Film professionals from across Texas will descend on Austin next week to ask for more incentives to draw movie and television productions to the state. The effort is being led by the Texas Motion Picture Alliance (TXMPA), which is busing in the citizen-lobbyists and setting up meetings with members of the state legislature. Texas has fallen behind Louisiana, New Mexico, even Michigan, in the amount of subsidies it provides to production companies who shoot in the state and employ locals.
As of Thursday, there were still seven seats on buses that leave early Tuesday afternoon from the Studios at Las Colinas. The lobbying will take place Wednesday, with buses returning that evening. TXMPA also can arrange sessions with legislators for people who drive themselves to Austin. Last week, TXMPA president Don Stokes, North Texas regional representative David S. Friedman and Dallas Film Commission director Janis Burkland held a briefing in Dallas about Lobby Day and the “Get on the Bus” event.
Most of the action will revolve around House Bill 873 and Senate Bill 605, which would wind up both increasing the grants to production companies and lowering the criteria for receiving the money. Currently, for example, feature films and episodic TV series must have a budget of at least $1 million to qualify for subsidies in the range of 5 to 6 percent of their budgets. These thresholds were so insurmountable, production companies asked for only a fraction of the funds that had been set aside last year, Burkland said.
The new bills, coupled with their administration by the Texas Film Commission, would make it possible for a movie, TV show or video game with at least a $250,000 budget to receive a 15 percent subsidy, a level considered crucial if Texas is going to compete with neighboring states, Friedman said. Commercials with at least a $100,000 budget also would qualify. TXMPA is looking for $60 million for the production fund, which is called the Moving Image Incentive Program.
Other bills working their way through the legislature would set up “sound stage zones,” similar to enterprise zones, to reward companies who build studios, and encourage state agencies to hire Texas companies for advertising, marketing and production work.
Besides citizen-lobbyists, TXMPA also is looking for volunteers to assist on Lobby Day. Bus tickets are $10 and discounted hotel rooms are available through the TXMPA Web site.