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Costs to make ABC’s ‘Nashville’ look authentic depends on taxpayers

By   /   August 16, 2013  /   2 Comments

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Tennessee officials say it makes zero sense to give taxpayer money to any film production that would shoot on location, in Tennessee, regardless of incentives.

But isn’t ABC’s “Nashville” a show that relies on a unique location?   

As previously reported, state officials gave the show $12.5 million to continue filming on location for its second season.

Tennessee Watchdog asked the question of Laura Elkins, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, which oversees the program.

As Tennessee Watchdog pointed out, others in the state also have posed the question.

ON-LOCATION: ABC's Nashville films on location, which gives the series a certain authenticity. Pictured is Nashville's world-famous Broadway Street (photo by Chris Butler)

ON-LOCATION: ABC’s Nashville films on location, which gives the series a certain authenticity. Pictured is Nashville’s world-famous Broadway Street (photo by Chris Butler)

“That is not an assertion we are familiar with. What we heard advocates of the series say publicly is that it would not make sense to film it anywhere else based on the need to be authentic,” Elkins said.

“That is much, much different than saying it would film here regardless. So, again, the assertion you are making is not one we have heard anyone make. Who made such an assertion?”

Tennessee Watchdog told Elkins that Justin Owen, president of the Nashville-based Beacon Center, a free-market think tank, discussed the matter at a widely publicized press conference in June.

At the press conference, Owen said::

“If they are going to shoot a show called ‘Nashville’ then they are going to shoot it in Nashville. If they don’t then everybody is going to think it’s shot in Nashville, so we are going to get the same benefit,” Owen said.

Elkins responded by saying that taxpayer investment in “Nashville” offers a unique marketing opportunity for the state and that the beliefs espoused by Owen and others who agree with him are incorrect.

“In the professional opinion of our film staff, that assertion is way off base. Typically, movies and films do not film in the localities they portray. So, it is the department’s view that money spent on incentives for ‘Nashville’ were a key factor in keeping the show in Tennessee,” Elkins said.

Ben Cunningham, president of the Nashville-based Tennessee Tax Revolt, said Elkins and other ECD officials are “living in a bubble.”

“It’s the bizarre world of economic development where bribery with taxpayer money is represented as something good for the taxpayer. It’s giving a few bureaucrats an extraordinary amount of power to implement an agenda. It’s just absurd and should be left to the private sector,” Cunningham said.

Quoting network figures, Elkins said “Nashville” reaches 8.2 million viewers nationwide.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org

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Chris Butler is the Tennessee bureau reporter for Watchdog.org. Chris has nearly a decade of newspaper reporting experience and also has awards from the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press as well as the Louisiana Press Association. He earned his bachelor's degree from Louisiana Tech University and his master's degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Click the Facebook or Twitter icons below to follow Chris on his official social media accounts.

  • Prospector69

    ECD didn’t think this though. You could not have shot “Bullet” in Dallas and claimed it was San Francisco! Think of all the free props the series gets to film. That has a value to the film company. All the “extras” they don’t have to pay as a back drop. I’ve been about a bit so I know the back drops and the sky lines of many cities.
    They wanted authentic for their film. Okay, I can see helping with police support and maybe some other support but no money!

  • Brian of Wise

    stop taxing? hell stop whining. it brings tourism dollars. no REAL people or business owners are complaining..you are built in.