Film News

What does Katrina mean for the Texas film industry? Plus, bidding goodbye to the Austin actress with the most beautiful eyes, Tomi Barrett.

We Had to Ask

The queasy question Texas film folk have been afraid to utter is thus: Does our state movie biz benefit from the devastation Hurricane Katrina hath wrought on New Orleans? The quick answer is "not much." David Gordon Green has reportedly moved to Austin not long after his Undertow screenwriter and former St. Stephen's teacher Joe Conway left for Los Angeles. Some of the crew of The Reaping, a Baton Rouge-based Warner Bros. production, waited out the storm in an Austin hotel, but are back at work now. The Austin Film Office has fielded calls from suddenly unemployed New Orleans crew members, but the projects themselves aren't likely to surface in Austin or Dallas, and film officials there aren't trying to attract them. "In no way are we going out and trying to court them," says Gary Bond of the Austin Film Office. "We have not made a single one of those calls. We just want to get people back on their feet and filming whether it's here or Louisiana or wherever."

New Orleans may be in ruins, but Louisiana's enticing filming incentives remain in place, and the film industry is extremely mobile, says Ken Rector, business manager of Texas Local 484 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Rector, who fought for Texas incentives – the Legislature approved them earlier this year without allocating funds to back them up – is also working to aid displaced film industry workers. By Rector's count of planned Louisiana shoots, some are relocating within the state, a couple are going back to Los Angeles, one will shut down, four are looking to New Mexico because of that state's filming incentives, and none are coming to the Lone Star State. "Their trucks are going to drive straight through Texas on their way to New Mexico and California," Rector says. Incidentally, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's efforts to provide filming incentives there also crashed and burned last week.

Meanwhile, Austin's lens wizards did their part to aid New Orleans evacuees in the early days of the disaster. "I work in the Austin film community and knew this was a resource," Clark Walker says. "It's like when we made this film Slacker years ago. I knew I could count on my friends." Walker and his film-producer wife, Anne Walker-McBay, first called on Teamsters Phil Schriber and Greg Fawcett, who donated vans, then went to the "usual suspects": Richard Linklater, Mike Judge, and Matthew McConaughey, who funded a pair of buses. The convoy went to Houston's overcrowded Astrodome and redirected some 165 of Louisiana's evacuees to the Austin Convention Center. Walker and Walker-McBay stuck around the convention center the next day, slapped a sign touting "free rides" on their donated vehicles, and drove anyone anywhere they desired. "They wanted their dignity back," Walker says. "They just wanted to go somewhere where they could buy, with their own money, some clean underwear."

One Again in Mexico

Speaking of incentives, Carlos Gallardo of El Mariachi stars as a healer who joins with police to track down a serial killer in Curandero, from a script by Robert Rodriguez. The $3 million film is the only taker so far for Mexico's incentives, which amounted to a $300,000 rebate, according to Variety. Miramax, which is on its last legs, failed to get word out that the flick, shot entirely in Spanish, won't be released this month as originally planned, which leaves the release decision to Disney. The film was directed by Mexican newcomer Eduardo Rodriguez, who is no relation to Robert.

Bye to Beautiful Barrett

Tomi Barrett had the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen: a golden brown that radiated kindness. The Austin actress best known for her role in cult slasher flick The Forest succumbed to cancer this past week. The wife of filmmaker Gary Kent (Jack Nicholson's personal stuntman in Sixties independents like Ride in the Whirlwind), Barrett also starred in two films Kent directed, the Seventies new age exploration The Pyramid, and Rainy Day Friends, which featured Esai Morales as a street tough who battled, as Barrett valiantly did, the dreaded Big C.

It's a Date

The Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival needs 150 volunteers for the upcoming fest. Info sessions are at 11am Saturday, Sept. 17, and 1pm Sunday, Sept. 18, at TapeLenders video. More at Lizzie Martinez, who has cast for both Richard Linklater and John Sayles in the past, wants white women ages 30-40 for a Saturday casting call for a film to be shot in early 2006 that might or might not have an affiliation with one of the two directors noted (one of whom is shooting a Fast Food Nation adaptation about that time). Call 732-0084 for directions and the secret password.

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David Gordon Green, The Reaping, Gary Bond, Ken Rector, Curandero, Clark Walker, Anne Walker-McBay, Tomi Barrett

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