I was in “Legally Blonde” for about seven seconds, so I am clearly an expert on the movie business. That is why I am surprised that the Chanute City Commission and the Neosho County Commission didn’t consult with me before they each decided to invest $5,000 of alcohol tax funds towards the production of a series of locally produced anti-substance-abuse movies. Since I buy enough alcohol in this county to be one of this fund’s biggest contributors, I should have gotten a vote in how this money was spent.

If Commissioners had been wise enough to ask me for help, I would have advised them to get a look at a script or plot summary and a detailed budget for their production. That is what a Hollywood studio would require before funding. It seems fair to expect the government to be even more careful with the money it spends than a private sector company.

Instead, these critical questions went unasked when the proposed production of these preachy public service announcements was pitched to these local politicians. Maybe Commissioners were too busy planning what they were going to drink after the meeting to pay much attention to what was being said. Either that or they read the Letter to the Editor that was written by the filmmaker involved and surmised that he was obviously skilled at crafting fiction. They must not remember that the last time the city gave this person money, it was to fund the opening of a (barely-existent) television museum.

I found it entertainingly ironic that the city approved the funding of this anti-drinking film on the same night that it was offering compensation to the owners of the Mel’s Southside Tavern.

The funds were granted with no resistance, and the production of these publicly-financed films will move forward. I genuinely hope that all of the local actors and crew members who will supposedly be getting paid to work on these movies have a lot of fun. It is always nice to see a group of people from this town produce a product, which is why I am generously offering an idea that will make these films as cost-effective and entertaining as possible.  

During the same meeting where these movies were granted $5,000, City Commissioners discussed how the city would fund the demolition of Mel’s Southside Tavern. My idea is that, instead of having the city pay to tear it down, that bar could just be donated to the makers of the movies to use as a filming location. Any movie about the dangers of alcohol abuse is going to have at least a few bar scenes. Since the Southside was the only downtown drinking location that actually looked like a bar, it would be perfect for this purpose.

Then, the mini-series could end with compelling footage of an explosion that actually destroys this tavern. This could be worked into the budget for these movies, and the state grants that are being obtained to pay for a portion of this project could ultimately fund the tavern’s filmed demolition.  

Not only would this allow the city to escape from the obligation to pay to destroy this historic building, but it would exponentially increase the potential entertainment factor of these films. Most of the movies I enjoy these days end with a big explosion, and the promise of that type of ending might make me and other discerning potential audience members more likely to want to sit through this series of movies. Teenagers would be a lot more receptive to being preached to about their lifestyle decisions if they knew that lecture would end with the opportunity to see something blow up.

Perhaps the movies could switch to being a biography of that “Mad Bomber” who blew up a few taverns in Iola, since his position on the use of alcohol seems so similar to that of this filmmaker. The story could involve some drunken teenager's misguided experimentation with fireworks. Or maybe the moral of these movies could just be that patrons should stay out of bars with walls that are likely to collapse on them.

Such a suggestion probably wouldn't lead toward these movies being successful in their stated goal. No series of movies is really going to stop teenagers from wanting to drink, no matter how cool its ending happens to be. However, this explosion would provide the local drinkers who are paying for this production something cool to look at when political decisions like the funding of these films inevitably cause our tax money to go up in smoke.

Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, or invitations to pay me to be the adviser on the set of any locally-produced movies to brian@chanute.com

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