FBI Investigation Reveals Huge CA Film Subsidy Scandal

Pretty amazing week for this blog when you consider some of the predictions made here: New Zealand, Prime Focus, and now California. In the California post I argued against lobbying for film subsidies because it would be costly, yield little results, and that politicians are looking to line their pockets and recent news has revealed that to be the case.

Earlier this month reports revealed studios giving $1 million to New York politicians who supported subsidies in that state. Today news broke that a California Senator is being investigated by the FBI after accepting $60,000 in bribes by agents posing as subsidy-starved movie producers.

This wasn’t just some low level politician. This was Ron Calderon, chair of the CA’s Film and TV committee. If you wanted subsidies for the VFX industry, Calderon was the man you had to go through. Al Jazeera’s report is incredibly thorough and reveals just how little you get for a lot of money and a lot of legal risk.

Unlike the hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies that VFX would need to come even close to what BC is giving away, the agents in the scandal were only asking for a $500,000 reduction in the threshold for the subsidy program. Calderon could only drop it by $250,000 and in the end he couldn’t deliver as he realized he would need to get veto-proof super majorities to pass CA’s governor who considers film subsidies “a losing strategy.” The price for all this? $60,000. Those of you in CA hoping to lobby politicians would probably need alot more money and have to get at least 81 politicians on board to make it veto-proof. It would cost at least $5,000,000 and you also run a huge risk of the FBI coming after you.

This scandal is a small glimpse into the inner workings of a bribery system the whole VFX industry is currently based on. As bad as the politics are in the US, the system has routinely gone after corruption (See Louisiana and Missouri) and independent studies are constantly administered that show they are money losers. However it’s still not enough and in locations like Canada and UK, there isn’t any attempt at all to have independent investigations of fraud and bribery. It will fall and those that argued that this should continue because it benefits their particular current situation are in for a world of hurt when it all goes down.

Soldier On.

45 Responses to FBI Investigation Reveals Huge CA Film Subsidy Scandal

  1. Ben says:

    meah… sure this is going to still keep all the work elsewhere…

  2. hector says:

    “It will fall and…” Just can wait to see this.

  3. LAskyline says:

    “This scandal is a small glimpse into the inner workings of a bribery system the whole VFX industry is currently based on”

    Yeah, at least in the old days of LA VFX they kept the kickbacks under wraps. What’s the world coming to?

  4. CanadaProud says:

    Come on. Your leap to conclusions is stunning. Because the US political system is BASED on lobbying and payoffs, you think that Canada, the UK, NZ, and others are also going down? It’s so amazing that you can turn a story which is basically about corruption in the LOS ANGELES film industry into a reason to justify ending subsidies around the world. Canada has an openly disclosed film and subsidy program that dates to the NFB and before, many decades ago. Please don’t tie corruption in the US and your intrinsinctly corrupt lobbying system to those of us in the North. We want no part of that. Love em or hate em, our subisides are public record and approved and backed by Canadian citizens. And they’ve been around for decades and aren’t going anywhere. They’re not worked out in back room deals and under the table handshakes. Keep that nonsense down in the States.

  5. hector says:

    “approved and backed by Canadian citizens.”…what a bullshit!

  6. willworkforfood says:

    Not even sure if canadians are consulted on most things anyway. Nice example being that ontario and british columbia were selected, about 20 years ago, to trial experiment genetically modified food in supermarkets WITHOUT telling the population or marking the packaging. Something you can’t do in us/europe. Nice secret agreement between the government and corporations. Only came out in the open when a british politician in the uk made a passing comment in parliment that was picked up by canadian bloggers. Because you know the queen of england is the constitutional head of canada, right, with draconian secrecy laws surrounding her.

    But no, i am sure canadian politicians would never get involved in movie subsidies and are completely honest and uncorruptable in the pure, clean and honest virgin white snow of canada.

    • meinvan says:

      sorry my friend, but get your facts straight….there is still to this day no mandatory labeling of gm foods in the US, in most parts of europe yes, but certainly not in the US. And this 20 years after your so called scandal.

      so you might want to rename your avatar willworkforGMfood, because thats what your getting if your in the US.

      Just do a google search, i bet the first 1000 results will tell you that you are wrong.

      i know this is widely of topic, but lies/propaganda needs to be called out.

    • hector says:

      “After Canada’s 117 listed companies, the U.S. is in second place, with 46 listed. That’s followed by Indonesia (43 firms) and Britain (40 firms).” – uh oh.

  7. willworkforfood says:

    I do not have to change my handle, friend. GM food can be sold in the US but it has always had to be clearly labelled. And other food can be labelled non GMO so the consumer is aware and informed. Not so in canada. Despite public resistance, the canadian politicians have agreements drawnup with the chemical food corporations so they are not going to let taxpayer voters get in the way of that. Even the term ‘organic’ has a different defintion in canada than us or europe. It can include GMO grown food in canada.

    I am sorry that you are so trusting of politicians that do this to you but if they are prepared to do something like that with the essence of life (food), I guess movie subsidies shenanigans would be a walk in the park for said politicians.

  8. willworkforfood says:

    Yeah, cos everything on the internet is true.

    I buy non-gmo labelled food in the US that is independently monitored and I can visit the testing laboratory myself. I can sue the food companies if that is not the case.

    Stop evading the topic.

    The gmo scandal was such a big deal in canada when it broke because it was the only country worldwide where a government just decided to do it with no publically published mandate or parlimentary debate.

    Bet you there will be some juicy political intrigues involving movie company subsidies in vancouver and montreal sometime in the future.
    How would that feel, if you were working in a healthy industry one year, only to find later on that political and company deals off the record destroyed your job prospects overnight, making a few politicians and producers very wealthy from the back of local tax payers.

    Anyhow, I am off to make a nice non-gmo labelled snack for myself now.

    • meinvan says:

      im not evading any topic, all i was pointing out that your lying when your making a statement like you did. thats all.

      politics is corrupt and i dont disagree in anyway. canada or us….same thing pretty much, specially since harper.

      and agree most things online are full of shit, including you.

      but show me a single source from the usda or fda that says that gmo labelling is mandatory. 1 single shred of anything.

    • polyphemus says:

      We should rename the blog GMOsoldier.com. Because that’s what I come here to read about.

      GMO labelling. And foods.

  9. willworkforfood says:

    Gmo labelling is not mandatory. I never said it was. But equally non-gmo labelling is permitted. So is organic labelling. There is a choice for that within the land of the brave, the home of the free. Same for europe. Not so in canada. Labelling non-gmo or organic non-gmo is not allowed in canada. Now read that last sentence four times please.

    I am not saying gmo is bad. Maybe its better. Noone knows. But I want a choice. I dont want politicians deciding that for me without discussion, or worse, trying to hide it or making labellng of it a thought crime, like in canada.

    Evolution took millions of years. Not sure human meddling can be trusted after a few decades without a bit more testing.

    I also am a bit suspicious of genetically modified movie industries up there as well. We could be meddling with natural market forces resulting in terrible future consequences for all of us.

  10. Handle it says:

    Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.

  11. tazzman says:

    What the hell does all this have to do with vfx?

  12. Ean Carr says:

    GMOsoldier… classic. Thanks for my morning chuckle, guys.

  13. Bob (another one) says:

    GMO. Fuck me.

    It’s over, isn’t it?

    The only way anything in VFX is ever going to return to any kind of natural, logical functioning is if over time it just happens to get there by itself for some reason that has nothing to do with the poor schmuck artists chasing the companies chasing the studios chasing the incentives (/rebates /donations /bribes).

    Let’s face it, a big part of the reason nothing is going to happen is that ninety percent of those poor schmucks are actually self important, self aggrandizing, self satisfied fucking assholes.

    Look at my toys! Look at my action figures! No, I’m not a pathetic, stupid child-man at all! I’ve got a lightsaber! Limited edition! Look at my toys.

    Look at my fucking action figures.

    No hope. None.

    Fucked.

    • hector says:

      right Bob, right!

    • Dave Rand says:

      Artists have accomplished more to change the underlying tone and attention to VFX in the past year than in our entire history. It is not arrogance we have to overcome, it’s fear.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        The voice of reason *happy smile*
        Dave is right. As usual. Everybody fears something. The work goes to India/china, I get blacklisted if I speak up, in only have a job because of subsidies so I cannot speak up or loose it..,

        Always the same fears!
        We are the Ants, let’s give the grasshopper studios hell!!!

      • Bob (another one) says:

        Dave, I just want to make it clear that I’m not decrying your efforts. Both you and VFX Soldier have my complete respect. In fact, I thank you for not just sitting there and saying nothing like everybody else does.
        As things are though, VFX workers don’t have any leverage. Not even a tiny bit. Getting that first tiny bit would need a lot of people to stand collectively, and the chances of that happening are… what my post above was about.

    • hector says:

      “Let’s face it, a big part of the reason nothing is going to happen is that ninety percent of those poor schmucks are actually self important, self aggrandizing, self satisfied fucking assholes.”
      RIGHT!

  14. hector says:

    and yes, is over, For now, but it is over for everybody.

  15. Procedural says:

    Soldier, did you just got hacked?

  16. hector says:

    Hey Soldier. You’re right VFX workers are more and more GMO’s.

  17. vfxguy says:

    First the thrilling tale of VFXSoldier tweeting Lucy Lawless and now GMO labelling debates. Glad to see this site is as relevant as ever.

  18. cro says:

    https://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/vfx-soldier-is-on-the-march/#more-19

    4 years of this blog, probably tack on an extra 4 or so for the decline of this industry, and what’s been done? The majority of the workforce still has it’s head up it’s ass bickering about stupid shit. One missed opportunity after the next.

    I think it’s time to call it. ” Nov. 7th 2013, 8:36 pm, the death of VFX.”

    I’ve seen the enemy, and it is… well… you know the rest.

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