Friday, June 22, 2007

An immodest proposal: So you say your movie is eco-friendly? Prove it, and we’ll give you green

If there ever was a movie that should conveniently embrace the go-green zeitgeist, it’s “Evan Almighty.” In it, a congressman is tasked by God to become a modern-day Noah, build an ark and save life from an imminent flood.

If you’re as cynical as I am sometimes – oh, hell, let’s be honest, all the time – you might hear NPR’s recent story about “Evan Almighty’s” carbon-neutral production plan as a PR counteroffensive.

After all, “Evan Almighty” is the most expensive comedy ever made. Its price tag? An ungodly $200 million, including marketing costs.

If this movie fails at the box office, the irony of wasting millions of dollars, and consuming small forests of ark-building supplies, to make a delusional environmental comedy – apparently, the computer-generated flood is almighty but spares all lives – could have put the Universal execs on the defensive.

But those studio execs have all the answers they need for nosey reporters come Sunday night when box office numbers, good or bad, are reported.

Reporter: “So you wasted millions making a pseudo-eco movie that ultimately says nothing about the reality of global warning?”

Exec: “Not really. Our intentions were good. Our production plan was carbon-neutral.”

Reporter: “Carbon what?”

Exec: “Yeah, we planted enough trees to swallow up the emissions generated by the making of the film.”

Reporter: “Really? Maybe I should have bought a ticket.”

According to NPR’s story, “Evan Almighty” did work to reduce significantly its carbon footprint. That’s good news to anyone who considers global warming a menacing reality. (I’m a green sympathizer, if you can’t tell.)

The makers of “Evan Almighty" are setting a mighty example, and our state should take heed.

Louisiana should invest in meaningful go-green tax credit initiatives for the entertainment industry – and for all industries, for that matter – if for no other reason than Hollywood shapes public opinion.

Without “An Inconvenient Truth” or “March of the Penguins,” do you think millions of moviegoers would care two cents (or $7.50 per ticket) about the plight of our feathered friends in Antarctica? Not a chance.

If production companies come to Louisiana and successfully execute carbon-neutral production plans, the state should reward them.

Used hybrid vehicles to transport cast and crew? Buy only biodiesel fuel? Make the crew members ride bicycles or rickshaws? Set aside a conservation fund to plant enough trees to effectively renew the piles of lumber used to build sets? Plant even more trees to swallow up the emissions generated by plane tickets and trucks? Recycle every paper scrap, aluminum can and plastic water bottle used? Compost food waste? Donate money to in-state eco-friendly nonprofits like Chimp Haven or Audubon Nature Institute?

If production companies can prove they are making a sincere attempt to be green, the state should give them a 35 percent tax credit on all related in-state expenses.

Movie industry advocates often tell us that their industry is a clean one, suggesting that it tidies up its messes and doesn’t negatively impact the environment.

But that’s not really true, as Tom Shadyac, director of “Evan Almighty,” suggests in his interview with NPR. He’s aware his crew of 400 used lots of fuel just to get where they were going every day. He’s aware that a movie production generates a lot of daily waste in the form of paper and trash. He’s aware that an airplane advertising blitz for “Evan Almighty” over Lake Michigan consumed lots of jet fuel.

“Those poisons, we chose to offset by planting trees,” Shadyac told NPR. The simple plan was much better than no plan at all.

“The idea is to minimize the hypocrisy,” Shadyac continued. “Once the intent is there, I think at lease the ship is steering in the right direction. We can solve these problems.”

If go-green tax incentives come from state-led initiatives, great. If they come from the federal level, even better.

For now, whatever Louisiana can do to demonstrate its entertainment industry is forward-thinking will pay off in a flood of goodwill.

Do I hear an amen?


Anonymous said...

Green huh..... I don't even like lettuce! The whole global warming trend is a total scam. That being said, it couldn't hurt to have the incentives you mentioned in place. Others might believe the farce that has been created about carbon emmisions, and if having tax credits in place helps bring that production our way, I'm all for it! Heck, I might even try lettuce if it works. :-)

Anonymous said...

That will never happen in Louisiana. Remember how big the oil and gas industry is here? Its in the state's best interest for production to use as much gasoline as possible.

Chris Lyon said...

A-freakin men to Alex and a big boo hoo to Mr. Anonymous. I do agree that global warming isn't directly due to our impact, but we sure as hell don't help the environment.

Even if an entity is "green" that doesn't mean that all they are trying to do is stop global warming. For example , by planting trees they are replenishing forests that clean the air and generate oxygen that we need to BREATHE.

It's not always about global warming. It might also have something to do with the fact that we have to breathe oxygen to live. I dunno. If you think you can handle life without it- be my guest.

m said...

AMEN Alex.

And, anonymous, I don't think it's in the state's best interest to not go green. I think that if Louisiana is interested in the money and reputation they're building from their burgeoning film industry, then they might be interested in making Hollywood happy.

And, don't kid yourself ... global climate change is a very real problem. Talk to anyone in the sciences?

Chris-Brad said...

First, I have to admit upfront that I have never bought into the hype that is global warming. Like Chris Lyon said, I see that the earth is slowly warming, but I really don't believe that humans are the biggest factor. Plus, climate change IS a cyclical issue of warming and cooling. And, yes, one of my closest friends is a graduate student in Maryland working on her degree in environmental science (that and I am a smart guy who was a biology major for three years...). I have had plenty of discussions with her and others about this issue, so I do take my opinion seriously.

Having said that, and getting back to the point of this blog topic, I really don't think Louisiana needs to waste its time and effort on "green tax credits." Why? Look at the news of the past few weeks. Story after story about how the state is already having problems with the current tax credits. Could anyone imagine actually regulating productions and then investigating them to see if they were truly "green?"

That would be a massive undertaking. The state can't afford to just take the word of the production companies anymore. And a lot of these businesses that claim to offset carbon emissions by planting trees elsewhere are not all they are made out to be, if not out and out fradulent. And even those that aren't? Well, will the state fly half way around the world to see if trees are really being planted in the numbers claimed? And even if these trees were planted in Louisiana, does this state really want to expend its already taxed resources on counting trees and making sure plastic bottles are recycled?

Of course not. Sure, in this politically correct world I'd love to say that everything is wonderful, and that this state could afford to do it. Even as a naysayer on this entire issue, I do recycle because it is something that is important. But I would hate to see Louisiana jump on this particular bandwagon. I really would.

Another thing to keep in mind is the reasons these films are coming to Louisiana in the first place. Sure, there are the current tax credits. There is also the issue of lower costs. And, possibly one of the more overlooked reasons, there are far, far fewer regulations and issues to deal with in Louisiana. Like Shreveport's own film office says: "Red carpet, not red tape." In places like California and Canada, where environmental issues are both paramount and vogue, film productions have to really watch themselves. Now, I'm not saying they come here to pollute left and right, but the environmental impacts they have to account for in this state are surely fewer than in other places. How long would it be before outside influences made voluntary green productions mandatory? Granted, that may never happen, but it could.

But there is even another issue that I have to bring up. And that is the notion that certain "charities" could be supported by the film companies in exchange for these credits. Sure, donations made out of goodwill and good intent are wonderful. But it really sickens me to think that this state could dole out tax credits in exchange for donations. That, my friends, is tax credit payola. And the last thing this state needs is another form of payoffs. Even if the intent is well meant, it just looks dirty. Now, if they want to give, they are free to give. But we shouldn't start giving out favors and tax breaks to those who do. That just opens a door Louisiana can't afford to walk through.

So, to your end question, Alexandyr, you don't get an "amen" from my corner. You do get a thumbs up for having your heart in the right place, but green tax credits will bleed this state's film industry red.

PS. And what wacky drug were the people who made "Evan Almighty" on when they spent $200 million? For that kind of money I could have paid to make "An Inconvenient Truth 2: The Other Side of the Story!" Well, that and bought myself one of those two-month long Mediterranean cruises....

Alexandyr Kent said...

Do I at least hear an amen for "Evan Almighty" being an almightily terrible movie?

Chris-Brad said...

Yeah, you'll get your amen for that statement. "Evan Almighty" was just.... well, bad doesn't do it justice!