Big, bright lights in TX

“Lights, camera, action” could be a phrase heard across Hays County in the future as the demand for economic development in the film industry is growing.

A new report from the Greater San Marcos Partnership (GSMP), which serves Hays and Caldwell counties, indicates that a “film-friendly” environment throughout Central Texas can have major economic impacts on the region.

But being film-friendly is an initiative the state has been actively involved in for over four decades, inviting filmmakers to explore the Hill Country for potential set locations.

According to the report, all major cities in Hays County, including San Marcos, Wimberley, Kyle, Buda and Dripping Springs are film-friendly communities, as outlined by the Texas Film Commission.

“We have more than 30 film-friendly communities in the Austin area, including clusters in Hays County,” said Kim LeBlanc, production and community relations specialist for the Texas Film Commission. “Being a film-friendly community enables filmmakers to come to your county, film at desirable locations and leave an impact on the economy.”

According to the GSMP report, Hays and Caldwell counties have collected approximately $360,975 in general fund tax between 2008 and 2016 related to the movie and film industry. Going forward, GSMP is pushing Texas State University to examine ways to make it easier for visual media productions to access resources.

In 2014, a rumored sequel to 1990s film “Dazed & Confused” was being filmed at the university campus. According to reports from 2014, this allowed some university students to act as extras in the film while bringing a cast and crew from around the world to spend money locally.

Texas lawmakers have also stood behind the initiative to bring communities in harmony with the film industry. In 2017, the 85th Texas Legislature appropriated $32 million through 2019 for the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program. This program, managed by the Texas Film Commission, aims at bringing economic development to Texas through film and television.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which brought in more than a billion dollars at the box office in 2014, had scenes filmed in Lockhart. The GSMP and TFC both hope to build off of that success in the future.

Taylor Hertsenberg, senior marketing coordinator at the TFC, said the commission’s website allows filmmakers to select a region in Texas that is certified as “film-friendly.” This allows filmmakers to get in direct contact with the community while having a visual idea on the landscape and setting that will work in the boundaries of the project.

LeBlanc said a ten episode season for a show, on average, will spend around $20 million.

“When a filmmaker lands in a community, you have a high number of cast and crew staying in a local area,” LeBlanc said. “These are people who shop, eat and spend their money locally, having an immediate impact to the local economy.”

According to the GSMP report, an estimated $13.7 million was spent directly within Hays and Caldwell counties between 2008 and 2016. Total economic activity attributed to motion picture, film and TV productions in Hays and Caldwell counties during the same time frame was $26.7 million, as well as the creation of 185 jobs in the region.

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