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in Filmmaking
on Jan 27, 2007

In the wake of the controversy involving Hounddog, the Sundance premiere which featured a brief scene in which the character played by young actress Dakota Fanning is raped, a North Carolina politician is proposing that the state Senate review and approve screenplays for films receiving the state filming tax incentive.

From an article by Mark Schreiner in the Wilmington Star:

Citing the controversy surrounding the Dakota Fanning film Hounddog, the leader of the state Senate Republicans says he wants the government to review scripts before cameras start rolling in North Carolina.

That system, said state Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, would apply only to films seeking the state’s lucrative filmmaker incentive, which refunds as much as 15 percent of what productions spend in North Carolina from the state treasury.

“Why should North Carolina taxpayers pay for something they find objectionable?” said Berger, who is having proposed legislation drafted.

It is not known whether Hounddog’s producers have or will apply for the incentive. A call Thursday to the N.C. Department of Revenue, which oversees incentive payments, was not returned.

Sen. Julia Boseman, D-New Hanover, one of the backers of the new law that created the current incentive system, said she couldn’t say much until she saw Berger’s proposal in writing.

“There’s no bill yet to take a look at,” she said. “But I am always willing to consider reasonable ways to improve the program.”

She did say she thought looking at scripts before shooting starts might be meaningless because a script could be changed during production.

“We should consider the end product,” she said, “which is what our current system is designed to do.”

State law denies the incentive to films that are obscene. In state law, obscenity is defined as depicting sexual conduct presented in an offensive way that appeals to prurient interest, lacks any “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” and is not free speech protected by the state or federal constitutions.

Berger said the film-incentive ban should be broadened to include material considered objectionable. He said there should be no First Amendment concerns because the producer would be seeking money from the state government. But he did say that if constitutional questions confused the matter, it would be better not to have a film incentive at all.

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