Bill has wrong focus on Texas film industry

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As local festival showed, Texas movie industry vibrant, good for economy

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“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The state owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them…. Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.” — Winston Churchill

 

The Hill Country Film Festival held its eighth annual event last weekend at Fritztown Cinema and it was widely regarded as the best yet and definitely the most well-attended. There were lots of new faces attending and visiting Fredericksburg for the first time.

In short, this growing event is doing what it was envisioned to do — expose locals and visitors to wonderful film and bring people to experience our wonderful town.

It also celebrates independent, Texas-made films (though not exclusively). Over the weekend, we saw a wonderful documentary on a local artist, Johann Eyfells, as well as a 10th-anniversary run of “No Country for Old Men,” an epic Texas drama filmed by the Coen Brothers in locations all over West Texas.

Yet, statesmen who promote and encourage the arts seem to be in short supply in Texas. With as much music, theater and film that promote the Lone Star State and its icons, one would think our legislators would be happy to pitch in and spur more of it.

But over in Austin, there is at least one bill to get rid of incentives offered to filmmakers, who bring jobs to locales while making their productions, supporting hotels, caterers, restaurants and more.

Indeed, House Bill 2707 by Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), would defund the entire Texas Film Commission, which promotes the visual arts in many ways around the state and nation.

The reason? Shaheen finds some film productions objectionable.

Sure, some Hollywood stars are obnoxious. But before we let a bill destroy an entire industry for the sins of some Californians, let’s look at the positives of this industry:

• The Texas Film Commission and the incentive program (established in 2005) is used to encourage filmmakers to use Texas as location for movies, TV shows and even video games.

• The “Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program” was a high priority for economic development under former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In 2013, the legislature allocated more than $90 million to the incentive program. Eligible projects can receive grants for 20 percent of the production costs for filming in Texas.

• The Texas Film Commission connects $168.4 million in incentives to the creation of about 20,000 full-time jobs and $1.14 billion in spending.

 

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