Sen­a­tors tar­get film panel

Slasher movies cited as rea­son for killing film com­mis­sion, in­cen­tives.

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - By Bob Sech­ler bsech­ler@states­

The Texas Film Com­mis­sion was likened to a “cen­tral plan­ning” agency Tues­day, with some state law­mak­ers call­ing the in­cen­tives it dis­burses to lure in movie, tele­vi­sion and video-game pro­duc­tions a form of cor­po­rate wel­fare.

The com­ments came at a leg­isla­tive hear­ing over one of sev­eral bills filed dur­ing the cur­rent ses­sion that would abol­ish both the film com­mis­sion and its in­cen­tives pro­gram.

About two dozen ad­vo­cates for the movie, TV and video-game sec­tors tes­ti­fied dur­ing the hear­ing that such a move would be dev­as­tat­ing and cause Texas to re­lin­quish its place as a hot­bed for cre­ative in­dus­tries be­cause it no longer would be com­pet­i­tive with other states and coun­tries that of­fer such in­cen­tives. Al­ready, they said, many pro­duc­tions have left the state be­cause of a lack of sup­port.

John Moore, a film editor for Austin pro­duc­tion com­pany Rooster Teeth and an in­de­pen­dent film­maker, pointed out the irony of the dis­cus­sion tak­ing place un­der the Capi­tol dome at a time when the in­ter­na­tion­ally bal­ly­hooed SXSW In­ter­ac­tive fes­ti­val was revving up nearly within earshot.

“All you have to do is walk about five blocks and wait a few sec­onds” to see the eco­nomic im­pact of the film and soft­ware in­dus­tries on the Texas econ­omy, Moore told the sen­a­tors.

Only one per­son showed up at the hear­ing Tues­day to tes­tify in fa­vor of elim­i­nat­ing the in­cen­tives.

The pro­gram — known as the Texas Mov­ing Im­age In­dus­try In­cen­tive Pro­gram — of­fers qual­i­fy­ing projects rebates of up to 20 per­cent on money they spend in Texas. Sup­port­ers of the in­cen­tives con­tend they have cre­ated $5.55 in eco­nomic value for ev­ery dol­lar dis­bursed.

About $32 mil­lion was bud­geted for the pro­gram dur­ing

the state’s cur­rent two-year bud­get cy­cle, down sub­stan­tially from $95 mil­lion dur­ing the 2014-15 bi­en­nium. House and Sen­ate bud­get writ­ers have ear­marked a to­tal of $10 mil­lion for it dur­ing the 201819 cy­cle, although Gov. Greg Ab­bott, a sup­porter of the pro­gram, has re­quested about $72 mil­lion.

Mean­while, the pro­gram has been in the crosshairs of some Repub­li­can law­mak­ers who want to get rid of it en­tirely.

“It is not the proper role of gov­ern­ment to be med­dling with the free-mar­ket sys­tem,” said state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Rock­wall, who in­tro­duced SB 99, which was the topic of Tues­day’s hear­ing. Hall said he has been “ab­so­lutely ap­palled” by some of the films awarded in­cen­tives un­der the pro­gram, cit­ing “Fri­day the 13th” and “the Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre.”

State Sen. Konni Bur­ton, R-Fort Worth, called the pro­gram “kind of cen­tral plan­ning” and said money spent on it would have re­sulted in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment any­way had it been left in the pock­ets of tax­pay­ers. Bur­ton has spon­sored SB 244, which is sim­i­lar to Hall’s bill.

But state Sen. Ju­dith Zaf­firini, D-Laredo, dis­agreed, say­ing the pro­gram “is just an in­cred­i­ble in­vest­ment” for the state.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Moore crit­i­cized Hall’s fo­cus on two slasher films as in­dica­tive of the moral cal­iber of Texas films, telling him the state can be proud of many highly ac­claimed movies shot within its bor­ders. One of them, “The Thin Blue Line,” ac­tu­ally “got a man off death row,” Moore said.


Texas Sen. Konni Bur­ton, R-Fort Worth, has filed a bill abol­ish­ing the state’s film com­mis­sion.

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