Patrick May Hold Key to Texas Film Business
Rebirth after Republican Incentive Defunding
March 27, 2023
The Texas film industry could be on the verge of a significant revival with GOP lawmakers who defunded the state's incentive program attempting to reinvent it now as a tax break for major motion pictures and television productions that are shot in the Lone Star State.
A pair of West Texas Republicans - State Senator Charles Perry of Lubbock and State Rep. Walter "Four" Price of Amarillo - filed identical bills early this month that would pave the way for financial enticements for film and TV projects with budgets of $15 million or more and crews that rely in part on Texas-based labor.
But Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick appears to be the key to making it snow as on-again, off-again supporter who's a big fan again after dining last month with Texas native Taylor Sheridan and hearing his pitch on why the state should be investing more in Hollywood.
Sheridan also met with Governor Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan when he visited the Texas Capitol during the second week of February. But Patrick appears to be the only member of the statehouse power triad who Sheridan truly won over.
"Sheridan "has incredible talent and an amazing success story," Patrick said on his web site on February 15. "He’s the best screenwriter of our time and one of the best storytellers ever to make movies. Best yet, he’s a Texan and gets Texas. My goal is for Taylor to move all of his TV and movie production to Texas. Working together, I think we can get it done."
Sheridan is a co-creator and writer for the hit television series Yellowstone with Kevin Costner as the patriarch of a ranching family in Montana. A Sheridan spinoff series called 6666 is set in Texas and in development here as a prime contender for incentives through tax credits if Patrick makes it happen.
Senate Bill 1613 and House Bill 3600 would create a Texas Multimedia Production Program that would offer tax breaks that begin at 30 percent of a company's in-state spending. Qualified applicants would have to promise to shoot at least 25 percent of projects in Texas with 25 percent or more of production crews based in the state. A hearing has been set for HB 3600 on Thursday in the Culture, Recreation & Tourism Committee. SB 1613 was referred by Patrick to the Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee in the Senate on March 16.
The state's film incentive program has depended on appropriations up to now. The House and Senate proposals would not require expenditures on paper with the special tax breaks as the magnet and bait.
“This is an industry we can do better,” Price said in a story that the Hollywood Reporter published on Monday. “There’s a lot of appetite here for film production in particular.”
Patrick appears to be the linchpin as the most powerful legislative leader in modern Texas history. Patrick was in the midst of his debut session as the state Senate president in 2015 when the Republican-controlled Legislature slashed spending by two-thirds on incentive grants for film and TV projects that conservatives branded as corporate welfare for the movie tycoons. Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi had been a major force behind film incentive defunding as a member of the state House at the time. Rinaldi and Patrick may be stronger allies now than they were then.
Patrick proposed additional cuts to the Texas film program after blaming a mass high school shooting in Santa Fe in 2018 on violent movies and video games.
The Texas film incentive program had been a Rick Perry brainchild when lawmakers hatched it during his first full term as the governor here in 2005. Perry paid tribute to the fledgling Texas effort at a press conference that year with Austin-based filmmaker Robert Rodriguez at the movie studio that he owns in the Mueller district.
But the program effectively blew itself up in 2010 when the state denied incentive funding that it promised Rodriguez for the film Machete after Republicans were outraged over the portrayal of Texas as a backwater mecca with politicians who behave like clownish morons who do everything in their power to stop migrants from coming here from Mexico.
Rodriguez is a San Antonio native who graduated from the film school at the University of Texas. Rodriguez's filmography as a director and writer includes El Mariachi, Desperado, From Dusk to Dawn, Spy Kids, Planet Terror, Sin City and Machete Kills as a sequel in 2016.
Rodriguez took the state to court after it reneged on funding that he'd been promised for Machete, which starred Danny Trejo as a vigilante and Robert De Niro as a Texas senator who hunts migrants in border areas. The Third Court of Appeals ruled against him in 2016 when it deemed that the state had the authority to deny the incentive subsidies.
Sheridan, who was born in the Bosque County hamlet of Cranfils Gap, gained fame when he received an Oscar nomination for best screenplay for his work on the film Hell or High Water with Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine. Sheridan penned the scripts for the movies Sicario and the sequel Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Sheridan also created the Yellowstone spinoff series 1883 and 1923
more to come ...