Saturday, January 13, 2007

David Bennett resigns under pressure

David Bennett, executive director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission has been dumped -- given a choice of resigning or being fired by Gov. Phil Bredesen. What will this do to the state's struggle to bring in more film production? Bennett was one of the good guys who labored mightily to get the General Assembly on board with a $10 million incentive package that passed last year.

Here's the news story by Mike Lollar at the CA and go here for commentary from Pith in the Wind with the Nashville Scene.


Anonymous said...

This truely is a sad day for our state. We could have really used the jobs and spending here in our state, given the school situations, healthcare needs, and not to mention the rising crime. The money would've really went a long way toward improving these areas. Now, we can only hope that the Govenor will do the right thing and carry through with his promise and by putting a" QUALIFIED " individual in place to carry the torch. He sure has some mighty big shoes to fill, let's hope he's up for the task. In the event that neither is true, don't be silent and take it lying down, voice your concerns and remember when election time returns.

DGS said...

There are people in this world who do things. People of stature and character who envision great things and make them happen. These people are the drivers of most things good in the world.

It is a great shame that their great actions are so threatening to others.

David Bennett is one of those men of action. It is a great shame that we are losing him due to petty politics.

I know he will continue to be the man who gets things done. I just wish it were still on our behalf.

Anonymous said...

There you go folks - show your ignorance to the world... Believe everything you hear... Mr. Pink, I've heard a few things too... It's always nice to have a "friend in the business" - after all, it's "who you know" isn't it? Your source must've had dinner with Bennett a time or two - because your view is all wrong. You obviously have only considered one side of the story. Mark Mays - you make some sense.

Read this article before you comment further.

The guy actually admits that he took people out for a night on the town because a film won some awards... How much money did that film rake in? Why should tax-dollars foot the bill for the champagne?

Even Bennett admits he wasn't lobbying for the incentive bill. Don't give him sole credit for that - he's not a martyr. The FILM COMMUNITY banded together and spoke out. It's called - voters taking action.

Political pressure? It's called politics, buddy - I'd hope there was pressure to perform from somewhere... Wah, wah, wah - what job doesn't have pressure? Try getting paid $21,000 a year and having no expense account and 2 kids... Then we'll talk pressure.

Village Roadshow had nothing to do with it. They weren't coming to Tennessee - period. And Tennessee government is very into the "incentives game" - so do go fooling yourself thinking he was canned because an incentive package was approved. Bennett had nothing to do with Village Roadshow - just like he HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH bringing "Walk the Line" or "Hustle and Flow" to Tennessee. Those decisions were made by people in much higher positions - influenced by the director and producer. Does the name Johnny Cash ring a bell? The script was written before he died. He met with Phoenix about the role. He insisted the story be made in Tennessee. Sound to good to be true? Sounds like common sense to me. And Bennett avoided "Hustle and Flow" like a plague until it won the awards. Then he began taking credit for it. Go ahead, ask the film crew what happened to the state cars Bennett had promised them? They never showed up - but at least it was for good reason - because the film had been getting bad press early on because of the rape allegations... Bennett backed out on that deal to save face (which is understandable). I'm surprised the movie makers haven't stood up and laughed in his face when he tries to take credit. Memphis is the real deal, with long-time commissioner Linn Sitler. That lady won't waste a dime or her time - and gets more "big wigs" into town without having to spend your money foolishly.

Plain and simple - Bennett couldn't manage his own department's budget of $500,000 - so they didn't want him to fail YOU, the taxpayer, by wasting $10 million. It was a strategic move - probably carefully planned and discussed - designed to protect the State and eliminate waste.

Sorry DGS, David Bennett was ANYTHING BUT a man of action. He was a man of talk. Yes, his job was to meet with executives - but let the millionaires pay for their own plane ticket! A "glad-hander" who finally got caught selling BS... Wasting tax-payer dollars and having nothing to show for it. Anything he accomplished was not "for our behalf" and you can't be that ignorant to think he was really out there fighting for the "little guy." His 80,000 salary must not have been enough, because he spent WELL OVER $40,000 more living the "good life" on tax-payer dollars. Do you get to spend other people's money taking your friends out to the Palm on the weekends - without having to spend your own money?

Anastasia Brown is going to bat for Bennett because word on the street is she stood to gain a cool million of the $10 million for Nashville Star - and naturally Bennett was going to get the VIP access and all the credit he wanted for sponsoring a show that didn't need any help...

Bennett had a habit of wasting money - bottom line. Ask anyone who knew - how valuable was this $50,000 "consultant" that came in to work on the incentives? Even Bennett's deputy told insiders that it was a total waste and that she wrote the entire proposal. What about his producer buddy, Mitchell Galin? After serving on the Film Production Advisory Committe, he was paid off to "get Bennett in the door" in California.

The State allows for spending and recruitment - when you're trips accomplish something. ECD Commissioner Matt Kisber travels too, about once a quarter. Bennett brags that he spend over 50 nights in California last year. On your dime - mind you. He was fired for money-management reasons alone.

There are lots of nasty rumors floating around about this. If we all knew the "real story" (which I'm sure won't ever surface) - we'd probably be pretty pissed and want him gone sooner. I hope the State pays more attention to it's directors and their unquestionable expense accounts now...

I'd love a job that paid me to get drunk and paid for the booze - who wouldn't?

$125 for 3 salads and 3 teas? Give me a break. Even IF that is what he bought - I'd rather see my tax dollars spent in our schools or roads and not on a "film-welfare" program.

Who justifies these expenses? Who can really sit and think about this and think it was all okay? Apparently someone had a problem with it. Our governor doesn't even take a salary? I doubt it is so Bennett can spend, spend, spend. Hey, I've got potential, take me to dinner at the Palm and get me drunk! I want some snacks and beverages?

David Keith's dinner was so they could talk. Keith had been making appearances on behalf of Bennett to lobby for the incentives since Bennett wasn't allowed to... (aka - illegal?) And Keith was proud to announce to people that he expected to get a couple million of this fund he was fighting so hard for... If these people are so successful, why can't they buy their own meals? Why can't these movies pay for themselves?

If you can't take the heat - stay out of the kitchen.

Hey media - do a little more digging! You never know what else you might uncover.

Chris said...

Why can't Nissan pay for itself? Why can't Yamakawa Steel pay for itself? Why can't Saturn pay for itself? Why can't United Technologies, who took an untold amount of public money and then turned around and closed the largest air conditioning plant in the world in Middle Tennessee, pay for itself? Why can't everybody in downtown Memphis recieving tax freezes pay for themselves? Why can't FedEx pay for airport upgrades without state money? Why can the Grizzlies get away with fraudulently taking $6 million to build a parking garage and then making money by charging the same taxpayers who they just defrauded to park there to see a shitty, overpaid basketball team? And just how much are the Titans sucking off the government teat? Why can't all those farmers pay for themselves without agricultural subsidies?

I don't have any love for this Bennett character. I never met the guy. I hope his replacement is better at his job than he was. But every other industry in the state gets corporate welfare. I agree wholeheartedly: let the public be public and the private be private. But until that happens, why get bent out of shape about subsidies for the film industry when there are a lot of people taking a lot more money from the public purse with exactly the same results?

DGS said...

Thank you "D.B.A.Fool" for your passionate yet strangely anonymous comments. You obviously have some personal stake in this issue.

However, I'd also thank you not to attempt to speak for my own personal experiences with the man, which of course you do not share.

My assesment stands, as do the facts that before he was in office we had no significant film incentives package, and after his tenure we do (for the time being anyway.)

Perhaps in some other world there is a way to court big hollywood with a smile and a handshake. If you've found it please explain it for us.

Unfortunately it seems to take a great deal more than that, especially given the monumental competition our state faces from other states and countries who have realized the incredible financial and ancilary benefits of a successful courtship.

I would venture to say that those people didn't succeed with a mere gift basket of preserves.

So I respect your oppinion and your obviously well placed sense of fiscal responsibility. I certainly believe public money should be spent responsibly.

I just feel that the arts should be very much a part of that equation.

We have a bevy of sports complexes, a fine new museum, an unriavaled symphony hall, and other performance halls and music venues. Hundreds of millions of dollars contributed to these worthy ventures. But as for film, until recently we've had very little.

For my part. David Bennett will be missed. You may not share my feeling. That's fine with me.