Defenders examine tax dollars spent by SA Film Commission

Finding: Commission appears to need more money

SAN ANTONIO – A KSAT-12 Defenders examination of tax dollars spent by the San Antonio Film Commission showed the commission appears to be spending money properly in promoting San Antonio as a film destination and in assisting local productions.

In response to a Defenders request, the city said it spends $61,000 on operations, $70,000 on marketing and $155,000 on personnel on a yearly basis, totaling $286,000 per year.

Drew Mayer-Oaks, the head of the commission, said the money is well-spent.

"I do believe it's worth it," Mayer-Oaks said. "We market to the film studios and the television networks."

While it is not a movie or TV show, a Taco Cabana commercial is the latest example of film production in San Antonio.

An estimated $200,000 is being spent on the commercials being filmed around town and at a Taco Cabana Restaurant on Interstate 10.

Todd Coerver, Taco Cabana chief operating officer, said the company's commercials are usually not filmed in its hometown.

"We film most of our spots, our campaigns, in either Austin or Dallas just because of availability and accessibility of talent and crews," Coerver said. "These shoots are very expensive, very pricey."

But he was happy this shoot was in San Antonio.

"We'd rather spend that money here and put it back in our hometown economy than take it outside," Coerver said.

Mayer-Oaks said San Antonio loses a lot of productions to other cities that could have brought money in to San Antonio.

He said the tax money spent yields a valuable return for the city.

"For every dollar we spend on marketing, we get about $114 (of) new spending or new production spending in the city," Mayer-Oaks said.

And he said that does not count the image boost the city gets from films like "Miss Congeniality."

Mayer-Oaks said one production the city lost was a Sony Pictures television series.

"They currently have a project set in San Antonio called 'Nightshift,' but they're filming in Albuquerque due to the financial incentive there," Mayer-Oaks said.

He said the city and the state of Texas could not compete.

"'Nightshift' will spend between $2 and $4 million per episode," Mayer-Oaks said. "And of that, they'll spend up to 70 perecent locally. Unfortunately the state is low on funding."

The movie "The One I Wrote for You" was made entirely in San Antonio.

"We created so many direct jobs and a lot of indirect jobs, and that impacts directly," said Fernando S. Cano II, the film's producer and the production manager for the Taco Cabana commercials. "The money is being given to the community and spent in the community."

He said tax money is not wasted on the San Antonio Film Commission.

"The San Antonio Film Commission definitely needs more support, it needs more money," Cano said. "It has been improving over the past few years. It's a roller coaster ride but I think right now we're on our way back up."

He said that would mean more money and more jobs in San Antonio.

The San Antonio Film Commission was established in 1985 when Henry Cisneros was mayor.

The city lost out on "Nightshift" mostly because of a lack of funding from the state, not the city.