A North Texas lawmaker is pointing to the developing sex scandal involving film producer Harvey Weinstein as evidence that Texas should not do business with Hollywood.
Texas Rep. Matt Shaheen recently announced his intention to submit legislation that would abolish the Texas Film Commission. This would be the second attempt by Shaheen to defund the Texas Film Commission in less than a year.
“This program takes the hard-earned tax dollars of fellow Texans and gives it to the movie and TV industry,” Shaheen (R-District 66) noted in a post on Facebook.
The Texas Film Commission is a state agency under the Office of the Governor that acts as a liaison between the state and the TV, film, commercial, animation, visual effects and video game industries.
The money that Shaheen is concerned about comes from the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program (TMIIIP). The incentive is offered only to productions that meet certain standards which are designed to specifically benefit TV and film professionals who live and work in Texas.
To qualify for the incentive program, a production must do the following:
- 70 percent of its paid crew must be Texas residents
- 70 percent of its paid cast members, including extras, must be Texas
- 60 percent of total production days must be completed in Texas
“I have always believed that this is an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars,” Shaheen said. “And given the apparent culture of sexual exploitation of women in Hollywood, it is now even more clear that we should not be wasting taxpayer money on this industry.”
“Our nation has grown increasingly alarmed over allegations of rampant sexual abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein,” Shaheen said. “What is just as troubling is an apparent culture of acceptance and cover-up by many in Hollywood. This is profoundly hypocritical given these are the people who constantly lecture the American people on how we should live our lives.”
A North Texas film producer told NBC DFW that Shaheen’s assertions could not be further removed from the truth.
“Lining the pockets of Hollywood elite? It's like they don't know how this rebate works. That is misinformation,” said Red Sanders of Red Entertainment, based in Fort Worth. “Saying money goes to Hollywood is not true. You have to employ people in Texas to get the rebate.”
Sanders, a 2003 graduate of Texas Christian University, recently produced the comedy "A Bad Idea Gone Wrong," which won a special jury prize for best ensemble cast at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival.
Sanders testified in Austin this past spring against Shaheen’s previous attempt to eliminate the Texas Film Commission. At the time, Red Entertainment was planning production for another feature, called "Sleeping in Plastic," which recently began filming in Oklahoma. The film is set in Texas, but is filming in Oklahoma because Sanders credits that state’s robust incentive program for filmmakers.
In addition to Sanders’ contention that Shaheen’s concern about the Texas Film Commission is misguided; the film producer also adamantly rejects the effort to associate the entire television and film industry to the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
“Frankly his remarks are offensive. He’s stereotyping me in with Harvey Weinstein and assuming everyone in our industry is guilty,” Sanders said.
The Chief of Staff for Representative Shaheen did not respond to a list of follow-up questions, submitted by NBC DFW last week, seeking further comment on this matter.