Treme creator/executive producer David Simon, much to his apparent irritation, somehow got dragged into a Twitter spat between Anthony Bourdain and Bravo VP Andy Cohen about funding television shoots in Louisiana. Specifically, Top Chef, which received $375,000 to film its new season in New Orleans, 200,000 of which was from a BP oil recovery fund; and Treme, which received, in Simon's words, "the same Louisiana tax incentives that are standardized to every film production in that state."
Now Simon has taken to his blog to tear into Cohen's accusations that "Treme gets tax credits from NOLA," writing "Snide works well and seems plausible in 140-character morsels. When laid out in detail, it's something altogether different." And those details involve "a four-year campaign to leave behind a substantive thank-you to New Orleans" to the tune of "more than $500,000," for starters. Simon, after declaring "Fuck Twitter," breaks down "this gentleman's bullshit in three easy stomps:"
First some back story to recap this mess: Yesterday, Bourdain questioned Bravo's choice to accept a payout from New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, part of which came from a BP oil spill recovery fund. "Maybe give the 200G back to Louisiana?" read the tweet. "Would be a nice thing to do."
Cohen wasn't having that, and hurled back at Bourdain: "Call me abt Treme's tax credits from NOLA." Bourdain is a writer on Treme, an HBO show about the New Orleans music and restaurant scene after hurricane Katrina, although to be fair a good chunk of his scenes take place in New York City. That said, Bourdain has also been an occasional judge on Top Chef.
In Simons rebuttal, he first points out that Top Chef actively sought the funds to film in New Orleans, unlike the "standardized tax incentives" Treme received "without additional or outside negotiation."
Second, Simon notes that he and his coworkers are producers of Treme and that decisions about funding are above his head, unlike Cohen who is "the executive vice president of development for the Bravo network itself." He adds that "The decision to walk away from a standardized tax structure that Louisiana provides to all film production would be a decision above our pay grade." To be fair, Cohen abstractly called out the show and never named Simon specifically; it was an email from Bourdain that brought him to the party.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, he describes the fundraising efforts Treme made over four years of filming in New Orleans. "Between various fundraising campaign and events over the last four years and direct donations by producers," Simon writes, "more than $500,000 was left behind for the use of New Orleans non-profits." He adds that the production team for the Wire did the same thing when they were filming in Baltimore.
In sum, writes Simon:
For Mr. Cohen to flippantly imply that because HBO failed somehow to refuse the same tax rates that Louisiana offers to every production, we are in the same boat as "Top Chef" and its extended negotiations for a BP payout is just, well, horseshit.
Bourdain tweeted that Simon also said,
In our four years filming there, beyond all the money spent on employing the arts community in the depiction of New Orleans -- three and a half million in music copyright payments alone -- the production and the producers left behind a half million dollars in donated charity funds to Roots of Music, Common Ground, the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, the Tipitina Foundation and other local charities.
After being directed to Simon's rubuttal, Cohen tweeted, "Congratulations. we all love NOLA & want to bring as much business, tourism & attention to the city,chefs & gulf seafood." So there is that.
Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio weighed in on the whole affair by chiding Bourdain for "retweeting hater I mean eater, c'mon never a good move." And Treme star/New Orleans native Wendell Pierce had, perhaps, a more insightful response: "WOW. That's New Orleans politics. Can't get sales tax structure (TIFF) to rebuild commerce in New Orleans East but gifting others."