By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
The refreshing and extremely uplifting news that hit us last week is the feat by the popular African American, Tyler Perry, who officially opened his new film village to the rest of the world.
The famed writer/actor/producer/director’s studios occupy a 330-acre lot, the biggest in the world; showcases forty buildings on the National Register of Historic Places in Atlanta, Georgia, with twelve purpose-built sound stages, 200 acres of green space and a diverse back lot. There are over a dozen standing sets and a variety of locations, features and façades, which offer filmmakers an opportunity to maximize their creativity in a secured environment.
The film village has everything including a bank, courtrooms, a county jail, baseball field, a chapel, coffee shop, a diner, farmhouse, a whole district and a lakeside cabin.
Wait, there’s more!
There’s also a mansion, a motel, the Oval Office (a replica of the Office of the President of the USA), a trailer park, modernized theatres, suburban homes, rustic cabin, a prison yard and a replica of the White House.
Here in Ghana, entertainment aficionados are tripping over themselves with glee, obviously excited over the groundbreaking news. While some are sharing the story, TV & Radio show producers tabled the feat for discussion and almost every showbiz lover felt proud of this deed by a Black man.
However, in all these, the question that pops up is; are we inspired enough to see a quarter of Tyler Perry’s historic achievement manifest in our own entertainment landscape?
‘One Man Soldier’
Tyler Perry’s ‘village’ is reported to be larger than most of the renowned film studios in America – Paramount, Warner Bros. and Walt Disney’s Burbank studios all combined; and here is where it gets overly intriguing: He is the first African American to own a studio outright — no corporation or partners are involved in the venture. Amazing!
In Ghana, there’s such an over reliance or dependency on the government to do almost everything; build studios, build theatres, build recreational parks, build this and build that.
Elsewhere, individuals and corporations own the major establishments in the industry. From multi-purposed arenas to film, individuals and organizations own all studios to recreational facilities and entertainment centers.
There are so many respectable and business-minded entrepreneurs in Ghana who see the potential in the arts but lack the will power or the motivation to invest in it. We have corporate firms that can attest to the dividends they accrue from the little association with the arts, yet, they are almost petrified to fully engage and invest in the industry.
To these individuals and all the corporate firms, wowed and sharing the Tyler Perry story, are you not inspired to make a change in our industry too?
Such Economic Relief
It is befuddling to have people still look down on the Arts in this age and time. It is either such persons are blind or are simply ignoramuses.
The economic relief the arts offer is inestimable and for countries that have seen such effects, they continue to support and elevate the arts and its players.
Still on the Tyler Perry example; the man is singlehandedly using equipment, machinery and materials to sustain that gigantic facility, which means he is helping keep manufacturers and Companies that sell such elements in business.
By staying in business, Perry is not shirking his tax responsibilities and by keeping others in business, their taxes are well paid as well and the government stays happy to effect such positive changes in the country.
What is more laudable is the alleviation of unemployment by such a venture. With his 330-acre facility, Tyler Perry has hired thousand of professionals, ranging from fields in Construction, Security, Human Resources, Customer Care, Sound Engineering, Production (Pre and Post), Cinematography, Acting and many others.
With such an investment, Tyler Perry is helping feed thousands of families, and giving the opportunity for others to afford feeding, accommodation and education. With a singular venture, he is providing such economic relief the government would take years to accomplish.
Are you not inspired?
There’s a Convivial Environment
Yes, there must be no over reliance on government to fix most facilities in the entertainment industry but that doesn’t get it off the hook. Government has such a critical task in providing that genial environment for the arts to thrive.
It is responsible for making the laws, issuing directives, regulations and implementing tax relief and setting up funds to facilitate proceedings within the industry. Tyler Perry may not have had any monetary support from the US Government, but he had something crucial from that quarters.
Currently, 39 States in the US offer film tax incentives in the form of credits against state income tax liability The requirements, amount of the credit (expressed as a percentage of the film’s budget), amount of production funds required to be spent in the state, and annual cap on the availability of the credit vary widely. Each state’s film tax commission provides detailed information on the state’s programme.
In 2010, President Barack Obama passed The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Jobs Creation Act of 2010 (Jobs Creation Act) into law. This law allowed production companies to deduct up to US$15 million of the film’s production costs in the year the film is created, rather than repaying the cost over the life of the asset, if 75% of the production funds (inclusive of salaries, fees, union costs and other enumerated expenditures) are spent within the US. The production company could also deduct up to US$20 million if the film is produced in a certified economically distressed area.
Films in the US are legally protected too! Films are subject to protection under the Federal Copyright Act, 17 USC § 101. The Act protects “works of authorship”, including “audiovisual works”, which are defined to include films. Copyright protects rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance, and creation of derivative works.
But wait, there’s more!
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent agency of the United States Government, is the national broadcasting and telecommunications regulatory agency. It has created a ratings system that applies to most television programmes broadcast in the US. Factors taken into consideration when assigning a rating include: sexual content, graphic violence and profanity. The classifications range from: TV-Y (intended for all audiences), TV-PG (parental guidance suggested) and TV-MA (intended for mature audiences only).
Is the Government inspired yet?