Film News

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No 'Miracle,' but We'll See the 'Lights'

Friday Night Lights, despite tepid ratings, has been granted a full season of filming in Austin, it was announced this week. The announcement means another nine episodes – in studio parlance "the back nine"– will be shot hereabouts. It was never a sure thing, with show producer Nan Bernstein admitting to me last week that shooting a series on location far from Hollywood in a state that doesn't offer financial incentives could muddy the works. The best sign of good news came when NBC gave a similar nod to even lower-rated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The show's crew showed off last Friday to a select crowd the brand-spanking-new football stadium built near the airport. Now the challenge will be to find enough audience growth to rate a second season.

Meanwhile, The Third Miracle, the tale of the 1957 Mexican Little League champs set to star Cheech Marin and expected to film here, is now indefinitely delayed. Sources say funding problems were the culprit for the film, which was originally expected to have a budget of more than $20 million and was scouting Austin locations as recently as last week. As reported here last time, Austin was to get the project due to crew shortages in the Carolinas. No word on whether announced casting calls for that "major Hollywood family film," which this sure sounds like, will commence.

Ah, well, at least Austin can claim a spot in the recent tabloid gossip columns as the home-wrecking site for Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe's marriage. This summer, little birdies informed me of Reese's rented Austin family nest while her hubby shot that still untitled war in Iraq film formerly known as Stop-Loss. Yes, I'm quoting Liz Smith citing US Weekly's anonymous source as hinting it was an onset fling for Mr. Witherspoon, er, Phillippe. Did I mention that Ms. Liz will take the late Ann Richards' place as host of Texas Film Hall of Fame festivities this year? And that's not a salacious rumor.

Help wanted: film fanatic

Have a deep desire to nurture the future stars of the Texas film scene while hobnobbing with nabobs of all ilks and sorts? The 2,200-member Austin Film Society is looking to replace Elisabeth Sikes, who is stepping down this month after six years as director of artist services. The job includes working with the visiting filmmakers program and the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, which has doled out $600,000 to emerging film and video talent. The details are at By the way, congrats to AFS on successful passage of Proposition 4, which will fund major improvements to Austin Studios.

And the rest ...

Margaret Brown's poetic 2004 Townes Van Zandt biopic, Be Here to Love Me, still resonates for me, and it apparently does the same for the Women in Film/General Motors Alliance, which honored Brown with an Acceleration Grant for Emerging Filmmakers. The prize is a five-day, full-immersion mentoring program... Reel Women board member Brandy Rainey and an all-Austin crew took the long trek to the Big Bend this past weekend to shoot the short "Little Dove" about love between an Apache woman and a Comanche warrior circa the 17th century. Joe David, Mark Hernandez, Indiana Adams, and John O'Dell star, while Matt Bizer manned the camera and Steve Barcik of the Film Network Austin produced... What? You haven't seen Turk Pipkin's Nobelity yet? It and he are at the Arbor this Sunday at 4, 6, and 8pm with an insightful look at how Nobel Prize-winners would solve the world's biggest problems.

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The Third Miracle, Friday Night Lights, Elisabeth Sikes, Margaret Brown, Turk Pipkin

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