Case Study

Texas Film Industry

The Fight for Texas Film Industry Incentives

Salient Strategies, Chris Debiec's and Others' Efforts to Boost the State's Film Industry

Chris Debiec compares his role as a line producer in the film and television industry to Russell Crowe’s character in “A Beautiful Mind.” He must monitor the financials while production is underway, working with both creative and production teams to stay within budget. Despite having fewer opportunities in Texas, Debiec has attached himself to an $8 million film set in the state called “Unbridled Courage.”

This legislative session is regarded by many in the industry as the most consequential for the film industry in Texas. Although Texas has long been home to the film and television industry, Hollywood companies seek out other states offering better incentives, such as Georgia and New Mexico. Texas is currently experiencing an increase in studio space, with projects like Stray Vista Studios in Dripping Springs and Hill Country Studios in San Marcos, and Bastrop 552 under construction.

According to industry advocates, incentives will play a crucial role in the success of these ventures. However, some individuals, such as Nate Jensen, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies economic development strategy, view film incentives as problematic and criticize them as economic development tools.

Despite the criticism, people like Debiec remain determined to see projects filmed in Texas. Debiec believes Texas is the ideal location for filming due to its business-friendly environment and the variety of ecosystems that can represent any part of the world. The only thing missing, according to Debiec, are incentives. He wants to see “Unbridled Courage” filmed in Texas rather than Oklahoma, as losing projects that should be filmed in Texas is like losing the soul of the state.

The Mechanics

Debiec and his team have proposed a new incentives program for film and TV productions called the Texas Multimedia Production Program. This program would provide tax credits to eligible projects and would complement the current Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program (TMIIIP), which offers tax rebates. Debiec spent a year researching other incentive programs and networking with industry professionals before developing House Bill 3600 and Senate Bill 1613. These bills provide a 30% base transferable tax credit to productions that meet specific guidelines, including a production budget of $15 million or more, at least 25% of the production filmed in Texas, and a minimum of 25% of the production staff coming from Texas. The program also includes an educational component for workers and is subject to audit and review by the film commission.

The bills have received support from the entertainment industry, including representatives from Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation and actress Christy Carlson Romano. House Bill 3600 was unanimously passed out of committee on April 13, while Senate Bill 1613 remains pending after being heard in committee on April 19. Debiec compares the tax credit to a Bed Bath and Beyond coupon at 30%, stating that production companies would need to spend the money first before receiving the tax reduction certificate. Overall, the Texas Multimedia Production Program aims to incentivize more film and TV productions to be made in Texas, boosting the local economy and creating job opportunities in the state.