Local News

Senator Wants Script Approval for Movies Before State Opens Its Purse

Posted January 29, 2007 8:40 p.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2007 11:53 p.m. EST

— 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.