Texas Media Industry Shines in Film, TV Shows, Video Games
Texas has emerged as a major player across a gamut of media-related entertainment – from film and television to commercials, animated productions and video game development.
Though it is no stranger to the big screen – the first film to shoot in Texas was made in 1910 – the industry is flourishing in the Lone Star State thanks to its diverse shooting locales, ample supply of skilled crew, a range of production support services and highly competitive state incentives.
“Texas has captivated the imagination of movie-goers for decades,” says Evan Fitzmaurice, former director of the Texas Film Commission. “It's an iconic state, and it's a place where the people and the terrain help tell a story.”
The Texas Film Commission, established in 1971 by Texas Gov. Preston Smith, works to draw media professionals to the state. The commission offers location assistance to producers and directors searching for a place to serve as the setting for their film or television show, and also provides an online Texas Production Directory that includes crew personnel and media-related companies and organizations.
“People are amazed and impressed with the professionalism and efficiency here,” Fitzmaurice says.
Texas Media Incentives
While the state's natural assets attract industry professionals, the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program is also a major draw. The incentive, enacted in 2007, enables qualifying film, television, commercial and video game productions to obtain a payment of 5 to 17.5 percent of eligible Texas spending, or 8 to 29.25 percent of eligible wages paid to Texas residents.
“From June 2007 through February 2012, production companies accepted into the incentive program have been slated to spend more than $630 million, bringing in over 66,000 job opportunities,” Fitzmaurice says.
In addition, film, television, commercial, and video game productions are exempt from paying sales tax on the majority of rentals and purchases used directly in production. The state also waives occupancy taxes after an individual occupies a hotel room for 30 consecutive days, and a refund of taxes paid on gasoline is available.
Movies, Television Shows Choose Texas
The incentives are certainly drawing more attention to Texas, but the state has been attracting filmmakers for more than 100 years. To date, more than 1,800 projects have been filmed in Texas including Wings, which won the inaugural Academy Award for Best Picture in 1928.
Austin and Dallas are the most popular locations for shooting movies and television shows, but the Texas Film Commission has designated more than 60 communities Film Friendly Texas Certified Communities. Smithville, where The Tree of Life and Hope Floats were filmed, made the cut, as did Marfa, where There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men were created.
Additional film commissions throughout the state also work to help filmmakers find a city or area that meets their specifications.
“We try to make sure things run smoothly,” says Ronald Hollomon, executive director of the Northeast Texas Regional Film Commission. “We also help with location scouting and serve as a liaison between filmmakers and local businesses.”
Texas' large number of production companies – more than 130 – also contributes to the state's appeal. Many of those companies are putting down roots in Austin including Arts+Labor, a full-service production company that creates feature films, marketing videos and more, and has worked with notable television networks such as PBS, CNN and The Weather Channel.
“There's a lot of young talent in Austin,” says Alan Burg, president and co-founder of Arts+Labor. “It's an excellent place for a production company because the city encourages creatives and is open, welcome, and tolerant.”
Video Game, Animation Industries Succeed
The breadth of production in Texas can be seen not only behind the camera but in front of the computer. Some 160 game development companies and 55 animation and visual effects studios have a presence in Texas.
DNA Productions, located in Dallas, is responsible for the animation and production of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and The Ant Bully, while Austin-based Troublemaker Studios created many postproduction and visual effects for a number of the Spy Kids movies.
The video game development industry is thriving in Austin, which is quickly becoming known as the U.S. video game capital. Twisted Pixel – the video game developer responsible for games such as The Gunstringer and Splosion Man – relocated from Madison, Ind., to Austin in late 2008.
“Austin had a few things going for it when we decided to relocate,” says Jay Stuckwisch, marketing director/2D artist at Twisted Pixel. “First off, the tax incentives for independent game studios was a big factor. Austin really wants to help foster the entertainment industries here, which is great! The weather and central location played a big factor, too.”
In addition, Electronic Arts announced plans to expand its Austin operations in 2011, creating 300 jobs in the area. More than 5,000 people are employed in video game development in Texas.