Film Tax Incentives: Diversity At Its Ugliest
Hyde Hooligan Films is a group of filmmakers full of diverse individuals with men and women from various backgrounds coming together to tell narrative stories. We not only embrace our diversity, but we also don't see our individual traits as leverage or a crutch to what we do. That being said, we posted an article recently about how US states may be stepping in to prevent tax incentives from being delivered to productions that are not investigating possible misconduct allegations. Although this action seemed rooted in justice for us minorities, there was much more to the story than meets the eye. We as filmmakers are trying to look at the issue as objectively as possible, and our overall response is a not a fuzzy one.
The article by Bryn Elise Sandberg was posted on THR regarding possible misconduct on Showtime's SMILF show where the creator and star, Frankie Shaw, was accused of mishandling nude scene and separating writers by race (http://bit.ly/2UwcNuD). SMILF was filming its second season in Boston - Shaw's hometown - when upon completion, Massachusetts lawmakers called for the suspension of their tax credits. This is definitely an appropriate action to take in lieu of said misconduct, but then the article went on to talk about how Massachusetts and other states are pushing for laws that force more diversity into shows and movies or else they will not qualify for their tax incentives. Although this sounds great for diverse groups like ours, we also feel this type of move is wildly misjudged and misplaced. Sen. Collins had filed a new bill in January for productions to include a diversity and inclusion plan. Though this is relatively standard practice in union signatories and often pitches, this new bill would now apply to overall eligibility for productions in Massachusetts as a whole. Again, though this sounds great, it is definitely putting the cart before the horse. Instead of demonizing the act of misconduct, they are pushing to essentially discriminate on any production that may not have enough diversity based on the resources that may be available to them.
To take it a step further, this can also screw over artistic license in, for example, large period piece films. I've mentioned this to people many times, but I would not throw in a cast of all Asians to try to recreate a realistic version of the American Civil War. Though that is an extreme example, it also does not mean that forcing productions into diversity is the proper step. What about states that require a certain percentage of local workers to be hired that are also primarily Anglo-based? There are too many holes to this type of legislation, and it has little to do with dealing with the actual misconduct or those that are committing such acts. If the states want to promote diversity, they should do what the unions do and offer higher incentives for those that qualify for a certain percentage of diversity and inclusion- the article stated that New Jersey is doing exactly this. Forcing production companies into this type of control, especially on skeleton crews, will cause more turbulence and is abruptly counter-intuitive to inclusion as a whole - you want companies to want to include people, not look at it as a chore to overcome.
To be clear, this was not a hit on the author of the article as it was purely informative. Instead, it's a hit on the state lawmakers that are trying to push more control for us filmmakers instead of targeting the real monsters committing crimes and discriminating against minorities. In all honesty, we're tired of all the discrimination, but we also don't want to be forced to do what we do if we can't pull in the resources to do so. Our biggest hope is that this sort of backwards thinking won't spread to more states. There are already laws and restrictions that vastly inhibit artistic design in story content that disqualify productions on state incentives. It's such a great way to exert control on us filmmakers and our community, State Legislation, now kindly get the fuck out of our artwork and go capture the real monsters and lawbreakers out there.
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