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Senator Wants Script Approval for Movies Before State Opens Its Purse

Posted January 29, 2007

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— A debate is shaping up over whether the state would be exercising censorship or good stewardship if it demanded pre-approval of scripts when a movie production company is going to seek tax incentives for shooting a film in North Carolina.

The question is getting national attention, partly because it's drawing comparisons to former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms' fight nearly 20 years ago over federal money going to pay for art he found offensive.

Today, state Sen. Phil Berger, R-Guilford, the Senate minority leader, believes the state should pre-approve movie scripts if it is going to give a tax break.

“The constitution protects your right to say things, protects your right to make films. The constitution doesn't say they have a right to taxpayers’ dollars. And the idea that taxpayers can be forced to pay for something they find offensive, I think, really is a misreading,” Berger said Monday.

Berger is responding to the film "Hounddog," which was shot in New Hanover and Brunswick counties. Berger admits he hasn't seen the film, but is disturbed by reports of a scene in which child star Dakota Fanning is raped.

While prosecutors have already stated they found nothing illegal or pornographic about the scene, Berger doesn't want the production company getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in state tax incentives for the controversial film.

The movie industry is unhappy about Berger's proposal., and some lawmakers say the state is on the edge of a slippery slope that leads to censorship.

“If what we're really after is creating jobs and economic opportunity for our citizens and we're investing in the film industry, to do that, then, we ought to invest in the film industry. We ought not to get into making state-sponsored policy statements,” Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange County, said.

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  • kelleyv Jan 30, 2007

    You reap what you sow. I do not want my tax dollars used to sow violence, rape, or intolerance into the conscience of our society. The "harvest" is all around us. Movies portray gangs, violence, rape of children and adults, intolerance, disrespect for our bodies, and under the guise of fiction, insult our religions and its reflected into society. I'm not distracted by ruses of the question of more "important" causes, or conned by rationalization of people whose thoughts are thoroughly provoked or those who tell us something is wrong with our thinking when we oppose such things. Understand, this usually comes from people who enjoy this stuff and those who are encouraged by this to act on it. I think you are for the above or you are against it. Frankly I've had enough of seeing our children buried, damaged or in jail. If you agree, shut off these people and write, call, or e-mail your state officials and tell them "yes" to censoreship or "no" at election time. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

  • millermwok Jan 30, 2007

    The point is, do we as taxpayers want to have to fund something that we find reprehensible. With the unfortunate tendency to proclaim everything good that potentially brings in a buck (e.g. state sponsored gambling/lottery), I'm afraid the well-placed intentions of Sen. Berger to actually represent the people's wishes will be for nought.
    It has absolutely NOTHING to do with censorship. Let the film-makers exercise their right to produce whatever garbage they want on their own dime - but not mine.

  • Crumps Br0ther Jan 30, 2007


    Universal healthcare? You see how the government runs the schools, do you really want them to be in charge of your healthcare? what is this fascination with letting the government do everything for you?

  • Crumps Br0ther Jan 30, 2007

    "... the government should stay the H*** out of show business"

    Tell that to Michael Moore, Al Gore, and all the other Hollywood phonies who are drooling over Obama.

  • Lulli Jan 30, 2007

    This kind of reaction to the movie industry is probably why NC doesn't have that much movie production! We, the citizens of NC should not resort to being movie critics & scrutinizing any films. The reason for tax incentives is to bring money into NC, isn't it? Regardless of the movie content, the money is brought into our state, so, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? We should allow people to express their freedom of speech and the government should stay the H*** out of show business. No wonder most of the movies are made in California & Canada!

  • nerdlywehunt Jan 30, 2007

    If you want to take the moral high ground then why not focus on providing universal health care for your citizens. Simply amazing how the neocons think.

  • tedfarr Jan 30, 2007

    This is crap. I have read many reviews of this movie that state most of the offensive scene is not actually filmed. This is an art movie, and it has not even opened here in Raleigh. How many people here will see it? I might, since I like art house movies, but, based on this weekends revenues, the American public would rather see Epic Movie. Nobody that saw that movie would see "Houndog". Indie movies are meant to be provocative and thought provoking. That is what separates them from most of the bombs in the multiplexes. Don't get me wrong! I am not a movie snob. I saw Road Trip in the theater and enjoyed it, along with the South Park movie, but I always enjoy this time of year when the critically acclaimed flicks open, like Pan's Labyrinth.

    'Nuf said. This movie didn't even get very good reviews at Sundance, so get over yourselves! Do a little research before you condemn something without having a clue!

  • rrieck Jan 30, 2007

    I echo the sentiment of what it would appear is most, that is if we want to lose what business we do get from film production, then continue to push this proposal. Personally I don't think we should resort to reviewing a script to verify it "meets our standards". Whose standards are we supposed to meet, when most of the time you can't trust the words coming from these politicians mouths, Republican, Democrat or other.

  • wralfan Jan 30, 2007

    I suppose they won't have to worry about dishing out tax incentives when nobody shows up to do any filming in NC.

    Haven't they been trying to grow this industry in NC? Sounds like a very sound option to lead to more filming in NC.

  • steve2 Jan 30, 2007

    "Berger admits he hasn't seen the film,"

    I stopped reading right there.