Texas lawmakers again set to weigh incentives for film, video game industries

 

 

A fight over state incentives for the movie, TV and video game industries sparked plenty of drama at the Texas Capitol two years ago. Supporters hope there won’t be a sequel in 2019.

 

The taxpayer-funded effort to encourage film and video game productions in the state, called the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, narrowly escaped an attempt to kill it by some lawmakers during the Legislature’s 2017 session. The incentives survived, but funding over the current two-year budget cycle ended up at $32 million — less than half the amount initially sought and well below the $95 million budgeted for the 2014-15 cycle.

 

“It has been enough to keep a couple big (TV) shows in the state, and some video game productions and a couple of big movies,” said Mindy Raymond, president of New Republic Studios in Elgin and spokeswoman for the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, a lobbying group.

 

But “we’re on life support,” she said. “We are a program that has stayed sort of teetering” for lack of more money.

 

Productions that have left Texas include Marvel’s TV series “The Gifted,” which shot its pilot in Dallas in early 2017 but opted against filming its full first season in the state. Overall, the number of TV shows, commercials, movies and video games funded through the incentive program is expected to finish the current two-year budget cycle at about 55, according to the Texas Film Commission, down from a peak of 290 in the 2014-15 period.

 

Boosters for the state’s film and video game industries — some of whom would like to see $60 million or more earmarked for the incentives during this year’s legislative session — consider support for the program crucial for retaining such projects in the future and attracting new ones, in an era when states such as New Mexico, Louisiana and Georgia have mounted similar efforts to compete for them.

 

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