By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Mar 01, 2008 at 5:26 AM
By the time you read this, the exact locations might have been announced, but no matter where the actual shoots take place the movies are coming to Wisconsin.

Scouts for "Public Enemies," a film starring Johnny Depp, have been in several out-state locations, considering banks in Richland Center, Baraboo and other locations for shooting a scene in which John Dillinger pulls a heist. Scouts have also looked at courthouses and jails in about 20 communities.

A recent report also said a scene could be shot at the Birchwood Lodge near Manitowish Waters. The owner of that lodge, Ruth Gardner, is related to the owner of the former Little Bohemia Lodge, where Dillinger narrowly escaped a FBI raid in 1934.

"Public Enemies" is a gangster epic set during the massive Depression-era crime wave personified by John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Lester "Baby Face Nelson" Gillis, Alvin Karpis and the Barker family.

It is directed by Michael Mann, a UW alumnus who discovered movies in Madison during the golden age of cinema on campus in the '60s. He was nominated for an Oscar as director of "The Insider" and producer of "The Aviator."

Depp will play Dillinger in the Universal Pictures-produced feature. Shooting could start in April, according to sources close to the filmmakers.

"Public Enemies" is not the only film projected to be shot in the state. Green Bay-based Pulse Communications plans to shoot "The Violinist," a $1 million film about Arab-Israeli immigrants, in downtown Green Bay and at either the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay or St. Norbert College, producer Jay Schillinger said in a statement.

Frontsight Productions out of Chicago plans to shoot the $2.5 million "Blue World" in Milwaukee. The movie follows a priest named John Lancaster as he falls in love with porn star Debbie Stoner and tries to save her from a serial killer known as The Stranger, according to Frontsight's Web site.

Other filmmakers are looking at the state since state tax credits for making of films in the state became law on Jan. 1.

According to the state Commerce Department, a movie company could receive a tax credit of 25 percent of the wages paid to employees to produce a film, video, electronic game, broadcast advertisement, or television production in the state. The deal also includes credits for sales tax, construction, wardrobes, clothing and visual effects.

Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton has made the law and recruiting of filmmakers one of her babies and helped convince Milwaukee-based Marcus Theaters to guarantee that any movie shot in this state will receive theatrical exhibition.

Marcus made the deal with Film Wisconsin to offer its 600 screens in six Midwestern states to movie makers as a way to help stimulate the film economy in this state. The Marcus decision is especially important for independent filmmakers who struggle to get financing for their projects.

Lawton said the push to bring film production back to Wisconsin is the "leading edge" of work by the Wisconsin Arts Board. She said the group is "providing the kind of leadership for development of the creative industry and development of the kind of workforce we need to be innovators and entrepreneurs in our standard industries."

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.