It's Texas vs. Arizona in the 'Friday Night Lights' Bowl, but we might have a secret weapon: the new TXMPA
Friday Night Lights has officially been picked up by NBC for the fall television schedule with Kyle Chandler (Early Edition) playing the coach role Billy Bob Thornton won kudos for on the big screen. But will the series shoot in the Austin area? No definite answer yet, but so far so good, local film-industry leaders say. That comes after early hints that Arizona one of the latest states to enter the film incentive derby was close to stealing it away. "My sense is they like Austin, and they like what Austin has to offer," says Vincent Kitch, Cultural Arts Division manager for the city of Austin. "They just have to get it all lined up to make it work. We're looking at any ways we can to make something they'd be interested in." One sticking point appears to be finding a good facility in which to shoot. Austin Studios is full to the brim for the time being with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grind House, Platinum Dunes' The Hitcher remake, and the untitled Kimberly Peirce Iraq war film formerly known as Stop-Loss, which is back in preproduction.
Will 'Lights' shine again in incentive-free Texas?
That Austin is having to fight for the project despite director/producer Peter Berg's obvious preference he shot much of both the film and the TV pilot here is testament to the power filming incentives play in attracting studio projects. Gary Bond of the Austin Film Office has seen the pilot, which he said is "damn good," but warns that despite its Texas storyline, a local shoot is no certainty. "If we lose it because of incentives, that will be a pretty strong message to the powers that be over in the dome," he says. "If they go somewhere else, that will be proof that incentives work."
With that in mind, leaders of film commissions around the state have banded together to form the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, with Bob Hudgins, Texas film commish, leading organizational meetings. The Austin meet is slated for 7-9pm, June 1, in City Council chambers. The plan is to create a unified voice for the film industry as it aims to convince the Legislature to finally fund a film incentives program. Learn more about the alliance at www.txmpa.org.
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