Thursday, December 9, 2010

Incentive nix for 'Machete' marks major policy shift

I'm frankly a little shocked by word that the Texas Film Commission has denied incentives for Robert Rodriguez's Machete. And even more interested by what it says about the future of both the Texas Film Commission and the state's film industry.

A letter from the film commission is signed by Carol Pirie, the deputy director, and denies the incentives based on either "inappropriate content" or "content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion." It doesn't specify which. The letter is dated Dec. 1--the day after Bob Hudgins left as Texas film commissioner amid sexual harassment allegations that he says were unrelated.

Gov. Rick Perry's office seems to be giving credence to access televsio/radio conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who raised this issue earlier this year.

What's fascinating about all of this is the change of course it illustrates. Now former Texas film commish Hudgins had said a planned film about the Branch Davidian siege in Waco would likely be denied (filmmakers never actually applied for incentives and the film has yet to be made).

Hudgins' response to critics at the time was that the content provision only applies to films based on actual events. That was his clear take, so the move by Perry's office (I sincerely doubt Pirie made this decision on her own) is a sea change.

Hudgins told me in 2009: "If they are depicting real events and they don't do it accurately, we've got to say no to them. They can show scoundrels as long as they are accurately portrayed."

Machete is fiction. It's been termed "Mexplotation." It's not based on anything factual. The incentives denial seems more of a reaction to an early trailer for the film than the film itself. That trailer, released on Cinco de Mayo 2009, has star Danny Trejo speaking directly to the camera with a "special message to Arizona." The reference is to an immigration law passed by the state. The law was passed AFTER Machete was filmed.

The big question now is which policy will the next Texas film commissioner follow--Hudgins' or Perry's?

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