by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor, John Locke Foundation
The News & Observer ran an opinion piece from Barry Saunders under the headline “The legislature cut Durham’s closeup in ‘The Best of Enemies.’” It’s a rare use of active voice in a headline nowadays. You have a subject, verb, and direct object. Or in this case, villain, violent act, and victim.
The legislature actually cut Durham’s closeup? Under which law did they directly forbid Durham from having a closeup in this movie?
Well, there wasn’t a law or any direct action from the legislature at all. Here’s what this is all about:
Unfortunately for Durham and North Carolina, the most Durham-ish movie of all time was not shot in Durham. It was shot in Georgia because our shortsighted legislature abolished all of the tax incentives that at one point made the state an appealing destination for movie makers.
So the headline is an outright lie.
Then, the flimsy rationale for the lying headline is highly misleading. The legislature converted the tax incentives to a grant program. There’s still public money for film productions, but this time they’re appropriated constitutionally. (I have argued we should get rid of them altogether because they are net money losers than only benefit out-of-state film production companies, as research consistently finds.)
Saunders wants us to condemn the legislature. An accurate headline wouldn’t serve that purpose, as the decisionmaker here is the film production company, not the legislature.
He’s even misleading on another thing. Even if North Carolina’s film tax incentives had been unchanged, that’s doesn’t mean a film with a Durham setting would have been filmed in Durham. Georgia has an aggressive film incentive. So does Louisiana, and so for that matter do other nations, including eastern European nations and Australia, where “The Great Gatsby” was filmed despite being set in Long Island.
Film production companies use film incentives to pit one state’s bid against all the others’. That’s why research finds they are the only ones who actually benefit.
I’d wager that nearly everyone watching that movie isn’t going to think “Hey, that’s not Durham; that’s Georgia!” They’re going to think it’s Durham because it’s set in Durham.
And at least Durham won’t suffer the ignominy of Rose Hill, North Carolina, which was the setting for key scenes in “Iron Man III,” a movie that did receive film tax incentives from North Carolina. In the movie, it was identified as “Rose Hill, Tennessee.” Where do you think filmgoers think the film was set?
A final bit of deception in this piece is here:
If they decided to remake “Bull Durham,” would they have to shoot it in Georgia? With a Republican-led legislature, yes.
Oh no! Wait, was the original “Bull Durham” made with film tax incentives?