Subsidies

Shocker: Government Subsidization of Movies Comes With Editorial Strings Attached

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THIS, on the other hand, reflected Michigan in a positive light

The New York Times details the inevitable:

When Andrew van den Houten got a letter two weeks ago rejecting his request for Michigan public money to help finance his latest horror movie, "The Woman," it came with an admonition about the state's good name.

"This film is unlikely to promote tourism in Michigan or to present or reflect Michigan in a positive light," wrote Janet Lockwood, Michigan's film commissioner. Ms. Lockwood particularly objected to "this extreme horror film's subject matter, namely realistic cannibalism; the gruesome and graphically violent depictions described in the screenplay; and the explicit nature of the script."

Michigan's unemployment rate, for those keeping score at home, "still leads the nation," at 14 percent. The state's budget remains in crisis. And yet they're paying a film commissioner to dole out subsidies and issue content suggestions to Hollywood movies. As stone-crazy as that sounds, the Great Lakes State is not alone. More from the NYT:

Among the states that began underwriting film and television production with heavy subsidies over the past half-decade — 44 states had some sort of incentives by last year, 28 of them involving tax credits — at least a handful are giving new scrutiny to a question that was politely overlooked in the early excitement: What kind of films are taxpayers paying for? […]

Whether such payments ultimately benefit a state and its economy has been the subject of ferocious debate. Some monitors of the programs contend that the supposed benefits from job creation and tourism do not make up for the monies spent. The Michigan State Senate Fiscal Agency estimates the subsidies will amount to about $132 million in the next year.

I'll say it again: States who are handing out scarce goodies to fancy filmmakers are states that are not even close to grappling with the fact that We Are Out of Money. They deserve another $50 billion from the federal government like we deserve to listen to Ted Nugent.

Ah, and here's some commenter bait: Arizona immigration! Subsidies! Waco!

Ineligible for Texas subsidies

In Texas, the verdict is still out on "Machete," a thriller from the filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, set for release by 20th Century Fox in September.

In May, Mr. Rodriguez used a mock trailer to promote the movie as a revenge story targeted at Arizona in the wake of its new anti-illegal immigrant law. Conservative bloggers and others then called on the Texas film commission to deny it support under a rule that says the state does not have to pay for projects that include "inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion."

Bob Hudgins, the film commission's director, said he had never yet denied financing to a film under the provision — though he warned the makers of a picture about the Waco raid that they need not apply because of what Mr. Hudgins saw as inaccuracies about the event and people connected with it.

Speaking of which, if you haven't seen the Machete trailer, it's pretty awesome:

NYT link via the Twitter feed of media critic Dan Kennedy, who adds: "[This is] why direct govt subsidies for journalism are a terrible idea." Reason on film subsidies here.

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  1. Machete is coming out. Now Eli Roth needs to make Thanksgiving.

    1. ALL WILL BE CARVED!

      1. I will never forget the reaction in the theater to the trampoline scene. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that many people gasp at the same time. It was great.

        1. I knew that Grindhouse was going to flop when, in a packed theater, my friends and I were the only ones laughing hysterically at the trailers.

          1. Similar situation here. When we were leaving, a lot of the audience we saw it with just had no clue as to what the idea behind the movies were. It was completely over some of their heads.

          2. I loved the whole package until the cafe scene in Tarantino’s movie, when the theater was subjected to a painfully mundane and unrealistic (even in Tarantino’s geek universe) half-hour, or so it seemed, of dialogue from annoying characters. I got the impression that most of the audience, which was sparse, agreed. The guy behind me said “STOP TALKING” aloud and several heads nodded.

  2. And this after New Zealand realized that movie subsidies are a loser.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/movi…..d=10651560

  3. Holy shit, that movie looks awesome.

  4. When Andrew van den Houten got a letter two weeks ago rejecting his request for Michigan public money to help finance his latest horror movie

    Does it involve union membership increasing?

  5. Some monitors of the programs contend that the supposed benefits from job creation and tourism do not make up for the monies spent.

    No

    fucking

    way.

    Dude.

    1. What next? Are they going to tell us subsidies for sports arenas don’t pay off either?

  6. Let’s subsidize a profitable industry (moviemaking) because it’s glamorous. Sounds a lot like building football stadiums for billionaires.

    I guess reducing the business tax burden acroos the board is just too hum-drum.

    I am convinced that complications in the tax code are horribly unproductive economically.

    One very important point that needs to be considered, this proves what will happen when government starts subsidizing the newspaper industry.

    1. But, but, but, the government should DO SOMETHING.

      Best advice I ever got: in most crises, it is best to remember, “Don’t just do something, stand there!”

      The image of activity beats the image of just passively standing by in electoral calculations. The worst you can say about somebody is that they did nothing (Bush/Katrina). Movie subsidies look like somebody is doing something. That’s what they are spending money on–doing, not accomplishing.

  7. I want to make a movie about cannibal zombies invading the Michigan Capitol during Governor Granholm’s State of the State Address.

    Where’s my check?

    1. “Day of the Tea Party Dead”

    2. cannibalism

      Another name for grocery shopping in Michigan.

    3. (this is unresistable)
      Don’t zombies eat brains?
      invade a statehouse?
      ZOMBIES STARVE!!!

  8. Michigan and Texas pols have something in common, who knew?

  9. Machete? That’s what I call jumping the border shark.

  10. Politicians are so god damned stupid. If you want to be star struck, you can do it merely with tax incentives. Just look at Vancouver; it’s Hollywood North for just that reason.

    And Rodriguez did El Mariachi for something like $20,000 that he raised by volunteering for medical experiments. Now that’s impressive.

    1. Wish some other directors would do that.

      1. Volunteer for medical experiments? If Michael Bay would just volunteer at Bellevue…

        1. For electroshock therapy?

          1. “Up the voltage!”

            or alternately

            “Take it up to 30 this time!”

            1. No! You’ll let the explosions out!

        2. No. He needs to volunteer for testing of a new and improved Guillotine.

          He ruined Transformers, and had a hand in ruining Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. That’s basically raping my childhood. And this is coming from someone who loves “The Rock”.

          I want his fucking head tent spiked to the hole of a makeshift urinal in my bathroom.

  11. Moral:

    Subsidies are wrong.

    1. How’s that working out for you?

  12. Public funding of the arts ruins the arts. If the government funds the arts one of two things happens. Either they take editorial control and make it into propaganda or they allow artists to completely detach themselves from the viewing public and produce self indulgent crap.

  13. I have such a man-crush on Danny Trejo. [did I say that outloud?]

    1. The dude’s a real throwback to the character actors of way back. All he has to do is enter the frame and you know you’re dealing with a mean sumbitch.

      1. I appreciate the use of the word “sumbitch,” marlok. It’s much better than the other frequent colloquial, sonuvabitch.

  14. or they allow artists to completely detach themselves from the viewing public and produce self indulgent crap

    If they had selves to indulge, they’d sometimes do interesting things. But they never do.

    They select one from a rack of state-approved readymade selves, all used, and inhabit it. They’re minstrels.

  15. The former Iowa Film Office director is now facing criminal charges for misconduct. He basically was just giving money away to film makers who where friends of his. One filmmaker bought a car with the money.

    http://iowaindependent.com/200…..to-measure

    http://iowaindependent.com/273…..it-scandal

    1. Answer:cannibals
      Question: who do you feed conniving Film Office directors to?

  16. You’ll notice Bruckheimer doesn’t need government monies. That’s because awesome can sustain itself.

    1. Explosions can be chained together to go on…forever.

  17. Is it just me or does the Machete Trailer look like a joke? If I was trying to make an action movie trailer satire filled with every possible cliche it would come out like this, especially the narrator’s tone and inflection.

    Cheech Marin, Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan, Don Johnson … Did the casting director work off the guest list of “where are they now?”.

    Sadly, according to the IMDB this is a real movie and my teenage sons will probably love it.

    1. It was originally a satirical trailer as part of the awesome Grindhouse double-feature. In fact, a good portion of the new trailer is taken right from the original satire.

      1. Thanks. That explains a lot. It won’t be the first insert from one show that’s turned into its own show (good example – Simpsons, bad example – Mama’s Family).

        Now I wonder if the movie itself will be tongue-in-cheek or an attempt at a serious action flick.

      2. When I first saw Grindhouse, I was so hoping they would make Machete into a real movie, but I never thought they would… I can’t wait to see this. I hope they keep the cheesy comedy aspect.

        1. Like I said above, now that Machete is done, I want Thanksgiving.

          1. The trampoline-knife scene was my favorite part of grindhouse.

  18. This is another one of those situations where I’m not sure whether Mr. Welch is angry about government support of the arts, or government attaching strings to the arts it supports.

    Unlike the NEA, most state film commissions exist not to promote ars gratia artis, but rather to promote tourism and a positive image of that state and its products. This isn’t censorship by any stretch of the imagination.

    1. Exactly. It’s product placement.

    2. This is another one of those situations where I’m not sure whether Mr. Welch is angry about government support of the arts, or government attaching strings to the arts it supports.

      Can it be both?

      On the one hand, it isn’t censorship, per se, but it is exerting creative control over people who use state resources — similar to the drinking age/road money strings. People have been complaining about that as well….it’s a loophole to get around limits on the government.

      On the other hand it isn’t even a good investment and loses money.

      So individually, neither one of these issues is that big a deal, but put them together and it does make one feel a bit pissed about it.

      1. If the Census offers to pay $10,000 to someone who produces a good Census commercial, they have every right to refuse to finance a commercial that says the Census is unconstitutional and people should burn their census questionaires.

        1. If the Census offers to pay $10,000 to someone who produces a good Census commercial, they have every right to refuse to finance a commercial that says the Census is unconstitutional and people should burn their census questionaires.

          Absolutely. They have the right. Just like they have the right to put strings on federal road dollars.

          But that doesn’t mean we can’t be angry about it when the conditions come off as unreasonable.

          IMHO, though, there’s a line (however fine) between reasonable restrictions and political considerations being made.

          In this case (a horror movie) — I personally find the objection a bit unreasonable. It’s not like someone is going to look at this film and say (hmm…I’m going to avoid Michigan cuz of all the Zombies) — and I wonder that if ones looks at all the movies that do get funding, if there are other movies that don’t promote tourism or show Michigan in a positive light (in fact most movies probably wont do that unless the “movie” is a commercial or promotional film)

          Also, is that the only purpose (to promote Michigan and tourism) or is there also an economic aspect to try and lure movie makers to Michigan instead of other states? If that’s also a consideration, then this restriction is much more unreasonable.

          1. Wouldn’t the most powerful incentive for the makers of horror movies to film in Michigan be Detroit?

          2. Well, what if Pepsi refused to sponsor a movie where the killer used poison Pepsi, or a broken bottle, or whatever? Kind of the same thing, trying to avoid some sort of bad association.

            They are probably still recovering from the American Pie series.

    3. Also, most, to my knowledge, rarely dole out cash directly. They are more helpful in cutting red tape, permitting, securing locations, logistics, etc. Of course, sounds like Michigan and Iowa were directly financing stuff, so things may have changed a bit since I worked with them.

    4. This is another one of those situations where I’m not sure whether Mr. Welch is angry about government support of the arts, or government attaching strings to the arts it supports.

      Why not both? You can dislike government support of the arts on principle, and additionally dislike it because it inevitably comes with strings.

  19. They deserve another $50 billion from the federal government like we deserve to listen to Ted Nugent.

    Listen to Ted Nugent’s guitar playing (awesome) or his political ranting (proctalgic)?

    1. I think this post could have been written without dissing Uncle Ted. A fine man with a heart of gold. OK, so we shouldn’t listen to him. Who then?

  20. I’ve been waiting for this movie since the mock trailer in Grindhouse. They need to put this movie out. They don’t need the Texas Film Commission.

  21. I’ve been waiting for this movie since the mock trailer in Grindhouse. They need to put this movie out. They don’t need the Texas Film Commission.

  22. Grindhouse

    Speaking of candidates for medical experimentation…

  23. They deserve another $50 billion from the federal government like we deserve to listen to Ted Nugent.

    Yeah!

    wait what?

  24. All I can say is a bunch of people REALLY need to study up on their Texas, Mexico and American history.

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