Do We Want to Invite Activist Hollywood to North Dakota?

A scene from the now-defunct ABC drama "Blood and Oil" which was set in North Dakota's oil fields but filmed in Utah Fargo Forum file photo

David Diebel, a producer and co-owner of Bismarck-based DN Cinematics and a board member of the North Dakota Film and Media Association, joined me on a recent episode of the podcast to talk about the question of incentives for film/television production in our state.

The Legislature ordered a study into the matter which if completed (it will be up to a committee whether or not to take it up) should help inform the debate.

During our interview I found Diebel’s arguments persuasive. If we could bring more production to North Dakota it would not only drive commerce, but it would also create more in-state opportunities for North Dakotans wishing to work in that industry. Which, in turn, could be a real boon for a state in desperate need of economic diversification.

Suffice it to say that I’m supportive of the concept – a change from my previous opposition – but I’d need to know the specifics.

I am given some pause, however, as I watch what Hollywood celebrities are currently doing to Georgia.

That state’s political leaders have put into law some new restrictions on abortion, and now Hollywood says they’re going to boycott the state.

This is not a small matter. Georgia has a very successful incentives program for film/television production that has lured projects like The Walking DeadOzark, Stranger Things, and various Marvel movies to the state, but now certain luminaries in the entertainment industry are using that economic clout to bludgeon the state for sinning against liberal orthodoxy (actress Alyssa Milano is also calling for a sex strike, but that’s a different sort of tactic I suppose).

Georgia’s elected leaders passed a law Hollywood doesn’t like, and now Hollywood is out to punish the state.

Setting aside for a moment your feelings about Georgia’s new restrictions on abortion, do we want to Hollywood in a position to have a sort of veto over North Dakota policy?

I think we’d all love it if film and television production was done here. Heck, not even projects based in North Dakota are filmed in North Dakota.

Remember when that ABC show Blood and Oil tried to portray the Bakken oil boom with the craggy mountains of Utah in the background? It would be nice to change that.

But if the price is sanctimonious Hollywood celebrities thinking their presence in our state gives them license to belittle our politics, maybe the answer should be “no thanks.”

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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