Dixon Patch ran two blog posts about the $2.8 billion Morning View film studio project last week.
The first piece, by Bil Paul, took a skeptical approach – questioning the transparency of the project and the speed with which it has been executed. Paul says he would like to see the project happen – “who wouldn’t?” – but says it’s still a mystery to him.
The second piece, by Mike Smith, ran the next day. He aims to answer some questions about the past and the present, while also explaining the complex nature of a project this big – especially when it involves an industry such as film.
I won’t dive deep into either of those pieces; you can read them on your own if you want to. Instead, I’ll casually share some thoughts from a pair of conversations I had with Morning View's Carissa Carpenter and Dixon City Manager Jim Lindley.
Both Carpenter and Lindley were casual and forthright when I spoke with them. These were more of converstaions than they were interviews, which is why you won't find quotes below.
My own curiousity
In my chat with Carpenter, I told her about a Tribune story I read in December that sounded as if Morning View wanted to somehow prevent the community from discussing the project online. As the editor of an online publication where we encourage community participation, I found the article puzzling.
Locals are excited about this massive project, so curiosity and speculation are inevitable. Telling people not to talk about it seemed like the wrong way to go.
But here’s what I took away from Carpenter's response, which I found to be satisfying: Morning View’s intention is not to silence the community; their intention is to build a movie studio in Dixon, and with that comes a variety of complex hurdles, one of which is signing contracts with people in the film industry – which City Manager Lindley told me is a sensitive industry built on connections.
People who are thinking of doing business in Dixon could be put in a tough place if their name ends up attached to a project like this before it becomes a tangible reality. Guessing and speculation might seem harmless to an online blogger or commenter in Dixon, but it might not feel that way to someone who intends to sign on with the studio -- a significant business decision.
Which brings us to Measure N
Bil Paul’s blog post starts with the fact that six months have gone by and there have been no major visible developments on the project and little communication between Morning View and the people of Dixon. In a way he’s right, but it would be unfair to say it’s that simple:
The project came to a halt when Measure N landed on the ballot. Regardless of your thoughts on the measure, it was a deal breaker for Morning View, so they had to put things on hold until the election. When Measure N was defeated, they got back to work (during the holiday months – not the best time for getting business done).
So, any initial timetables Morning View announced prior to the election should be viewed through the lens of that reality.
As for transparency, Morning View is also working on an informative website which Carpenter said will be coming soon. Updates and details will be shared as they become available, and Dixon Patch will make sure to report developments as they unfold.
As for a public forum, Carpenter mentioned that there will definitely be a time to get ideas from the community, but I didn't ask about a specific timetable or context.
$100,000 to be deposited soon
Lindley says that from his vantage point, progress is being made quickly – not slowly. Especially considering the stall created by Measure N. Lindley said that any day now, Morning View will wire $100,000 to the city to pay contractors and cover the city’s costs of working on the project.
Mike Smith said this is not a litmus test to see if Morning View is serious. It’s just one part of a very large process.
Here’s my takeaway
While I think it would be a mistake to let Morning View and the city go about their business without being questioned, I also think it’s unfair to oversimplify what goes into a project of this magnitude.
We’re talking about a $2.8 billion, 300-acre film studio, with a goal of being finished by 2015. That’s a huge project to be executed in a very short time.
It's in Morning View's and the City's best interests to keep the community informed, because as long as this studio is up for discussion, people will be curious. People want to know about this potentially-huge addition to their city.
To that same end, Dixonites should keep in mind the sheer size of the project and approach accordingly.
Lindley said he’d let me know when the $100,000 gets wired to the city. As soon as we hear from him, we'll share that on the site. If you have questions about the project, feel free to email us at email@example.com.