Saturday, October 22, 2011

Taxpayers enable home movies on the big screen

Drifting across Movie Channel tonight, I noticed "Grown Up Movie Star" a 2009 title offering this one sentence lure:
"A 13-year-old gives in to sexual temptation after her mother abandons the family."
I don't know about you, but the descriptor gave me instant knowledge this was a Canadian film. I sought a little more information in Variety:
"Girl gone wild" describes the young, nubile and overly provoked Ruby, who, in debut helmer Adriana Maggs' "Grown Up Movie Star," faces enough crises to come of age a dozen times... "
Before anyone worries about a tender juvenile, I should point out the actress playing 13-year-old Ruby was almost 25, a fact that fits easily into TV's dreamworld where high schools are loaded with aged 30-something students.

Grown Up Movie Star played as one of 58 movies two years ago at the Sundance Film Festival. It made a few other appearances on big screens although not enough to hit the radar of Box Office Mojo, the industry's primary tracker of box office revenue. Having exhausted its minuscule market, the film now creeps onto Canadian pay-tv. Somehow I'm thinking a film about a sexy teen and her gay dad was never likely to play in about 97% of the USA.

I'm not at all troubled by the film's content. What does trouble me is the piles of money thrown at this and so many other Canadian film productions. GUMS for example grabbed about $400,000 from the Government of Newfoundland, which spent tens of thousand more promoting the movie from its annual filmmaking promotion fund of about $3-million. Federal government agency Telefilm Canada threw in hundreds of thousands (the information is not readily available) and the Government of Canada Film Production Tax Credit added most of the remaining cash used to make and market this movie.

Looking at the Telefilm Canada financials — who said Conservatives care about fiscal efficiency? — they report with pride that feature film funding reached $100-million in 2009-10, although recoveries dropped slightly to $8.5 million. In other words, they write off 93-cents of each dollar put into feature films. Along with other "investments" and operating costs, taxpayers are left with a net bill for $126-million, which is at least an improvement on the free-spending Liberals who were in the habit of dropping $200-million or more through Telefilm each year, much of it in Quebec.

Select people in British Columbia are beneficiaries of movie production but the public treasury pays substantial subsidies to bring in the work.  It is not a coincidence that David McLean and the McLean Group are major players gaining from BC Liberal film subsidies. Value of the industry figures reported are regularly dishonest. Actual sums spent here by filmmakers are far less than claimed by industry and government officials who add total project budgets, not the production amounts actually spent in BC.

The sad reality is that the business class of this province and this country cares nothing about film as art and culture. As always, it's all about moving money into the right pockets.

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  1. Well,
    I do not have knowledge of the entire film industry’s production figures here in BC, I can tell you that one of the companies that pays film and television in BC has broken all of their records from past seasons.

  2. Right on Norm.
    Also, why are we subsidizing mediocrity?



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