When “Galveston,” the movie, finally premieres, it won’t be Galveston, the island, up on the silver screen.
Production of the independent film, based on a novel of the same name, is planned to start in February on Tybee Island, a barrier island near Savannah, Ga., according to the Savannah Morning News.
The news may be disappointing for locals who were hoping a movie that’s set in a fictional Galveston might be shot in the real Galveston.
Officials from the Galveston Park Board of Trustees said they had not been contacted by the production company behind the movie.
“I wouldn’t want to speculate on why this particular project chose Georgia, as there are many factors that go into how companies choose where to shoot,” said Bryan Kunz, special events manager and film liaison for the park board. “I believe Elle Fanning is from Georgia. Who knows if that has any role in the decision. The case may be that Texas was never even in consideration.”
Fanning is cast in a role in the film, according to industry publications.
Officials in Georgia point to a specific reason, however — the state’s generous incentives for filmmakers.
“One of the wonderful assets Savannah has as a film location is the ability to look like many different places,” said Beth Nelson, the executive director of the Savannah Area Film Office. Savannah has been New Orleans, Miami, Vietnam and Chicago, among others.
“Along with Georgia film incentives and the Savannah entertainment production incentives, a growing crew base and a film-friendly community, it makes Savannah a popular location to shoot.”
In 2014, author Nic Pizzolatto made waves as the writer of the hit HBO series “True Detective.” The success of the show’s first season brought attention to Pizzolatto’s 2010 debut novel “Galveston.”
“Galveston,” the book, is about a man escaping his past as mob strongman in New Orleans. It’s set, partly, on Galveston, the island, as Hurricane Ike bears down on the Texas Coast.
A movie version of the novel was announced in January 2014, just weeks after the premiere of “True Detective.” Filming was initially planned to start in 2014, but was delayed.
Since the project’s announcement, the movie has switched lead actors, directors and production companies. Some of the shine has also come off Pizzolatto’s name, after a lukewarm reception to second season of “True Detective”.
It now appears that filming is progressing on the East Coast. In addition to a permit issued by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to allow for filming on beaches, talent agencies have been looking for extras to appear in the movie.
Georgia is known to have attractive film incentives. The state offers up to 30 percent tax credits to films produced in the state. The credits are cited as one of the reasons 120 movies have been filmed in Georgia over the past seven years, including blockbusters such as “Captain America: Civil War” and “The Hunger Games” movies.
Georgia’s film incentives were created after the state lost out to Louisiana as the filming location of “Ray,” the Oscar-winning biopic about Georgia-native Ray Charles.
Texas has film incentives, too, through a program known as the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program. The program offers grants to cover up to 20 percent of the costs of productions made in Texas.
The legislature has allocated $232 million to the incentive program since 2007.
The Texas program has been the target of conservatives, who argue the money could be better spent elsewhere. Three bills have been filed this session that would shut down the Texas incentive program completely.
“I have filed legislation to end the Moving Image Industry Incentive Program because it is not the proper role of government to subsidize an industry,” said state Sen. Konni Burton, a Fort Worth Republican and one of the three legislators to file bills to abolish the program.
“The state has a finite amount of resources and any diversion from the core functions of state government — education, transportation, water infrastructure, public safety — is a misuse of those resources.”
But supporters of the program argue it brings jobs and industry to Texas, as well as recognition.
Mindy Raymond, executive director of the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, said her group would argue for a larger allocation than the $32 million the incentive program received in the last biennium.
One of the reasons “Galveston” may have chosen Georgia is because the Texas incentive program ran out of money, Raymond said.
It isn’t the first time a Texas-set movie has been filmed in another state. “Hell or High Water,” a nominee for this year’s Best Picture Oscar, was set in Texas, but filmed in New Mexico.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Raymond said. “Texas films are shooting in New Mexico and Louisiana and Atlanta. Whether its Texas filmmakers or Texas stories, it’s heartbreaking that these are having to be shot elsewhere and that money is not coming back and those jobs are not coming here.”