日期:2011-06-17 10:56


Film-industry subsidies

Unilateral disarmament

After a decade of escalation, a stupid trend may have peaked

Jun 9th 2011 | LOS ANGELES | from the print edition

Lights, cameras, subsidies, action!LOTS of states would love to be California and have their own little Hollywood. Film crews would then come to town and spend money in hair salons and hotels, and local politicians could pose with film stars. So why not call it “economic development” to justify the huge tax credits that lure film producers? As of last year, more than 40 states had such incentives, costing them a record $1.4 billion.


Even California itself plays the game, believing that it has to defend itself against the poachers. In 2003, when only a handful of states (principally Louisiana and New Mexico) offered incentives, California made two-thirds of America’s big-studio films. Now it makes far fewer than half. Film LA, an organisation that co-ordinates permits for film shoots in Los Angeles, says that without California’s own tax credit, “2010 would have been the worst year” since the mid-1990s for filming in Hollywood. As its marketing blog gibes: “It is extraordinarily unlikely that the 137 productions that filmed in Michigan since 2007 chose to shoot there for creative reasons, a favourable climate or a deep and talented film-crew base.”

加州也参与到这场游戏之中,他们必须要保住自己的优势,以免受到后来者的冲击。2003年,只有很少几个州(主要有路易斯安娜和新墨西哥)出台鼓励政策,当时2/3的主要美国电影由加州生产。现在这个比例远远低于1/2。Film LA是洛杉矶的电影摄制协调授权机构,他们表示,加州如果没有税收优惠政策,2010年的好莱坞影业将成为1990年代中期以来最糟的一年,正如它们营销博客的一篇文章所说:“ 2007年以来有137部电影选择在密执根州拍摄,因为那里富有创意、环境宜人、人才辈出,这种说法绝无可能。”

All this costs money, which legislators volunteer on behalf of taxpayers. Many tax credits (a percentage of a film crew’s local expenditures) exceed the filmmaker’s total tax liability to that state. The credits have even become an industry unto themselves: brokers slice them into tranches and trade them. In Iowa filmmakers were selling their credits until that state shut its programme in 2009. Last month an Iowa judge sentenced a producer to ten years in prison for fiddling credits.


Incentives do not have to involve tax credits. Some states simplify the paperwork by just giving out cash (calling it “rebates” or “grants”). Others exempt film-makers from sales or hotel taxes or give them other perks.


All this is silly. First, as Joseph Henchman at the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan think-tank, puts it, even when a state succeeds in luring film crews, they rarely boost the economy or tax revenues enough to justify the costs of the incentives. Film companies usually import their staff (stars, stuntmen, etc) and export them again when the shoot is over. The local jobs they create (hairdressers, sound technicians, pizza deliverers) are mostly temporary.


Second, since virtually all states are at it, the programmes largely cancel out one another; no state gets a lasting advantage. The craze resembles a beggar-thy-neighbour trade war (with mutually destructive tariffs) or the federal tax code with its loopholes for every lobby and thus higher rates for all. In the language of cold-war nukes, it would be mutually assured destruction (MAD). The only winner is the film industry. In essence, a rich bloke in a Brentwood villa gets money from a poor taxpayer in West Virginia.


Fortunately, this has begun sinking in. Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey and Washington have recently ended, suspended or shrunk their programmes. Many others, struggling with budget deficits, are considering doing the same, investing the money in something permanent or even leaving it to taxpayers. “2010 will likely stand as the peak year,” thinks Mr Henchman.


  • temporaryadj. 暂时的,临时的 n. 临时工
  • involvevt. 包含,使陷入,使忙于,使卷入,牵涉
  • trendn. 趋势,倾向,方位 vi. 倾向,转向
  • justifyvt. 替 ... 辩护,证明 ... 正当 vi. 调
  • permanentadj. 永久的,持久的 n. 烫发
  • creditn. 信用,荣誉,贷款,学分,赞扬,赊欠,贷方 (复)c
  • boostvt. 推进,提高,增加 n. 推进,增加 v.
  • unlikelyadj. 不太可能的
  • assuredadj. 确实的,保障的,有自信的 动词assure的过
  • essencen. 本质,精髓,要素,香精