What’s going on with the Texas film industry? Curious Texas Investigates

Not a single shot of the Oscar-winning Dallas Buyers Club was filmed in Dallas—or, for that matter, in Texas. Why was the place outsourced when there is so much Texas to share?

Simple answer: money.

An inquisitive reader from Texas asked us, “What’s going on with filmmaking in Texas? Why isn’t there a big movie studio in Texas?” We contacted Dr. Derek Compare, professor of film and media studies at Southern Methodist University, to find out.

“Other states have more manufacturing incentives,” Compare said. “Production companies could come to these states and get tax breaks and other benefits that they can’t get from filming in Texas.”

While Texas is offering incentives, other states are offering better deals for film production. Louisiana, for example, offers up to a 40 percent tax credit for eligible in-state spending, compared to a 22.5 percent Texas expense reimbursement under the Texas Motion Picture Incentive Program.

While the state has attracted film crews in the past, Texas is losing many potential productions to states with higher benefits. This has been a problem for many years. The films RoboCop and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre filmed here in Texas are a minority of films set in Texas.

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However, the incentive program has brought dividends to the state. The TMIIIP 2022 report shows that the economic impact of the program generated a 504 percent return on investment.

Larry Rodriguez, president of the Dallas Producers Association, a professional networking organization for producers and production staff, would like to see Texas’ incentive program become more robust to attract more film production.

“There is no reason why something could not be successful here. We have the infrastructure, we have talent and education. So, do you know what the reason is? The financial situation,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez believes film companies have chosen to shoot elsewhere because of incentives.

“[If] it’s a western, Texas would be a great location to shoot. Well, they’re going to shoot in Louisiana or New Mexico or Georgia. And I mean, I’ve seen things that were set in Dallas that went through that, and some other Texas-specific projects that went through Louisiana,” Rodriguez said.

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Although the state has lost a few big-budget projects, it has successfully attracted a host of TV projects, from Barney and Friends to Friday Night Lights.

“Most of what they shoot is commercials, promotional films, industrial films, [reality TV] things like that,” Compare said.

Curious what movies were filmed in Texas? Check out our list of popular movies shot in Texas and check out the full list of TV and movie productions shot in Texas here.

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