By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
First the good news: It's becoming less likely that Oliver Stone, who shot parts of Any Given Sunday, Talk Radio, Born on the Fourth of July, and JFKin Dallas, will ever shoot another film here. (Buzz is not a fan.)
The bad news? It's becoming less likely that anyone else will shoot here either, thanks to a plan to eliminate funding for the Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Film Commission from the tight city budget. Ellen Sandoloski Mayers, the agency's assistant director, says the proposed spending plan doesn't include $152,000 the commission sought from the city's general fund, and the chances of it being added are not good. The money represents 43 percent of the commission's $352,000 budget. More important, paying it tells the other 28 cities that are commission members that Dallas is willing to pay its share.
"I think the biggest fear is that some of the other cities that fund us, if Dallas pulls out, might not want to fund us," Mayers says, especially since the bulk of money spent by production companies locally is spent in Dallas. She has good reason to worry. Fort Worth recently decided to slice its contribution from $65,000 to $45,000.
If Dallas doesn't kick in, it's likely the commission's staff of four will be cut. Those who remain will be reduced to merely answering phones, rather than doing the combination of sales pitches and on-site support that draws projects here.
Of course, in a city with bridgework-rattling streets, why should anyone care if a film commission gets its dough, especially since most movies suck? Well, there's this: The commission estimates that film and video producers last year spent $115 million locally--not exactly a sucky return on a $152,000 investment.
But with cash as short as it is, does the commission have a chance of getting a penny from Dallas? Maybe. City Councilwoman Veletta Lill is trying to find money in the convention and visitors budget, which is funded by hotel-motel taxes. (Lill also wants to ensure that the commission has some accountability to make sure that figures like that $115 million are real.)
"Obviously, we're fighting for crumbs in the general fund, and I don't want to take money away from police and fire," Lill says, but the commission does "have an economic impact in the metroplex."