Houston hoping for starring role in more Tinseltown productions

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Houston may not have had a starring role in Tinseltown's biggest night, but it has in years past. Armageddon, Terms of Endearment, Apollo 13 -- they're all Oscar nominated films that were shot in Houston. Still, with all that Houston and Texas have to offer, many say we could play a bigger role, one that would also bring a big bump to the local economy.

Inside an office building in southwest Houston, a reality show is taking shape. In the far western edge of Galveston Island, a cable documentary is being shot. The Houston Film Commission reports that last year, the Houston area hosted more than 250 productions of movies, TV shows, commercials and music videos. Moreover, every year, the film industry pumps between $15 million and $20 million into the local economy.

Still, Rick Ferguson the Executive Director of the Houston Film Commission, says we're missing out.

"We do a lot of marketing and that is the very first question out of anyone's mouth, is what's your incentive?" he asked.

Incentives are grants or rebates used by states as carrots to attract big, blockbuster productions and smaller movies.

For example, when it came time to produce her first film, the indie flick "I Dream Too Much" Houstonian Donna Cole headed to New York state, in part because of incentives. Cole says she wants to shoot her next movie here in Texas, but it doesn't make business sense.

"We'd love to, but New Mexico has great incentives, they have production studios, friendly ranches, so why not shoot there?" Cole asked.

Texas may have the beach, big city, the farm lands, and any scenery a film maker may need. Though many say until Houston and Texas get on board with an incentive program, we'll always lose the movie business to our neighboring states.

"The holy grail of incentives, especially television production, is Atlanta," said Ferguson. "The others are bookends -- Louisiana and New Mexico."

The Houston Film Commission is working to improve the Texas incentive program. However, several lawmakers have filed bills to kill all incentives in the state.

The lack of incentives is something that worries people like Craig Busch, who only gets hired as a location scout when productions come to the Houston-area.

"People come here, they use hotel rooms, they buy supplies, they go to restaurants, they hire local people," said Busch. "They hire you! They hire me. I'm one of the local people, I count on that."

There are bright spots, though.

Posts to social media show the HGTV show "Brother Versus Brother" is currently shooting on Galveston Island and Houston remains a hot spot for filming commercials. Those commercials show off our city and state as more than ready when, and if, Hollywood eventually comes calling.

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