Paging Robert Rodriguez: Don't mess with Texas
It's practically taken for granted now that the vast majority of films shot outside of Hollywood are made in some state that offers a rich assortment of tax rebates to bring down the films' budgets. But you can bet that studios are going to think twice about shooting their film in Texas after reading a new batch of stories saying that the Texas Film Commission is refusing to pay $1.75 million in state incentives to the producers of Robert Rodriguez's "Machete," which was released earlier this year by 20th Century Fox.
Texas officials have cited a state law that supposedly allows the state to refuse to pay incentives for "content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion." To say this opens up an ugly can of worms would be an understatement. After all, who's to judge whether a film has actually cast a state or its citizens in a negative light? And is the Texas Film Commission really going to argue that they never never read the "Machete" script before approving its financial incentives?
A story in the Wall Street Journal speculates that Texas officials are peeved by a character in the film played by Robert De Niro, who is a virulently anti-immigration politician who supports an "electrified border fence" and pledges "no amnesty for parasites." Of course, that description could apply to any number of Texas politicians, starting with Gov. Rick Perry, who often sounds like he'd be perfectly happy if Texas seceded from the USA and established itself as an independent republic.
I hate to sound like a bomb thrower here, but if Texas wants to renege on its financial incentives to lure filmmakers to make movies in Texas, then I don't see why Hollywood shouldn't order its filmmakers to avoid shooting in Texas altogether. Even better, maybe the industry should start sending its business to Oklahoma, which would surely drive Texas wild with envy, especially during football season. After all, if Texas can bully Hollywood into casting its politicians in a more positive light, the next thing you know journalists would want to be portrayed as heroes too. Come on, guys, let's not let this get out of hand!
-- Patrick Goldstein
Photo: Robert De Niro at a press conference at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival last September. Credit: Fred Thornhill / Reuters