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The King's Gold

Over the weekend, I saw a link to a story entitled "Republican: Scripts need reviewing." My first reaction was the same as many others, I suspect: "Oh, great. Another dumbass Republican looking to 'fight back against the Hollywood elite' by imposing censorship."

Then I actually read the story, and I'm not so sure.

North Carolina State Senator Phil Berger was troubled by the upcoming movie, "Hounddog," in which a 12-year-old girl (played by Dakota Fanning) is raped.

But the justification Berger is using might be sound.

In North Carolina, the state actively pursues Hollywood to film its movies there, to the point where filmmakers can file with the state for a "refund" of up to 15% of their costs incurred in-state. In essence, the state is underwriting these films.

Berger's proposal would require those filmmakers who apply for that rebate to submit their scripts to a state agency for review, and only those who pass state scrutiny would be eligible for the funds.

There's an old saying: "he who takes the king's gold, plays the king's tune." There is no law requiring filmmakers to accept the state refund, nor is there a law requiring filmmakers to shoot in North Carolina. The only restrictions would be on those who want the state's financial assistance -- and anyone who thinks that money should never come with strings attached is an idiot. Like Robert Heinlein so famously opined, it's the TANSTAAFL Principle -- There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

Don't want the state to review your script before you start shooting? Then don't ask them to help pay for it.

I'm still not certain whether or not I agree with Senator Berger's proposal, but the matter is a far cry from black and white. The guy has an arguable point.

Comments (11)

I don't know if this is rig... (Below threshold)

I don't know if this is right, wrong, or what, but every time Republicans get involved with issues like this, the MSM always sees to it that the "dumbass Republican wants to impose censorship" meme gets into wide distribution. For this reason, it is best left alone.

Now, if a Democrat raised the same issue concerning, for example, a Civil War movie that glorified Robert E. Lee and the antebellum south, the MSM would write aa entirely different story...

If I were a taxpayer in SC,... (Below threshold)

If I were a taxpayer in SC, I wouldn't think twice about supporting his proposal. How you would implement it without drawing fire, I don't know, but I think it's ok to request script approval before funding the film.

As for taking flak from the MSM, I don't think it would be a good strategy to cede the culture war.

The reporter correctly poin... (Below threshold)

The reporter correctly points out that a script can be rewritten at any time. A script approved before filming begins may differ dramatically from the finished product.

Tax payers deserve choice.<... (Below threshold)

Tax payers deserve choice.

"he who takes the king's go... (Below threshold)

"he who takes the king's gold, plays the king's tune."

Unfortunately, this does not apply to the film industry and here's why. There is absolutely no reason to shoot in NC if there's not a significant financial concession. Unless you're doing a film on the tobacco industry or "Michael Jordan: the Early Years" there is absolutely no reason to ever go there for production. There are literally hundreds of other locations, here and abroad that are simply dying to attract film/commercial producton and will make any necessary concessions and certainly no creative demands like script approval, to get those dollars into their local economy. Look at New Zealand, South Africa, Vancouver and Argentina to name a few.

This proposal is just another form of protectionism that will undoubetly cost the citizens of NC in the long run. NC absolutely has the right to make whatever demands they want in exchange for rebates to the film, but they can bet the farm that it will cost them virtually all of the new production business that they've been working hard to attract. There are simply too many cheap alternatives out there to justify exposing your script to beuracratic scrutiny.

A script approved before... (Below threshold)

A script approved before filming begins may differ dramatically from the finished product.

Well, the law could be written to account for changes.

Well, the law could be w... (Below threshold)

Well, the law could be written to account for changes.

True, but no one will film there if that's the case. If a production company has the incentives incorporated into their budget, but there is no guarantee they will be realized depending on whether the state finds the film objectionable or not, they will find another location. As Rob noted above, there are plenty of choices.

every time Republicans g... (Below threshold)

every time Republicans get involved with issues like this, the MSM always sees to it that the "dumbass Republican wants to impose censorship"... Now, if a Democrat raised the same issue...

Well, we have an actual similar event to look at. Tipper Gore's attack on music lyrics was widely reported as "dumbass Democrat wants to impose censorship". So your comment is baseless.

The kicker is that his new ... (Below threshold)

The kicker is that his new law would not have affected Hounddog, which was reviewed by state officials who found nothing objectionable about the movie.

May I politely suggest a re... (Below threshold)

May I politely suggest a refresher course on the First Amendment and subsequent Supreme Court cases on it?

This suggestion (and those in the comments) stand absolutely no chance of passing Constitutional muster. They explicitly withhold a benefit from the state on the basis of political viewpoint. If the state offers filmmakers a benefit, that benefit is available to all filmmakers engaged in legal filmmaking (no kiddie porn, as defined by law, for example). The state can set a threshold on things like prior experience, minimum budget, etc. but as soon as it attempts to reach content, the law becomes invalid.

If state lawmakers don't want to see a repeat of this, they need to stop the benefit to everyone.

Maybe the "censorship" shou... (Below threshold)

Maybe the "censorship" should come from the parent(s) of the kid involved. When my son was doing some film work about 10 years ago, we threw out a number of scripts. Told one producer that the kid's pink butt was our responsibility until he was of legal age. Then he could make his own decisions. He actually took action himself when, during a reading, he wouldn't use any of the swear words in the script. Told the interviewer he didn't talk like that, neither did his friends, and the kid in the movie wouldn't either! And the movie bombed. As did all the others he turned down.
Finally, we can "censor" by deciding what movies we'll spend our money on.






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