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Texas Film Industry in Jeopardy During Legislative Session


AUSTIN, Texas -- With the 85th Texas Legislature underway, the future of the Lone Star State's film industry is now in the hands of lawmakers.

This year, there are already two bills filed that aim to abolish the state's film incentives program.

Once upon a time, Texas's film industry played a leading role in attracting major movies and TV shows.

But that appeal is fading, thanks to drastic cuts in the state's film incentives program.

"This is terrible for our industry. Terrible. I don't know what will happen honestly," said Karen Hallford with the Texas Motion Picture Alliance.

In the 2015 legislative session, the program's budget was slashed by two-thirds, going from $95 million down to $32 million.

Now, there are already two bills filed that aim to abolish funding entirely.

"It was heartbreaking, completely heartbreaking," Hallford said. "It caused some of us to say we've been doing this and we love what we do. And now we're thinking, 'well what are we going to do next?'"

Those in the industry, such as Chris Demarais, fear for its future.

Demarais a writer, director, and producer who's lived in Texas his entire life, but worries he would have to seek work elsewhere.

"It's nice to be able to stay home and do what you love," Demarais said. "I'd hate to have to leave just because we lose the state incentives. If that goes away, this entire industry can collapse."

The incentives program gives a rebate to filmmakers who shoot at least 60 percent of their project here. According to the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, every dollar spent in incentives turns in to more than $5 for the state's economy.

"The money that would have flowed into the state and into the local economy, that evaporates as well," said Matt Hullum, Rooster Teeth CEO. "So it really is a thing where it has to be consistent year after year."

Meanwhile, states that offer greater rebate programs are luring filmmakers away from Texas.

"I don't think we can compete with Atlanta. Atlanta is building studios and doing everything because they get it. Georgia gets it. They see how much money it's brought to their economy," said Hallford.

It's money that Texas lawmakers seem willing to do without.

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