Film News

The Texas Film Commission copes with big departure; plus, Kat Candler, shooting updates, and casting calls

Kat Candler (pointing) on the set of <i>jumping off 
bridges</i><br>Courtesy Emory Richie
Kat Candler (pointing) on the set of jumping off bridges
Courtesy Emory Richie

Coping Without Tom: After 22 years with the Texas Film Commission, the last 10 as director, Tom Copeland quietly retired last week. His longtime assistant Carol Pirie steps in as interim director while Gov. Rick Perry mulls a permanent replacement. "Carol and I have been sharing a brain for a long time," Copeland jokes. "Fortunately it's hers." He's traveled every nook and cranny of Texas at least 12 times during the tenures of five governors, and will be remembered for keeping the film commission from turning into a political football. "I have millions of people to thank in the state," he says. "It's a hot potato job sometimes. You have to be a public servant and you have to be fair." Copeland has seen major changes in the Texas film scene from the days when he recorded potential locations with a Polaroid camera to today's e-mailable digital library. He's most proud of the growth and professionalism of Texas' film crews. "The crews here are awesome," he says. "You tell them they can do things and they back it up." Looking to the future, Copeland remains hopeful an incentive-program funding source can be found so Texas can compete with the likes of Louisiana and New Mexico, but he sees the national trend that necessitates such as questionable. "We're supposed to be in the business of economic development, not giving stuff away," he says. Next up for Copeland is a gig teaching the business of film to Texas State University students this fall.

Kat Crosses a Bridge: My personal buzz list of recent Austin homegrown independent films is brief: Alex Holdridge's Sexless, Bryan Poyser and Jacob Vaughan's Dear Pillow, Kyle Henry's Room and Kat Candler's cicadas. Candler's 2000 effort is the elder of the bunch, which makes the start of production this past week on her follow-up, jumping off bridges, all the sweeter. "It's very loosely based on a friend whose mom committed suicide when we were in high school," Candler says. "It's about how we all grieved in our own ways." The film stars Bryan Chafin of cicadas and features Emmy winner Michael Emerson. Candler's script was a semifinalist in the Sundance Screenplay Institute in 2002. "I wanted to write something honest and real, and something people can relate to," she says. Candler sold cicadas to a distributor but got it back when it was clear the film was languishing on the shelf. She hopes to release it herself if no better offers materialize.

Shooting Gallery: Austin Studios is full to the brim for the summer with studio project How to Eat Fried Worms, vampire flick The Insatiable starring Sean Patrick Flanery, The Cassidy Kids from homeboys Vaughan and Poyser (shooting starts July 20), and A&E's TV series Roller Girls, which is sticking around until at least the end of the year.

Extras! Extras!: How to Eat Fried Worms has set an open casting call for extras this Saturday from 9am to 4pm at the Holiday Inn Town Lake. People of all ages and types, but particularly kids ages 3-15, are sought. More info at 495-1511.

And the Rest: Word on the dumbed-down, futuristic streets is that Mike Judge's untitled comedy shot in Austin in 2004 is now Idiocracy and will be released in October… Platinum Dunes and Texas Film Commission folk met recently in L.A. with the consensus that the prequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake (the one that shot here in 2002) will start filming any day – or week – now… CBS is starting production July 20 on Walker Texas Ranger: Ring of Fire, a TV movie reuniting the Chuck Norris series gang. Norris' brother Aaron has also scouted Austin for future projects and is said to be opening a production facility in Big D… Texas SWAT this September will follow tactical unit officers in Austin, San Marcos, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Plano, Beaumont, Amarillo, Abilene, and Garland for a Court TV series, not to be confused with A&E's currently filming Dallas SWAT, which shoots guess where.

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