Producer/Director Robert Rodriguez’s Machete won’t be seeing any state incentive funds, and that’s a blow to Texas’ film industry.
The 2010 film was initially approved for the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, but when the final content was reviewed, the incentive was denied.
The program operated by the Texas Film Commission promises to reimburse projects for up to 20 percent of production costs as long the project is primarily produced in Texas with most of the cast and crew being in-state residents.
Machete met both qualifications.
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The incentive was denied because the agency “may deny an application or eventual payment on an application because of inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion.”
In Rodriguez’s film, hit man Machete takes a contract to assassinate a right-wing senator, but he gets swept up into a corrupt immigration ploy.
The commission didn’t abuse its power or step outside of any legal bounds. The agency can overturn its approval on review of a film’s final content.
Funding can be denied. But it should not be.
The denial can be seen as censorship or political subjectivity, and neither helps promote the Texas industry.
This adds insult after lawmakers last year cut the program’s budget by 66 percent for 2016-2017.
The cut has been a deterrent to filmmakers, causing some to reconsider Texas and film in a neighboring state with better and more reliable incentives, like Louisiana.
Texas will most likely not see more big films like True Grit or Sicario shot here until the funding gets bumped back up.
And now with Machete's incentives on the chopping block because of content, that could make even more producers wary.
Most filmmakers don’t want their scripts censored to make the government happy.
If they really want to portray a corrupt Texas politician in their film, they can still shoot it in another state, call it Texas, and audiences probably won’t know.
Reprimanding Machete’s producers hinders the Texas industry more than the film tarnishes Texas’ image.