Louisiana’s overly generous film tax credits finally made the New York Times. Thanks in no small part to the ease (caused by lax oversight) with which budgets are overstated and credits overpaid, film tax credits are being challenged around the country. Economists are having a difficult time justifying the state paying $27 million of a $167 million budget, for example. And if one compares other industries and businesses to the way film is treated by governments around the world, it’s no wonder people are starting to complain. Besides being unfair to every other industry, the tax credits have not been proven to be cost-effective.
To their credit, Louisiana commissioned a study to determine the economic impact of the film subsidies; and, lots of people are waiting to see the results. I’m sure few would like to see anything but a positive return on this creative investment. However, there are myriad questions that arise when the taxpayers become major partners in productions. Why, for example, are we not entitled to a piece of the pie?
If an investor puts up millions of dollars for a production company to produce a film, the investor is a partner. So, why aren’t we partners? If we put up 16% of the budget of a $167 million picture, shouldn’t we be entitled to the same financial arrangements as the other investors? And the same goes for sports and all other economic bailouts or investments by the taxpayers.
I’d ask former Louisiana film commissioner Mark Smith what he thinks, but he’s busy talking to the feds.
Of course my ongoing criticism of this investment of public money into the film industry is that Louisiana isn’t known for producing Spielbergs the way we’ve produced Nevilles or Marsalises. Why, then, can’t the state commit to properly funding work to support its historic music resources?
As has always been the case, Louisiana would rather support sports, film, petrochemicals and agriculture and do what it has always done: take music for granted.