Film News

Despite a forlorn fall, Austin racked up its second best film year ever in 2004, and, cross your fingers, 2005 is starting off strong

Despite a forlorn fall, Austin racked up its second-best film year ever in 2004, and, cross your fingers, 2005 is starting off strong. The rest of Texas? That's a different story. The Texas Film Commission estimates $209.9 million in combined budgets for film and television projects shot in the state in 2004, with three-quarters of that or $151.2 million roosting here. In the past 10 years, Austin has raked in a cool $787.4 million, half of which is believed to go directly into local coffers.

Is it any wonder that the 2005 mantra will be "incentives," as in what Louisiana and New Mexico have been offering of late to grab more big-budget flicks? Look for the Texas Legislature to make a resolution to consider a film incentive program that has been quietly formulated in recent months. "Everyone is poised and holding their breath," says Rick Ferguson, head of the Houston Film Commission, whose city came in second in 2004 with $10.5 million in film projects. "Now that it's starting to affect Austin, the red light should be flashing."

Austin's 2004 saviors continued to be the usual suspects: Richard Linklater with A Scanner Darkly and Robert Rodriguez with Sin City and The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D. Add to that Mike Judge's still-untitled futuristic comedy, the University of Texas' Burnt Orange Productions with Dot, and the totally Texas tale Friday Night Lights, and what could have been a hangover year after bingeing on 2003's $90 million The Alamo (and a total of $192.8 million in Austin film projects that year) is instead a sober success. "If we'd had an Alamo, it would have been our biggest year ever," says Gary Bond of the Austin Film Office. "For the last five years, it's been all Austin. But I have a problem with beating our chests about it, because what's swung one way can swing again."

Austin will start 2005 with a full plate: This week sees the start of the spooky Revolver, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, and the low-budget Deadly Drug is already in place. When Sandra Bullock and friends arrive for Truman Capote biopic Every Word Is True in February, every nook and cranny of the Austin Film Society's Austin Studios will be occupied. Plus, the prequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake shot here in 2002 is lurking, and Tim McCanlies is talking about directing a follow-up to Secondhand Lions.

And don't count out the boob tube, particularly with The Real World bringing MTV back to town to relive its ill-fated Austin Stories days. Last year, two major pilots shot in Texas: Jack and Bobby in Austin and HUB in Dallas. The latter was renamed LAX, and both ended up moving to Los Angeles. It was a bigger blow to once-upon-a-time Texas film biz bad boy Big D, which saw a paltry $5.1 million in 2004 film and TV bucks, putting it in fourth place in the state behind El Paso with its $8.2 million. Send film tips to filmnews@austinchronicle.com

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

final Texas film numbers 2004, Gary Bond, Texas Film Commission, Austin Film Office, Rick Ferguson, Houston Film Commission

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