James Lileks: Hollywood, greed and the Minnesota Legislature

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 9, 2013 - 4:52 PM

Why doesn’t Hollywood make many movies here anymore?

We don’t give them tax credits, that’s why. So they take their movies about evil, greedy businessmen and rapacious corporations to states whose laws give immense financial incentives to the greedy businessmen and rapacious corporations who run movie studios.

A neighbor of mine is a gaffer and left the state to work on the “Red Dawn” remake in Michigan. It seems Detroit will give someone a tax credit for demolishing a 27-story skyscraper if it employs four caterers for a week.

Seeking to make Minnesota competitive, a new group called the Minnesota Motion Picture Association is pushing for a 25 percent tax incentive. Why single out one industry for favors and not, say, newspapers? Because there is absolutely no chance Natalie Portman will show up to write about a city council extending a sewer line.

Movies, on the other hand, are glamorous, and it’s fun to see something shot here, and watch someone enter a skyway in St. Paul and end up in the IDS court.

The credits help the people directly involved in making movies, but otherwise, not so much.

They shot “Untamed Heart” — a movie about a guy who may, or may not, have had a baboon heart — in Minneapolis, and one of the scenes used a shuttered coffee shop. The movie didn’t do well. The coffee shop, I remember, was empty for years.

But there’s more. A bill introduced by the bipartisan team of Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, would use Legacy Fund lucre to invest directly in movies — for a cut of the profits.

Ahem. The purpose of the Legacy Fund is “to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.” Unless the movies Hollywood comes here to make do either of those things, no. Remaking “Purple Rain” in Los Angeles does not count.

Then again, how about “Perpich!” — a merry musical about one man’s quixotic bid to build a chopstick factory in the Iron Range with just some pluck, an idea and a wad of cash from the state? They could open up the theater in Block E for the premier.

James Lileks

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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