The Austin Chronicle recently reported some amazing news for Texas based filmmakers.  

The Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program is getting a massive financial boost, tripling the amount of money available over the next two years to $95 million.

While the article gives credit to Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, and the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, I want to thank our El Paso County Rep. Marissa Marquez  (District 77) and Rep. Joe Moody  (District 78) for co-authoring HB 873  bill during the 81st legislature in April of 2009.

HB 873  originally increased the incentive for filmmaking in Texas by adding educational and instructional videos to the list of eligible projects, dropping the minimum qualifying spending for TV and film, and boosting incentives for productions in historically underutilized areas, which included El Paso Texas.

In 2011, budget cuts to the state's film incentives program dropped the operating budget to $32 million.  

The TXMPA reached out to Texas filmmakers and urged them to write to their state representatives with concerns of how Texas needed to stay competitive in the Film Industry.  

New Mexico and Louisiana became the southwest production hubs of Hollywood, leaving Texas stuck between a rock and a hard place (literally between these 2 states).

Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico had originally veoted the Breaking Bad Bill before deciding to change her position on the bill. 

More recently, Variety reported that as of April 9, 2013, Gov. Martinez decided to up the anty with her support in renewing the New Mexico Film Incentives to their original 30%.

The provisions, included as part of a tax reform bill dubbed the New Mexico Jobs Package aka "The Breaking Bad Bill", increases the state’s rebate for series TV production to 30% from 25% of a producer’s total qualified spend in New Mexico. 

I decided to take action earlier this year and wrote to my state representatives on March 7th, 2013 in regards to how Texas would stay competitive in the film industry.

My Letter

Dear State Rep, 

I wanted to have a discussion in regards to Film / Television incentives for the state of Texas.  I know that the House Appropriations committee is meeting tomorrow morning, March 8th 2013, in regards to the Texas Incentive Program, and I just wanted to voice my support for the continued funding of the existing legislation, HB 837, that you co-authored during the 81st legislature.

My brother and I conduct business locally here in El Paso, TX as MindWarp LLC and we are full time members of the Web/TV/Film industry.  We continue to expand our work all over El Paso and in Texas with various clients and whenever TV/Film productions come into town, they reach out to MindWarp and utilize our various services based on the needs of their project.

The incentives impact us because they bring different types of jobs to various professionals in our community.  As graduates from Cathedral High School in El Paso (Class of 2002 & 2003) and as alumni of The University of Texas Austin's Radio-TV-Film program (Class of 2007), my brother and I continue to find success in our career choice.  

There was a $1.5 million dollar film called Unlimited that came through El Paso last year (2012) that I was a part of.  The film left around $500,000 in the local El Paso economy.  

This was all thanks to the talented men and women of the TV/Film industry here in El Paso as well as the continued support from representatives such as yourself.  Did you get a chance to read the article from the El Paso Times?  

El Paso Times: Economy, other states' incentives hurt El Paso in drawing big budget productions

This article also addresses another problem we currently have in Texas.  The article states "Texas' movie incentives pot was drastically cut in the last Legislature. The pot went from $60 million for the state's 2010 and 2011 fiscal years to $32 million, or $16 million per year, for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years.

After Unlimited came to El Paso, I went to work on another feature film, however, this next project was in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The film was called The Odd Way Home starring Rumer Willis.  This film chose to shoot in New Mexico due to the better incentives.  A majority of the crew that worked on this film were NMSU graduates, of which 80% of them were former El Pasoans and Texans.  

Whenever one us works out of state, it directly impacts our local economy and community.  In the last 46 years of El Paso's history, only 38 films have come into our city. That's an average of almost only one feature film production a year.  On average, they last anywhere between 3-6 weeks.  That's not very much money for the local economy in the past 46 years.  

The infrastructure is here in this city for productions to come to El Paso, but we need representatives to go to bat for the film incentives for Texas. Please let me know if you and your colleagues will continue to support the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program.  Your continued support of the program will continue to help Texas compete with New Mexico's and Louisiana's incentives.  

Rep. Marissa Marquez's Response

In the 81st Legislature I co-authored HB 873, which strengthens Texas' Music, Film, and Television Industry by creating incentives for projects in underutilized areas, such as El Paso.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I am proud that we appropriated $11 Million in each fiscal year of the biennium to the Moving Image Industry Incentive Program.

These are important steps that we must take to ensure that not only El Pasoans, but the entire state of Texas are given the proper tools to compete with other states.

Policy Changes

The El Paso Film Commission has confirmed the following items for the El Paso Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program:

  • Texas Incentive Program changes will become effective September 1, 2013.
  • A budget increase from $32 Million up to $95 Million, over a three year period.
  • Incetives has been lowered to $3.5 Million, down from $5 Million for productions.
  • Film, scripted television, and video game top tier incentive rates are now 20%.
  • The TMI Grant available to productions in the El Paso area is avaliable at 22.5%.
  • The wage-only option has been eliminated.

Let's make some movies El Paso!

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