“New Mexico Film Week 2018” is a wrap, and yesterday Errors of Enchantment was on hand for “NM Film & TV Day” at the Roundhouse. The gathering, organized by IATSE Local 480, follows a familiar pattern. Union boss Jon Hendy kicks of the festivities. (This year, he didn’t introduce himself. Why bother? Everyone present knew who he was.) Then a C-list thespian with some type of New Mexico connection is trotted out to extol the wonders of “organized” labor and the Land of Enchantment’s subsidies to film and television productions. A lawmaker then shows up to offer a pep-rally-style stemwinder, and a call to lobby his or her colleagues to maintain, if not enhance, taxpayers’ giveaways to Hollywood.
This year, the performer-as-lobbyist was Brendan Fehr, a dubious choice. His New-Mexico-shot program, The Night Shift, was cancelled in October. Fehr praised the state’s “film-friendly legislation,” and wailed that his wife and children had come to love their new home, and didn’t want to “go back to California.” (Prediction: The family will return within the year.)
The pol was Rep. Bill McCamley, a Democrat who’s running for state auditor. A shameless supporter of economic planning — he was a driving force behind the hideous boondoggle that is “Spaceport America” — the Mesilla Park solon expressed his desire to “create an economy that works for everybody,” not just the rich. (How enriching media moguls produces the outcome he’s looking for was not explored.) Hendry honored McCamley with a framed production still from Breaking Bad.
IATSE’s boss capped off the pseudo-event by getting political, assuring the faithful that the next governor — “she” — would surely “give us enough money” to keep working. At the very end, Hendry led the crowd in a scream-session. (“THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!”)
Over the weekend, Errors of Enchantment attended the New Mexico State Film Office’s “Education Summit,” which featured an army of educrats employed by the Land of Enchantment’s 21 (!) public higher-ed entities that offer courses in film-and-television production. (At the start of the event, an employee of the office literally carried IATSE’s water, hauling in a case of the union’s ubiquitous bottles of hydration.) The highlight of the summit was Grubb Graebner, a onetime playwright who found more a reliable — and doubtless, more lucrative — gig in education. He mentioned that the “industry” in New Mexico “all depends on state incentives,” and that it would be “gone tomorrow” without subsidization. No kidding.
Errors of Enchantment wasn’t able to attend each of the dozens of events held during New Mexico Film Week 2018, but it’s a safe bet that no mention was ever made of the broad and deep consensus that corporate welfare for billion-dollar studios is a loser. Whether on the left or the right, analysts concur. So does Michael Thom, an assistant professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy, who found that “incentives” are “a bad investment,” yielding “short-term wage gains, mostly to people who already work in the industry.” The latest state-level examination was conducted by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission of Virginia’s General Assembly, which concluded that perks yielded “a low return in revenue to the state” — 20 cents per dollar for the commonwealth’s tax credit, 30 cents per dollar for its grant.
Rest assured, IATSE’s aggressive push to expand New Mexico’s subsidize-Hollywood policy architecture will only intensify. And many of the state’s elected officials will remain eager to hand your hard-earned dollars to an industry that does very little to create real economic development.