Film Subsidies

And the Oscar Goes to… the Free Market! (Updated)*

|

The Artist Jean Dujardin, Uggie

On February 26, The Artist won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Jean Dujardin. (Snubbing Canine-Americans, the true star of the film, Uggie the Jack Russel Terrier, did not receive a single Oscar.) While this was a great night for silent films, it was also a surprising coup for the free market. Of the nine nominees for Best Picture, The Artist was the only movie that did not receive any tax credits or subsidies for filming. Could the French be re-discovering their inner Frederic Bastiat?

In the United States, 40 states have some form of tax incentives for film or TV production. Unsurprisingly, this industry favoritism has lead to less than stellar economic results. According to Joseph Henchman from the Tax Foundation, "these programs lose governments between 72 and 92 cents for every dollar spent on them, even after accounting for increased economic activity generated by film production." In addition, these tax credits are terrible job creators, since many production companies import most of their staff, while the vast majority of local hires are only temporary.

As Katherine Mangu-Ward noted on Monday, Kickstarter already generates more funding than the National Endowment for the Arts. Plus, Kickstarter may finance sequels to seminal video games like Psychonauts and Planescape: Torment. While the NEA does fund video games, their grants range from $10,000-$200,000 per project. By comparison, the developers behind Psychonauts, Double Fine Productions, have already earned almost $2.3 million for their next game. When the market provides everything from silent films to surreal adventure games, there's just no need for the NEA.

*Correction: Merde. Looks like the Bastiat revival will have to wait. As a few Hit-and-Runners pointed out, The Artist was subsidized by the French government. Désolé.

Reason and Reason.tv on film subsidies.

Advertisement

NEXT: The Times Continues to Present Obama's Spin on His Contraceptive Policy As Fact

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The Artist was the only movie that did not receive any tax credits or subsidies for filming.
    An oversight

    1. If there had been subsidies, they could have afforded to put in more sound!

      1. “These programs lose governments between 72 and 92 cents for every dollar spent on them, even after accounting for increased economic activity generated by film production.”

        Silly subsidy programs. Every libertarian knows that the best way to increase economic activity in the film industry is through pirating. I read it on Reason!

  2. Plus, Kickstarter may finance sequels to seminal video games like Psychonauts and Planescape: Torment.

    WHAT?! A Torment sequel would be awesome, but they’d have to be very careful not to sully the memory of that brilliant game.

    1. Eh, never mind. I read the link and it’s the scrap of a figment of a dream at this point.

    2. Ah, back when Bioware made good games.*

      Thanks, EA!

      *Yes, Mass Effect is the exception. However, read about the retarded action mode in the upcoming one.

      1. What is this you speak of? Should I brace myself to be disappointed by ME3? I thought ME1 > ME2.

      2. I loved ME, but I decided against buying the sequel based on the gameplay changes.

    3. Apparently there’s talk of a Baldur’s Gate sequel as well: http://www.baldursgate.com/

  3. Is the Tax Foundation guy’s name really Joseph Henchman?

  4. Here in Tennessee we recently had a big brouhaha over the “Tennessee Entertainment Industry Investment Act.” (http://www.affttennessee.org/incentivesbillsb354hb555.htm)

    I have many friends who work in the film industry and I was very unpopular during the discussion. The reason for this was because I explained to those promoting these incentives is that the money for them has to come from somewhere, and what they are asking is that I pay more in taxes to make sure they have a cushy union job carrying around lighting equipment for $25 an hour.

    Typical exchange:
    “But don’t you want Nashville to have a thriving film industry?”

    “Yes, but I don’t want to pay for it. If you can’t do it without my money, then no, I don’t want it.”

    Tough to talk politics with my friends sometimes.

    1. Why do you hate movies, Tman?

      1. What’s been funny during the debates we had about the subject my friends would say “well, I don’t really understand the political aspect of the legislation like YOU do, but WHY ARE YOU AGAINST SUPPORTING OUR FILM INDUSTRY??!!??”

        Rinse, repeat. Good times.

    2. You’d be in favor of paying for good movies at the box office, right? They make a quality product, you spend money on it, amirite? So what you really are arguing for is the freedom to opt out of paying for shit movies. Hopefully, your friends can understand that.

      1. Yes, the effective talking point would be to find how many Michael Bay movies received tax subsidies and sya “Is THIS what you want?!”

    3. You obviously believe that all art should be destroyed and artist chained together and dropped to the bottom of the ocean. Philistine.

      1. I’m interested in your ideas, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  5. Michigan got into this game a few years ago. They did some filming in my town for some movie that hasn’t been released yet.

    This biggest economic impact appeared to be to the liquor store up the street from where they were shooting, which did bang up bidness while they were in town.

    I’m sure that made up for however many millions of dollars in taxes were foregone for the privilege of ZOMGHOLLYWOODMOVIESTARSWOWFAMOUSAUTOGRAPHTVTINSELTOWN!!!

  6. French films were great in the 50s and 60s. Then in the 70s the government started subsidizing them. And they predictably went to crap. All government subsidies for art do is allow artists to indulge their inner dickhead and make crap that holds the audience in contempt. When the French stopped subsidizing films in the 90s, the movies got better. And they produced things like The Professional, Amalie, and others.

    1. I don’t think there’s any correlation between quality and the free market when it comes to financing art though, specifically because quality of art is subjective. A film’s bankability, or rather a company’s ability to produce high earners consistently (i.e. Pixar) has a tendency towards quality, but if there’s anything profoundly greater about Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter that separate them from Bondarchuk’s War and Peace (completely subsidized by the Soviet government) I’d be happy to hear it.

      Also, the French New Wave movies you mention were not necessarily made in an absence of government control and financing. And the ’70s wasn’t that bad in French cinema either, the New Wave just became stale after Germans and Americans started copying them, so they all did their own things that aren’t typically screened in film schools like LNV movies, for their historical import.

      1. The 70s were not that bad. But the 80s were terrible. It takes a while for the film makers to get lazy and self indulgent after the government guarantees them a living.

        There is a direct correlation with the ending of government subsidies and the resurgence of French cinema. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. But it is persuasive.

        1. Fair enough, but on another subject altogether: French cinema was given its greatest boost in the ’70s through to this year by flinging open its borders and accepting people like Raoul Ruiz and Krzyzstof Kieslowski. I’m still ashamed of this country for telling Abbas Kiarostami to go get stuffed when he was to be awarded here after 9/11 because we didn’t want none of them ragheads permeating our Shining City on the Jesus Hill.

          1. There is no mention of that in Kiarostami’s wiki. I have never heard of him not being welcomed in this country. He is a serious heretic to the Iranian mullahs. So I would think he would be welcome here.

            1. It’s on his wiki, here’s the salon article about it that it uses as a source: http://www.salon.com/2002/09/27/kiarostami/

              I remember it because Aki Kaurismaki made a big row about it, and of course Kaurismaki has sisu.

              1. But we made up for it by giving Amedijad one and letting him speak at Harvard. kaurisamki’s problem was that he just didn’t hate Jews enough.

      2. Re: Lucretio,

        I don’t think there’s any correlation between quality and the free market when it comes to financing art though, specifically because quality of art is subjective.

        Maybe, maybe not. I can only speak out of experience: When the Mexican government started to subsidize film in the 70s (probably copying the Europeans), all we Mexicans received from this “investment” were a bunch of raunchy and crass comedies about prostitutes and drunks. The industry has never really recovered from that. You might say whatever you want about art, but there are certain features that make things beautiful in the eye of a human being, and those movies didn’t have it.

  7. A University of Georgia soccer player is charged with trying to steal an order of hashbrown potatoes in her pants.

    According to UGA police records, Carli Shultis, 19, was arrested around 8:30 a.m. Feb. 21 at the Bulldog Cafe in the Tate Center on campus.

    The student newspaper, The Red & Black, obtained a copy of the police report, which stated that a food services worker detained Shultis after seeing her attempt to steal the potatoes while making a food purchase.

    Shultis also told police that she had enough money to pay for the hashbrowns, which were valued at $1.06, the paper said.

    The police report also stated that Shultis removed the hashbrowns from her pants and tried to put them back on the food counter when she realized she’d been spotted.

    She was arrested and taken to the Clarke County jail.

    http://www.ajc.com/sports/uga/…..67143.html

    1. FTA:

      “Shultis is a sophomore forward from McDonough, who attended Eagles Landing Christian School.”

      1. A lot of “Christian” schools are jock factories.

    2. She wasn’t stealing them, she was adding the secret spices or sauce. Like people never heard of assbrowns before.

      1. add a couple of eggs and a huge sausage and you have a delicious breakfast
        ….
        or a porno

      1. Why in fuck would anyone want to steal $1.06 worth of potatoes by hiding them in their pants?

      2. She is in her early twenties? She looks like she is about thirty-six. And kind of rugged and ungroomed.

        1. She is a women college soccer player. Rugged and ungroomed is kind of how they roll.

          1. I recall our recent discussions. This one I feel oddly inclined to categorize under the “hit” category, if only she played for my team. It would probably be most preferable to court her with a salon gift certificate.

            1. she is young, in shape, and doesn’t have a horn growing out of her head. I could see that.

              1. I would eat her hash browns…

                1. Go sit over there, Howard.

    3. We can’t let society sink like this without fighting it in every way possible. Ban young women wearing pants!

      1. obviously the best solution!

        Actually, don’t pants enable most crime?
        As well as a lot of false advertizing among males?

    4. I got caught doing basically the same thing my sophomore year at South Carolina. Cops showed up, but all I ended up doing was writing an essay and completing 10 hours of forged community service. Sorry that story was not more interesting.

      1. forged community service? Is this real or RC’z law?

        1. My guess is that the facilitator signed off on the community service without N8 actually having to perform community service.

          I once had 50 community service when I was in high school and served it at the local Navy recruiting station.

          The Chief has me perform 20 hours, then signed off the other 30.

          1. My daughter missed track practice the other day because she had to do “community service” for leadership class.* I told her in the future, that I’d sign off on it for her without her doing any of the work.

            *Yeah, I’m still trying to figure out what the fuck a “Leadership Class” is all about for an 8th Grader.

            1. It is easier for the unionized teacher to check signatures on a bullshit community service form than it is to teach her something useful. That is what that is about.

  8. Canine-Americans

    FTFY

  9. In the United States, 40 states have some form of tax incentives for film or TV production. Unsurprisingly, this industry favoritism has lead to less than stellar economic results.

    Everybody!

    “Oh, the State can’t calculaaaaate!”

    La-di-la!

  10. Aw, man, Davy Jones died.

      1. I loved the show when I was a kid. It was on a lot on one of the national cable channels. Maybe TBS.

        1. Some great great music too. Last Train to Clarksville, Now I’m a Believer, etc.. Good stuff.

          1. I like some of their songs.

            1. It was the Diamond man. He was a pop genius.

            2. (waiting patiently for Epi to come in and tell us how much they suck and why…)

          2. Smashmouth ruined that song.
            FUCK

          3. The Monkees didn’t write those songs. Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart wrote Last Train and Neil Diamond wrote Believer.

            1. I dont think anyone claimed they wrote them.

        2. I watched it first run when we only had 3 networks, PBS and some fuzzy UHF channels. Kid.

        3. You know who else wanted to be a Monkey?

          No not Hitler. But Stephen Stills. Got turned down for having bad teeth.

    1. He went to his locker…

    2. Shit. I had Nesmith in my dead pool.

      1. Didn’t he become a movie exec?

        1. He’s richer than dirt. Not sure how much of his wealth comes from this, but his mom invented Liquid Paper.

          1. Like Stewart Copeland. His father is a gazillionaire diplomat.

            1. I thought his father was a sp…

              Ah, you mean “diplomat”, not diplomat.

        2. Nesmith was the producer for Repo Man.

          1. His greatest moment.

  11. The premise of the article is bullshit. Government-run France 3 Cinema helped to finance The Artist.

    1. Re: affenkopf,

      The premise of the article is bullshit. Government-run France 3 Cinema helped to finance The Artist.

      I see no link. Where’s the link?

      Where’s the link???

  12. To follow-up on the last comment, from the Times:

    According to Olivier Wotling, head of cinema at the Centre Nationale du Cin?ma, which disburses aid, “The Artist” benefited from two kinds of public investment, one of them direct, the other slightly less so.

    The first, called “automatic” support, provided the film with more than ?2.2 million, out of a budget of ?13.5 million, Mr. Wotling said. This goes to French producers, based on their previous box office track record, and is funded through several taxes, including a levy on ticket sales.

    1. forgot the second part

      The second, indirect support, came from French television companies, which are required by law to invest in French movie productions. The biggest spender, the pay-TV company Canal Plus, invested more than ?3 million in “The Artist.”

      1. Oops.

        Never mind.

        1. Not that our hearts are not in the right place.

          Stupid reality!

          1. Retraction/clarification forthcoming…

    2. The French government finds it necessary to tax ticket sales to raise funds to give to directors based on past performance?

      Isn’t that largely how the film industry already works?

      1. No, because even if you go see a movie by a non-French director. the taxes are still collected and given to a French director whose movie you chose not to see.

        1. remove useless period

  13. Christ, ‘The Help’ was such a shitty movie.

    1. ^^THIS!!!!

      It was a damned outrage that “Extremely Loud” and “The Help” got nominations while the best movie of the year “Take Shelter” did not, not even for Michael Shannon’s spellbinding performance.

      But at least the Academy gave Streep the Oscar for playing a role that was really challenging. Forgive me for not being impressed that Viola Davis could play a victimized black woman.

      1. Forgive me for not being impressed that Viola Davis could play a victimized black woman.

        +100

        I don’t think I saw a single one of the movies that were nominated this year. I think the last Harry Potter movie and the King’s Speech were the only two movies at went to a theater to see. What a dud of a year.

        1. Harry Potter got too fucktarded for my tastes. What could have been an engaging saga (after the we’re-little-kids-with-tiny-dicks-and-CLASSROOM-YAY-syndrome of the first two movies) about badass magical wars with a lot of potentially interesting subplots turned into half-cut, half-assed crap that culminated in “Harry Potter 7: The Camping Trip” and “Harry Potter 7, Part 2: Slow-Motion Yelling & Shitty Action Scenes Galore”.

          1. I liked them. They were not serious movies. But they were fun and fairly entertaining. Some were better than others. I thought the first one was quite good. And the Prisoner of Eckuban or whatever was good.

            They were well made, good fun. Not exactly the Godfather. But not a complete waste of three hours either.

            1. Yeah, the prices of admission were worth it, and they entertained, but I just wish they’d taken advantage of all that potential. It could have been so much better.

        2. The Descendents, Moneyball, War Horse, Hugo, and Midnight in Paris were all good films, so it wasn’t a dud of a year per se, it’s just the Academy loves them some sentimental slop (ie The Help and Extremely Loud) and overdid the praise of a novelty film (ie The Artist).

          1. I meant to see Warhorse and Midnight in Paris. I have also hear Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is really good.

            1. Tinker Tailour and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were two movies I missed this year that I should have seen, but ticket prices keep me from seeing everything. Guess I’ll just have to wait till they come out on DVD.

              But War Horse and Midnight and Paris were two films that reminded you of how good their respective directors can be. Spielberg decided to make an unabashedly sentimental film in a dedicated manner, and that worked out well, and Woody finally wrote a good screenplay and hired the right actors.

            2. In ‘Midnight in Paris’, Owen Wilson’s character is a pinko, unfortunately, but it’s a good movie. 😛 Woody Allen, eh?

        3. The Guard with Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle was fricking hilarious.

          Best film I saw all year.

          1. Don Cheadle is a seriously under appreciated actor.

            1. He got a lot of praise for ‘Crash’, but I agree, he’s pretty good.

            2. Academy Award nominee for Best Actor Don Cheadle? That guy? I think he probably has about the right level of appreciation.

          2. As I see zillions of movies, maybe not the best i saw, but the The Guard added a lot to the cop buddy movie. And some LOL scenes. The one on one scenes between Gleeson and Cheadle…

            1. I could’ve watched another 20 or so minutes of scene’s with Mark Strong’s character as well, the one where he pays off the cops was epic.

      2. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Take Shelter’. It was an unexpected surprise.

        1. Totally agreed. Michael Shannon is going to be a pretty huge star pretty soon if he keeps this up.

          1. Not that the Oscars are going to reflect that. Sentimental proto-progressive bullshit is a lot more award-worthy nowadays.

        2. It sure was. I’m impressed that Shannon finds time to do movies, his role on Boardwalk Empire, and extensive work on stage. I’m willing to be he’ll finally get an Oscar for his commercial role as General Zod in the upcoming Superman movie.

      3. I am looking forward to seeing Taking Shelter. I saw Shannon in….Oh, that family revenge thing and it was quite good.

    2. I found it astounding that Midnight in Paris was nominated, and I like some Woody Allen movies. The premise interesting but the actual dialog was stilted, contrived, and inane. This was the best stuff they could imagine Hemmingway saying???

  14. “these programs lose governments between 72 and 92 cents for every dollar spent on them, even after accounting for increased economic activity generated by film production.”

    Yeah but think of the incalculable benefit derived by the state aparatchiks who get to rub shoulders with famous Hollywood denizens.

  15. So who comes up with all that crazy stuff I wonder?

    http://www.Gone-Anon.tk

  16. This entire post is based on a false premise, one that a cursory glance at NewsGoogle could have revealed. Acc. to the Financial Times, The Artist was the beneficiary of heavy governmental subsidies, particularly from the French government. Since the entire film was shot in Hollywood, it also wouldn’t be surprising if local taxes on film production were also waived, and other tax-payer financed goodies were provided the producers as well.

    1. Ouch. FACT PWNED by STEVE SMITH. However, this was already pointed out twice upthread.

      And personally, I could care less whether it was subsidized or not. It’s one data point.

  17. Yeah, but, how can you put a price on seeing scenes from the new batman movie while encountering mindless detours and infuriating traffic delays driving around Pittsburgh?

  18. If you are against film credits, you are killing your poor neighborhood cigarette-butt rental store, you heartless free-market ideologue.

  19. By giving awards to a gimmick such as The Artist, the Academy showed just how shallow their choices can be with the absolutely worst group of nominations they’ve every thrown together. Because of such an elitist tone, I for one boycotted the show this year. If you found the nominees as stuffy as I did, check out the Top 10 Movie Picks of 2011 at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot…..-2011.html where you won’t see a single of the Academy’s nominees for Best Picture but you will get some movie artwork I drew up as well as the reviews!

  20. the developers behind Psychonauts, Double Fine Productions, have already earned almost $2.3 million for their next game.

    One should note that if Double fine makes money on their new video game in all likelihood they will dump money back into kick starter.

    What are the chances of an NEA project doing that?

    Zero.

  21. Government subsidies or no, I for one thought The Artist was magnificent. Saw it in a theater the night after it won. All of six people in the audience, including myself and my wife.

  22. The animated short winner is even more of a silent film: there’s no dialogue at all.

  23. every year ,in February ,so many celebrities in hollywood or all over the world will attend the Oscar ,they will choose Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor ,best actress and so on .

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.