The Corn is Green

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Nebraska may be known mainly for endless flat stretches of dull farmland that one would never mistake for, say, Hollywood, but the state actually has a rich (if sparse) film history. Marlon Brando and Nick Nolte were born there, as was 20th Century Fox founder Daryl Zanuck. Both Boys Town (1938) and Terms of Endearment (1983) were filmed there. Omaha-born director Alexander Payne has filmed both of his features - Citizen Ruth and the cult-hit Election - in his home state and is currently shooting a third, About Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates. For its four-year-old postcard campaign for the Nebraska Film Office, however, Lincoln-based agency Bailey Lauerman has dipped into a different sort of Nebraska history. If you're wondering why you might want to shoot your film in Nebraska, how about this for a pitch: "When the L.A. stars won't film in New York and the New York stars won't film in L.A., film in Nebraska." Or, "We not only have the middle of nowhere, we also have the beginning and end."

"The challenge was, they had a very limited budget," says ACD and art director Marty Amsler. "We had a small client that hadn't really done a lot to build a national presence with directors and production companies. Our challenge was to figure out how to get in front of them and how to make them think of Nebraska as an option."

Using photos from the Nebraska State Historical Society, the shop has created three hilarious series of postcards poking fun at how outsiders perceive Nebraska. "We're saying we're not afraid to laugh at ourselves, although sometimes it's more fun to laugh at the people who are laughing at us," Amsler says. A photo of a downtrodden pioneer family bears the caption, "Our local extras are real good at taking direction. Here, a few demonstrate `tired, hungry and sad.' " A depression-era shot of a "camp for unemployed girls" begs, "There's no business like show business. Well, actually, there's just like, no business. Please film here."

"I think it's been wildly successful in raising consciousness of Nebraska as a location to do feature and commercial work," says state Film Office director Laurie Richards, who sends a steady flow of cards to development execs on both coasts. "It's garnered quite a bit of attention, drawing calls I wouldn't have gotten otherwise from people curious about what it's like to film in Nebraska." She says the state - which has a total population of 1.6 million, less than many major cities - hosts three to four commercials shoots for major national clients each year. "For us, that's big stuff," she says.

Bailey Lauerman's fourth round of work, just off the presses, takes a somewhat different tack, featuring roughed-up film canisters filled with frontier props like snakes, bullwhips, and bullets, again playing up to the popular vision of Nebraska. But the attention-grabbing simplicity remains.

"We took a look at what all the other film commissions were doing; they were trying to sell everything in one ad and a lot of them weren't doing a very good job," says Amsler. "We're just trying to sell more of a feeling and a little bit of an attitude to pique curiosity and give us a personality."

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