A Texas film insider's view
Bob Hudgins resigns amid sexual harassment claims, but will the Texas FilmCommission really be better off?
There’s stunning news for the Texas’ film industry. Bob Hudgins, the state’s film commission director who in many ways helped move Texas out of the dark ages and back into the motion picture production business, resigned his post, effective November 30.
Those of us who know Hudgins are shocked to hear that his resignation (which came out Thursday) is apparently from more than just burnout. The Austin American-Statesman reports that there is an ongoing investigation of sexual harassment claims against him.
Hudgins told the Statesman that the claims are "incredibly scurrilous and without foundation." “There were much more serious allegations made other than sexual allegations,” Hudgins told the Statesman. “I’m pretty upset about it, to be honest.”
The Texas Film Commission, based in Austin, is an Office of the Governor. Rick Perry appointed Hudgins in 2006.
The position of Texas Film Commission director is a hot seat if there ever was one. Imagine the stress of the politics, dealing with government red tape and working with Hollywood types (and wannabe Hollywood types). Throw in a few thousand Texas industry professionals who are job-starved (folks can get mighty cranky when they see their jobs march to Louisiana, New Mexico and Georgia, to name a few of the states throwing incentives at production companies to get them to come film there.)
Under Hudgins’ tenure, not only did the state’s industry professionals unify for the first time ever, creating the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, they were also successful in getting laws passed that put Texas back into the production ball game. It’s not the greatest incentive program, mind you, but it sure is better than what the state had — basically nothing.
As a result a lot of TV series have come to shoot in the Lone Star State (Prison Break, Friday Night Lights, The Good Guys, Chase). Even if Houston often seems to get shut out — of even playing Houston.
Production companies spend big money and hire lots of people, including carpenters and painters and people unrelated to the industry.
If Texas offered greater incentives, more movies would shoot here. Director/screenwriter John Lee Hancock, a native Texan, told me he would have loved to have shot The Blind Side, with Sandra Bullock, in his home state. Instead, he saved $4 million dollars by shooting it in Georgia. That’s not chump change. (I sure hope some Texas legislators are reading this!)
Obviously, Texas needs to continue beefing up its state production incentives to stop the film job flow out to other states. Now the Texas Film Commission also needs another good film commission director, before the next legislative session, to fill Hudgins’ boots.
In my opinion, those are still big boots to fill.
Cynthia Neely is a veteran of the Texas motion picture industry as a writer/producer and helped found the Texas Motion Picture Alliance. This article is written from her perspective as a Texas film insider.