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Texas Film Incentive Denied to 'Machete Kills' Filmmakers

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

A federal court this week killed claims by the Machete Kills filmmakers that a Texas film incentive program was unconstitutional and violated its right to free speech by denying them grants. The filmmakers argued that prior dismissal of their claims in a Texas court were erroneous, but they failed to convince the feds.

Machete Kills is the sequel to the very popular Machete, starring Danny Trejo and Robert DeNiro. But if Texas doesn't want to incentivize more Machete movies, that's okay says the federal court.

What Went Down

The Machete movies are directed by Robert Rodriguez, a Texan who regularly shoots in his home state. Rodriguez often works with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and has a similarly irreverent style. His Machete movies were denied grants by the Texas Film Incentive Program twice, and Rodriguez argued that the denials were unconstitutional.

The Texas Film Commission grants filmmakers money to make the state an attractive place to shoot. But it reserves the right to deny grants to films that depict Texas history inaccurately, and it twice denied Machete's makers grants.

The production company sued the current and former directors of the Texas Film Commission -- charged with the grant program -- in Texas state court, where the claims were denied on the basis of the pleadings, meaning there was no trial. The filmmakers then sought relief in federal court, seeking funding for past and future film efforts.

The filmmakers also wanted the federal court to declare that the Incentive Program violated the First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Article I, Section 8 of the Texas Constitution both facially and as applied. They sought economic damages resulting from the unlawful denial of an Incentive Program grant.

But the federal court was not convinced by the filmmakers' claims that it was entitled to Texas funds for its films. If the state chose not to grant the filmmakers money because their depiction of Texas was displeasing, so be it.

The Court Concludes

The Court wrote, "[The Commission] did not forbid Machete from filming, producing, or releasing Machete Kills, but merely opted not to subsidize the film with Texas taxpayer funds. Accordingly, the district court did not err in dismissing this claim."

Rodriguez is famous for his low-budget movie magic and is known for actually making his films, engineering sound and visuals in his own garage. He is arguably a true independent. But he is not a starving artist anymore, rest assured.

Machete Kills reportedly grossed $15 million worldwide. And you should not be surprised if a third movie is in the making.

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