Frontier Former Editor

January 28, 2007

Ah, the age-old debate of art and patronage . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frontier Former Editor @ 2:07 am

As tempted as I was to exclaim ‘what in hell,’ the historian in me quickly recognized the time-worn debate over art, patronage and government involvement.

 Just consider this article in the Wilmington Star another Hummel figurine in the display case of human idiocy.

Article published Jan 26, 2007
Republican: Scripts need reviewing
Movie prompts lawmaker’s film incentive idea

Raleigh | Citing the controversy surrounding the Dakota Fanning film Hounddog, the leader of the state Senate Republicans says he wants the government to review scripts before cameras start rolling in North Carolina.
That system, said state Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, would apply only to films seeking the state’s lucrative filmmaker incentive, which refunds as much as 15 percent of what productions spend in North Carolina from the state treasury.
“Why should North Carolina taxpayers pay for something they find objectionable?” said Berger, who is having proposed legislation drafted.
It is not known whether Hounddog’s producers have or will apply for the incentive. A call Thursday to the N.C. Department of Revenue, which oversees incentive payments, was not returned.
Sen. Julia Boseman, D-New Hanover, one of the backers of the new law that created the current incentive system, said she couldn’t say much until she saw Berger’s proposal in writing.
“There’s no bill yet to take a look at,” she said. “But I am always willing to consider reasonable ways to improve the program.”
She did say she thought looking at scripts before shooting starts might be meaningless because a script could be changed during production.
“We should consider the end product,” she said, “which is what our current system is designed to do.”
State law denies the incentive to films that are obscene. In state law, obscenity is defined as depicting sexual conduct presented in an offensive way that appeals to prurient interest, lacks any “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” and is not free speech protected by the state or federal constitutions.
Berger said the film-incentive ban should be broadened to include material considered objectionable. He said there should be no First Amendment concerns because the producer would be seeking money from the state government. But he did say that if constitutional questions confused the matter, it would be better not to have a film incentive at all.
Berger has not seen the movie. He said his opinions were formed by what he has read about it.
The Fanning film, which is playing this week at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, has been a flashpoint of controversy since it was filmed on locations in New Hanover and Brunswick counties last summer.
The movie tells the story of Lewellen, a girl played by 12-year-old Fanning, who is growing up in the 1960s South.
In one scene, the character is raped. The scene lasts a few minutes and is not graphic, according to The Associated Press. There is no nudity, the scene is darkly lit, and only Fanning’s face and hand are shown.
Criticism and questions began even before the first screening of the film. A group called the Christian Film and Television Commission claims Hounddog breaks the federal child-pornography law, according to the AP.
Last year, a complaint reached the New Hanover County district attorney, who issued a letter saying he saw uncut portions of the film and found that no crime had been committed in his jurisdiction.
The film’s publicist took a request for comment Thursday afternoon but did not return it before press time.
Under the current system, the process begins when producers make inquiries of local film commissions or the state film office to gauge whether their project might be eligible.
But to claim the credit, the producers must file a state tax return. The N.C. Department of Revenue examines the return and judges whether all the criteria in the law have been met. The refund can be as much as $7.5 million per film.
Berger pointed to South Carolina, which requires up-front applications from producers, who must attach a copy of their script.
Even so, said Jeff Monks, South Carolina’s film commissioner, the state does not assess the content of a proposed movie.
“Censorship is not part of our activity,” he said. The purpose of asking for the script is to see whether it conforms to the budget and schedule information producers are required to provide.
“We want to see if this film is doable and a good investment for the people of the state,” he said.
Mark Schreiner: (919) 835-1434
mark.schreiner@starnewsonline.com

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2 Comments »

  1. I havent even heard of the movie, but I wonder who gets to decide what counts as objectionable.

    Comment by CSL — January 29, 2007 @ 12:13 am

  2. Apparently, the same folks about whom Sinclair Lewis warned us – the chambers of commerce/economic developers/Rotarians/Kiwanians.

    But that’s just my take on it . . .

    Comment by Frontier Former Editor — January 29, 2007 @ 3:00 pm


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