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The 2005 numbers from the Texas Film Commission? Not bad. Gary Busey coming to town? Scary. Plus, Rhiannon Elizabeth Rodriguez-Avellán, Susan Youssef, and Tracie Laymon.

By Joe O'Connell, Fri., Dec. 30, 2005


Pretty Good, Not Bad, Can't Complain

That's the verdict on the Austin film industry in 2005. Could have been better, has been better, but not bad. Preliminary figures from the Texas Film Commission put the combined budgets of film/video projects shot in the capital city at $78 million. The entire state took in just under $140 million from 39 projects. Austin's 19 projects included How to Eat Fried Worms, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Origin, Sarah Michelle Gellar's The Return (formerly titled Revolver), Sandra Bullock's Infamous (formerly Every Word Is True), Richard Linklater's retelling of Fast Food Nation, a pair of shoots from Burnt Orange Productions (The Cassidy Kids and Homo Erectus), and MTV's The Real World. Quite a roster. But compare it to the 2004 statewide take of $214.8 million (Austin saw $151.2 million of that) or 2003's $230.2 million (more than $192 million in Austin), and it's beginning to look a lot like film incentives make financial sense for the Lone Star State. Not even Hurricane Katrina can slow down Louisiana's incentive-fueled film-industry boom, which the Louisiana Film Commission estimates has brought more than $900 million to that state since July 2002. And New Mexico isn't far behind. Hey, Texas lawmakers, need more proof? How about the Josh Hartnett-starrer Texas Lullaby, a reworked Hamlet set in East Texas? Well, it's shooting in Shreveport.


Scary Gary Busey

Planning a February shoot hereabouts is Hallettsville, a horror/suspense film starring none other that Gary Busey, Oscar winner for The Buddy Holly Story. Logan Brown, Derek Nixon, and Damon Change are producing, and Andrew Pozza is directing. Busey plays the sheriff in a haunted little town between Austin and Houston.


She Promised You Heaven

Welcome into the world, Rhiannon Elizabeth Rodriguez-Avellán, all 21 inches of you. She came forth like a bell through the night on Dec. 8. Father Robert Rodriguez did indeed get naming duties, and, yes, he's a closet Fleetwood Mac fan. Mom Elizabeth Avellán notes the name also hearkens to an incredible figure from Celtic mythology. Like her ultra-busy filmmaking parents, Rhiannon is in a hurry. She was born 10 days ahead of schedule and, we can presume, came in well under budget.


And the Rest

Can enough Austinites have films in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival? Never. Add Susan Youssef's "Marjoun and the Flying Headscarf," a short film about an Arab-American girl coming to grips with her sexuality while bridging the mores of two very different cultures... Good news from L.A., where Tracie Laymon relocated six months ago. Production company Cineville (Gas Food Lodging, Mi Vida Loca, Swimming With Sharks, Hurly Burly) has tabbed her to rewrite the script for and direct Attention Deficit. A colleague who knows her from her short-film-making days in Austin was celebratory but unsurprised, saying the 22-year-old "definitely has the drive to become a major star"... Low budget? You want low budget? How about $57? That's the current figure for Disturbing Productions' Cry for Help, based on a Don Jolly script about the Internet culture of teen suicide glorification... Brian Satterwhite has been selected to compose music for the IMAX film "Ride With Cowboys" slated for release in June. Satterwhite will spend the next three months writing music for the 45-minute film directed by Harry Lynch of Trinity Films here in Austin. The film examines the origins of cowboy culture in Spain more than a thousand years ago and its cultural development throughout the world.

Send tips to filmnews@austinchronicle.com.

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