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Ed Driscoll

‘Hollywood, Babble On’

August 31st, 2013 - 4:56 pm

“Mayor Garcetti does not know how to save the L.A. economy,” Kevin D. Williamson writes at NRO (love the title, by the way). Garcetti’s futile efforts to stem the tide of film and television productions abandoning California for other states, and Canada, which offer tax incentives and less punitive, rapacious governments, are a symptom of much larger problem:

If politicians could simply create a set of policies that would bring desired businesses to their jurisdictions, they would do so. Everybody wants movies and high-tech companies, and everybody with good sense wants factories, warehouses, and energy producers, too. But politicians cannot do that. As California has shown, they cannot even design policies to preserve what they already have. From the Reagan years to the present, there has been no progress on that front, even when there was a Hollywood man in the governor’s office.

Economic conditions and markets will always change more quickly than public policy can account for. The question for Mr. Garcetti and for the ladies and gentlemen in Sacramento is not how to keep the movies and television shows in California but how to make California an attractive place to do business of any sort. That begins with admitting to themselves that if Silicon Valley and Hollywood weren’t already in California, nobody in their right mind would move them there. California’s fiscal instability, its rapacious unions, its enterprise-deadening public sector, and its recent experiments with ex post facto taxation all must give pause to investors, as must the plainly unsustainable finances of the state as a whole and the city of Los Angeles in particular. A film czar isn’t going to turn that around, and California doesn’t have enough money to bribe its marquee industry into staying put. Saving California means deep and wide top-to-bottom reform, which means dispatching a whole herd of sacred cows to the slaughterhouse. If Eric Garcetti is the man for that job, he has never given any indication of the fact. The fact that he’s still thinking in terms of czars and chickenfeed incentives suggests that he is miles away from understanding the nature of the problem.

Robert Conquest’s First Law of Politics posits that “Everyone is conservative about what he knows best,” and Hollywood is no different. Last night, I watched the Blu-Ray of Black Rain, starring Michael Douglas, and directed by Ridley Scott. Released in 1989, in-between Michael Keaton’s Gung Ho and Sean Connery’s Rising Sun, the film is the second in Hollywood’s unofficial late-’80s and early-’90s trilogy of films warning American audiences that Japan was about to supplant America as a world superpower, because of its powerful, all-knowing government, intertwined corporatist business environment, and collectivist thinking. “Perhaps you should think less of yourself and more of your group; try to work like in Japanese,” the local police liaison in Tokyo sagely advises Douglas’s cliched rogue cop in the film.

Meanwhile in reality, on the disc’s making-of featurette, Ridley Scott and producer Sherry Lansing discuss how they had to ultimately abandon Japan as a filming location, because the rigid local government in each city the crew filmed in required Kafkaesque massive amounts of paperwork, demanded to know where every light would be placed, and wouldn’t permit even a half hour of overtime shooting. “When the crew ran a few minutes over filming at a location in Japan, they were not only told to leave, a man physically walked in front of the camera and forbade them from continuing filming,” IMDB notes, which Lansing also mentioned on the disc. The film’s final act, involving a shootout and motorcycle chase ostensibly within a foggy Japanese farm, ended up being shot at a heavily disguised Napa Valley winery back in California.

“The high cost and red tape involved in filming in Japan prompted director Scott to declare that he would never film in that country again,” according to Wikipedia, which may even be right on this one. Thus, even before the film was complete, its producers were learning why it was unlikely that Japanese world domination was going to happen anytime soon, unlike the subtext of the film. And having learned this lesson in freedom and how a stifling government tramples entrepreneurship and creativity, every “above the line” member of the film’s production team and most of its stars went on to enthusiastically vote for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, to trample your freedom.

Which brings us full circle:

Oh, and by the way — repeal the Hollywood tax cuts!

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All Comments   (9)
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I only comment because i disagree, yet i usually enjoy your writing and agree with it. So now i feel like heel, but.

First, I think the phrase about being conservative about what you know is a little too cute and it loses meaning in trying to sound deep. Sure, people are more idealistic, quixotic, about stuff which they are ignorant of, and modern liberalism gravitates toward idealistic solutions. Because this it true it does not necessarily mean the opposite is true. I know plenty of "conservatives" that want gov. regulation in their industry (to protect them of course,) or conservative politicians that think intervention in the free market is important on their pet issue. In fact, I think the closer many people are to a subject the more likely they are to think that "experts" should "regulate" instead of leaving it to the chaos of the free market.

So while i think there is some truth in the statement, this phrase is at best an oversimplification, and more likely a glib snark void of information.

To my point. (also posted at AoS where they linked your article.)

I know nothing about making movies in Japan, but here are some facts:
1. eminent domain seizures are near impossible in Japan. Take a gander at a satellite photo of Narita's north "runway" one day (yes, that is a house in the middle.
2. private property is respected. When I lived in Nakano, Tokyo there was a resident that hated his neighbors (not near me) that used his backyard as a sewer and garbage dump to stink up the block. The authorities eventually got permission from a relative that had an ownership stake in the property to come in and clean it up. This took months, and until they had permission, it was his property to do as he wished.
3. Police take off their shoes to enter your house.
4. Gov. is local. After Fukushima, each town had meetings to figure out how to mitigate any radiation. Each decision was made locally. (should we scrape the playground? restrict kids from outdoor play? close the park? etc.) Citizens were present. dump sites were arranged, etc. In the US the feds would have taken over and f****ed it all up, but in Japan each city dealt with it minimizing waste, distress, delay, and unfairness.

Compare to the US -- park your car on the street when they are going to make a movie -- f*** you it's towed. Own a shop where they want to put a trailer -- f*** you it's inaccessible for a week. Sleep with a window facing a street -- f*** you we need the lights shinning in your window.

So, maybe it's difficult to make a movie here, but maybe those a**holes from hollywood were expecting the cities to throw cash at them with one hand and strangle the rights of their citizens with the other.

Where you read the guys on the DVD as wanting a "conservative" approach, I think they probably just wanted the Tokyo or national gov. to manhandle the situation to make their life easier -- very un-conservative if you ask me. Sure, they did not want the regulation that affected them, but they were not buying a piece of land, contracting with employees, and going about their business -- they were filming in a bunch of cities on public land and they wanted gov. to cooperate as they "borrowed" that land for their own purposes. To me, a conservative gov. has little power to take private, or public, land without a lot of necessary steps.

I would be more impressed if Ridley Scott tried to open a machine shop and after struggling with red tape had to give up. As it is, I have opened factories in California, and I can say never again. I have also lived in Japan and it seems they let you pretty much do as you with with your own property as long as it does not affect others. In Nakano I had one neighbor that actually did run a machine shop out of his garage. Every morning he opened the door and starting around 6:30 three or four machinist were welding, grinding, machining in a residential neighborhood -- careful not to make too much noise or allow sparks to fly out onto the sidewalk, but there they were. Very, very strange after living in CA.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I know nothing about making movies in Japan"
Nor do you seem to get the point of the article. I'm guessing you missed the "Which brings us full circle" portion...
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Politicians are afraid to let pain happen. Instead they want giveaways of bread and circuses so their constituents love them. This can only go on so long until the whole thing collapses. We are close to that point. Pain will happen eventually despite the politicians best efforts.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
The unions are killing Hollywood too. An indie producer told a story of the company flying to location, with all the producers, directors, etc., in coach and the one SAG actor in first class, as required by rules. He thought, Next time, Canada.

And the unions have upped the cost of joining too, in fees and apprentice hours worked, so they know it's a losing game.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
After so many horrific failures, the only way the left can still trumpet Marxism is by assuring themselves
that it has never REALLY been adopted.

Because, by golly, when they adopt Marxism like it should be, everything will be wonderful.

Same thing with economic stimulus. The claim will be that, of course, it hasn't worked yet. We've got to spend more money! If we just tripled the amount of money spent on green causes, and quadrupled the money spent on dysfunctional schools, and we REALLY taxed the rich, our economy would skyrocket!

It just HAS TO!
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually...

It's been my experience -- with all due respect to the great Robert Conquest -- that his first law is exactly wrong.

Everyone I know is LIBERAL about what they know best.

Look at the gay conservatives who are down the line right wing -- but pro-gay marriage. I'd need more coffee to come up with other examples but I've written about it before...
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Addendum: I have that the strongest supporters of gay marriage are single people.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Um, why would your gay friends know anything about marriage?

Gotta give this one to Conquest.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ed, it makes my teeth itch that the left is (almost) succeeding at convincing low information voters that "tax cuts must be paid for", as though it is benevolent that the government "allows" us to keep our own money.
Thoughtful yet ire inducing article.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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