This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Bob Hudgins talks to Katy Vine about the “Waco” controversy, tax incentives, and how to get your movie made in Texas.
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Photo courtesy of the Texas Film Commission

A few years ago, the Texas Legislature passed a law stating that no films showing Texas or Texans in a bad light would be given tax incentives. This law effectively put Bob Hudgins, director of the Texas Film Commission, in charge of determining what that meant. Nobody except Hudgins paid much mind to the law until this spring, when Hudgins denied incentives to a film called “Waco.” The initial complaint, as well as accusations, came in an Austin American-Statesman blog post on May 25, which stated, ”While attending the two-week Cannes festival…Emilio Ferrari and Tara Wood, executives at Los Angeles-based Entertainment 7, said that Hudgins had bowed to pressure from politicians.” Hudgins said he found inaccuracies but wouldn’t specify. Then, in a later Statesman story, Byron Sage, the FBI’s lead negotiator during the siege, outed himself as one of Hudgins’ fact-checking sources. “Sage contends that the new film makes him look good, even saintly,” the story said, “but [Sage is] more concerned that it paints the FBI as aggressors—and possibly at fault in the fatal fire.” The filmmakers defended their decisions. We haven’t read the script or fact-checked its contents, but we’re wondering along with a lot of other Texans: Just what good is this law to Texas?

I wanted to ask you about the incentives and the law about whether certain films showed Texas or Texans in a bad light.

That’s been with us from the beginning. 2007.

From what I understand, the law stems from the Texas-filmed 2006 sports drama, “Glory Road”?

It’s a little more complicated than that. We had no content provision, except pornography, in the language that was originally drafted. At that point it had already passed the House and gone to the Senate Finance Committee. And through the process of the hearing they had a lot of pointed questions, but specifically on content issues more than anything else. They took on faith the provision that this would create jobs and [have an] economic impact. That wasn’t in discussion. What came to the fore was, we want to be careful about who we’re giving money to. They decided a couple of issues. There were two that were the most relevant. The first is that, well, we don’t want projects to show Texas in a bad light like the way “Glory Road,” which I thought was a good movie, did. I was not aware of the nuance in the film. As films do, they took license but they were portraying this as actual events and they

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