The 1984 movie "Footloose" demonstrated that bringing high-spirited teenage dance rebellion to a hidebound small town was no easy job.
Now, Memphis moviemaker Craig Brewer is discovering that bringing his $25 million remake of "Footloose" to his home state is also no waltz in the park.
"I'm fighting desperately to get it shot in Tennessee, but we have some work to do," Brewer, 38, said Tuesday after Paramount Pictures officially announced that Brewer would helm the "Footloose" remake, confirming reports that have appeared in The Commercial Appeal and elsewhere since last fall. "It would be a crime if it doesn't happen here."
Scheduled to begin shooting this summer for a likely 2011 release, "Footloose" could be the first Brewer feature film not to be shot in the Memphis area. He said the movie -- like the Memphis-set "The Blind Side" -- will be shot in Georgia if Tennessee Film Commission officials can't figure out ways to match the savings offered by Georgia.
"If I can't do 'Footloose,' a music movie, in Tennessee, it's gonna break my heart," Brewer said. "We're still gonna make the movie, it just means I'm going to be shooting in Georgia, and hanging up Tennessee flags in the shots."
The original "Footloose" starred Kevin Bacon as a teen transplant from Chicago who shakes up a small town where dancing and rock music have been banned, thanks to the influence of a Bible-thumping preacher.
Brewer's remake, based on his revamp of Dean Pitchford's 1984 script, moves the action to the fictional small town of Beaumont, Tenn.
The script includes a sequence in Nashville, and Brewer said he plans to use original music -- country, rock, pop and "Dirty South" hip-hop -- created entirely by Tennessee artists.
The decision to shoot out of state would represent a double disappointment for the director, whose post-"Footloose" movie, the long-gestating and bigger-budgeted "Mother Trucker," is scheduled to begin shooting in Georgia in the summer of 2011.
A New Regency production budgeted at $50 million, "Mother Trucker" is the story of an escaped convict in a stolen 18-wheeler who leads authorities on a cross-state chase as he tries to get home to visit his dying mother.
Although Brewer's previous features for Paramount were the R-rated "Hustle & Flow," released in 2005, and the even darker "Black Snake Moan," released in 2007, he is not an unlikely choice for "Footloose." Brewer has long cited such popular 1980s music-oriented productions as "Footloose," "Flashdance" and "Purple Rain" as favorite films and huge influences.
Brewer said Tennessee needs the occasional relatively large budget, major-studio movie like "Footloose" to maintain its relevance as a filmmaking center.
"On 'Footloose' alone, we will be paying 2,900 extras -- that's just extras," Brewer said. "We would be bringing a sizable amount of money and work to the state, not to mention bragging rights -- this is a music state, and this is a music movie."
The debate over where to shoot the movie concerns the various incentives -- wage refunds, qualified spending rebates and so on -- offered by state and local governments for production companies. Georgia's incentive program would represent a savings of $2 million over Tennessee for the producers.
"We've had several discussions with Craig and with the state Film Commission about what would be needed to compete with Georgia's incentives, and we're hoping we'll be able to work everything out," said Memphis Film Commissioner Linn Sitler.
In the past, Shelby County and Tennessee have been able to beat other states for big pictures through what Sitler called "creative soft incentives," to augment the official state and local incentives.
For example, free office space was donated to the producers of "Walk the Line," and sets for "Black Snake Moan" were built inside The Pyramid after the city loaned the vacant arena to the film's producers.