Film News

It's raining cash for film in Texas ... but not a drop leftover for Waco

Open the Film Floodgates?

The Texas Legislature has given a total $62 million to fund the state's new-and-improved film-incentives program for the next two fiscal years with a level of flexibility we outlined here recently (see "Film News," May 8). It wasn't easy, insiders say, with the $40 million increase over the previous (and first) incentives fund at one point tied to FEMA reimbursements related to Hurricane Katrina (they now are drawn from the general revenue fund). Add $8 million unspent from a previous two-year allocation, and Texas should quickly be competitive. "We're back in the game," says Bob Hudgins of the Texas Film Commission, who gives major credit to lobbying by the Texas Motion Picture Alliance. A big shout-out also goes to state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, who fought off late slashings of the program's proposed budget. Hudgins wants a speedy application/approval process now, with staff for this increased from one to eight. The likely first Austin shoot to latch onto increased incentives? Machete, Robert Rodriguez's full-length version of what had been a fake coming attraction seen in Grindhouse. Look for it to lens here this summer.

Meanwhile, Hudgins has been dealing with fallout from Waco, the first film sort of given the thumbs down, due to a previously untested 2007 provision barring incentive payments to movies that "portray Texas or Texans in a negative light." We say "sort of" because the big-screen tale of the 1993 raid on David Koresh's Branch Davidian compound hasn't formally applied for funds. A certain Austin daily newspaper opined that the provision would have nixed incentives for films such as The Last Picture Show and Giant, ignoring the Texas Film Commission's ruling that the content provision only applies to films based on actual events. "We're not making a documentary," says Waco co-writer/director Rupert Wainwright, adding that the filmmakers have not been told what exactly disqualified the script. "We're making a docudrama. At every step of the way, we've put truthfulness at the top of our priorities." Hudgins says the script was reviewed by a law enforcement official featured in Waco and a journalist who covered the story, but he declined to identify them. "If they are depicting real events and they don't do it accurately, we've got to say no to them," Hudgins says. Wainwright counters that he and co-writer James Hibberd, a University of Texas grad, conducted interviews with retired FBI agent Byron Sage, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Johnson, and surviving Branch Davidians.

And the Rest ...

HBO Documentary Films has acquired Bradley Beesley's convict-cowgirls documentary Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, which premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March. Look for it on Cinemax in September... "Exiled in America" by Austin's Angela Torres Camarena was among 12 shorts selected for the Media That Matters Film Festival. You can see it at Owen Egerton, Chris Mass, and Russell Sharman recently sold a pitch for a film called Big Feet to Illumination/Universal. It's about a Bigfoot-like critter who shaves and moves to San Francisco.

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film incentives, Texas Film Commission, Bob Hudgins, Texas Motion Picture Alliance, Waco, James Hibberd, Rupert Wainwright, Dawnna Dukes, Bradley Beesley, Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, Exiled in America, Angela Torres Camarena, Owen Egerton, Chris Mass, Russell Sharman, Big Feet

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