Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lights, camera, action

Native Marylander and professional film director Barry Levinson came to Annapolis to beg for a handout to the film industry:

Levinson said he has opted to shoot movies in Canada over his native Maryland because of tax incentives. Several Maryland-themed movies, such as "Hairspray" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," have also been filmed elsewhere.

"It's a shame these Maryland movies move out of state," said Miller. "It's a travesty."

Despite an economic climate that makes any costly bills unlikely to pass this year, Miller said that if the rebate program "can be shown to be a benefit" to Maryland's economy, it would be "penny-wise and pound foolish" to reject it."You're not simply giving money away," said Levinson, the creator of Baltimore-based movies "Diner," "Avalon" and "Tin Men." "You would be giving a discount in terms of the money that comes in ... All you're doing is creating an incentive."

Under the proposal advocated by the Maryland Film Industry Coalition, filmmakers would receive a "post-expenditure rebate" of about 28 percent of their qualified spending on in-state film production.

The most surprising thing to me is that Levinson is not simply asking for a tax break. If Maryland actually cared about luring jobs and economic benefits to Maryland, perhaps a tax cut would be in order. However, that is not at all what is being asked for. He is actually asking for a 28% “rebate” of qualified film expenditures. This basically says that if you spend $100 on certain crap for a movie, you get $28 back from the taxpayers.

If that plan works, why limit it to the film industry? Why not give a 28% rebate to EVERY company that conducts business in Maryland? The reason why because Maryland would go flat ass broke. Maryland tax rates aren’t even 28% high. We’d be shoveling money out of state coffers faster than it comes in.

Final scene: after figuring out how to make Maryland taxpayers pay for a quarter of the cost of making a movie, the producer rides off into the sunset.