American Psycho tax credit riles pro-family groups

April 13, 2000
Calgary Herald
By Howard May

Pro-family groups are outraged American Psycho, a movie about a Wall Street executive who commits frenzied, violent murders, has received tax breaks and financial assistance from the Canadian government.

Lions Gate Films of Vancouver will release the controversial movie in Canada on Friday, with the help of a tax credit of approximately $120,000. During the past 30 years, the company has received nearly $60 million from Telefilm Canada, an agency of the federal Heritage Department.

Mark Genuis, president of the Calgary-based National Foundation for Family Research and Education, said he couldn't believe the Liberal government would give tax dollars to the firm.

He said the tax treatment goes against the government's claim it is concerned about children.

"It's obscene, it's insulting and it's destructive. They take copious percentages of families' hard-earned income, and instead of saying to parents . . . keep the money, and build healthy, happy, productive, contributing children, the government says `We'll take the money and teach your children how to kill and rape.' "

He said by funding Telefilm, the Heritage Department is also sending a bad message about respect for women.

"It's just absolute hypocrisy."

A copy of the book American Psycho was found in Ontario serial killer Paul Bernardo's bedroom, but the prosecution was not allowed to make the argument that he used it as a blueprint for any of his victims.

Valerie Smith of the Elizabeth Fry Society in Toronto and a former member of Canadians Concerned about Violence in Entertainment, complained to Heritage Minister Sheila Copps after reading as much of the book as she could stomach.

"It gave me nightmares," she said.

In December, 1999, she received a letter from Heritage Canada, confirming Telefilm has given Lions Gate and its predecessor, Cinepix Films, $59.3 million during the past 30 years, of which Telefilm has recouped $17.3 million.

Lions Gate president Jeff Sackman admitted to the Herald Wednesday the company received the tax credit.

"If you spend a million dollars on Canadian crew or Canadian expenses, you get a rebate of approximately 12 per cent," he said.

Sackman said American Psycho received a tax credit of about $120,000.

He said the government should not be involved in deciding what type of film gets the tax break, but should be happy the film is creating jobs.

"A guy who hangs lights on a film crew, it doesn't matter for what film he's hanging lights. It matters that he's got a job in Canada, when that production could have gone somewhere else."

Sackman said he's not concerned with criticism from religious and family activist groups.

"If there are certain groups that think this type of film shouldn't be seen, they shouldn't go. We went through this in the States. These groups have an agenda, just as we have an agenda. Our agenda is to publicize our movie. Their agenda is to publicize their group," he said.

Sackman said the attacks have helped him reduce his advertising budget, since everyone wants to see the movie now.

"People should be proud about this Canadian company that's gone into the States -- the snake pit of business -- and been able to survive and thrive and grow," Sackman said.

Lions Gate employs about 120 people in Canada. Copps' office did not return calls from the Herald.

Smith's letter from Heritage Canada says the ministry is in consultation with the Department of Finance to rewrite the tax policy to address concerns over movies such as American Psycho: "That policy will further preclude access to tax credits by productions that contain other objectionable subject matter, including undue violence or violence of a sexual nature, hatred or contempt and the depiction of persons in a demeaning manner."