The Minnesota Film and TV Board has found its new executive director — Melodie Bahan, a former Guthrie administrator and veteran of the Twin Cities nonprofit scene.
She's taking over the position of leading the private nonprofit that is focused on attracting movies and TV projects in the state at a time when it faces major financial issues, including having its budget slashed by the Legislature. Nonetheless, Bahan, who currently is a board member of the Film Society of Minneapolis and St. Paul, called it "my dream job. This is the job I wanted. I'm so excited."
The organization has known years of feast and famine. Founded in 1979, the board has championed its Snowbate program, helping studios recoup a portion of production expenses. That economic lure, which has employed hundreds of Minnesota cast and crew members and boosted the state economy by millions of dollars, has had bumpy legislative support. The board received a record $10 million to lure films and TV production here through the current biennium, which ends this month. For the next two-year period, it has been reduced to $1 million.
"It's rough. It was on such a great upward trajectory," Bahan said. "Sadly, we now have our work cut out for us. We will work to get it back up to that level and increase the level" while giving the organization the necessary funds for marketing and outreach to attract productions to the state.
Those are tasks Bahan said she is eager to take on. Earlier, she dealt with elected officials as vice president of communications for Minneapolis-based Artspace Projects. That nonprofit has funded numerous multimillion-dollar overhauls turning abandoned urban buildings into working and living spaces for artists.
She also spent years as director of communications for the Guthrie Theater, including several years when it negotiated state bonding measures to underwrite its $125 million new home.
"I remember sitting in the gallery at midnight as bonding bills were being argued," she said. "It'll be fun now to be back in that position again with the Legislature late at night."
She said she already has begun meeting with legislators "to look forward to the next round of budgeting, where I hope we will be in a pretty strong position to convince them of the economic benefits for this community."
Bahan considers the arts an effective lever for economic development.
"A good show has the aspect of television tourism," she said. "You get a hot TV series of a film, that is a draw for people. Look what 'Breaking Bad' did for Albuquerque, what the 'Walking Dead' franchise is doing for Georgia. 'Fargo' should absolutely be filmed in Minnesota."
Her forerunner at the board, Lucinda Winter, is stepping down after holding the position for 12 years, handing her what Bahan called "a tremendous legacy."
"We're having a town hall while Lucinda and I are in this transitional period so I can meet people in the production community I don't know, to learn what their concerns are going forward, what their needs are," she said.
Bahan considers supporting the local artisans to be one of her priorities. "We have this great community of professionals that is based here," she said. "Sustaining that workforce is something that needs to be talked about more.
"I am passionate about film and television as an art form, as an audience member. My years at the Guthrie deepened my commitment to the artistic community of this state. I'm just overwhelmed by the talent that exists here. I am so proud of all of these artists when I see them getting work. When I see a film that was here and I see the local talent on the screen or in the credits, I get all mama bear proud."
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186 @colincovert