Craig Berlin of Texas Motion Picture Alliance Gives an Update on the Film Industry in Texas
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 incentive program.
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.