News Release: Film Office Report Violates Michigan Law and the Spirit of Sunshine Week

Office’s annual report fails to provide legally required film spending details and presents figures that appear to significantly overstate Michigan Film Incentive’s impact

For Immediate Release
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Contact: Patrick J. Wright
Senior Legal Analyst
or
Kathy Hoekstra
Communications Specialist
989-631-0900

MIDLAND — In stark contrast to the government transparency celebrated during Sunshine Week, the Michigan Film Office has issued a report that is "sorely lacking in key information required by state law," Mackinac Center Senior Legal Analyst Patrick J. Wright said today. The report, released earlier this month, is supposed to provide detailed spending figures for each film receiving the Michigan Film Incentive’s refundable tax credits in 2008, but instead supplies only a total spending figure.

"The Film Office is required to report a breakdown of each film’s production spending on goods, services, salaries and wages," Wright said. "This allows lawmakers to see what kind of economic benefits the films may bring the state and to evaluate the Film Office’s judgment in handing out the law’s generous subsidies and tax credits. The Film Office argues it can’t disclose the figures due to the confidentiality of filmmakers’ budgets, but a reading of the law shows that that objection doesn’t apply here. The statute is very explicit that detailed spending breakdowns have to be in the report."

And serious questions arise about the numbers the Film Office does provide. In a video segment released on the Mackinac Center’s Web site today, Communications Specialist Kathy Hoekstra finds that while the Film Office claims $125 million was spent in Michigan by the 35 films that qualified for the tax credit, the figure should almost certainly be closer to $65 million, based on data in a study accompanying the Film Office report and authored by Michigan State University’s Center for Economic Analysis. Hoekstra further points out that although the Film Office puts the film-related Michigan jobs at 2,800, the MSU study calculates that these positions lasted just 23 days on average, equating to roughly 254 year-round jobs. The Film Office’s dubious figures and refusal to furnish details, she observes, act as "a cloak of secrecy that conceals more answers than it reveals."

Hoekstra’s video, which also features Wright’s concerns, is posted at www.mackinac.org/mfi and is the third in a series dealing with the Michigan Film Incentive. The other segments can be viewed on the same Mackinac Center video page or by browsing to www.mackinac.org/10114 and www.mackinac.org/10234.

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