Friday, May 23, 2008

Yessirree, we bought us a MO-vie! 

The Coen Brothers are the latest shakedown artists to get the state government to part with taxpayer dollars.

After flirting with Milwaukee, Joel and Ethan Coen will begin shooting their next film in the Twin Cities this fall.

"A Serious Man," concerning a Jewish family living in St. Louis Park, has held open casting calls for local talent and scouted locations around the area.

But the production company also explored shooting the comedy/drama in Milwaukee's suburbs, lured by Wisconsin's film subsidies, which are more generous than Minnesota's.

When the Legislature passed a measure granting $500,000 to the production, Focus Features green-lit the project within 24 hours. The film is expected to generate $6 million to $7 million for the state's economy.

Seriously, how do they know the film will generate $6-$7 million? Most of these studies use economic multipliers, like this one from Virginia, assuming an additional $1.12 of follow-on spending for each direct dollar spent. That state estimated $20 million from 15 film projects in 2002, including Gods and Generals. (Note, the economic impact doesn't depend on how good the movie is or was.)

Why stop at the Coens? If you can leverage $500k into $6 million in income (and thereby collect maybe 10% between sales and income taxes), why not pay all comers?