- Incentives push gets a bill (or two)
The Texas film-incentives push finally has a bill. Well, two of them,
actually. State Rep. Dawnna Dukes of Austin is the sponsor of the Texas
Motion Picture Alliance-backed House Bill 1634, which offers up to $10
million a year in incentives for two years. Eligible projects must spend
more than $10 million in Texas and can receive up to $1.5 million back
based on 20% of the wages they pay to Texans. Episodic television series
(Austin-shot Friday Night Lights and Metroplex-lensed Prison Break, for
instance) that spend at least $10 million locally could get up to $2
million each. In its current form, the proposal leaves smaller indie
films out in the cold. But expect much wrangling in coming weeks to
increase the total amount of incentives offered and perhaps lower that
cap. Bob Deuell of Greenville is the Senate sponsor. Oh, that second
House bill was filed by Rep. Jim Pitts (you'll remember him as the
pretender to the House speaker throne). It's a duplicate minus some late
provisions added to the Dukes bill, including exempting pornographic
films from the mix. Meanwhile, the Texas Motion Picture Alliance is
gearing up for its lobby day at the Capitol this coming Tuesday, when
there will be a House hearing. You can find more details at
www.txmpa.org. The group's formal legislative agenda includes supporting
projects with a budget of at least $1 million in the incentives plan.
Extra! Extra! Mid-March is swingin'
So, you've already gone to Waterloo Video and secured your $65 Southwest
by Southwest Film Festival pass. Perhaps you've polished your boots for
the rodeo. What's left? Get groovy with CBS pilot Swingtown, which is
interviewing male and female extras from ages 18-40 for high school
scenes as well as adult scenes this Friday and Saturday for filming from
March 12 to 19 (the high school scenes during spring break, natch). Come
by 501 N. I-35 between 10am and 5pm on March 2 or 3 dressed as a
Seventies hipster, and expect to get your photo taken. More info at
And the rest ...
It looks likely that independent film Kings of the Evening will alight
hereabouts soon after Los Angeles-based Picture Palace films flirted
with a Georgia shoot last year. Said to be based on actual events, the
story is set in an urban Deep South ghetto during the Great Depression
"where despairing men fight for dignity and self-respect by competing in
an underground contest like no other"… TV Junkie, the gripping
documentary of addiction that premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film
Festival and played to strong reviews at SXSW last March, shows up on
HBO later this month… Speaking of the boob tube, the TV Guide Channel is
shooting a reality show in Odessa about the behind-the-scenes world of
TV news at the local CBS affiliate.
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- Film News
BY JOE O'CONNELL
Kotowski seeks 'Forgiveness' in Austin
It wasn't a good day for writer/director Mariusz "Mark" Kotowski. One of
his lead actresses was home sick, and the Austin rains wouldn't end. But
the shooting went on. Kotowski is an interesting newish face in the
Austin film scene, shooting his first fiction feature, Forgiveness,
around Austin. The story follows two women, one Jewish and the other
Christian, who discover their families' histories are intertwined
through events of World War II. Kotowski, a native of Poland, was a
choreographer in London before studying directing at New York
University. Why the move to Austin? "New York is too busy, and I needed
a change," he says. "Austin is the same as Poland." Kotowski's first
film, a documentary titled Life Is a Dream in Cinema: Pola Negri, tells
the story of Polish actress Pola Negri, who grew up in a small town and
went on to a Hollywood career and torrid personal relationships with
Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino. She spent her last days in San
Antonio. Kotowski hopes Forgiveness will be the first of a slate of
features shot in Austin.
'Mandy Lane' welcomes release delay
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Facing a very limited release by the Weinstein Co. this month, the
Bastrop-shot horror flick All the Boys Love Mandy Lane received instead
a stay of execution and promises of a wide release early next year by
its new U.S. distributor, German-based Senator Entertainment. The
company is also behind the star-studded independent film Fireflies in
the Garden, which recently lensed in Austin with Julia Roberts among the
leads. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Weinsteins, who
purchased the low-budget film right after its premiere at the Toronto
International Film Festival, saw danger signs in a downturn in the
teen-horror-film market. Chatting after the film's showing to strong
buzz at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, director Jonathan
Levine told this columnist that the filmmakers looked for inspiration
from two very Texas efforts, the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
and NBC's series Friday Night Lights, as well as John Hughes' teen films
from the 1980s. "We thought it was interesting to take that [teen film]
model and graft a horror film onto it," Levine said.
The Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival fetes its 20th
year with a trailer competition themed We Speak Film that promises the
winner free entrance to the fest, which runs Sept. 28 to Oct. 6. The
deadline is Aug. 15. More at www.agliff.org. Meanwhile, the Austin Film
Festival trailer contest deadline is Aug. 10! Snap to it! Plus discount
badges for the October fest are now on sale. More at
www.austinfilmfestival.com. And, yes, the SXSW Film Festival 08's
website is now active at www.sxsw.com/film.
And the rest ...
Look for comedy The Sno Cone Stand, Inc. to shoot here in September with
Tony Sirico of The Sopranos and Morgan Fairchild starring. The budget is
reportedly around $1.5 million and marks the debut of
writer/director/producer Travis Knapp... John Singleton has signed on to
direct the true-life Tulia, starring Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton
in the adaptation of Nate Blakeslee's book Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and
Corruption in a Small Texas Town about an incident in 1999 when 10% of
the Texas town's black population was dubiously arrested. Look for it to
likely shoot, ouch, in Louisiana in the late fall... Austin resident
(and instructor at the school that shall forever be known as Southwest
Texas State) Tim O'Brien's masterful tale of the war in Vietnam, "The
Things They Carried," will be adapted by AMC as a television miniseries,
with James Sadwith writing the script.
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“Good Christian Belles” won’t shoot in Dallas
By JOE O’CONNELL Special Contributor to the Dallas Morning News
Little of the Dallas-set ABC series Good Christian Belles will be shot in North Texas.
“I have been told the Good Christian Belles series will shoot in Los Angeles,” said Janis Burklund of the Dallas Film Commission. “We always knew this one would be more difficult to keep here given its large cast and that it will be heavily shot on interior sets.”
The show’s pilot shot recently in North Texas. Thirteen episodes of the series, based on Kim Gatlin’s book Good Christian Bitches , will be made as a midseason replacement for ABC. Complaints from groups including the Parents Television Council and One Million Moms led ABC to change the show’s name to the acronym GCB before settling on Good Christian Belles.
“There has been some discussion that they might possibly return to Dallas on occasion for some exteriors since it is set here, but nothing is firm yet and likely it’s very dependent on their budget,” Burklund said.
In the series from Darren Star ( Sex and the City ), the “high school mean girl” (Leslie Bibb) returns to Dallas after her divorce and runs into the old gang. That gang includes Kristin Chenoweth ( Glee ), Annie Potts (Designing Women), Miriam Shor (Damages ) and Marisol Nichols (24).
It’s not the only Texas-set television series ready to shoot in Los Angeles. Austin-set Little in Common from Texan Rob Thomas ( Veronica Mars) shot its pilot in Los Angeles and the series will be made there as well if it is picked up by Fox, producer Patricia Fass Palmer confirmed.
TNT’s modern-day tale of Dallas’ Ewing family shot its pilot in North Texas, and officials are awaiting word of a series pickup and a decision on shooting location. “I can assure you Dallas isn’t out of it, and we are still working hard to ensure it stays here,” Burklund said.
The Texas Legislature’s probable cuts to funding for the state’s filming incentives program are also worrying film pros. Burklund previously said at least one series had backed away from a North Texas shoot until the funding issue is settled. The Legislature may cut funding from the current two-year $60 million total to as little as $10 million.
In 2010, television series Lone Star, The Good Guys and Chase shot in North Texas, while My Generation and Friday Night Lights shot in Austin. All of the shows were canceled.
Joe O’Connell is an Austin-based freelance writer.