The Sundance tempest

Last week my Sutherland colleague Derek Monson wrote about the Sundance Film Festival. To highlight the unbelievable truth that a whole bunch of your tax dollars go to a film festival in Park City, Derek mentioned a few of the questionably themed films promoted there – and, for that simple narrative, my good colleague has been lambasted by The Salt Lake Tribune (not just once, but three times).

Furthermore, and rather oddly, a state senator from St. George used his Facebook page to ridicule our blog post, absolutely lie about some alleged personal conversation with me and compared Sutherland Institute to a twisted pack of religious bigots who demonstrate about homosexual rights at military funerals – but not once did this state senator from St. George explain why he supports tax dollars to a film festival.

So let me back up and retell this story. The widely popular Sundance Film Festival is held in Park City every winter. It attracts thousands of visitors to the state and quite a few famous Hollywood types. Over the last four years the state of Utah, using your tax dollars, has given this film festival over a million dollars.

Though the annual revenue of the Sundance Film Festival tops $25 million, last year alone the state gave Sundance $312,000 in tax dollars. By the way, most of that money comes from the general fund, meaning instead of using $312,000 for poor people or law enforcement, the state chose to give that money to the Hollywood crowd.

Be clear – Sutherland Institute doesn’t oppose the Sundance Film Festival. We oppose its taxpayer funding. The types of movies shown are secondary to the fact that Utah taxpayers unnecessarily pay for a film festival when Utah has greater funding priorities – in fact, just about anything is a bigger priority than funding a financially independent film festival. The next time a legislator asks me what government programs are nonessential, I’ll simply point to the Sundance Film Festival.

Now back to that state senator from St. George – and I hope our readers in St. George are paying close attention. Clearly, this state senator has no clue about the proper role of government. He calls out social conservatives – meaning nearly every faith-based constituent in his district – for being big government crusaders. He says Sutherland’s desire to support the infrastructures of a free society (like family structure and religious freedom) belies our concerns about limited government.

The proper role of government is not simply about mechanics; it’s also about purpose. It’s not just the Constitution; it’s also, even more so, about the Declaration of Independence.

The proper role of government will complement civil society and do, for the common good, what civil society alone cannot do – what we, the people, alone cannot do in our families and communities to keep the peace and promote human happiness, we may justly empower our governments to do. The proper role of government is to help shape the order of a free society only as collective agreement about the rules of natural community require.

The proper role of government includes the educative nature of laws, not just their effect, meaning when popular culture begins to diminish our freedom by embracing stupid ideas, the people can reaffirm the basic human institutions of a free society through the law. When growing numbers of people begin to think heroin should be legalized, the rest of us can justly invoke the law to explain why that idea is harmful to freedom. The same exercise goes for taxpayer-funded film festivals as well.


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  • Jim Wright

    You mentioned that the festival generates about 25 million dollars.  With a minimum of 9% hotel taxes and sales taxes generated, does not the State government actually realize a substantial cash infusion from the Sundance Festival?  I have never attended any part of the festival and have no direct interest in it.  I’m simply asking the question for my own education.

    • Paul Mero

       State economic gurus say that the festival generates about $80 million for the state. My number regards the Sundance Institute annual budget…which is around $28 million. Again, we don’t oppose the film festival being in UT…and who would care if we did? What Sutherland opposes is its government funding.

      • Deborah White Machon

        Fine oppose the funding…but based on better reasons please.

        • D M

           You have your panties in such a wad, you can’t even comprehend what you read.  Paul said

          “Be clear – Sutherland Institute doesn’t oppose the Sundance Film Festival.”

          Over 75% of the article was about the funding, but you got your panties in a wad over the last little bit.

          • JustIAm

            Don’t bother with this broad. She’s a certifiable loon. The reason she jumps to defend Sundance is because she telepathically communicates with someone who attended it and they’re in LOVE

    • Cameron

      Point being, if we remove state subsidies to Sundance then state coffers would have that $80 million *plus* the million we gave away to this highly profitable non profit organization.

  • Probabilitywave2012

    “In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”Buddha
    My ears just received audio signals from a tiny mind who feels that anything that does not align itself with it’s own small perspective should be abolished.
    A “gentleman” (I use that term lightly) in Utah feels that the Sundance Film Festival should emancipate itself from the state. He feels 30 thousand dollars the festival gets from the state should stop.
    Does he understand math at all? The Festival makes 80 million dollars for Utah.
    Should this guy be in a think tank?
    He says the festival presents a handful of films that do not fall within the “values” of Utah. How does a state have values if the sum of it’s parts are not all as small as the grey matter between his eyes.
    God makes movies. In fact, he makes the most “offensive” ones to blow the minds of the tiny ones.
    Next thing you know, Utah will insist that Colorado move out of the neighborhood as the cannabis plant that God made is legal now. In fact,, their other neighbor, Nevada might cause the moral residents of Utah to all start gambling.
    What exactly are “Utah Values?”
    “Free moral society” is an oxymoron.
    and Sir…so are you.

    • D M

      Does Probabilitywave2012 “understand math at all?  ”

      $312,000 is not “30 thousand dollars.”

      Paul said “Be clear – Sutherland Institute doesn’t oppose the Sundance Film Festival. We oppose its taxpayer funding.”

      You missed the main point of his post.  Many liberals object to “corporate welfare” even when it isn’t even welfare, but just letting companies keep more of what they have earned.

      Why don’t you object to “Hollywood welfare”?  Sundance Film Festival does not need welfare.

      • Deborah White Machon

        I understand Math more than you think.
        Welfare…maybe ..but his panties are all in a bunch BECAUSE he thinks movies should have HIS VALUES.

        He didn’t even watch the film before he spoke.

        Go ahead and make fun of my math…at least I understand people and you too cower under ignorance by even defending this closed minded, tiny minded view of the COSMOS.

        God is in charge…It makes movies…and she gets off on tiny minds. 
        Have a lovely day.

        1 + 1 = 1

        • D M

           You ignore the main point of my post, which was the main point of Paul’s as well. 

          Do you really think the SFF really needs state welfare? 

          And doesn’t the State of Utah have better things to do with taxpayer money than give it away to dozens of activities like the SFF that don’t even need the money?

          • Deborah White Machon

            I have not looked at the state’s books…so your asking me a question I can not answer..Unlike our friend who started this whole protest this based on a film he never saw.

            The argument seems mute based on the fuel that started it.Personally, I would think you should leave Sundance alone. I think the state is lucky to have it. Most of you seem to be a drag and the film industry attracts proper artists and talents. Might be a better thing to promote something that promotes Utah, would you not agree.If Sundance get’s bullied and leaves…no one, including me will want to hang out in Utah. Boring.

          • Deborah White Machon

            Oh, I forgot to mention. Someone gave them this funding in the first place, so it seems like at one time it was deserved.

            So say us all.

          • D M

             I don’t see anyone suggesting that the SFF be bullied.  Not giving them money is not bullying them. 

            We are bullied into giving the State Government a fair chunk of money every time we buy something, or earn money, or want to start a business, or a lot of other things.

            The point is that government in general should not be giving WELFARE to certain selected groups.  To stop showing favoritism to groups that currently have crony status is not bullying.

            P.S.  “mute” means unable to speak.  “Moot” means irrelevant.

            P.P.S.  The contraction of “you are” is spelled “you’re”. 

          • D M

             These comments are replies to PAUL’s article above, NOT the earlier article.

            You have not answered the questions above.

            Do you really think the SFF really needs state welfare? 

            You really can’t think of anything you have already wished the State would spend money on? 

            I am sure you don’t need to look at the state’s books to come up with things to spend money on.

            Like better roads?  Teacher’s salaries?

          • Deborah White Machon

            I’s thinks since youse folks gaves thems the monies in the first place you are being hypocritical.

            just sayin….

            You and your attitude, have a loverly day.

      • Deborah White Machon

        By the way…I knew it was 300 thousand. It was a typo and it happened because I type fast when I get my own panties in a bunch.

        Is that all you got?

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  • Janet

    What about the Moab International Film Festival? I just saw in the paper today an advertisement for a film about gay marriage, first Park City, now in my hometown!