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  • Mindy Raymond

Bill Could Threaten Growing Texas Film Industry

Bills before the Texas Legislature could eliminate the Texas Film Commission as well as an incentive program established in 2005 to encourage filmmakers to use the Lone Star State as a location for movies, TV shows and video games.

The Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program was a high priority for economic development under former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In 2013, the legislature allocated more than $90 million to the incentive program. Eligible projects can receive grants for 20 percent of the production costs for filming in Texas.

The Texas Film Commission connects $168.4 million in incentives to the creation of about 20,000 full time jobs and $1.14 billion in spending. In November, the Dallas Morning News reported that the USA drama “Queen of the South” filming its second season in the Metroplex will generate about $475,000 in tax revenue. The production is expected to spend about $21 million on crews, hotels, restaurants, and rental fees for locations, security and other costs.

Supporters say the incentive program has generated $5 for every $1 spent.

The Texas Motion Picture Alliance (TXMPA) says when the budget was cut in 2015 by 66 percent, Texas lost projects to Louisiana, New Mexico and other areas in the southwest.

Americans for Prosperity and other groups say that state funds should not be used to support one industry.

In stating their objections, most opponents cite as examples films that received incentives to produce material they find objectionable.

Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), who filed one of the bills to abolish incentives, points to the made for TV movie “Mongolian Death Worm” as an example of a project that sales tax funds supported, but many Texans would steer clear of.

“Mongolian Death Worm” is about a drilling operation that disturbs underground creatures near the tomb of Genghis Khan.

Shaheen earlier criticized approving subsidies for projects that use “polarizing” actors like Sean Penn and Matt Damon.

Critics would rather see the money go toward tax cuts that they say would spur broader economic development.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has expressed his support for film incentives. He and other lawmakers urge voters to make their feelings known to their senator and representative — especially if they don’t like to see New Mexico or California used as the backdrop in movies written for Texas.

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