By Rachelle Cohen
March 31, 2009
Boston Herald, Op-Ed
The fight over those state film tax credits is getting to have a kind of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” vibe about it.
Now there’s a philosophical case to be made against tax credits. But by all accounts the one passed in Massachusetts in 2005 and expanded in 2007 seems to be working well in an otherwise down economy. The two production companies filming here now – and the competing plans for soundstage capacity – are on-going testament to that.
But the argument advanced by a purported Cornell University “study” reported on Saturday in the Herald has somewhat suspicious origins as alluded to by one of today’s letter writers (see article below).
It seems that the very same Susan Christopherson at Cornell University who told the Herald, “It’s very unlikely Massachusetts will be able to create a sustainable industry on the level of Los Angeles or New York” has, shall we say, issues. She argues against the “lunatic competition” by 40 states all going after the same pot of business.
Well, at the risk of being somewhat parochial, we are Boston, not Keokuk. But that aside, Christopherson’s Web site (nyecon.cornell.edu) gives a rather different – and more candid – view of the nature of her research:
“An industry coalition, The New York Film, Television and Commercial Initiative, including New York studio owners, producers, and representatives from labor unions and guilds, has joined together to sponsor a study that will enable policy-makers to ensure New York’s [emphasis ours] role as a major center for media production in the world.”
Christopherson also notes, “There is substantial anecdotal evidence that production is decreasing in New York . . . we need to know why the location of production is changing and to devise a policy agenda that places New York at the center of these industries . . .”
Of course, New York still has a cap on its film credits, similar to the one removed here in 2007 – which might explain its problem.
And don’t even get us started on the idiocy of a “study” that compares film tax credits to government spending on the arts (a figure that didn’t, of course, include the benefits of tax-exempt status for the many nonprofit arts organizations in our community).
Yes, the competition for film business is fierce. But doesn’t it behoove academics to put away the chainsaw and stick to facts?
Film buffs reel over drama of tax subsidies
By Dave Wedge
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Bay State film biz backers say a new study slamming movie industry subsidies is tainted because the authors once worked for New York film moguls, but the researchers are standing firmly behind the report.
Study authors Ned Rightor and Susan Christopherson, a professor at Cornell University, were paid by Big Apple film execs for a 2006 study that examined “the reasons behind the decline in commercial production in New York in the past 15 years.”
This week, the pair released a separate, independent report that criticized government tax credits for the industry and said states such as Massachusetts are wasting precious tax dollars trying to keep up with New York and Los Angeles.
“This is the equivalent of someone in New York saying, ‘Don’t bother spending any money on a baseball team up there because how in the world are you ever going to beat the Yankees?’ ” said Massachusetts Film Office head Nick Paleologos. “I don’t agree with the result and I don’t agree that Massachusetts can’t compete in this $60 billion industry. We’re doing it.”
Forty-three states now give film industry tax incentives, but Massachusetts has one of the most generous packages, which has led to 20 major productions shooting here in the past 18 months. There are also three studios in the planning stages in Weymouth, Plymouth and South Boston. “What we’re doing here is right,” state Rep. Brian Wallace (D-S. Boston) said. “New York is now chasing us.”
But Rightor said the new study is critical of all taxpayer giveaways for the film industry – including in New York. “In the end, we are not in favor of the whole game of offering subsidies to finance film projects,” Rightor said. “I think everyone is being played equally.” The new report, titled “The Creative Economy as ‘Big Business: Evaluating State Strategies to Lure Film Makers,” was not funded by any industry entity and is the result of “years of research,” Rightor said.