For a state that is proud of its history, heritage and culture — Texas sure doesn’t like having films made here.
Movie incentives have always been a tough sell in Texas. Many conservative legislators believe it has little return for the state, though Gov. Greg Abbott has fought for keeping any amount of the ever-shrinking budget for film, TV and video games in-state endeavors.
And now, with the Harvey Weinstein scandal erupting to an enormously horrifying degree, one state representative took the opportunity to attack film incentives in Texas yet again.
Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, wants to end the already abysmal funding for film, TV and video games, stating in a news release, “given the apparent culture of sexual exploitation of women in Hollywood, it is now even more clear that we should not be wasting taxpayer money on this industry.”
Shaheen’s quest to stop the cycle of Hollywood’s mistreatment of women is noble but misguided. And this isn’t the first time he has attempted to cut the program.
As much as all the allegations coming from the industry are inexcusable and heartbreaking, cutting film incentives isn’t the way to solve this problem, and it will hurt the already-limping Texas film industry.
The Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program is supposed to stimulate economic and job growth by giving filmmakers a cash grant and some tax breaks for shooting in Texas.
To qualify at least 60 percent of the production days for the film/TV/commercial/video game/etc. have to be completed in state with 70 percent of the paid crew and 70 percent of the paid cast being Texas residents. Also, the production at a very minimum must be $250,000 in state for film and TV and $100,000 for commercial and video games.
It might not sound like enough to justify using taxpayers’ money, especially since there seems to be a considerable amount of movies and TV shows already based in Texas.
But not really. The recent film release of a Fort Worth story, “Same Kind of Different as Me” was shot in Mississippi. “Hell or High Water,” a critically acclaimed movie about West Texas, was shot in New Mexico. Even the “Dallas Buyers Club” wasn’t shot in Dallas but in Louisiana.
So not only are Texas stories being told with other state’s backdrops — those states are getting the jobs, economic growth and tourism.
Movies and TV shows usually boost tourism. Georgia, one of the new film industry hubs, has an influx of tourists to see locations from the uber-popular show “The Walking Dead.” The state has also seen a growth in studios, which in turn provide office and other industry jobs, many that don’t necessarily require movie-knowledge experience. Even surrounding small businesses could could get more recognition and customers because of the proximity around influencers and productions. Think Fort Worth’s own Spiral Diner and “A Ghost Story” — one of the few movies shot in North Texas last year.
Films, TV shows, video games and commercials all breed growth for the area. Case in point: Marfa.
Without the classics “Giant” “No Country for Old Men” or “There will be Blood,” that little West Texas city would most likely still be just a rest stop. But Marfa has some name recognition and has developed into a quirky tourist destination.
We need more Marfas, and that can happen with the incentive program. Texas needs to at least try to stay competitive with states like New Mexico and Louisiana — both have better film incentive programs — and not use the Weinstein scandal as a misguided reason to destroy the ability for economic growth and jobs.
To address the treatment of women in the industry, lawmakers could create stricter punishments for sexual assaults, make it easier for reporting crimes in rural areas and/or consider other ways to create the safest environment to shoot a movie or TV show in Texas.
And then maybe, a Fort Worth location will actually be shot in Fort Worth.