Filmmakers working on site in San Antonio. Credit: Courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

San Antonio isn’t regarded as a hub for film or television production, but a group of local filmmakers, enthusiasts, and members of the San Antonio Film Commission are trying to change that.

The plan was crafted by leaders and participants in the San Antonio film scene in a series of planning sessions after the State cut funding for the Texas Film Commission‘s incentives and rebates by nearly two-thirds last year, making it more difficult for local artists to work and deterring national and international filmmakers from bringing their talent to San Antonio.

The local incentives in the new plan will include an increase in rebates for studios from the current 2.5% to a minimum of 7.5%, since those incentives will no longer be tied to State support.

The commission is advocating for “competitive local film incentives that … can bring at least two major film productions to San Antonio,” which would bring more than $10 million each to the city, said City Department of Arts and Culture Interim Director Debbie Racca-Sittre.

Those involved in the creation of the strategic plan envision San Antonio to become “the most production-friendly city in the U. S.,” and see the local film industry creating jobs, having favorable collaboration with the City, increasing its global and online presence, and increasing workforce and education opportunities, according to the document which can be viewed here.

The City already allocated $200,000 in its FY 2017 budget to implement the plan. Another $250,000 from the San Antonio Supplemental Incentive Fund remain in the budget, and additional rollover funds from previous years exist as well. A film subcommittee of the San Antonio Arts Commission, which is a City Council-appointed advisory board made up of an art funding and public art committee, will oversee the efforts.

One of the key goals the Film Commission will work toward is bolstering the industry’s workforce and infrastructure, including increasing the amount of state-of-the-art production facilities in the city. The commission also wants to enhance the marketing efforts of the local film industry, which would include reinstating the domain, identifying local film ambassadors to interact with the national community, and “bring(ing) more film festivals to San Antonio and strengthen(ing) the ones we already have,” Racca-Sittre said.

A number of local filmmakers and members of the San Antonio Film Society came to speak in front of Council to voice their support for the strategic plan that they said will allow them to stay in San Antonio to work.

All of them mentioned that over the course of their careers, they’ve had to travel to other cities – Austin, Los Angeles, New York – to make a living in film.

“The strategic plan is a very solid foundation to bring more of that work here, so that people … don’t have to take their work out of this town, out of this state,” said Dagoberto Patlan, who lives in San Antonio and works in the film business. “This is an opportunity for the city to grow that business here in this town.”

The City also approved amendments to Section 2-3 of the municipal code, which replaces the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau as the film liaison office with the San Antonio Film Office. The new code also allows the SA Film Office and the office of the City Manager to waive fees for filmmaking at City-owned facilities.

“That (section of the code) was adopted in 1984 and we think that a steady fee of $200 in all City facilities is an antiquated idea,” Racca-Sittre said. “So we’d like to have the Film Office working directly with filmmakers and determine what’s the appropriate fee, if any, for that particular film.”

Council members Roberto Treviño (D1), Alan Warrick (D2), Rebecca Viagran (D3), Rey Saldaña (D4), and Ron Nirenberg (D8) all praised the efforts of the Film Commission and other local filmmakers for creating a plan that pushes San Antonio forward in the arts world and brings the opportunity for economic development.

It also ensures that San Antonio remains competitive with other cities with booming arts industries, will help portray the burgeoning city’s culture, and bring more opportunity for job growth.

“I look forward to having all San Antonio movies and TV shows actually filmed in San Antonio,” Warrick said, “and having those incentives to make sure that happens.”

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Camille Garcia

Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is