Texas Film Industry worried about job loss and fewer productions

Film Fleet is an Austin based business that provides trucks and trailers for movie sets across the state and country.
Film Fleet is an Austin based business that provides trucks and trailers for movie sets across the state and country.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Film Industry is headed to the Texas State Capitol Thursday. Directors, producers, and businesses that provide everything from food to lumber for sets will be asking lawmakers to not cut the Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, which they say helps bring thousands of jobs to the state. The program helps pay for things like wages for Texas workers. Since its creation in 2007, the Texas Film Commission reports its generated $1 billion into the state and 140,000 jobs.

Brian Gannon with the Austin Film Commission says, if the incentive program goes away, it would be “extremely detrimental” to the film industry in Texas. The current budget for the incentive program is $32 million. With this next budget, the Senate is only allocating $3 million and the House is giving it nothing. Right now, the bills are in conference committee to decide on funding.

In the meantime, producers for several television series that are shot here in Central Texas are waiting on lawmakers before they decide whether to come back. Productions in Austin right now include television series like a pilot called the Gospel of Kevin, AMC’s The Son, National Geographic is shooting The Long Road Home and Robert Rodriguez just wrapped up shooting a film called Battle Angel that will come out next summer.

Film Fleet, which provides the trucks and trailers for almost everything shot in Texas says business has been slow and the number of trucks on the lot right now is a sign of that. While most of their work remains in Texas, the company has been traveling to other states that are providing better incentives to filmmakers. That’s resulting in more work.

“Everything we have has wheels on it and it can move on an hours notice. We can service people in Florida,” says Phil Schriber, Film Fleet’s owner.

The Austin Film Commission hopes to convince lawmakers the incentive program is not supporting Hollywood but Texas workers.

“It’s got the name incentive but it’s really a rebate,” says Brian Gannon, Austin Film Commission. “They have to come in and film, pay all of their Texas employees and then get audited by the Texas Film Commission before they are given a cent. So, they are coming in spending a lot of money and being incentivized after that.”

Three lawmakers filed bills to end or reduce the amount of money allocated to the incentive program. Konni Burton, R-Fort Worth, told KXAN back in February, “The state has a finite amount of resources and any diversion from the core functions of state government  education, transportation, water infrastructure, public safety is a misuse of those resources.”

Governor Greg Abbott, on the other hand, has requested that $72 million be allocated for the incentive program which can also be used for video game production.

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