As I waited to board a plane taking me to the snowy mountains of Utah, the Art House Convergence, and the Sundance Film Festival, Dallas Video Fest’s Bart Weiss and I were talking about all things movies (because we’re crazy about the movies, don’tcha know) and the subject of the Annual Doesn’t Make Any Real Sense at All Campaign to Kill Texas’ Film Industry by Right Wing Politicians came up.
And the key to this column is right there in the end of that catchy title: Right Wing Politicians. Conservatives want to kill the film industry here in Texas. There is really no other way to begin to broach or approach this subject. The people that write up the legislation, the ones with the bee in their bonnet, the ones that take another shot year-after-year to cut funding, gut commissions, departments, fire people and keep them from doing their jobs – all have an R behind their name.
The most recent are State Representative Matt Shaheen (Republican-Plano), State Senator Konni Burton (Republican-Colleyville), and State Senator Bob Hall (Republican-Edgewood).
As I was quoted recently in a Dallas Observer story on this subject, the attack on film incentives and the film commission leads to one very simple immediate assumption: These are people that can not do basic math.
The basic numbers work out like this: The tax dollars return for the financial incentives for the film industry work out to a 2-1 return. I bring my movie production to Dallas and you double the amount of money that ends up in the state’s coffers versus what I get back via rebates. That’s a good deal for you, and the police, and the fire department, and schools, the roads, etc. For overall spending in the community, it works out close to 5-1. That’s your restaurants, hotels, stores, shops, grocery stores, you name it – the people working on my movie are spending money here. Spending money to make the damn movie, and spending money to simply eat, sleep, and stay alive in order to keep making the damn movie.
Bottom line – I (and audiences) get a (hopefully) cool movie out of it, and you, and your state, and your city, and your neighborhood…keeps cashing in. Over and over and over again.
It’s math. Very basic math. Not trigonometry. Or calculus. It’s as simple as it gets.
So, the argument on the Right Wing side doesn’t look good, right?
You have no idea. Here are their three basic arguments:
ONE – Why should we force a poor single, god fearing, hardworking mother to take money out of her purse (via sales taxes) and then give that money to rich millionaire liberal mouthpieces like Matt Damon and Sean Penn, who clearly hate her and her children (because they worry about teachers and education and people suffering due to Hurricane Katrina and earthquakes in Haiti…and apparently Matt and Sean blame that mom for some reason)? WHY?! WHY TAKE HER MONEY FOR THOSE NASTY RICH LIBERAL MOVIE STARS?! WHY?!
I love this argument because it shows the inability to do math is just a beginning with the lack of education we’re dealing with. It shows a lack of knowledge as to who actually works on a film set, and what the various jobs are and people it takes to make a film. Take a moment to watch the final credits scroll after a movie finishes. You know, instead of checking your phone while waiting to see which Avenger or which Guardian of the Galaxy will nab an Infinity Stone or something. Look at all of the damn names. Do you really think they are all liberal billionaires? Do you think all of those people are actually either prancing about in front of the camera or sipping a latte while their pure-bred Chihuahua gets its astrology chart done?
Well, that is what State Representative Matt Shaheen (Republican-Plano) thinks.
Apparently, he never considered the production staff, the electricians, the people who make the food to feed everyone, the truck drivers, the office staff, the cops working security, etc., etc., etc. In fact, it seems to have never dawned on him that god fearing single mom might have been a crew member or an assistant, or even an extra on that production. Think about that and then think about how that argument of his is destroyed and how silly he looks. Maybe even sillier than his inability to do basic math.
TWO – The films shot in Texas don’t reflect the “It’s ALL ABOUT JESUS” mindset that every single taxpaying citizen in Texas has. Yes. Uh huh. That’s his second argument. Here’s the beauty of this one: The film he cited as an example was a TV movie for the Sy Fy channel called MONGOLIAN DEATH WORM. Because everyone knows that death worms are a fast track gateway drug to the devil, Beelzebub, Satan, Lucifer, Kris Jenner (I bet you thought I’d use another celebrity name there, huh?). And the MONGOLIAN death worms?! The worst. Pure evil.
Now, as it is, the films utilizing the incentives can’t show Texas in a bad light. Don’t believe it? Talk to Robert Rodriguez. And get ready to sit down for awhile as he lays out what happened to him trying to get him some sweet incentives dollars. But apparently, unless the movie stars late-in-life come-to-Jesus “You guys remember I was Hercules, right?” standard bearer Kevin Sorbo, or “You will all die in furious hellfire worse than any Growing Pains you could imagine?” Kirk Cameron, then that movie must be dirty, dirty, dirty, according to State Representative Matt Shaheen (Republican-Plano). So, he believes that you (yes, you) are onboard with the idea that the only film you would approve of is something you’ll feel safe discussing around the ol’ butter churn, or maybe while quilting, or when the menfolk are raising barns or something, lest you be corrupted.
By all accounts, that is what State Representative Matt Shaheen (Republican-Plano) thinks.
THIRD – His fall back is that even if you don’t agree with argument #1, or argument #2, it doesn’t matter because film companies will still film in Texas because it’s just so great here. Who, in their right mind is going to want to make a movie in Georgia. Or Louisiana? Or New Mexico? So what if they offer much better incentives. It’s Texas. You can’t duplicate the way it looks in Texas, right? It’s totally unique here. I mean, these production executives, these businessmen and women, making cutthroat decisions on how much hey spend making a movie couldn’t possibly resist filming in Texas regardless of how much it costs. Because it’s Texas. And, uhmmm,…everything is bigger here….and stuff.
So those are the arguments. I had fun and I’m sure it was hilarious for you too, but I am not kidding that those are literally the arguments for killing the film incentives and eliminating the Texas Film Commission.
Arguing against that should be as easy as it gets, right?
So who is doing that? Who is arguing against that ridiculousness? Who is calling these people out on what bluntly, is idiocy?
I’ll wait for you to come up with an answer because I don’t have one.
Is there a contingent set to go down to Austin and meet with some Congress people and/or the Governor and tell them to get their shit together, tear this legislation apart and reverse course, putting MORE money into the film production incentives?
Who is the spokesperson? Who is carrying the flag?
I don’t see that face, that recognizable and beloved and/or trusted Texas-based actor or filmmaker putting themselves out there.
We know it can’t be a liberal, right? Because liberals can’t be trusted. They just want to take your money while you’re not looking and give it to some stinky homeless guy for child porn or a gross Goth girl with tattoos and piercings for an abortion, and then fly away in their private jet before you realized what they did. We know how they operate.
It needs to be a conservative that works on film sets and gets it. Someone that is steadfast in their Right Wing beliefs, yet also knows who puts out the craft services, who the key grip is, appreciates the PAs, actually says hello to the Transpo guys and gals, and so on…
Who is that person?
Does that person exist? Has to, right? Gotta be someone that gets shade under that umbrella. Someone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Let’s see what names you can come up with in the comments and then I’ll write an open letter drafting them into duty to save our film industry in Texas. I mean, definitely write and call your local Representatives but while you are doing that…
Throw some names at me.