Talk about bad timing.
Echo Lake Entertainment is set to release its independent film, Truth, the story of former CBS anchor Dan Rather’s self-destruction. It’s based on the 2006 book Truth and Duty: The Press, The President, and the Privilege of Power by Mary Mapes, the discredited CBS producer. Mapes documents and defends Rather’s 2004 attempts to use the forged “Killian documents” to portray former President George W. Bush as someone who shirked duty in Vietnam.
When the controversy surrounding Brian Williams’s lies about being on a chopper hit by an RPG first became public in early February, Rather was quick to publicly announce his full support for Williams. Contrast that with Williams’s predecessor, former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw. Already suspicious of Williams’s embellishments, he was a key behind-the-scenes figure in the NBC decision to suspend Williams for six months without pay, according to published reports.
It is unclear whether the independently-produced film has secured a studio to handle distribution, and whether Rather’s poorly timed endorsement of Williams has caused potential studio distribution partners to back away from a controversial film already said to be little more than an exercise in left wing propaganda to rehabilitate Rather’s ruined reputation.
As Megan McCardle pointed out when news of the film was first announced in July 2014, very few journalists accepted Mapes’s attempt to rehabilitate her reputation, and that of Rather’s in her 2006 book:
[T]he consensus among journalists — from conservative magazines to Mother Jones — is that the documents were faked and Mapes was had. It would be a pity if Hollywood made the same blind mistakes that destroyed several distinguished careers in New York. I know that the film production company for this project is called Mythology Entertainment. That said, the journalists who deserve to have their stories told are the ones who dug into the provenance of these memos and exposed them for what they actually were. If you are going to make a movie, it should honor their fine work, not the errors that made it necessary.
Given the financial failure of the Mapes’s book and the general lack of interest in resurrecting Rather’s reputation, the new film appears to be more of an ideological, as opposed to commercial, venture.
The film will mark the directorial debut of James Vanderbilt, best known for screenwriting the most recent Spiderman films. It’s produced by Echo Lake Entertainment’s Doug Mankoff, and “financed by the Blue Lake Media Fund and [Brett Ratner’s] RatPac Entertainment, with support from the NSW government.”
A search of Federal Election Commission records shows that Mankoff has been a heavy contributor to Democratic political candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Blue Lake Media Fund recently financed the film Nebraska. Ratner and RatPac Entertainment have produced and financed such films as Tower Heist, Red Dragon, and Family Man.
In an odd twist, Australian taxpayers are subsidizing this bit of far-left propaganda, starring Robert Redford as Rather and Australian Cate Blanchett as Mapes, which was filmed over a two month period this past fall on location in Sydney at an estimated cost of $10 million. While officials at the New South Wales film development group acknowledge the film is receiving financial support from the government there, they won’t say how much.
But Gene Tunny, a former manager in the Australian Treasury with extensive experience in advising on industry assistance policies across Australia, and a well known critic of the country’s film subsidization policy, told Breitbart News the amount probably exceeded $1 million.
“My best guess is that the NSW Government is subsidising Truth by around $1-2 million, based on my experience in advising on government industry assistance across Australia,” Tunny told Breitbart News.
“It could be more than this, but the NSW Government won’t tell us. Australian State governments label agreements with film producers ‘commercial-in-confidence’, even though disclosure is in the public interest,” Tunny added.
The film industry in Australia is subsidized at both the federal and state level. New South Wales, in which Sydney is located, has a population of 7 million and is the most populous of the seven Australian states.
According to the website of the NSW Screen Australia subsidization office:
The NSW Government provides incentives to approved productions through the Film & Television Industry Attraction Program to attract “footloose” projects to the State. The attraction program is discretionary and incentives are provided in the form of rebates, which are generally formulated based on the Qualifying NSW Production Expenditure. The incentive is determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account demonstrable benefits including job creation, NSW production expenditure, skills development and technology transfer.
There’s more than a little irony in the fact that both the state of New South Wales and the Australian Federal Government are currently run by the Liberal Party, which is considered the conservative party in that country (Labour is the far left party in opposition.)
NSW deputy premiere and arts minister Troy Grant thinks it makes sense for NSW taxpayers to subsidize a film designed to attack a former Republican American President, George W. Bush, by propping up the discredited claims of Rather and Mapes, as Hollywood Reporter reported in July:
NSW arts minister Troy Grant said the film is expected to spend more than $9.6 million (AUS $11 million) in direct production expenditure in the state and create 208 jobs both in front of and behind the camera.
The NSW state government has provided incentives to Truth producers through its NSW Trade & Investment’s State Investment Attraction Scheme.
“This international production, starring Sydney’s own Cate Blanchett, and one of Hollywood’s most iconic stars, Robert Redford, shows yet again that NSW is at the top of the list of preferred international production destinations,” Grant told Fashion Times in July.
Australia’s Independent Film reported in October that “[t]he NSW support was pivotal as the production does not qualify for the location offset because the budget is below the $15 million minimum Australian spend.”
But Australian film subsidy critic Tunny disagrees.
“This is clearly a poor use of taxpayers’ money. The Truth film will make no discernible contribution to Australian culture. And the NSW Government is wasting money supporting temporary jobs in an industry that is largely unviable without Government subsidies,” Tunny told Breitbart News.
American investors apparently believe the film’s contribution to American culture, at least as measured by their willingness to invest in the film without a subsidy from the Australian New South Wales state government, is equally suspect.