- ACTING OUT – of _STATE
_by Craig Berlin
Founding Board Member (Retired)
Texas Motion Picture Alliance
Acting is something close to my heart. Talent does not guarantee
success and even though I did a lot of acting in high school and
college, I opted to go behind the camera as a career because it felt
safer (hah!) So, the plight of the production industry in Texas
touches me both from a business and personal standpoint on more than
Recently I was asked to address the Alliance, a network of Austin
casting directors, agents and acting coaches in order to keep them
up-to-date on the state of the industry but most importantly to help
them reach out to their clients, the myriad of actors we have in
locally. I’d like to pass along the information I shared with them
statewide and specifically address what I understand to be some of
the specific concerns actors have about TxMPA.
You may have heard that the Texas production business is hurting,
making it harder for actors and crew to find work and generally
impacting the state’s econcomy in a negative way. The alarm bells
being sounded regarding production business in Texas are from real
numbers, not just protectionist fear. Texas used to be considered
the “Third Coast” but that has changed. Producers who want to come
here no longer can because the money people won’t allow it. To be
frank, who can blame them? After all, as an industry of “artists” we
spend much of our time trying to convince the traditional business
community that film, music and the arts are “business” too, so we
can hardly expect the business decision-makers of production to
behave substantially differently in regard to “the bottom line” than
other bean counters would.
The truth is, production incentives work and a lack of them hurts.
In 2002, pre-incentive Louisiana had about $20 million/year in
production business. Since the advent of incentives, their business
had grown to over $640 million by 2005. Similar figures exist for
New Mexico. Michigan is currently building the second largest
production studio in the state as a direct result of new business
brought in by incentives, according to the mayor of Lansing. The
list of migration and infrastructure growing elsewhere goes on.
By contrast, Texas is DEAD LAST on the list of states with
incentives. As a result, our business has correspondingly shrunk. We
are now into the billions of dollars in lost revenue. Prison Break
left Dallas and even Robert Rodriguez is likely producing his next
feature in Michigan. We were barely able to hang on to Friday Night
Lights and that had a lot to do with help from the local support and
there are MANY more examples.
As the Third Coast, Texas offered talented and plentiful crew and
actors as well as varied locations, good facilities and of course,
Texas charm. While the charm and locations may remain, the rest of
our infrastructure is eroding due to lack of business. Some studios
are not being built because we lack incentives; others are not
getting badly needed upgrades. Our crew and actors are working
out-of-state more than they are working locally and that makes it
difficult to keep your roots here. As of now, the local crew labor
union IATSE reports they have more crew working out of state than in
Texas. While talent agents typically do not report specific numbers,
a SAG survey included alarming information as well. One talent agent
reported nearly 100 performers, or 75% of the agency roster, had
found work in Louisiana or New Mexico in the past year. Another
agent cited 36 film and television projects in Louisiana employing
75 of the agency's Texas performers and five projects in New Mexico
employing 9 Texas performers in the past year. A third agent
reported total gross earnings from out of state in 2007 comprised
27% of the agency’s film/tv gross and increased to 28% in 2008,
whereas five years ago there were not measurable out of state
earnings. With the possible exception of commercial business in
Dallas, we simply cannot be satisfied with the status quo and expect
to have any kind of industry left in this state.
It is widely believed by those in the trenches that we have about 9
months to get our act together (no pun intended) and make something
happen or our a signficiant portion of our industry will be dealt
such a severe blow that it will literally wither and any opportunity
for regrowth will be years down the road. It is imperative that
actors join the cause individually and both JOIN the TxMPA and
participate in the grass roots effort by writing their legislators –
ESPECIALLY the naysayers such as Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden
in Williamson County.
While Bob Hudgins, Texas Film Commisioner, is an amazing advocate
for our industry, he is not in a position legally to take an
official stand and furthermore, his office is underfunded and
understaffed to do all the marketing we need to bring more business
to the state. Once we have successfully achieved better incentives,
the TxMPA needs to have a long-term mission of helping to solicit
business for our state and help improve our infrastructure, as well
as making sure that the “total package” we offer stays attractive
and competitive with other states.
It is often difficult for even the most talented actors to get jobs
when business is plentiful. Just imagine how it will be when
business is virutally nonexistent. Personally, I hope to do some
acting again in the future and my daughter is interested as well.
Beyond that, my job depends on a healthy production community.
Production business is not only good for the entire state but is
also significant part of what makes Texas “cool,” much as is live
music is for Austin. More importantly, we and our friends and
colleagues may have a mass exodus if we aren’t able to turn things
As a local vendor, it has been difficult enough to compete with
internet companies to supply a local clientele made largely of
transplants from California and elsewhere who do not share the “Buy
Local” mentality of old in regard to their current home. With the
local business migrating elsewhere, it is likely that what remains
of local producers and potential location shoots may very well be
left with few options when the number of local suppliers left to
serve them shrinks even further. Just last week I learned that the
mobile HD editing facility Confidence Bay is moving to L.A. so they
can sustain their business until the industry climate is better
here, at least they have the ability to come back, if and when we
fix things. They are not alone.
A fair number of actors seem to have a particularly difficult time
believing in the issues or supporting TxMPA. There has been
concerned expressed by some regarding where the TxMPA money ends up.
As the first treasurer for TXMPA I can vouch for the fact that at
least 90% of the money raised goes to lobbying expenses. It case it
hasn’t been made clear, with over 5000 bills in front of a
legislature which only meets every other year, NOTHING gets passed
in Texas without a lobbyist. Most of the remainder of the money goes
to fundraising and promotional expenses. There are no paid board
members, employees or other gravy trains and most expenses such as
travel are absorbed by individual board members. As Chairman of the
Membership and Fundraising Committee our first year, if I went to
other cities to promote the organization I paid my own way.
Any way you slice it, our first priority must be to pass better
incentives to put Texas back on the list of viable choices and that
is the TxMPA’s prime directive. We can’t do it without the financial
and grass-roots support of the entire community, including actors.
Please let me know if you need help with specifics about how to get
involved beyond joining the organization; otherwise please visit
http://www.txmpa.org and sign up. It’s an investment in your future
and we need you.
- Greetings film/video/audio/video game enthusiasts! I was asked to write
a blog for the Texas Entrepeneur Network and it was just approved by Don
Stokes and Jay Schuh, co-chair of our communications committee. I am
sending it to you guys before I even post it on my OWN blog so you can
If you have questions, please visit the TXMPA website or contact me
anytime via FB, LinkedIN or wherever I lurk!
Founding Board Member
Texas Motion Picture Alliance
The Texas Legislature convenes this year with a problem that is not
unusual if you look around the country but it is unusual for Texas: a
budget shortfall as high as $27 billion. Since Texas cannot deficit
spend as the Federal government does, the winds of cutting spending are
blowing through Austin with the same hurricane force we hear about
Washington, D.C. With so much on the chopping block including every
conceivable hurtful sacrifice from closing schools to cutting mental
health programs to ending some kinds of aid to victims of child abuse,
nothing is sacred. To almost anyone then, ending incentives for film,
video and video game producers ought to be a no-brainer.
While conservative “fiscally responsible” think tanks certainly toot
that horn and a number of other economic development funds are being
targeted, since 2006 it has been the job of the Texas Motion Picture
Alliance (http://www.txmpa.org) to educate and inform the public and the
Legislature that decreasing funding for the Texas Moving Image Industry
Incentive Program will have the opposite of its intended effect, costing
the State hundreds of millions of dollars in business and tax revenue
and sending jobs elsewhere.
Programs in other states are justifiably being cut not just due to the
prevailing mentality but because overly generous and corrupt programs
full of loopholes cost their states more money than they made. Seeing
that, along with misinformation, has fueled a public and legislative
appetite for cutting all programs back.
However, the facts have been largely overlooked or distorted and
sometimes overshadowed by outright falsehoods. The truth is that Texas
went from being the Third Coast to an afterthought when other states
began offering incentives, and when places such as Louisiana went from
$20 million in production in 2002 to $620 million four years later, the
Texas production community knew something had to be done. The TXMPA was
created in a near-panic to effect change and has worked closely with
IATSE, the labor union for production crewpeople, to create a
conservative but effective program which has brought in over $600
million in production spending since its inception and created thousands
of jobs, resulting in tremendous trickle-down spending and tax revenue
benefitting every man, woman and child in Texas. It is noteworthy as
well that without the program, much of this business would have gone
elsewhere. Prison Break, which stayed in Dallas for its third season
(the second in Texas), did so primarily because of our new and improved
The budget, economic development, incentives and the ancillary subjects
are complicated but one thing is for certain: the Texas Moving Image
Industry Incentive Program brought jobs and business BACK to Texas and
prevented others from leaving – all with a closely scrutinized process
that requires that producers come to Texas, spend money and provide
documentation of that spending before they get one red cent back. If and
when they are eligible they must do due diligence and their grants are
structured in a way that benefits both the producers and the State. Our
program was designed from the beginning to rely on Texas being a great
place to produce on its own so we will never have to give away the farm.
However, we do need the program to have adequate funding or once again,
the industry will go elsewhere to work.
For more information on the importance of the program please visit our
website at http://www.txmpa.org. If you would like to speak to a
representative of the Board, please contact us or Hall Martin, who can
put you in touch with someone. The TXMPA is a 100% volunteer non-profit
organization and we are desperately in need of financial support to help
preserve this program, which in turn generates hundreds of millions of
dollars for Texas workers and other worthy government programs facing
huge cuts. Please contact us to learn how you can help.
Craig Berlin is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with
degrees in Plan II, the Liberal Arts Honors Program and Radio-TV-Film.
He has operated audio-visual production and support company Take 5, Inc.
dba/Pro-Tape since 1986 and is a founding Board Member and former
treasurer of the TXMPA.
Texas lawmakers set aside money for movies, TV productionsFunding Significantly Decreased
By KELLEY SHANNON | 12 February 2011
AUSTIN — With massive school layoffs and health care cuts likely, Texas lawmakers have managed to set aside $10 million in their initial budget proposals for making movies.
Film, television and video game producers say they are heartened that any incentive money was proposed for their industry. And they’re trying for a bigger slice of the budget pie, pointing to the Academy Award-nominated film True Grit, multiple television projects taped in Texas and a growing video game creation business.
“We will have a compelling case to make,” said Don Stokes of Dallas, president of the Texas Motion Picture Alliance. “We don’t want to lose the momentum we’ve built up the last couple of years.”
But movie industry advocates could see an unhappy ending this legislative session, even with Gov. Rick Perry on their side.
“I have higher priorities,” said Sen. Bob Deuell, a Greenville Republican who worked to boost film, TV and video game production incentives in the last two sessions. “This is a time to prioritize, and health and education are more important.”
Other lawmakers quietly say the same. But they don’t rule out some money for the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, despite a projected shortfall of $15 billion or more.
The $10 million for two years in early House and Senate budget proposals was down from about $60 million in the current budget. In another part of the budget that was slashed, $10 million would have paid for caseworkers and money for groceries and medicine for families in which poverty has contributed to child neglect.
However, Rep. Dawnna Dukes, an Austin Democrat who champions the taxpayer-funded incentives, is upset the program was “obliterated” in the Legislature’s proposed budget.
“The immense reduction will cause television series and film opportunities to flee Texas,” she warned.
Stokes said the film industry incentives put Texans to work and prevent film crews from migrating to other states. The productions also pump money into local economies, he said.
Major television projects in the state recently were Chase and The Good Guys in North Texas and Friday Night Lights and My Generation in the Austin area.
The Texas Film Commission is boasting about the 10 Academy Award nominations for True Grit, filmed partly in Austin, Granger, Blanco, Smithville and Bartlett.
Perry, who has made bit appearances in Texas-made movies, originally requested $66.5 million for film and music marketing for the coming two years. That request was later reduced to $57.5 million because of budget cuts.
“This program continues to help Texas remain competitive with neighboring states and states across the country,” said Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed.
The Texas Association of Business is joining with the Texas Motion Picture Alliance and plans to unveil a study soon showing the competitive benefits of the incentives, TAB president Bill Hammond said.
Yet Hammond and Stokes agreed that Texas’ deep budget cuts will be an obstacle.
“You can’t minimize the degree of difficulty,” Hammond said.
The program offers grants to movie, television and video game production companies. Companies are given grants between 5 percent and 15 percent of the total amount they spend in Texas, once they meet a certain threshold.
Comptroller Susan Combs raised questions about the program in a December report showing that from April 2009, when a new incentive measure took effect, through the fiscal year ending in August 2010, $48 million in incentives were approved for projects generating an estimated 3,790 full-time equivalent jobs.
One weakness of the program, the report said, is that most jobs created in film and television industries are temporary or part-time jobs, such as walk-on roles. That wasn’t necessarily the case with video game production jobs.
Of the total $415 million in spending by all the companies receiving the grants, 41 percent came from the video game industry, which received only 19 percent of the grants. Video game production accounted for 45 percent of the full-time equivalent jobs created, compared with 18 percent for feature films.
Perhaps working in favor of the entire incentive program is the not-so-small matter of Texas pride.
In a state where the epic movie Giant and the long-running television series Dallas were made, Texans for generations have liked their state being in the Hollywood spotlight.
“We are, rightfully so, very proud of that history and legacy,” Stokes said.From the Sunday Dallas Morning News
--Garry PottsProducers RepresentativeTexas Motion Picture Alliance
Craig BerlinFounding Board MemberTexas Motion Picture Alliance
President, Pro-Tape Systems
- Join TXMPA for Our 2011 Annual Meeting
Friday, July 22-Saturday, July 23
Come enjoy a weekend of fun with the family and fellow TXMPA members!
TXMPA members from all over the state will gather to hear the latest
news on funding, elections, regions and a report on work in Texas from
Evan Fitzmaurice, Texas Film Commissioner.
Friday, July 22
An open house of local industry vendors and a taste of Houston
restaurants. More information will be available soon.
Saturday, July 23
TEXCAM, Inc., 1323 N. First Street, Bellaire, TX 77401
1-2:30 p.m. TXMPA Annual Meeting with special guest Evan Fitzmaurice,
Texas Film Commissioner
3-4:00 p.m. Breakout Panel Sessions, panelist to be announced
Visit our website for recommendations for the whole family. more details…
- TXMPA FINAL COUNTDOWN TO LAUNCH - IN HOUSTON
It's the final countdown! Friday, July 22-Saturday, July 23 Houston, Texas
We are quickly approaching TXMPA's Annual Meeting. Don't miss out on any of the fun. TXMPA members from all over the state will gather to hear the latest news on funding, elections, and a report on Texas work from Evan Fitzmaurice, Texas Film Commissioner.
A full week of networking activities and TXMPA discounts are available to members and their families.
7/19 Downtown Scout Around
7/20 Museum District Madness
7/21 Rock the Dock, NASA
7/22 TXMPA Presents Houston Showcase and Dine Around
7/23 Breakout sessions with Industry Experts
7/23 Annual Meeting and Luau
Cap off the weekend at the TXMPA 2011 Luau Celebrating our 5th Anniversary!
Saturday, July 23 from 6:30-10 p.m.
The Omni Hotel - Regency Ballroom
Book your hotel room using the TXMPA discount.
For a look at the full schedule of events, tickets and hotel booking information, go to www.txmpa.org.
- The TXMPA Fall Fun Auction is now open! Here's your chance to do some shopping and support TXMPA at the same time. You will find items from all over the state that can wet your appetite, hone your skills, help you relax or support your favorite team. Take a look at our auction items on Bidding For Good and check back often as items are constantly being uploaded to the site. Auction officially began on October 1st, at noon and will close on October 16th, at midnight. The best bid helps us all win!--
Kim GandyAdministrative AssistantTexas Motion Picture Alliance
- Checked Out the Latest Additions to TXMPA's Fall Fun Auction?
There's only a week left to bid and new items have been added to the auction. Items from across the state are available, including restaurants, hotels and tickets. You are welcome to explore our full list on Bidding For Good. The auction closes on Sunday, October 16th, at midnight. Claim that weekend getaway you've been dreaming of!
Alamo Drafthouse: Movies, Food and Drink Passes
Behind the Scenes Tour: Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Gruene Day Trip: Gristmill and Grapevine Texas Wine
Tastes Like Home: Moonshine Brunch
The Hill Country's Best Kept Secret: Gruene Hall, Cantina del Rio, Mozie's
$100 Gift Certificate at Hotel Veritas in Harvard Square
$50 Gift Certificate for PinkCalyx.com Jewelry
$50 voucher to ScoreBig for theater, sports, concert
5 Day/4 Night Escape to Cancun, Mexico
Find Great Child Care Services near you Today! 1-year Membership
GolfTEC Personal Club Fitting
GolfTEC Personal Swing Evaluation
Mexican vacation at the Hacienda Tres Rios-Riviera Maya 5 days/4 nights
Royal Aloha Vacation Club - 1 Week / 1 Bedroom Membership.
St. James's Club, Antigua - 7 Night Stay - Valid for up to 2 rooms
TXMPA = JOBS!
State incentives are reaping the work and TXMPA is working to increase Texas incentives.
Join industry members at the TXMPA Annual Meeting, Saturday, July 7th 1pm-3pm. Then kick off your industry shoes and join SAG-AFTRA members as we host the TXMPA Luau & Mixer from 6-10pm. All activities will be held at the Omni Southpark Hotel.
TXMPA announces its most aggressive legislative plan in five years, introduces new partnerships to strengthen our effectiveness and confirms the new TXMPA Board of Directors.
Hotel: A TXMPA block of rooms at the Omni Southpark for July 3-8 is now available for $99/night. Call (800) 843-6664 and ask for the TMPA room block rate or go online at Omni Southpark.
Omni Southpark Hotel
4141 Governors Row
For more information, contact info@....