HBO Is Making a Show about the Texas Legislature, and its Lone Star Roots Are Strong

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Texas State Library and Archives Commission
A new HBO show, penned by a Texas writer, takes on the Texas lege.
Texas has always had its share of great characters and story lines. Davy Crockett and the Alamo. Lyndon B. Johnson and Texas politics. Rick Perry and, well, whatever he happened to say on a particular day. Recently, though, there seems to have been some coastal poaching on our dry land.

All The Way, a play about LBJ's maneuvering to push the Civil Rights Act through Congress, premiered on Broadway in March. Texas Monthly writer Mimi Swartz thought Bryan Cranston, fresh off Breaking Bad, portrayed the former president as a caricature, a Texas stereotype. She also thought the average-sized Cranston was too short to play the 6-foot-4 Johnson.

Then there is Halt and Catch Fire, which premiered on AMC on June 1. It takes place in Dallas in the 1980s and follows an engineer, a coding prodigy and a ballsy (and handsy!) salesman, all battling with IBM to build a better PC. We wrote recently about the show's unlikely origins: it's the first real screenwriting credit for the writer, Plano native Chris Cantwell. It also was shot in an unlikely location, Georgia, because in Hollywood tax incentives win all.

Now there's God Save Texas, which HBO recently greenlit. The show has a great setting for drama: the Texas legislature. Based on a play, Sonny's Last Shot, by Lawrence Wright, the TV series focuses on an idealistic cowboy who runs for office in Austin and gets caught up with lobbyists, according to Deadline.com. Wright, grew up in Dallas and lives in Austin, will also write and co-produce the show.

Wright won a Pulitzer for his book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, an intimate look, which is sometimes too close for comfort, into the life of Osama bin-Laden and the men who tried to bring him down before the towers were hit. He also wrote the 1998 movie The Siege, starring Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis, about terrorists attacking New York after the United States abducts a terrorist suspect.

When reached for comment by email about the show, Wright told Unfair Park: "It's still too early to talk about it. I'm just writing the pilot now; it's a long way from the popcorn."

Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.


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29 comments
Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

This is why "Texas" films/shows are shot in Louisiana, Georgia, etc.

Texas incentives:

Film & Scripted TV (except reality)/VFX Projects: 5% for in-state spend = $250K to $1M; 10% for in-state spend $1M to $3.5M; 20% for in-state spend more than $3.5M

Commercials: 5% for in-state spend of $100K to $1M; 10% for in-state spend more than $1M

Reality TV Projects: 5% for in-state spend of $250K to $1M; 10% for in-state spend of over $1M

2.5% bonus if more than 25% of TX production days occur in underutilized or economically distressed areas.

$1M cap on compensation paid to TX resident.

$95M available through August 2015, check with film commission for current allocation.

70% of cast and crew, inclusive of extras, but be residents.

60% of production days must be in TX

Not required to make payments to projects that include inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion which apparently can be determined after production has completed.

GoingBoeing
GoingBoeing

I just hope the writers and producers remember the Prime Directive of our representatives in Austin: 


The Texas legislature never comes to order. It just meets.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

What?  No mention of my beloved Ann Richards?


“Ann Richards on How to Be a Good Republican: 1. You have to believe that the nation's current 8-year prosperity was due to the work of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, but yesterday's gasoline prices are all Clinton's fault. 2. You have to believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own. 3. You have to be against all government programs, but expect Social Security checks on time.”

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

And may I point out that Larry Wright is one of the Pulitzer Prize winners from our very own Woodrow Wilson High School.

dhdh
dhdh

Lawrence Wright's book about Scientology is greatness. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Going Clear. 

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

If they get Bill Maher to produce, Texas is toast.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@Sharon_Moreanus

What the heck happened to Texas' film industry? IIRC, about 15-20 years ago the future was bright, with both films and TV shows increasingly being filmed in Tx because of a combination of weather, local permitting ease, non-union labor costs, and some state incentives. Then suddenly that all got dialed back. I remember that Casey Monahan, who spearheaded the state film office, was dumped by the Bush governancy for being suspiciously Democratic, although he's still doing a good job at the Tx Music department. Was it just politics that cut off the growing incentives?

Also about that time, the turn of the century, Austin tried to re-purpose the old, in-town airport as a production lot, and even held a big Texas Film Awards show there the first year, but that idea died. 

wcvemail
wcvemail

@GoingBoeing

"As they say around the Texas Legislature, if you can't drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against 'em anyway, you don't belong in office." (Molly Ivins)

"Now and then an innocent man is sent to the Legislature." (Mark Twain)

wcvemail
wcvemail

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz


1. Richards never served in the Texas Legislature, the topic of this HBO series.
2. The quote you cite is of dubious origin, almost certainly not Richards'.
3. Richards' actual accomplishments as gov were mixed at best, overshadowed by her PR. (She was actually an above-average state treasurer.) Notoriously, she betrayed her own campaign promise and her constituency by signing the bill to criminalize gay conduct (note that it had not been illegal in Texas before she signed that bill.)

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

I voted that woman out, you can see why. Folksy, but fundamentally clueless. A one-termer who failed to rise to any further political achievement or prominence. Her anti-civil rights position was the chief reason I voted her out, though.

Out-of-staters often confuse her with a much more prominent Texas democrat, Molly Ivins.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul


For which he was rightfully acclaimed. And he has Texas roots -- born in Houston, related to Gene Autry. Unfortunately, Randy has gone quite insane.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

There are ome politics in play.

The spending was only $32m last year.

This years budget I was brought to $95m (some pilots and series were shot) to everyone's amazement.

Texas only offers 10-17 % where Georgia Louisiana and New York offer 30-35% return.

To much red tape and not good enough incentives to bring in big productions.

More regulations on movies than oil and gas.

A big killer was in my last paragraph above.

They still film it, just in another state.

Almost reminds me of gambling here.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@wcvemail @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz In all fairness, Myrna's schizophrenia tends to cause Ann Richards, Molly Ivans, Wonder Woman and Strawberry Shortcake to all run together into some sort of bizarre Everywoman.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@wcvemail  Yes, we know Ann was the Governor.  We adored Ann, the woman, not necessarily Ann, the politician.  What do we think of OOPS, the man, and OOPS, the Governor?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@Sharon_Moreanus 

Why would we (as a State) want to provide funding for a film that portrays the state in a negative light?

This is no different than what the DoD does for movies.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

In all fairness, Phelps's schizophrenia tends to cause Barack Obama, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, and Osama bin Laden to all run together into some sort of bizarre Bogeyman.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz


What a bizarrely pitiable post. I think I've finally figured it out: you perceive comments on blog posts as a sort of chat forum. In this case, the blog post is about an HBO series on the Tx Lege, nothing to do with Ooops, and therefore nothing to do with my opinion of Ooops. And in this case, I've finally figured out that it's uselessly counter-productive to reply to your posts at all. Good day to you.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @Sharon_Moreanus


From what I remember, "negative light" was used as a cover for "Hollywood liberal" aura, during early Perry years when he was seeking to define his administration as being farther to the right than his predecessor. More recently, Robert Rodriguez' "Machete," which was written as a reaction to Arizona's anti-immigration policies, was denied tax incentives (of course, there's a lawsuit underway.) 


That's different than explicitly setting clear standards against incenting, say, porn or "Human Centipede" (still the most vile movie I've ever heard of.)

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz That they all have the same philosophy (the "middle way") doesn't mean that they don't have distinct enough flavors that I misquote them.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

The fun part of that is Robert was born and raised in Texas.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@wcvemail  "What a bizarrely pitiable post. I think I've finally figured it out: you perceive comments on blog posts as a sort of chat forum. In this case, the blog post is about an HBO series on the Tx Lege, nothing to do with Ooops, and therefore nothing to do with my opinion of Ooops."

wcvemail
wcvemail

@Sharon_Moreanus

Which the pols will be glad to bring up as his new, Austin-based network, "El Rey," takes off. 

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

At least I won't have to watch a Greg Abbott family in law commercial on the grind.

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