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  • Mindy Raymond

Texas lawmakers to again debate subsidies for film, video games in 2019

Texas' subsidies for producers of films, television shows and video games are again at risk of being eliminated.

Every two years when the Legislature meets, the incentives are put on the chopping block for lawmakers to scrutinize. At worst, no money is allocated to the effort. At best, tens of millions of dollars is funneled to the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program. About $32 million was moved into the fund for the 2018-19 biennium.

When lawmakers convene in January, they'll consider at least one bill — from Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano — that aims to kill the subsidies altogether. Austin NBC affiliate KXAN-TV has more on the issue in this story.

Shaheen can expect opposition from industry advocates, who intend to lobby for even more money for the program that provides cash grants to film, TV and video game makers.

“We just want to see a little bit of an increase so we can have the rest of the world know, ‘Hey, we are invested in this industry,’” Mindy Raymond, communications director of the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, told KXAN.

The incentives' effects can be felt in the Austin area, where Moving Image Industry Incentive Program projects generated about 77,000 jobs from 2008 through mid-March 2017 and spent about $761 million while receiving $125.3 million in rebates, according to data from the Texas Film Commission. Meanwhile, Houston’s film scene saw a boom in the 1980s, and the Houston Film Commission was established in 1987 to help keep up with business. But the Bayou City's film business has changed since then.

"The evolution from the local business has moved from larger-budget feature films to commercial work and industrial work," HFC Executive Director Rick Ferguson told the Houston Business Journal earlier this year. "In 2018 so far, we’ve had three feature films and one TV series. But their budgets were $5 million or below. Some of the films in the past, like 'Robocop,' had $30 million budgets. It’s been a while since we’ve had a project of that size."

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