Illusion in Hollywood

Today, Hollywood movie studios go where the money is, and that often means outside of the United States. Canada has become a particularly appealing destination because of the government subsidies it offers for filmmaking within its borders. The subsidy provided by the Canadian government is known as the Film Production Services Tax Credit. These subsidies can finance a large share of the below-the-line budget of movies, thus making it attractive to filmmakers. Canada also offers subsidiaries for using Canadian actors, thus the rise in Canadian born talent such as actress Alex Johnson, the star of Final Destination 3.

Much of Hollywood has moved north, outsourcing to Canada no fewer than 1,500 movies and television productions. Producers found it was easy to use Canadian locations to double for American scenery; Vancouver makes a great Middle America, Toronto resembles New York City closely enough, and the Wild West is perfectly situated for Calgary. Sometimes there are issues, such as filming warm weather scenes in the chilly Canadian climate. Producers however are used to working around such obstacles. For instance, the climatic shot in Final Destination 3 was supposed to occur during a Fourth of July celebration. It was not suitable to have the actors wear summery clothing in the cold Canadian weather, so the scene was simply changed to represent the town’s tricentiennial celebration.

It is often claimed that movies redeem their losses at foreign box offices if they fail to do well in America. This is not always the case. An example of a movie that did not do so well in America but seemed to do well in the foreign market is Gone in 60 Seconds. The reported foreign gross for the movie was $129,477,395. Disney only received $55,979,966 and had to pay out $37,986,053 in expenses. After that, Disney was left with just $17,933,913 – not nearly the impressive $129,477,395 gross that was reported. And Gone in 60 Seconds is still $153 million in the red. The foreign box office may help, but it doesn’t mean that a movie will make a profit.

The Mercedes Benz S-class sedan has become an icon for the rich and powerful, mainly because it is driven in movies by stars such as Steve Martin in Shopgirl and Matthew Broderick in The Stepford Wives. However, it is not the stars who drive these cars, but their fictional characters. Still the illusion sticks. The “casting” of cars in the movies dates back to the 1974 James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. Producer Albert Broccoli made a deal to use only American Motors vehicles in the chase scenes in return for money to promote the movie.

The repetition of a brand in a Hollywood movie usually signifies a deal has been made with the product’s company. Product placement in movies has a long history in Hollywood. For example, De Beers loaned out sample diamonds in the 1930s for scenes in which women were to be wooed by diamond jewelry. Today, most product placements are barter deals.

Whether it is the illusion of scenery, stars chosen because of their ability to sale in foreign markets, or product placement used to represent class or status, it is all still just an illusion. However, the audience usually ends up buying into the illusion, which is the point of all the fantasy making of Hollywood.

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