Houston Matters

Will increased state incentives bring more TV and film productions to Houston?

Paul Jensen of the Texas Media Production Alliance talks about the “historic” $200 million in state incentives that came out the legislature in 2023.

Houstonian Mo Amer in a scene from his Netflix series, "Mo."
Houstonian Mo Amer in a scene from his Netflix series, “Mo.”

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Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a much larger budget of incentives to support television and film production in the state. The previous legislative session earmarked some $45 million for those incentives while the latest regular session increased that number to $200 million.

That allocation might pale in comparison to what other states offer to lure television and film productions, but Paul Jensen sees it as a step forward. He’s the executive director of the Texas Media Production Alliance, an advocacy organization for film, TV, commercial, digital media, and video game creators.

“This $200 million was a historic allocation,” Jensen told Houston Matters host Craig Cohen. “It increased the former budget by 500 percent. It’s really significant.”

Those incentives seem to indicate the legislature is now recognizing productions – even of stories set in Texas – are often being shot in other states, and that it may be in the state's best interest to stop that from happening.

“The state has not really fully embraced an incentive program that competes at the size and scale of other places, like Georgia,” Jensen said.

Season six of the Netflix series Queer Eye was shot in Austin.

The Texas Film Commission estimated the return on the state’s investment at more than 5 to 1, meaning that $200 million could result in a billion dollars of media production over the next two years in the Lone Star state.

“That’s historic,” Jensen said. “That’s never happened here in Texas before.”

The immediate impact will be felt by people who work on film and production crews in cities like Houston, where the second season of the Netflix series Mo, starring Houstonian Mo Amer, is slated to begin shooting early this year, Jensen said.

“These are essentially floating factories that come into a small community,” he said. “A huge adrenaline shot in job creation. Good, clean, blue-collar, highly skilled jobs.”

If that kind of return on investment indeed manifests itself, could state spending continue to grow in future budgets?

“Success begets success, right?” Jensen said. “So, as we’ve increased our allocation, we’ll see those numbers continue to balloon in the positive direction and help more and more legislators understand the economic impact.”