is now closed. They have six hours of nighttime to complete a shoot that simply must be finished tonight.

Rulon calls someone; someone calls someone else; the airport is opened up and the film delivered at 1 a.m. Total time from situation to solution: one hour. Once again a shoot is saved.

Institutional memory

Opening airports at midnight isn't exactly an everyday thing for Rulon in her job as director of the Indiana Film Commission, but she does tend to expect anything at any time, 24 hours a day.

Rulon studied journalism at the University of Iowa, expecting to get into magazine publishing, but found herself drawn to public relations.

"You get to work with all different kinds of businesses and use so many different skills. It's a variety which appeals to me."

Her experience took her from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., working with groups as diverse as the Radio and Television News Directors Association and the Distilled Spirits Association, doing event planning and staff liaison work that brought her into contact with news celebrities and NFL players.

The combination of event planning, government knowledge and experience dealing with celebrities all came together for her when she took on the role of Film Commission director in 1993.

"When you grow up you don't expect to become head of a film commission. You kind of just grow into it," Rulon notes. "I've really fallen in love with this process of facilitating people who have a vision and are trying to get it up on the big screen. It's very invigorating when that happens."

Rulon and Project Manager Chris Pohl have both been on the job at the Indiana Film Commission for nine years, where their mandate is to promote the state as a fertile ground for filmmaking of all sorts, and act as liaisons between the community and filmmakers to ensure smooth projects.

"It's helpful that we"ve been here as long as we have, because we have a lot of institutional memory of places, people and resources that we can bring into play," Rulon says. "We have to be aware of the kinds of things producers want, whether it"s the head of a production company or someone here to shoot commercials."

Location scouting has long been the primary focus of the commission's work, along with liaison duty dealing with whatever producers request, ranging from opening airports at midnight to supplying stock footage of Gary from the 1970s.

"People like movies. You tell someone you're with the Film Commission, and they're happy to help," Rulon says. "People really roll out the red carpet. That's what we hear from the crews that come here from out of state, that they've really had such a wonderful experience here."

One notable example of community initiative comes from the mayor and business leaders of the town of Huntingburg, who sent a group letter - "It looked like the Declaration of Independence," Rulon says - to the producers of Hard Rain, making the case to film in their town. Although Huntingburg wasn't precisely what the producers wanted (they had asked for a town on the Ohio River), they were sufficiently convinced by the town's dedication, willingness to have the main street closed off and flooded and good reputation after being used for filming A League of Their Own.

"The producers had such a positive experience that they ended up calling the town "Huntingburg, Ind." in the movie, which wasn't in the original script," Rulon says. "It was just going to be a generic Midwestern town."

"A generational leap"

The wildfire growth of the local Indiana film scene, and the attendant increase in talented local professionals, has made Indiana all the more attractive to producers. Productions don"t want to transport large crews in from the coasts; they want to hire locally.

"Because it's so competitive, what a producer is looking for is a one-stop shop," Rulon observes. "Crew, facilities, equipment. The more you can offer a producer, the more attractive you'll be."

And those resources have grown enormously in the last decade. The commission produces a twice-yearly resource guide, in print and online, entitled The Hoosierwood Production Sourcebook, listing several hundred local talent outlets for filmmakers, including actors, musicians, animators and developing services.

Rulon says 23 major feature films have shot in Indiana in the last decade, bringing $30 million into the state. Along with those are 180 other, smaller features, 60 television shows and countless music videos and commercials.

"Some people associate us with feature films, because those projects get attention. But sometimes a national TV commercial can bring in more money in a day than a feature film," Rulon says. "It's really important for Indiana to be seen on the global screen. As the world is shrinking, people are getting more and more of their information visually."

Rulon points to Indianapolis' honorable mention as one of the best filmmaking cities by Movie Maker magazine in 2001 as a sign of the strength of the scene. She credits the networking potential offered by groups such as the Indiana Filmmaker's Network, the Film Commune and Mid-America Filmmakers in South Bend. Not to mention the diverse screening opportunities that dwarf what was available just a year ago: the Indianapolis Underground Film Festival, the INDY Awards, Heartland Film Festival, the monthly Screening Room event at Birdy's and Ron Keedy's local filmmaker's showcase at Key Cinema, plus the 13-episode Indie Scene TV showcase starting in October. (See various sidebars for more.)

And she points to the overall strength of the Indianapolis arts scene as a key.

"Film is such a collaborative medium," Rulon says. "You need theater people, you need musicians, you need visual artists. You need all those people and more to make a film. They all interact. In the 10 years I've been here, I've seen a real surge in the arts in general. Anything that supports the arts, like the Cultural Tourism Initiative, is going to help."

And the bulk of the change, she notes, is being driven by younger filmmakers, such as the members of the Film Commune and the strong film programs at area universities.

"What we're seeing is a generational leap into filmmaking," Rulon says. "If [high school students] know that there are people out there doing this, they can look forward to a time when they can do it for themselves. And that they can stay right here and do it rather than go someplace else. If there's a vibrant filmmaking community here, then more people will want to stay here. You've got a lot invested in the community you live in. You're not just a cog in the big machine. That is invigorating if you want to create."

Rulon's colleague, Chris Pohl, sums it up: "You can do it anywhere, and you may as well make your movie here. People realize you don't have to move to Los Angeles to do it; there's a viable option, a viable profession right here."

Chad Richards, president of the Film Commune, says that the Film Commission has not previously been deeply involved in the local film scene, but that interest and awareness in what's available to filmmakers is growing. He also credits Rulon for her support and efforts to attend as many local film events as possible.

"They're not too heavily involved, but they're a wonderful resource. A lot more local people are using them," Richards says. "I refer a lot of people to them for location scouting, permits and technical stuff. And she refers a lot of people to us, people who are looking for someone to collaborate with, or just looking for other filmmakers to network."

Rulon says she looks to a future where Indiana's prominence and film scene continue to grow.

"There's not just interest from the filmmaking community; there's interest from the audience. The more people are attuned to the fact that there are filmmakers in the Midwest, the more filmmakers are going to continue this and become better and more innovative storytellers. We're just beginning to scratch the surface. I see so much more to come."

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