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.