March 9, 2011, - 3:51 pm

BREAKING: Schlussel Sues Over Michigan Film Tax Credit

By Debbie Schlussel

– FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –

Attorney Debbie Schlussel, of The Law Offices of Debbie Schlussel, announced, today, that she has filed a federal civil lawsuit on behalf of her client, Sandy Frank Productions LLC of New York, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against the Michigan Film Office and the Michigan Department of Treasury, Business Tax Division, over their illegal denial of the Michigan Film Tax Credit to Sandy Frank Productions, as alleged in the complaint.  READ THE COMPLAINT.

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Sandy Frank, a legendary entertainment industry icon, pioneer,
and innovator, is well known throughout the entertainment industry for his shows, “Name That Tune,” “Battle of the Planets,” “You Asked For It,” and many other television programs and productions. With over five decades in creation, production, and syndication in television and film, he is the most successful and longest running privately-owned syndication business in the world. In addition to selling programming into syndication and broadcast prime time in the United States, he has sold, syndicated and/or otherwise distributed his television and film properties throughout the world, in over one hundred (100) separate and distinct countries worldwide. Frank was among the first to have the foresight and genius to buy and transform Japanese animation, bringing Japan’s “Gatchaman” to the English-speaking world as “Battle of the Planets.” Sandy Frank’s long career in television and film also includes positions at Paramount Pictures and NBC.

As alleged in the federal complaint, Michigan Film Office and other State of Michigan officials lured Sandy Frank to the State of Michigan to film a Pilot, “The Making Of . . .”/”Behind the Music,” promising Sandy Frank Productions LLC that it would receive the 42% Michigan Film Tax Credit rebate. The company had already received approval from the State of Connecticut for a 30% film tax credit rebate, but Michigan officials convinced Frank to film the production in Michigan, instead, promising his company a 42% rebate. However, after the production was filmed, Michigan officials reneged on their promise of rebating 42% of the over $350,000 Sandy Frank Productions expended on the pilot.

While the pilot shot in Michigan was a virtual commercial for the positive things Michigan and its citizens and businesses have to offer, the State of Michigan–in violation of the Michigan Film Tax Credit law, the Michigan Business Tax Act, MCL 208.1455. Despite the fact that the law was enacted to bring jobs and positive press and promotion to the State of Michigan–which is exactly what Sandy Frank Productions’ pilot did, Michigan officials told Sandy Frank Productions that the pilot was unlikely to help the public relations and economic position of the State of Michigan. On the contrary, Sandy Frank Productions not only spent over $350,000 in the State of Michigan, but employed eight Michigan businesses, and employed at least 176 Michigan residents.

Despite that, the State of Michigan rejected Sandy Frank Productions, LLC’s production and instead, gave the Michigan Film Tax Credit to a number of productions that portray Michigan as down-and-out and Michigan residents as criminals and depressed people who must resort to “occupations” such as male prostitution, as stated in the complaint. As also alleged in the complaint, the Michigan Film Office has an agenda through which it has approved productions that promote violence, pornography, and a preferred religion, Islam. Through the Michigan Film Tax Credit, Michigan taxpayers have financed the promotion of Islam, in violation of of the Michigan Constitution, Article I, Section 4.

As detailed in the complaint, the State of Michigan awarded the Michigan Film Tax Credit to the following productions, which negatively portray the State of Michigan, and include the portrayals of Michigan residents as people who resort to becoming male prostitutes in order to make ends meet, suicide doctors, sadists, aging porn stars, criminals, and other sorts of ne’er-do-wells, geeks, losers, people with no hope, and law-breakers:

* “Hung”: This is an HBO show depicting a down-and-out Detroit area, broke gym teacher, who discovers he has a large penis and becomes a male prostitute. The show is filled with obscenities, despite the fact that the Michigan Film Tax Credit prohibits that in a “qualified production.” Michigan Business Tax Act, MCL 208.1455(3)(d).

The posters and advertisements for this show read, “Middle-Aged. Divorced. Broke. Gigolo. It’s Hard to Make an Indecent Living.” The Supervisor of West Bloomfield Township, where the show is shot, told a Detroit newspaper that producers made a “concerted effort” to work with township and school officials on the nude scene in the opening credits so it wasn’t filmed when kids would be around. “HBO Male Escort Comedy Films in West Bloomfield Twp,” The Detroit News, June 15, 2009.

Upon information and belief, “Hung’s” producers received approximately $1,412,405.00 in Michigan Film Tax Credit rebates for 2008, and $1,443,325.00 in Michigan Film Tax Credit rebates for 2009. Again, in violation of various Michigan laws requiring public disclosure of the funds rebated for the Michigan Film Tax Credit, MI Film does not list the amount of funds rebated to the producers of “Hung” for 2009. However, upon information and belief, and based on the fact that MI Film listed alphabetically the shows it approved for tax credits, it appears that MI Film approved $1,443,325.00 in rebates to the makers of “Hung,” which is apparently listed as “Confidentiality Requested,” ,” between the data for “Highland Park” and “Hunting Blind,” on “Michigan Film Office 2009 Annual Report Exhibit A.

* “Hostel: Part III” is conspicuously missing from MI Film’s reports, but the filmmakers of this production told several Detroit media outlets that they were approved for the Michigan Film Tax Credit and otherwise would not have shot in Michigan. The first two installments of the “Hostel” horror movie franchise contain extremely graphic violence, dismemberment, murder, and torture. And the third installment is expected to follow suit. Because MI Film declined to list “Hostel: Part III” in any of its annual reports, it is unknown how much money the makers of this movie received in rebates from the State of Michigan.

* “Miss January,” also known as “Meet Monica Velour,” which centers on an aging pornography star and one of her young fans. The Tribeca Film Festival’s website summarizes the movie’s plot:

For Tobe, a nerdy, horny, frizzy-haired cineaste who doesn’t quite fit in with the average contemporary teen, the pinnacle of womanhood is Monica Velour (Kim Cattrall), a soft-core actress who reached the zenith of her career in the 1980s. When Tobe learns that his love idol is headlining hundreds of miles away at the Gentlemen’s Petting Zoo in Indiana, he drives off with carefree glory—in his grandfather’s (Brian Dennehy) used Weinermobile, no less—filled with the hope of meeting her. When Tobe defends Monica’s honor against ruffians who taunt the aging erotic starlet off the stage, he lands a pity invite into Monica’s trailer. As the two begin an unlikely friendship, Tobe’s unripe romantic impulses entangle with her messy life as a struggling single mother embroiled in a custody battle for her only daughter.

The movie’s production company received approximately $1,700,208.00 from the State of Michigan in Film Tax Credit rebates.

* “Kevorkian,” also known as, “You Don’t Know Jack”: This HBO movie promotes Michigan as the home of suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian a/k/a “Dr. Death,” who helped people commit suicide by administering fatal drugs. Producers of this film received a Michigan film tax credit of approximately $81,385.00 for glorifying doctor-assisted suicide and one of Michigan’s most famous convicted criminals.

* “Virgin on Bourbon Street” a/k/a “American Virgin”: This sleazy movie, stars Rob Schneider, well known for his starring roles in “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,” and “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.” The movie’s “plot” is described on the Internet Movie Database a/k/a IMDB.com:

A Freshman College Girl on a scholarship from an abstinence group that advocates saving sex until marriage discovers that her antics on a night of debauchery, when she reluctantly got drunk for the first time in her life, were captured on camera by a sleazy video producer. Now she and her friends must travel across country to recover the incriminating footage.

The producers of this movie received approximately $1,534,473.00 in Michigan Film Tax Credit rebates.

* “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas”: Although this movie was not listed in any of the reports produced by MI Film, upon information and belief, the film qualified for the Michigan Film Tax Credit, the alleged reason it was shot almost in its entirety in Michigan. The two previous installments of the “Harold & Kumar” movie franchise, include the lewd, dirty, and disgusting exploits of two 20-something men who are known for their marijuana-smoking.

* “Mooz-lum”: This movie, which actively promotes the religion of Islam, received approximately $617,400.00 in Michigan Film Tax Credit rebates, according to the Michigan Film Office 2009 Annual Report. Incredibly, one of the paid actors in the movie—whose salary was subsidized by the Michigan Film Tax Credit—is Imam Siraj Wahhaj, whom the U.S. Justice Department named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 Al-Qaeda bombing of the World Trade Center. Wahhaj defended the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, saying that the “real terrorists” are the FBI and CIA. He openly supports Islamic terrorist groups, including HAMAS and Hezbollah, the organization that murdered over 300 U.S. Marines and civilians in its attacks on the U.S. Marine barracks and U.S. Embassy in Beirut. His acting role in “Mooz-lim” was that of a “peaceful” Muslim cleric.

Moreover, Michigan’s granting of the Michigan Tax Credit to the “Mooz-lum” production apparently violates not only the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, but similar, much stricter parallel provisions in the Michigan Constitution and Michigan statutes. No other production that so blatantly promotes religion was approved for a Michigan Film Tax Credit. Article I, Section 4 of the Michigan Constitution states:

No person shall be compelled to attend, or, against his consent, to contribute to the erection or support of any place of religious worship, or to pay tithes, taxes or other rates for the support of any minister of the gospel or teacher of religion. No money shall be appropriated or drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious sect or society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the state be appropriated for any such purpose.

The granting of Michigan Film Tax Credits and/or the transfer of Michigan Treasury funds of any kind to the production of “Mooz-lum” are a clear violation of Article I, Section 4 of the Michigan Constitution.

Moreover, “Mooz-lum” presents a false, very negative image of Michigan residents and institutions as bigoted, violent, and blood-thirsty. It portrays University of Michigan students and deans as anti-Muslim extremists, showing students gathering in a mob that beats up Muslims after the 9/11 attacks and portraying a Michigan Dean sending out anti-Muslim campus-wide e-mails to students. In real life, none of this ever happened. On the contrary, post-9/11, Muslim attacks on Jewish students at the University of Michigan are up. In one of several such incidents, Daniel Aghion, a University of Michigan Student walking on the school’s campus while he was wearing a yarmulke, was chased in an automobile by Muslims who threw glass bottles at him. The perpetrators were apprehended and prosecuted.

* “Stone”: This movie, set in Michigan, is extremely violent and depicts Michiganders as far-right religious zealots and hypocrites who sleep with the girlfriends of criminals. It is hard to understand how this movie has anything but negative promotional value for the State of Michigan and its tourism industry. Moreover, it is a not-so-veiled attack on the religious Christians and social conservatives of the State of Michigan. The makers of this movie received approximately $5,007,197.00 in Michigan Film Tax Credit rebates.

* “Up In the Air”: This movie depicts corporate down-sizing and the cold, calculated firing of employees. The portions that were shot in Detroit, depict actor George Clooney traversing snow, slushy, gloomy weather to fire employees. He cruelly fires a man in his fifties, who responds by crying and wondering who in Detroit will ever hire him for another job at that age. There are also shots of Clooney in Detroit Metropolitan Airport flying to and from firing people from their jobs. It is not apparent what positive tourism and/or public relations value for Michigan achieved from this movie. However, it cost the State of Michigan approximately $391,043.00 in film tax credit rebates to “Up In the Air” producers.

As also stated in the complaint, the Michigan Film Office, in violation of several statutes, has tried to hide and keep confidential the names of production companies and projects, which are recipients of Michigan Film Tax Credit funds, referring in its annual reports to some of these projects as “Confidentiality Requested.”

If you would like to contact or consult the Law Offices of Debbie Schlussel, please e-mail Debbie Schlussel at writedebbie@gmail.com.

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23 Responses

Why won’t they give a tax credit to your client? Is he Jewish instead of Muslim?

It seems that Michigan has been subsidizing a religion by giving tax breaks to films that promote Islam.

Jonathan E. Grant on March 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Loved Jack Smith in ‘You Asked For It’ as a kid.

#1 Vato on March 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Good work. Its about time someone ‘cracked the code’ of the artsy tax-credit establishment.

Not Ovenready on March 9, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Sandy Frank Productions also produced the Name That Tune clone show Face The Music, hosted by Ron Ely from 1980-1982. In 1984 Frank took over production on the one season daily run of “The $100,000 Name That Tune” hosted by Jim Lange.

The last time Name That Tune was on the air, it was under Ralph Edwards Gemini Productions from 1974-81 with Tom Kennedy as host.

Since CT’s film tax credit was mentioned, it was enough to get Deal or No Deal’s syndicated version to tape its last season in New London, CT.

Now of course Stamford is home base for the triple threat of debauchery known as The Maury Show, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos. All three shows are produced at the Rich Forum in Stamford, which by the way also served as secondary production facilities for CT Public TV and Radio. Primary studios for CPTV are now on the aptly named IMHO Asylum avenue in Hartford after years of being at 240 New Britain Avenue, near Trinity College.

Good luck in this.

Bob Porrazzo on March 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Good luck Ms. Schlussel. Anyone that has you as an attorney is fortunate.

Your perspicacity in general topics almost makes me feel sorry for those in the legal field going against you in your specialized areas.

/I hope Michigan isn’t going to pull a Clinton and parse the verb “is.”

Jew Lover on March 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Sandy Frank couldn’t have chosen a better attorney! Most lawyers know nothing about the film industry, how it operates and the criteria used in making movies and in particular in one state’s decision to award a tax credit for the making of a movie in that state. Debbie has unique qualifications as a movie critic, lawyer and life-long Michigan resident. She can even serve as her client’s witness, if asked.

He deserved that tax credit. No wonder Debbie was gone all day. But now that the lawsuit has been filed, we all wish her and Sandy Frank all the best on this case and they receive the justice and fair treatment from the court that the Michigan Film Office denied to them.

NormanF on March 9, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Good luck to you and Sandy Frank! I hope you all win the case!

Bobby on March 9, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Why was he rejected? What was the motivation? Whose toes were stepped on, or palms not greased?

Jonathan E. Grant on March 9, 2011 at 7:41 pm

So Debbie, do you or do you not support Michigan’s film incentives? What do you think is the future of these incentives? Can these incentives generate enough $$ for the economy?

Dan Schneider on March 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Debbie:

As you work your way into becoming the most famous Michigan attorney since Jeff Feiger, please don’t forget us, your loyal fans.

“Call 1-800-CALL-DEB for the Schlussel advantage.”

Regards,

TINSC (aka There is NO Santa Claus)

There is NO Santa Claus on March 9, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    LOL TINSC…Feiger really screwed himself didn’t he? I wonder what he thinks of John Edwards now.

    sharon on March 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm

      Thank you Sharon for recognizing the humor in my comment and enjoying it. I don’t know the answer to your question about Feiger.

      Let’s see how this law suit turns out for Debbie. It seems like the Michigan Film Office broke a promise. This should be a slam-dunk for Debbie and her client.

      What is interesting of course, is that the suit exposes certain practices of the Michigan Film Office in their decision as to which films “qualify” for the tax credit and which do not. That is an issue that deserves public scrutiny. I’m glad Debbie took this case.

      There is NO Santa Claus on March 10, 2011 at 10:17 am

Debbie I hope you can soon publish the “Confidentiality Requested” list with footnotes. I wonder if it’s the usual fraud/nepotism cover-up or the usual Sharia compliance cover-up or both. I hope there’s a big pinata for you this time.

A1 on March 9, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Good luck Debbie. Your client is in the best hands ever.

Naomi R on March 10, 2011 at 8:12 am

Way to go girl. These gangsters thought that they can intimidate people from criticizing them by law suits. Now they are getting a taste of their medicine. I surely hope and pray that you win this case and don’t forget to clobber them with costs of litigation. That would be very nice

G. R. SCHAROUBIM on March 10, 2011 at 10:26 am

You’re a lawyer!?? Well…I learn something new everyday.

Squirrel3D on March 10, 2011 at 10:51 am

Squirrel, you got that right, Schlussel is an attorney, not just a commentator. If you read her profile on this website, you’ll find out that she happens to be an attorney and studied law at University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin.

Debbie, good luck with this case, and yes I hope you win as well!

“A nation is defiend by it’s borders, language & culture!”

Sean R. on March 10, 2011 at 11:24 am

The suit should be more narrowly focused, on violation of separation of religion (mosque) and state. It’s not the job of state government any more than the federal government to furnish funds for proselytizing. The case would have a better chance of winning.

Seek on March 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Interesting. I did not realize that so many recent projects were filmed in Michigan.

colt13 on March 10, 2011 at 7:28 pm

First of all,I’m glad Michigan has all this money to throw away. Did they kick any cash into the M+M Chrysler super bowl commercial? did they do an ad protesting the undercover news team showing Chrysler working drinking, smoking pot and going to the crack house on lunch hour? Nothing but the best for Michigan and Detroit.

bobby99 on March 10, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Get fast tax extension with the help of File Later. File Later provides you to state tax extension, business tax extension and personal tax extension.

Michigan Tax Extension on March 16, 2011 at 9:30 am

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