Filming “Under the Dumb”

Hunter Ingram, staff writer for the Wilmington StarNews, recently wrote a requiem for the presumed dearly departed local film industry. (Link below) “It’s all quiet on the set in Wilmington,” he wrote. But as Mark Twain said in 1897, “…the report of my death has been grossly exaggerated.”

In recent years, the StarNews, it seems to me, has obsessed in articles and editorials to create sob-stories about film workers who expect government to subsidize their work and criticize State legislators who want to pull the plug on taxpayer’s money used to benefit Hollywood East here in River City. Editors side with those who want to bribe Big Film with public-fund bidding against other States to attract and keep it here.

The unethical, immoral and unjust aspects of this cronyism escape the editors—and the selfish film workers. Editors justify their dismissal of these sins with comments such as: “We don’t like it, but we have to do it”—they don’t seem to realize how foolish and self-serving that sounds.

I have concluded after years of observing this folly that the StarNews Editorial Board and news editors have used this issue to promote political conflict, side with the local wannabe political class elites and brand the Republican legislators who oppose public bribes as mean and uncaring.

Typically, readers who look below the controversial headlines (“…questions about local filming remain”) and opening sentences designed to mislead (“The culprit is the State’s new grant program”) can find the more complete story.

At least Mr. Ingram had enough sense—after obligatory biased comments—to report another aspect of his story by interviewing the executive vice president of the local EUE/Screen Gems studio.

Despite the sad press tales told about some film crew workers who believe taxpayers’ owe them a living in this city because they want to live here, and stories about how the industry is leaving for greener pastures in other States, Screen Gems VP Bill Vassar has a more realistic economic view and honest attitude about the business.  After 30 years here, with obviously a huge investment in a 10-stage studio, he says they are not going anywhere.

Mr. Vassar says his film business had an “OK year,” with two film productions: “Under the Dome” and “Sleepy Hollow.”

Despite the positive news, reporter Ingram couldn’t resist journalistic malpractice by finding another personal poor-me story about an unemployed, single mother of three. She wouldn’t move where there was work because of “her socially active children”—they had to stay in Wilmington. Well, that’s her choice. Apparently, she doesn’t need work in the film business.

Ingram found another film worker who did relocate to Charleston. S. C. for a film job there, but he was resentful because he preferred to live in Wilmington. He asked, “But why stay in a state that doesn’t support your business?”  Why, indeed. This person clearly does not understand (or care) that sacrifices forced on others by government are what he expects to guarantee him a job in a location he desires. That attitude defines the word selfish.

Predictably, North Carolina General Assembly members backed off doing the right thing by their majority constituents and caved into political pressures to placate a few with a $30 million gift to Big Film of other people’s money.

Similar to overindulgent parents they enable the whining children to get what they want, not caring that this leads to more self-centered, unruly behavior. The analogy is worse in this case. The government “parents” steal money from their neighbors to distribute to their “children”—a dangerous activity and dumb.


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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