Shocking News: Private Corporations are Abusing a Well-Meaning Government Subsidy

Perhaps you recall my earlier, hard-hitting journalistic account of the film subsidy that the Alaska state government offers studios as an incentive to film in Alaska; if so, you are awesome and I salute you. If not, click on that link and read the post, dammit!

Anyway, the Alaska subsidy is apparently one of the more generous of its kind, awarding up to 33% of the production cost of the film. In other words, if you film in Alaska, they’ll give you $.33 for every dollar you spend.

Of course, things like cocaine and hookers are more expensive in Alaska, and given the film industry’s penchant for salacious pastimes, its unclear how much a company might actually save. Maybe if the legislature reauthorizes it they’ll call it the “Fairview Floozie Subsidy.”

Naturally, as with any government subsidy, the idea is to spur the private sector into beneficial action; theoretically, if a company films in Alaska, they hire Alaskans and spend lots of cash in the Alaska marketplace. Theoretically.

However, as Kyle Hopkins of the Anchorage Daily News demonstrates, this is not the case. It would seem that film companies are not giving back to the Alaskan worker what they’re taking from the Alaskan coffers:*

Some of the reality TV shows and movies receiving the most money from the state film subsidy program are also paying the least to Alaska residents, state records show.

Of the more than $1 million in wages and salaries the state will subsidize for the sixth season of “Deadliest Catch,” for example, less than $20,000 was paid to Alaska residents. Alaskans were paid 5 percent of the $6 million in salaries subsidized for the Jon Voight thriller “Beyond.”

Those numbers a little shocking, to say the least; especially since Deadliest Catch is such a hit, and moreover requires exceptionally dangerous filming conditions. And some film studios, anxious to underwrite a fat portion of their next Stanley Steamer, are applying for film permits even though their film has nothing to do with Alaska.

It’s not surprising that the film studios would want 33% of their budget refunded to them. And further, it’s not surprising that Alaska lacks the necessary workforce to support a thriving film industry. But to pay a paltry 5% back to Alaskans is a little insulting.

Clearly, one thing needs to happen when the legislature considers reauthorizing this subsidy: dedicate a portion of funds to the University for the maintenance of a film degree. The University of Alaska Anchorage already has excellent theater and journalism/media department, so the infrastructure is in place; all the legislature needs to do is throw them a bone so they can get the requisite equipment and instructors. Hell, make it a graduate degree and entice out-of-state people to come and earn an MA in Anchorage. Of course the legislature will likely not do this, because it would get in the way of all the ridiculous pandering that’s required of them.

But one can hope.

*Normally, one would complain that a subsidy wastes the taxpayer’s money. But Alaska residents do not pay a state income tax, so it just wastes the state’s money that they get from delicious oil.

Hasbro Promises to Ruin All of Your Childhood Memories Through the Medium of Film

Yes, Hasbro Studios will destroy any fondness you may have once felt for the toys of your childhood by whoring them out until they die, wheezing and broken, on the side of Mulholland Drive:

To expand into television, Hasbro formed a production company, Hasbro Studios, and joined with Discovery Communications in 2010 to create the Hub, a TV channel with programming based on Hasbro toys and games. Ratings have been steadily increasing; the number of viewers grew 16 percent in January over the same period the year before.

The idea was to expand on Hasbro’s most popular properties.

Allow me to translate that last part for you: “We’d like to fist your memories and make you regret ever playing with our gender-normative toys.”

Even Stretch Armstrong. Which is going to get a movie, apparently. Did you know that Hasbro also owns Wizards of the Coast? That’s right, nerds: your beloved Magic cards and Dungeons & Dragons are going to suffer the same fate as G.I. Joe and Transformers (although the D&D movie did come out long before G.I. Joe–so I guess those poor bastards already got it).

I suggest busting out your old toys from storage and giving them a rousing send off by playing with them one last time and then setting them on fire.

After that, you should get drunk and have yourself a nice cry.

Flim Alaska

Are you a growing film company aching to shoot an independent project about an Alaskan hermit that collects garden gnomes and writes mysteries? Or perhaps it’s time to dust-off that long forgotten “Godzilla vs. Ursamonstra” script you’ve been keeping in a desk drawer for an emergency. If you’ve got a film to shoot, actors to pay, craft service to skimp on, and costumes to steal from the set of some other film, Alaska wants your money. That’s right, glitterati, Alaska’s willing to subsidize your film to the tune of 33%! In fact, Alaska’s program is by far the most generous:

As other states wrestling with budget deficits roll back or rethink their own film industry subsidies, Alaska’s program continues, so far doling out $13 million to a string of reality-TV shows and, increasingly, feature movies. Producers for movies big and small say it’s a key reason they’re here.

Alaskans are notoriously fame-hungry. You all saw Sarah Palin whore it up when she reached the national stage, but for a more local example, just find a person that lived in Alaska for a month, or perhaps just had a layover at Anchorage International (I will not say fucking Ted Stevens International, and you can bite my sack if you want to argue about it). Chances are good they’ll regale you with various tales of bearded ne’er-do-wells and bear statues the likes of which you’ve never seen. So really, this is perfect for Alaskans, because it gives them what they want the most: attention. Theoretically, it also gives them jobs:

In many ways, the film incentives appear to be a success. Producers spent tens of millions of dollars shooting movies in and around Anchorage over the past 13 months, drawing stars such as Drew Barrymore and Ted Danson, Nicolas Cage and John Cusack. Many Alaskans scored jobs as actors, camera operators and crew. Stars ate at local restaurants and stayed at local hotels, and film boosters imagine a subsequent wave of tourists.

And if you want proof that the program is working, look no further than the latest schmalzy turd “Big Miracle,” which is about those dumbass whales who got stuck under some ice in the 80s. Yeah, whales, a lot of us had problems with ice in the 80s, but none of us made a national event out of it, you fameballing bastards! The film, which could have easily been made in Canada, was not, and because the studio chose Alaska, they’re able to claim that sweet subsidy, to the tune of about $9 million, or $.33 on the dollar.

Apparently, this subsidy is due to expire in 2013 (it had a five-year test period), and in order to renew it, Alaskan lawmakers will have to fund it to the tune of $200 million bones. Which, quite frankly, is not likely. But don’t worry: there are thousands of Alaskans, desperate for attention, who will continue to churn out short films for film festivals. And eventually, one of them will get noticed. And after that, well, he or she will probably pull a Jewel and GTFO! San Diego’s own Jewel my ass.

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