Film News

Wrapping up the Austin Film Festival

Hudgins Talks of Incentives, Missed Opportunities at AFF

Will Robert Rodriguez be forced to shoot his next film (reliable reports say he will shoot a live-action The Jetsons before a green screen next year) outside of Texas because of studio pressure? Is his producing partner Elizabeth Avellán prepping a separate film for a Puerto Rico shoot? Yes and yes, according to Bob Hudgins, head of the Texas Film Commission, who spoke about runaway production during a panel on film incentives at the Austin Film Festival. Add that to a recent Texas scout for Michael Winterbottom's next film set in a Fifties-era oil town that will likely result in the director shooting in either Louisiana or New Mexico, and the stage is set for the trickle of Hollywood films shooting in the Lone Star State to dry up completely unless the 2009 Texas Legislature acts to stanch the bleeding.

Hudgins, speaking just blocks away from where HBO's Temple Grandin biopic was shooting at a Downtown church, sounded optimistic that the Legislature would increase the 5% Texas film incentives program approved in 2007 to something more competitive with the 41 other states currently offering a financial lure for Hollywood. (Fifteen percent has been the figure most mentioned in terms of a Legislature-approved bump.) Texas' 5% is dead last, while New Mexico and Louisiana offer 25% and Michigan up to 42%. "If we don't deliver the goods ... we're going to lose the competitive edge," Hudgins said of the Texas advantage of diverse locations and trained crews. He noted that New Mexico is paying for Texas crew members to relocate.

The answer also may be getting cities to do their parts, Hudgins said, noting that Smithville's agreement to replace streetlights with models reflecting the Fifties setting of Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life helped to bring much of filming there. Hudgins remained optimistic that legislators, some of whom were recruited as extras when Malick's film shot briefly at the Texas Capitol, are getting the film industry message. "We feel like we're in very, very good shape" going into the session, he said.

And the Rest ...

It's a Seventies/Eighties flashback in Lakeway, where the independent comedy Code Enforcer is in the middle of a 21-day shoot with Erin Moran and Eddie Mekka starring. Surely you remember Joanie "Shortcake" Cunningham, Richie's li'l sis on Happy Days, but you may have a harder time recalling Mekka, who was Carmine "the Big Ragu" Ragusa, the singer/dancer on Laverne & Shirley. Greg Dorchak and Steve Cauley started writing the tale of a homeowners' association gone wrong while working on another film... If you saw the premiere of W. at the Austin Film Festival, then you saw Jonna Juul-Hansen, who portrays Jan O'Neill, a real-life friend of Laura Bush who introduced Laura to George W. Bush back in the day. Juul-Hansen is the only Austin actress with a speaking part in the film, which – in this time of inadequate film incentives – shot primarily in Louisiana.

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film incentives, Austin Film Festival, Bob Hudgins, Robert Rodriguez, The Jetsons

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