Lights! Camera! No state action!
Most states have tax-funded film commissions that subsidize or grant tax credits to movie production companies, provided they agree to film scenes within the state’s borders. According to this article in The New York Times, some of these state agencies are getting nervous about the kind of films they are being asked to fund.
The Michigan film commissioner recently rejected a funding request from producers of a horror movie replete with “realistic cannibalism.” In Texas, a film company was told it need not apply for financing of a picture about the FBI’s Waco raid because of inaccuracies in the script. And in Florida, the legislature recently flirted with a proposal to deny tax credits to films that exhibit “nontraditional family values.”
There’s much to challenge in the notion of allowing states to lure in film production; for a start, look at how such programs violate the rights of taxpayers. These programs take money from ordinary taxpayers (a violation of their property rights) and use it to fund movies those taxpayers may well find abhorrent (a violation of their free speech rights).
The solution is not to dictate content according to some pseudo-standard such as “family values.” Rather, the solution is to end all government funding of film production. A state government’s job is to protect its citizens against criminals, not to attract moviemakers. Private individuals and companies wishing to attract film projects to their localities are free to offer whatever incentives (such as discounts on lodging, or attractive settings for filming) that they deem likely to benefit themselves.
Hollywood is quite capable of finding investors to fully finance its ventures. Producers who cannot attract private financing have no right to draw from the public treasury—whether their films depict cannibals eating human flesh, or Bible-toting families gathered for a Sunday picnic.
[Update: Thanks to Steve Simpson at the Institute for Justice for linking here. Welcome, readers of Congress Shall Make No Law, IJ's free speech blog.]
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