Gov. Corbett’s money production makes for comedic cautionary tale
Lights! Camera! Inaction!
Welcome to the set of “Scofflaw Studios,” a new movie being filmed locally. A comedic cautionary tale of the consequences of not properly doing your job, the film appears to be a joint production of alarmingly inefficient state and Allegheny County bureaucrats.
This madcap romp’s budget has been set at $2.5 million, mere peanuts by major studio standards. That probably isn’t enough to cover the makeup costs of turning actors into Middle Earth inhabitants for the surefire upcoming blockbuster, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”
Still, Pennsylvania taxpayers who could end up financing the project can be forgiven for being upset. What constitutes chump change to big-time Hollywood producers such as Jerry Bruckheimer is extravagant expense to most people in Munhall.
The plot concerns a down-on-his-luck governor (played by Gov. Tom Corbett; typecasting, I know) racing around his state in the waning days of his re-election campaign. During a Pittsburgh-area appearance, he announces a $2.5 million grant to help pay for a $10 million expansion of Island Studios in McKees Rocks.
The plot takes an unexpected twist, probably because audiences usually aren’t enthralled with anticipated ones.
Court records indicate the movie studio owner has more than $540,000 in back taxes, unpaid loans and payments owed to contractors. (Former Fox Chapel resident and current Pittsburgh Film Office board member Michael Dolan plays the studio head, a role for which he seemingly was born.)
Despite Dolan’s having sued the state over the amount of taxes he owes, and his reassurances that all outstanding debts will be settled, uproar ensues. People are upset that a portion of the property taxes they pay on time might directly benefit someone who is tardy with his own taxes.
Slapstick bureaucratic backpedaling begins immediately.
The governor’s office says that no check will be cut until the project is reviewed, prompting astute observers to ask: Shouldn’t that have been done before the grant was announced?
The governor’s office notes that it is the county’s responsibility to vet its grant applicants. County officials counter they never applied for the money on the studio’s behalf, which would explain why they blew off vetting. The governor’s office produces a July letter from its budget office to the county stating the state indeed received an application, but doesn’t produce the actual application.
No one can explain how Dolan got the grant that he now might not end up getting. Much head-scratching ensues.
“Scofflaw Studios” has garnered abysmal word-of-mouth, an extremely rare occurrence for a movie that hasn’t finished filming and whose ending has yet to be scripted. That doesn’t bode well for the movie having box office success, or a widespread theatrical release.
When it comes to this stinker, seems as though the director long ago should have yelled, “Cut!”
Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or [email protected].