Big Film: a risky business

For years politicians, lobbyists, state government film agencies, union-activist film workers and editors have been promoting public subsidies to improve profits of a few film companies that have no allegiance to North Carolina. This nomadic, unstable, marginally profitable industry will temporarily locate in any State willing to pay its executives the highest bribes.

Its success depends on rare hits; most of the productions are one- or two-star rated losers—socially bankrupt efforts filled with loud, obnoxious characters; mediocre, immature actors; gross special-effects; no story lines; gratuitous violence, sex; and uncultured, vulgar language. “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

The Wilmington StarNews has been at the forefront by saturating the paper with film stories and editorials propping up this trash as somehow socially and economically worthy of taxpayers’ support. Worse, editorials have criticized responsible legislators in the State General Assembly, who want to end this injustice, as uncaring people.

Essentially, editors’ approve of taking money from other people’s earnings and giving it to Big Film executives—reason to question their moral character and understanding of the proper role of government.

A recent StarNews story by Hunter Ingram typically started with a sob-story about Leigh Wiley a film graduate at UNC- Wilmington. A North Carolinian, she got a position with local EUE/Screen Gems Studios and worked in various locations in the State, and different jobs—described by her as “a wild adventure.” She recently moved to Atlanta, Georgia where the fickle industry had a job for her at NBC Universal, according to the StarNews.


“I never thought the film incentive would change so much that I would have to leave the state to find work,” she said. Well gee, Leigh, why do you think that State taxpayers owe you a job in North Carolina; or any other State?

Apparently, at 31 years, she hasn’t yet learned the facts of life, including unrealistic expectations that someone owes her a living and her problems with labor unions. Her naïveté is profound: “I got a little burned out on the film industry…You already work crazy hours, but the industry was so volatile and we were constantly having to fight for our jobs. It was constantly about signing this petition, going to this rally, talking and emailing these politicians.”

This story reveals the ugly truth about “incentives” used to support Big Film. Unions and film lobbyists exploit workers to help keep their jobs and get a piece of the action; that being fleecing the taxpayers.

Unfortunately, our local politicians are in on the scam. We expect this from State Rep. Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover County, but not from local Republicans. State Sen. Michael Lee and Rep. Ted Davis have introduced legislation to give away $66 million to Big Film, playing higher stakes with our money than Gov. Pat McCrory’s $10 million film grant program.

Even if this was a private business deal—rather than a crony redistribution of public income scheme—it would be a bad one to invest in the risky business run by Big Film.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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