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Houston Filmmakers and Actors: Houston Film Commission

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Houston Film Commission

INDUSTRY WRAPUPS
From the October 1, 2004 print edition
Media & Marketing Beat
That's a wrap: Film commission gets good reviews for busy year
Christine Hall

The Houston Film Commission really got rolling this fiscal year.

From July 2003 to July 2004, the commission wrapped up 169 projects which included television, industrials, film and still photography shoots. The data was unveiled in the Greater Convention and Visitor's Bureau's recently released annual report.

"We even did some live footage throughout the year, which is the first time we had some of that," says Rick Ferguson, executive director of the Houston Film Commission, a division of the GHCVB.

Over the past year, the city has served as the backdrop for films such as "J.R. Richards Story," "Dancing in Twilight" and "Mr. Hell." Television shows include "Texas Justice," "Animal Cops" and numerous reality shows such as "Extreme Makeover," "Trading Spaces," "The Bachelor" and "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica."

Completing 644 shooting days, direct expenditures on the productions were $22.6 million. The annual impact on the economy was roughly $68 million.

Ferguson says the numbers are an improvement from years past. Last fiscal year, the commission helped generate production expenditures of $18.6 million.

"The industry has changed over the past few years in that it has become more competitive," Ferguson says.

He says the film commission is trying to get Houston in a position to support a self-sustaining industry, which includes development of locally produced projects.

The city's location is key, according to Ferguson, who points out that almost every kind of film backdrop is available within a 60-mile radius of Houston, from city to country to desert to beach.

The Astrodome, for example, was recently the location for filming parts of "Friday Night Lights," starring Billy Bob Thornton.

Ferguson says the coming year is important for the commission.

"Bottom line -- it has to be cost effective to shoot here ..." he says.

Ferguson adds that states are starting to compete for film business by offering lucrative economic incentives. In fact, Louisiana has instituted incentives that would save film crews 10 percent to 12 percent on overall production costs.

Meanwhile, New Mexico has started a program in which the state invests in films produced within its borders, and then reaps post-production benefits.

Ferguson says Louisiana is currently working on six large film projects, and New Mexico has four.

Currently, Houston's offerings include tax-free equipment and services, no hotel tax on stays of 30 or more consecutive days and no filming permit requirements.

Ferguson says he hopes the next state legislative session will institute incentives that will enable Texas to be more competitive compared to other states.

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