Bee Cave council seeks input on proposed studio projects

Film, TV experts discuss local industry viability

Bee Cave City Council enlisted the help of television and film professionals to determine the viability of the entertainment industry in Central Texas before reviewing zoning applications for two development district proposals—The Terraces and The Backyard at Bee Cave—that include production studios.

"Texas film incentives are an important component of what brings work here," Texas Film Commission Director Heather Page said during the July 8 City Council meeting.

The state's film tax incentive program, created in 2005, received appropriations of up to $95 million last year, she said.

Page said production companies have spent $172 million in Texas on products qualifying for incentives from Sept. 1, 2013, through June.

Central Texas has an abundance of talent and labor to support the industry, she said. However, the region lacks the production stage infrastructure needed for projects, which includes office space, stages and storage, she said.

Council members said they were concerned productions may later be drawn to other states by increased out-of-state incentives.

Mayor Caroline Murphy said City Manager Frank Salvato will continue to assess the climate of Central Texas' film and production industry.

Texas vs. Louisiana

Texas received an average incentives rating from tax credit brokerage company Film Production Capital. States such as Louisiana and Georgia earned top ratings as the best states for film incentives.

"Louisiana does not cap the credits a production can earn and, at 35 percent, provides one of the highest production tax credits in the country," FPC Executive Vice President John Bails said.

Texas has a graduated tax credit system, allowing a 5 percent to 20 percent credit for most production expenses, depending on the amount of money spent in-state, he said. Productions can also earn a bonus for filming in underutilized or economically distressed areas, he said.

However, to receive these credits, most of the production's cast and crew must be Texas residents, a majority of the production days are required to be in-state and no resident can be paid more than $1 million for the project, Bails said. Texas may withhold credits if the production has inappropriate content or portrays Texas or Texans negatively, he said.