March 15, 2011 11:04am PT by Eriq Gardner
TV Producer Claims Tax Credit Denial Was A Violation of U.S. Constitution
Allow us to introduce Sandy Frank, a producer of unscripted television shows. After being denied a few hundred thousand dollars by Michigan's tax and film offices, Frank has delivered a sublimely angry 42-page lawsuit that basically rips Michigan officials for being hypocrites with poor taste.
Michigan has offered one of the most generous packages in the nation for film and television producers, providing up to 42% in tax credits on qualified production expenditures in the state. The package has been quite a carrot for indie producers, but there's a catch -- game shows don't qualify.
Frank, who has produced shows like Name that Tune, You Asked for It, and Face the Music, says he wasn't planning another game show. Instead, he wanted to make a reality show about the making of a game show. The difference in definitions for "reality show" and "game show," besides a paycheck for lawyers, was Frank being denied his needed tax credits.
Now Sandy Frank Prods is suing, claiming violations of Michigan's film tax credit law, Michigan's administrative procedures act, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, and violation of equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Frank says he only committed to spending more than $350,000 on the production of his show upon assurances made by Michigan officials he would be eligible for a tax credit.
In September, 2009, his application was denied.
Since then, Frank has been making a stink about his rejection, questioning the qualifications of the official who denied his request and pointing out that producers of "Crash Course," a competition show featuring driving skills, were approved for $2.7 million in rebates. Frank also points out that "Wedding Day," where contestants compete to gain a lavish wedding, produced by reality kingpin Mark Burnett, also got approval.
Frank also addresses the possibility that his production was denied for showing residents of Michigan in a less-than-positive light -- a disqualifier under Michigan's rules. He says his show does no such thing, and he takes a few shots at other shows that have gained approval. For instance, Frank's complaint ridicules HBO's Hung for depicting a down-and-out Detroit area with characters spewing obscenities, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas for potentially showing lewd, dirty and disgusting exploits of two 20-something men who are known for smoking marijuana, and the Oscar-nominated Up in the Air for featuring George Clooney traversing Michigan to fire people from their jobs.
Frank is seeking a judge's declaration his denial was unjust, plus further monetary damages.