Do you pay taxes in the state of Texas? Well then congratulations, you’re a film producer!
In 2005, the Texas Legislature created the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, a scheme by which citizens’ tax dollars are doled out to film companies to subsidize productions made in Texas.
Since then, millions of taxpayer dollars have been allocated to movies, television shows, commercials, and even video games as yet another form of tax-funded handouts in the name of “economic development.”
Test your knowledge: How many of these tax-funded films have you seen?
Mongolian Death Worm
Centered around a giant murderous worm taking over a Mongolian village, this made-for-tv movie from 2010 unsurprisingly wasn’t up for any nominations from the Academy. Instead, the film served as a striking example of the kind of product taxpayers are being asked to subsidize when, in 2015, State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R–Irving) mentioned the film while debating the budget in the legislature, arguing to end funding for the program.
Harry Connick Jr. stars in this feel-good Christmas movie released in 2013. Taxpayers, however, should have a hard time feeling the magic, having been forced to fork over $1 million in subsidies to produce the film which holds a dismal 23% on movie rating aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. As one film critic notes, “Demonstrating that heavy marijuana use really does impair judgment, Willie Nelson appears in the film.”
Continuing the TMIIIP’s trend of funding awkward sci-fi movies, this film centers around a small town and its clash against the legendary beast. Although you won’t find the film playing on the silver screen, you can find the film streaming on YouTube and Amazon Prime, where the film holds a 1.5-star rating.
The TMIIIP isn’t just for feature films. In fact, most of the payouts from the program go to the production of commercials, including the “flavors and recipes” campaign for Russia-born Smirnoff vodka. Setting aside the wisdom of funding advertisements for alcohol (or any other advertisements) with tax dollars, this payout indirectly harms vodka producers right here in Texas, such as Tito’s and Deep Eddy. Many subsidies from the program go to big companies that compete with local Texas businesses, sometimes putting them out of business.
A weekly syndicated reality show, Cheaters salaciously follows the “Cheaters Detective Agency” as they catch unfaithful spouses in the act of adultery all for entertainment. Texas has subsidized many episodes of the trashy television program so, if the episode was filmed in Texas, you helped pay for it.
How did you do?
If you haven’t seen many of these films, you’re in the vast majority. And if you’re surprised to know you helped produce these films, you’re not alone. Despite legislation filed in both chambers last session by State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R–Plano) and State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) to abolish them, the Texas Legislature once again appropriated money to the program.
While legislators are preparing for the upcoming session in January, you can contact your state lawmakers to let them know how you feel about these Hollywood handouts.