Thursday, September 25, 2008

To be creative is "ordinary"

Mr. Harper's awoken a giant. Make sure you read Margaret Atwood in the Globe today. What a beautiful, powerful piece that is. She puts Stephen Harper to shame for what he said the other day. You will not believe it, it's so freaking amazing. Just one brief excerpt:
Every budding dictatorship begins by muzzling the artists, because they're a mouthy lot and they don't line up and salute very easily.
In addition - and I almost feel very small in writing about this after having read the Atwood piece - there's a timely contrast to the short-sighted approach being taken by Harper in using arts funding as a political wedge issue, set out in a NY Times article today, "Tax Credits Bring More TV Shows to New York City." A few details to demonstrate how the Americans are presently taking the opposite track to the Harper government by encouraging arts smart public policy that benefits local economies:
...thanks to tax discounts recently instituted by New York City and New York State, the show is now being filmed in New York, at sound stages in Long Island City and locations throughout the five boroughs.

“Ugly Betty” was not the only series to take notice of these incentives. The city expects 19 prime-time television series (up from 12 last year) to be produced in New York for the 2008-9 season, according to the mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting. They include NBC’s “30 Rock,” whose creator and star, Tina Fey, gave thanks in an Emmy acceptance speech on Sunday night to the New York tax discounts that made it viable to shoot in New York; Fox’s “Fringe” which, without the tax breaks, would have been shot in Toronto; HBO’s “In Treatment,” another recent transplant from Los Angeles; as well as forthcoming pilots on ABC, Showtime and USA.

The tax incentives have also been a financial boon to the city: the mayor’s office estimated that city-based shoots contributed $957 million in spending between April 23 and Sept. 23 of this year, an increase from $452 million during the same period last year. (emphasis added)
Further, state level efforts are also being made in and around New York to entice film and television production:
Around the same time, the city and state of New York were initiating measures to encourage more film and television shoots. In September 2004, George E. Pataki, then the governor, signed into law a program offering a 10 percent tax credit to companies shooting 75 percent of their productions in the state; in January 2005, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg approved a companion program that provided an additional 5 percent tax credit to productions in the city.

In April, after neighboring states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut created similar programs, offering tax credits as high as 25 or 30 percent, Gov. David A. Paterson signed a law increasing the New York State credit to 30 percent. New York City added free outdoor marketing, on the sides of buses, for example, and discounts with nearby vendors. More studio space was built in Brooklyn and Queens.
These governments are clearly taking these steps because they believe it's a valuable industry to be encouraging within their jurisdictions. It's a jarring contrast to the approach presently being witnessed here where the Prime Minister is choosing to gratuitously incite resentment against the arts community rather than demonstrating support. Where the Prime Minister chooses to reduce current arts spending by axing programmes without consultation and not even hinting that there's anything in the pipeline to replace such programmes. It's also ironic that American jurisdictions are going out of their way to foster such funding when they are typically viewed as having more of a free market ethos than we are and we're the ones, through these cuts, telling the arts community to sink or swim on their own.