Austin Powers

Texas is tweaking its incentive strategy in hopes of generating a production boom

Whatever you think you know about the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program is likely to be past tense in a matter of months. Two years after initiating a proper incentive program, legislators are back in session in Austin with a bill that will revamp the current system, which allows for a rebate equal to 5% of in-state spending (6.25% in "underused" areas).

"Are we going to go to 25% like New Mexico and Louisiana?" Texas Film Commission director Bob Hudgins asks. "No. But we are going to get to a point where we leverage our in-state assets, our crew base primarily."

The past two years have proved frustrating for Hudgins and other commissioners like him, as nearby states have boosted incentives into the stratosphere, draining production and local workers in the process. Some of the adjustments likely to make it through to Texas-incentives-version-2.0 include a dialing back on how many days a production needs to shoot in Texas to qualify. Meanwhile, the softer incentives -- like a City of Austin film discount card (offering vendor discounts to filmmakers) and virtually free permits -- will likely remain.

Dallas Film Commission director Janis Burklund believes that, with enough of an incentive bump, his city would see a flood of returnees‚ including crew members moving back to Texas.

"I hear regularly from people who were here originally and moved elsewhere," she says. "If the jobs are here, we'll have crew showing up to fill those holes."

That will just siphon crew from other states that have entered the "nuclear arms race" for production dollars, in the words of Gary Bond, director of film marketing for the Austin Film Commission. "All of my colleagues in the business have a certain amount of mixed feelings about that whole thing," he says. "If nobody did it, nobody would have to do it."