A right-wing case against film incentives
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Officials for the Governors Office of Economic Development and the Utah Film Commission recently have been pleading their case to the Utah Legislature to raise the state's motion-picture incentive — the tax break the state gives to Hollywood productions who come film here — from 20 percent to 25 percent.

Legislators have seemed receptive to the idea in interim meetings this fall. But a new roadblock has been raised against the notion: A position paper from Utah's ultra-right think tank, The Sutherland Institute.

The paper's author, Allan Carlson, opines that such incentives don't bring in the jobs and economic impact their supporters promise. He also argues that, in many cases, Hollywood "would film in the state even without the bribe." Carlson continues:

If you want to make a movie in a small Midwestern town, for example, one in Iowa is probably just as good as one in Indiana, and a bigger incentive – even if economically foolish from the perspective of the taxpayers – might tip the balance. Yet in many other cases, location is the driving force. One suspects that that was true for "John Carter of Mars." The landscape around Hanksville – red, dry, barren and rock-strewn – has been repeatedly judged by scientists and science fiction enthusiasts alike as the one spot on Earth that most resembles Mars. A movie designed to be set on Mars almost had to be filmed there. And in the context of a film with a budget reportedly more than $250 million, Utah's $5.5 million "investment" seems like a pretty small "lure." It might be seen simply as taxpayer money wasted.

Carlson's speculation about "John Carter of Mars" would be disputed by Marshall Moore, director of the Utah Film Commission. Moore told the Cricket in April that Disney (the studio making "John Carter of Mars") would not even allow its location scouts to set foot in Utah before the state raised its incentive to 20 percent.

Disney had been looking at neighboring New Mexico, which has a 25 percent incentive — and in the last year or so has taken two major productions that Utah tried to land: The sci-fi blockbuster "Cowboys & Aliens" and the Coen brothers' Western remake "True Grit."

Officials for the Governors Office of Economic Development and the Utah Film Commission recently have been pleading their case to the Utah Legislature to raise the state's motion-picture incentive — the tax break the state gives to Hollywood productions who come film here — from 20 percent to 25 percent. Legislators have seemed receptive to the idea in interim meetings this fall. But a new roadblock has been raised against the notion: A position paper from Utah's ultra-right think tank, The Sutherland Institute. The paper's author, Allan Carlson, opines that such incentives don't bring in the jobs and economic impact their supporters promise. He also argues that, in many cases, Hollywood "would film in the state even without the bribe." Carlson continues: If you want to make a movie in a small Midwestern town, for example, one in Iowa is probably just as good as one in Indiana, and a bigger incentive ? even if economically foolish from the perspective of the taxpayers ? might tip the balance. Yet in many other cases, location is the driving force. One suspects that that was true for "John Carter of Mars." The landscape around Hanksville ? red, dry, barren and rock-strewn ? has been repeatedly judged by scientists and science fiction enthusiasts alike as the one spot on Earth that most resembles Mars. A movie designed to be set on Mars almost had to be filmed there. And in the context of a film with a budget reportedly more than $250 million, Utah's $5.5 million "investment" seems like a pretty small "lure." It might be seen simply as taxpayer money wasted. Carlson's speculation about "John Carter of Mars" would be disputed by Marshall Moore, director of the Utah Film Commission. Moore told the Cricket in April that Disney (the studio making "John Carter of Mars") would not even allow its location scouts to set foot in Utah before the state raised its incentive to 20 percent. Disney had been looking at neighboring New Mexico, which has a 25 percent incentive — and in the last year or so has taken two major productions that Utah tried to land: The sci-fi blockbuster "Cowboys & Aliens" and the Coen brothers' Western remake "True Grit."