Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Profile in courage

Texas senator Wendy Davis stands up for women's rights during a 13-hour filibuster to defeat a draconian measure to limit access to abortion. Governor Rick Perry finally admitted at 3AM that the bill did not pass.

As far as I know, not a single news network carried the live feed of the dramatic conclusion of this event. Thankfully, several sources put up live streaming on the internet. Anyone who doesn't think network news is a joke might want to rethink their opinions.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

More on the "Connecticut Film Grant Program"

It's not a real thing yet, it's just what it should be called.

The extinct Connecticut film tax credit was a great idea but poorly executed. I'll use the following example to prove my point:

The film "Righteous Kill" (2008) was shot partially in Connecticut. In fact, the interior bar scenes of that film were shot at the Star bar, about a mile from my home. I visited the set, but didn't get to see some of the stellar cast that included Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino.

I'm not sure if they employed a single person from Connecticut in their crew, and the craft services company was based in New York even though there were many local caterers who would have jumped at the chance to work for a major picture. The film, which was a significant box office flop, received over $12,000,000 from Connecticut.

Yes. Over 12 million dollars!

Now, here's the way that amount of money could have been much better spent:

Create a program that provides 50% of the budget of an indie film shot exclusively in Connecticut, with at least half the employees being local crew. And all the associated services like equipment rental and support services must be given to Connecticut businesses with the right of first refusal. If there's something we can't do, then you can hire someone from out of state.

Limit the budgets under this program to say $200,000 or less per film. When the production manages to raise half their projected budget, the state kicks in with the other half.

So, if someone writes the 2013 equivalent of "Slacker" (1991) or "Clerks" (1994) with a budget of say $90,000, they need to show proof that they raised $45K already, and have agreements with local industry-trained workers (say, probably FITP grads would fill the bill!), and sign a contract to hire Connecticut services and rentals for their picture, ONLY then would the state kick in the other half, $45K in this example, and production will begin.

This works because it takes the money the state would otherwise give to huge out-of-state corporations and gives it to indie filmmakers who will then, by agreement, dump the money DIRECTLY BACK INTO OUR LOCAL ECONOMY!

The $12,000,000 spent on that flop could easily fund anywhere up to 75 or 100 local indie films, especially considering that some incredible films have been produced for well under $80,000. And with the state encouraging local cinemas to show these films, Connecticut has the potential to create a living, thriving, eclectic indie film culture and help our state become a force in the indie world that could rival places like Seattle and Austin.

And this thriving film industry would be a tremendous incentive to keep our college grads here IN Connecticut, where they can add to the economy rather than expatriating to those places that have a more agreeable creative climate. Think how much business it would bring to Connecticut if we could create a festival that would rival South By Southwest?

How can we get a legislator to voice this idea in the capitol? Do any of you folks still read this blog? Please let me know your thoughts.

The day the movies died

July 1st is the day our wonderful state government has decided to kill the tax credit for film making here in the Nutmeg state.

While there were obvious problems with the program, it appears that rather than attempt to fix those problems, they lost interest and pulled the plug entirely for film projects.

This is what happened, via the Hartford Courant.

Nobody asked me of course, but here's a list of things they could have done to better govern this situation:

1. Address the issue of out-of-state film productions coming here and shooting for 30-60 days with many out-of-state employees, by making it a requirement that they hire at least half their crew from the many graduates of the Film Industry Training Program. And purchase/rent their hardware from in-state businesses

2. Cap the tax credit to something reasonable, like a one-for-each three dollars they spend credit only if they can trace that has gone towards Connecticut businesses and salaries. It doesn't help our state if Steven Spielberg shoots a big budget film here but brings crew like craft services in from Manhattan.

3. Keep the FITP going! It really is a pittance in budgetary terms, but it created interest and skills in a very important demographic to the state: the recent college grads. Connecticut is suffering from a massive brain drain among those interested in film, simply because we don't provide any incentive for them to stay here and explore their art.

4. Create a grant program for small and fully in-state produced films. I can't begin to describe how much it would help Connecticut's indie film community if the state offered grants for people to create and finish films! It would create jobs, keep talent in the state, and generate publicity for Connecticut. How about making it easier for folks to make features with a budget of $50,000 by providing them a grant of 1/3 to 1/2 of their budget? The promise of funds would help them raise money, and by default it would establish an indie film economy. And it would put Connecticut taxpayers to work!

5. How about appointing an official liaison to the indie film community? The reason FITP was unceremoniously snuffed this year is because Governor Malloy combined the department responsible for the program with the Department of Labor. Putting the FITP funds under their control pretty much made it a fait accompli to its demise. They wanted the money for their own programs.

Programs like paying for people to stay OUT OF WORK. Maybe if we knew who the fuck to talk to with suggestions, could we have gotten better legislation?

6. How about holding some public meetings about the program when working people can actually attend? I'd love to be up at the Capitol on a Wednesday afternoon, but sadly I have to earn a living because Connecticut doesn't encourage the indie film community. It would be awesome to have "town hall" style events in the evening when more supporters would be available.

Anyway, the premature death of FITP makes me sad. It seemed so unnecessary and perfunctory. So fucking bureaucratic.

And the repeal of the tax credit for film hurts too. I wish they even gave it a chance for someone to change it into something that would actually work for Connecticut-based indie film.

They should have fucking asked US.

A smart legislator would have suggested that.