From car commercials and reality shows to award-winning movies like Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" and television shows like "Friday Night Lights,” Houston and the rest of Texas has been a long-time favorite of TV and film production companies. But that could change, after lawmakers in Austin slashed the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, a tax subsidy program that made such production in the Lone Star State a lot more profitable. The cut took effect Tuesday with the start of the new fiscal year. Rick Ferguson is executive director of the Houston Film Commission. He joins Andrew Schneider on this week's installment of the "Bauer Business Focus."
How much of Texas film and TV production depends on the state's tax incentive program?
"I would say approximately 100 percent. When I started in the industry...28 years ago, what you had to offer were your crew base and locations...and now...the very first question that any kind of production asks – whether it's feature [film] or television or commercial or whatever – is, basically, ‘What do you have in the way of an incentive program to help finance our product?'"
What incentives has Texas provided filmmakers for producing in the state up to now?
"For a feature film, if you spend between $250,000 and $1 million, you get 5 percent back. If you are shooting in the Houston area, you get an additional 2.5 [percent], so 7.5 [percent]. If the budget is between $1 million and $3.5 million, you get 10 percent back, plus an additional 2.5 [percent] bump for Houston. And then if you exceed the $3.5 million threshold, then it goes up to 20 percent, and in Houston you get an additional 2.5 [percent]...[At least] 70 percent of your crew has to be Texas residents, and 60 percent of the entire production has to be shot in the state of Texas."
How will cuts to the program affect Texas film and TV production going forward?
"The way the equation works has not changed. It's the amount of money that has been allotted to the program...That having been cut more than half, it's going to lessen...the number of projects that are eligible for the incentive program, which, unfortunately, will just not consider coming to the state."