joe's column *and thanks*
- as you can see below, the legislation passed; thanks for all your help
in getting it passed
As the Texas film industry tries to keep up with New Mexico's and
Louisiana's, the Lege approves an incentive program Tall on talk but
short on Funding Sources
BY JOE O'CONNELL
It's a case of good news and bad news for a Texas film industry seeking
to at least slightly level the playing field with Louisiana and New
Mexico. The Legislature approved a one-time $20 million film incentive
program for the next two years, but missing from the bill is an actual
funding source for the incentive plan, which also includes ? at least on
paper ? another $10 million in tourism dollars. "We've got the bill
heading to the governor's office for signature," says Ken Rector,
business manager of Texas Local 484 of the International Alliance of
Theatrical Stage Employees. "From there, it's how we can find funding.
We're so close that we can smell victory."
As of the close of the legislative session on Monday, May 23, no funding
source had been found, but with Gov. Rick Perry having cited
film-industry incentives as one of his priorities for the session, one
source likely to be considered is the Texas Enterprise Fund, a $180
million program set up in 2003 to lure jobs to the state.
The Austin-based IATSE stagehands union is among a host of Texas groups,
including in particular the Dallas Film Commission, that have
effectively used the Internet to marshal forces in support of
incentives. It's been a tough ride. They saw funding stripped from the
Senate bill, then last week the House took the bill on with seconds to
go on its deadline to agree to consider Senate items. A separate bill
seeking to broaden hotel/motel tax exemptions for film projects died.
Even if the $20 million is found, it will be an uphill battle to fend
off more ambitious offerings in our neighbor states. Louisiana has seen
film production dollars spent there jump from $20 million in 2002 to
$335 million in 2004, and dished out $56 million in incentives last
year. Some there say that's too much, and the Louisiana Legislature is
considering limiting the outlays. But for now, folks are flocking.
Occasional Chronicle contributor Jeff Nightbyrd recently opened a New
Orleans branch of his Austin-based Acclaim Talent. "The Louisiana film
incentive program offered a unique opportunity for expansion," he says.
"We are working on 18 films at the moment that are in production or
preproduction ? largely in the New Orleans area."
Meanwhile, in New Mexico, the cap on no-interest loans for a project has
been raised from $7.5 million to $15 million and tax rebates ? 80% of
which is paid up front ? have jumped from 15% to 20%. New Mexico drew
$350 million in film projects last year spurred by $83 million in tax
Here, we saw $214.8 million in film projects in 2004, according to Texas
Film Commission numbers, and much of that can be attributed to homeboys
like Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez. Add in estimates for
commercials and sports events, and we still trail at just under $320
million. But, for now, Texas still leads its neighbors in film crew,
which are deep enough to have three or four studio-size projects
shooting at once. Rector figures that unless Texas jumps into the
incentives game, the film biz here will "dismantle to the level of 20
years ago" and be able to handle only two projects at once. The Texas
film incentives have been projected to create 7,600 direct jobs and
15,200 indirect jobs each year.