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Next legislative session may not be so good for Texas film industry

SXSW will show Terrence Malick's new film Song To Song on opening night in March. It's a movie shot in Austin starring Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman. But people in the Texas film industry are worried that filmmakers might not choose Texas as a location after this next legislative session.

State lawmakers have filed Senate Bill 99 and House Bill 779, which aim to stop the incentives the state pays to filmmakers who shoot 60 percent of their projects in Texas. Representative Matt Shaheen filed HB 779. "The economic impact is a big failure," he said.

Not so fast, says Mindy Raymond, executive director of the Texas Motion Picture Alliance. "So the direct return on investment is about $4.71 for every $1 spent on the rebate program," she said.

Raymond is a Texas native, and an actress. "I've been fortunate enough to be on The Leftovers. I've done a few national commercials; I've done a lot of voiceover work and video games," she said. If those productions go to other states, "I would to be willing and open to traveling obviously for my work, which takes me away from my kids and my family."

But Rep. Shaheen also says the state has no business in the arts. "It's really not in the scope of government to determine, you know, what's good art, what's not good art," he said.

Director Richard Linklater disagreed, in a PSA he shot for the Texas Motion Picture Alliance. "It's a cultural suicide thing to not take that ball and run with it," the filmmaker said.

Rep. Shaheen thinks Texas has other, more important business. "We've got education, we've got CPS. We've got transportation, we've got water -- and to fund commercials and video games, those are just not state priorities."

Those who make a living off of the lights and cameras say they'll be watching the bills as they move through the legislature.

"It would be devastating," Raymond said.

Meantime, Linklater is shooting a movie in Pennsylvania right now -- Raymond says he simply could not make the balance sheet work out to shoot it in Texas. The legislature cut back the incentive program in in the last session two years ago.

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