- Film News
BY JOE O'CONNELL
'Whip It' snaps up wolverine cash
The Drew Barrymore-directed Whip It soon would be filming entirely in
Austin, if Texas offered 15% incentives instead of its current 5%.
That's the word from Bob Hudgins, head of the Texas Film Commission, who
has been courting the Austin-set film written by Shauna Cross, who grew
up in Austin, and dealing with the Roller Derby revival that began in
Austin. Instead, it's going to Michigan, where Barrymore was spotted
last week scouting locations in Ypsilanti and where they'll offer up a
whopping 42% financial incentive for the film said to have a budget in
the $15 million range. "Drew really, really wanted to do it here, but
financially there's such a difference to what they're getting in
Michigan," Hudgins says. How could a 15% incentive (a figure Texas film
insiders are hoping to convince the Legislature is viable) potentially
beat out 42%? Barrymore's film will have to import a Los Angeles crew to
Michigan. The Texas plan was to bring in only three people from Los
Angeles, Hudgins says, with the rest of the hires entirely local. Most
states offering incentives hook them to the hiring of local crew, but
Michigan is using its gaudy incentives to start a film industry from
nothing, so they'll offer payments, as Hudgins puts it, for anyone who
UTFI does a 'Dance'
As we told you in January, the University of Texas Film Institute is now
in the driver's seat as the for-profit Burnt Orange Productions stalled
out. Look for Dance With the One to go into preproduction in June, with
a July 7 start to filming of UTFI Feature Film Lab's first all-student
production. Written by Joshua Smith Henderson, a student at UT's
Michener Center for Writers, and Jon Marc Smith, the story is described
as "an Austin-based neo-noir thriller in the vein of the Coen brothers'
Blood Simple" (which coincidentally also shot in Austin). The biggest
differences between UTFI's production and the previous ones from Burnt
Orange are the greater level of student involvement and the lack of
pressure to satisfy outside investors. "We can afford to take risks and
tell raw stories," UTFI Creative Director Alex Smith told me previously.
"It's okay if it doesn't sell, as long as it tells a good story." The
film will be directed by Michener Center grad Mike Dolan. Students will
have a mentor in each production department, including producer
Elizabeth Avellán (Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico), casting
director Beth Sepko (Office Space, Miss Congeniality), and actress Dana
Wheeler-Nicholson (Fletch, Friday Night Lights). The crew will include
40-50 graduate and undergraduate students who will earn course credit.
Postproduction continues in the fall and will be supervised by Keefe
Boerner, formerly of Troublemaker Studios, and John Pierson will lead a
marketing and distribution focus in the spring.
And the rest ...
Austin screenwriter Mike Murphy's script for horror film Javelina is now
filming in Rocksprings with Barry Tubb directing. Tubb is also producing
with Suzanne Weinert, who is behind Ex-Terminators, which is shooting in
Austin. The cast includes Tubb and Sonny Carl Davis... Rowdy Stovall's
Mexican Sunrise sold at Cannes to Italy, Germany, India, and elsewhere.
Now he's closing the deal with producers for an Austin shoot of
Ex-Games. More details as we get them... Emmy Award-winner David Lago
(The Young and the Restless) is the lead in Mariusz Kotowski's Deeper
and Deeper, which begins shooting here this week... Austin-shot Kabluey,
which won an audience award at the Austin Film Festival, has been picked
up for distribution by Regent Releasing. Look for it later this
summer... Mike Rembis of Austin won the Cannes 24-Hour Film Challenge
with his short "Perfect Pitch." You can catch it at
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Shot in Texas: "12 Mighty Orphans" first up for new film company(My column tends to be behind a firewall, so here is the latest in its entirety.)
By Joe O'Connell Special Contributor
The Dallas Morning News
@joemoconnell on Twitter
Todd Allen hopes Fort Worth’s Mighty Mites are the start of something big for the Texas film scene.
Allen, an Austin native who has worked for decades as an actor, has formed Presidio Pictures. The company plans to first shoot 12 Mighty Orphans, an adaptation of Jim Dent’s true story of the Masonic Home of Fort Worth’s Depression-era Mighty Mites football team.
Preproduction for a spring Fort Worth shoot would start a string of Texas-made Presidio features with budgets ranging from $8 million to $30 million.
“The financing for most independent films is cobbled together with duct tape,” said Allen, who is raising funds in Texas for not just the cost of film production but also much of the distribution. “I think [Presidio] will have a substantial impact on the industry here. If it works, it’ll put a lot of people to work.”
Robert Duvall , Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Aaron Eckhart and Andy Garcia are already attached to a planned second Presidio feature, The Last Full Measure, a true story of a father’s efforts to honor his son killed during the Vietnam War.
Presidio — with former Sundance Institute chairman, Orion Pictures director and Imagine Entertainment chairman Jack Crosby on its board — could prove a shot in the arm for the Texas film industry as major films choose locations offering larger financial incentives. Jerry Bruckheimer told The Hollywood Reporter this week that his revived The Lone Ranger movie starring Johnny Depp will shoot in New Mexico and possibly Louisiana because of those states’ heftier incentives. Texas had been looked at as the movie’s shooting location.
“My fear is it’s going to be a hokey cartoon,” Allen said of The Lone Ranger. “It’s going to cost $200 million and, if it doesn’t make its money back, it’s going to be another nail in the coffin of the genre.” (Bruckheimer says it will cost $215 million to be exact, trimmed back from $260 million.)
Allen knows the Western genre well, having acted in such films as Wyatt Earp and Silverado. “I can’t think of a single actor I’ve met who didn’t want to do a Western,” he said. “I think that’s where my mojo is at.”
Thus he’s also planning Rio Grande, a feature adaptation of Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson’s memoir co-written by David Marion Wilkinson; a television miniseries of Wilkinson’s early-Texas novel Not Between Brothers made in partnership with Kevin Costner; and the big-screen film noir Western The Deserters based on Luke Short’s novel.
Allen got his start when he happened upon the ranch set of Honeysuckle Rose (1980) in Johnson City and was mistaken for the ranch owner’s son. Director Jerry Schatzberg asked if he wanted to be an extra, and Allen caught the acting bug.
Throughout his career, Allen said he tried to stay out of his trailer and on the set figuring out the film business.
He moved back to Austin from L.A. with the expectation that acting would take a back seat to producing. But Quentin Tarantino, whom he met in a Los Angeles acting class 25 years ago, tapped him for a role in Django Unchained, a Western about slave traders featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell.
“When I first talked to Quentin he said he wanted to shoot in Texas,” Allen said.
But his acting gig starts in February in Louisiana, the land of attractive film incentives.