Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why that 'Chaos' announcement didn't happen

The big announcement of a Chaos series pickup by CBS didn't quite happen this past week. Instead Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert were instead talking about the overall leap in major network TV series production in North Texas.

Nellie Andreeva
gives us the reason behind it all: A disagreement between 20th Century Fox Television (which is making the show) and CBS over the initial number of episodes. This also gives a little background for why North Texas-shot The Deep End didn't survive.

So will the show, for which the pilot was shot in Los Angeles with Brett Ratner directing (that's him in the photo), be made in Big D? Probably, but not for certain.

The article also gives a rundown of the Chaos cast: Freddy Rodriguez, Eric Close, James Murray, Tim Blake Nelson and Carmen Ejogo.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

'True Grit' wraps this week in Austin.

Here are the details of filming of the Joel and Ethan Coen remake of True Grit that will close some downtown Austin streets tomorrow. Here's a photo of the construction for the shoot.

Here also are a few stray photos from the Blanco shoot that have yet to make it on the blog. If a search engine brought you here, you might want to look around at quite a few other photos from filming in Blanco and Granger.

'Elvis and Anabelle' gets DVD release--finally

Looks like Austin-shot Elvis and Anabelle starring Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) will finally get a U.S. DVD release on June 20. The film premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in 2007 and has aired a couple of times on Lifetime (another airing is slated for June 7--set that Tivo).

Will Geiger's odd story of a dead beauty queen who comes back to life and falls in love with her embalmer has reached a sort of quiet cult status despite its lack of distribution before now. It was a product of Burnt Orange Productions, the ill-fated film production arm of the University of Texas.

Here's a bit more about the film.

Photo from 'Tree of Life'

Perhaps the first still photo to show up from Terrence Malick's Tree of Life, which shot largely in Smithville, Texas. Still no word on when the film itself will see life....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chaos has to wait; but TV series flood Texas

FYI--A shorter version of this ran on the Dallas Morning News blog today, and a version combined with a DMN writer's feature will appear Thursday. Here's my take from Dallas City Hall on Wednesday afternoon:

North Texas-based 'Chaos' series awaiting CBS confirmation

on Twitter: joemoconnell

DALLAS—Three television series will shoot simultaneously in North Texas this summer, and a fourth might join them in the fall.

What was to be a major announcement by Gov. Rick Perry and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert at Dallas City Hall of a fourth television show shooting in North Texas ended up being a “maybe.” Twentieth Century Fox Television execs on Wednesday said they have yet to get confirmation of a pickup by CBS of Chaos, a spy series set to star Stephen Rea (The Crying Game). If picked up, they expect to shoot 13 episodes of the midseason replacement in the fall.

Perry said the flurry of major network television production is a sign Texas has been “established as a preferred location.”

Already shooting in North Texas is The Good Guys for Fox, which recently added seven more episodes to its original 13-episode order. This summer the show is expected to compete with NBC’s Chase and Fox’s Lonestar (former Midland) for North Texas locations and crew. In Austin, the ABC series My Generation is primed to lens this summer as well.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Janis Burklund of the Dallas Film Commission said of the demands on the North Texas crew base. “Yes, it’s going to stretch us a bit, but that’s how we’ll grow.”

North Texas’ television resurgence began when Prison Break shot here for two seasons beginning in 2006, said Twentieth Century Fox vice president Jim Sharp. That led to shooting the short-lived series The Deep End. But the area’s history as a television hub dates back further to Walker, Texas Ranger, a show for which Burklund worked as a location scout.

It’s all part of a trend to shoot network television shows outside of Los Angeles due to that area’s poor incentives and changing physical landscape that has made finding locations more difficult. Texas now hopes to attract some of the longtime California crew members to the Lone Star State.

The Legislature approved in 2009 an increase in state filming incentives funding from a two-year total of $22 million to $62 million and added flexibility in how the funds can be meted out. Perry said since then 206 projects have come to the state, creating 28,500 full-time jobs and attracting in-state spending of $184 million.

On average, each episode of a television series shot should drop more than $1 million in the local economy, Bob Hudgins of the Texas Film Commission said.

Why is Dallas the big winner? Leppert said it’s a mix of great locations and a large pool of talents crew members.

“It means jobs and additional visibility for North Texas, Dallas and all of Texas,” he said.

A key indicator is the current disparity between Dallas and Houston, which was in the 1990s a leading Texas filming location. Fox’s Lonestar is set in both the oil industry of Houston and Midland. Executives are taking what was termed a look at Austin as a filming location on Thursday, but long ago ruled out Houston.

Also set in Houston is Chase, the NBC series from Warner Bros. It also ruled out shooting in Space City. 20th Century Fox had to move quickly on the series, said Garry Brown, the show’s co-executive producer and former Walker, Texas Ranger producer who has been one of the pivotal voices behind the North Texas film resurgence.

“There was more to offer to us immediately here in Dallas,” Brown said. “They (Houston) need to build their crew base up, and they’re working on it.”

During the film industry’s lean years earlier in the mid-2000s when film and television projects were lured to states offering hefty incentives, the Houston film crews dissipated. Dallas, as a center for filming of commercials, industrial films, animation and videos, kept its crews largely in place. Now the problem is making sure there are enough workers here to handle three television shows shooting in North Texas this summer, and Chaos potentially joining this in the fall.

New TV series lensing in Dallas is 'Chaos'

I'm sitting here at Dallas City Hall waiting for Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and Texas Gov. Rick Perry to join 20th Century Fox execs in announcing the series Chaos starring Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) will shoot in North Texas this summer, joining The Good Guys, Chase and Lonestar (formerly known as Midland. More in a bit...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Four TV series shooting in Dallas at once?

That's the word as I hit the road for a press conference with the guv, Dallas mayor and Fox execs Wednesday at Dallas City Hall. More tomorrow. A fourth series shoot is expected to be announced that will add to The Good Guys, Lonestar (formerly Midland) and Chase.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Another Austin-set TV show?

It's only in development for ABC now, but Deadline Hollywood says the Taye Diggs-produced family cop drama Behind the Blue is about "a family of police officers – a female Chief of Police and her four adult children, all of whom are in some facet of politics and/or law enforcement."

More on this as it develops...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jeff Bridges with his 'True Grit' eye patch!


Some late-breaking photos from the recent True Grit shoot in Blanco at the old courthouse. Big thanks to the local who sent these along. (I did not take them. They were shot from across the street from the set where locals gathered to watch the filmmaking process.) They also offer the first photographic evidence that Rooster Cogburn's eye patch does indeed make an appearance in the film. With Jeff Bridges here is newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who portrays Mattie Ross in Joel and Ethan Coen's version of the story.

(For a lot of photos from the True Grit set in Granger, including these from the hanging scene, take a look at my recent posts.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

My latest SHOT IN TEXAS column

Most of this has been covered already in the blog, but here's my latest SHOT IN TEXAS column in the Dallas Morning News about three TV series shooting in Dallas, one in Austin and True Grit in Granger. Enjoy.

Alex Jones vs. 'Machete'

As a longtime fan of Austin's version of access television (I haven't seen it in years since moving to the sticks where we are cable-less), I'm excited to see Alex Jones jump into the Texas film incentives fray. Specifically, he's decrying Robert Rodriguez's upcoming film Machete as too racist to merit those state bucks. Of course, Machete is suupposed to be a "brownsplotation" film, but, please, discuss...

ABC picks up Austin-set show 'My Generation'

It was called Generation Y until some boomer got ahold of it and retitled it My Generation for the Who's song. The pilot was shot in Austin and it certainly appears the show will, too, since the story itself is set in Austin. This means the lovely Jaime King will be all over the place.

Quots from show creator Noah Hawley's Twitter account:

As you may have heard the show has been renamed "My Generation." off to celebrate. More soon.

Generation Y has officially been picked up to series by ABC. I am thrilled and humbled. Thanks to all who helped. Let's make TV history.

That makse four, count 'em, four major network television series soon to be shooting in Texas. The other three are all in Dallas.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

'Waco' film to shoot in Louisiana?

That's what Charles Ealy reports from the Cannes Film Festival. He says filming could start in a few months.

Ealy writes on the Austin American-Statesman's blog:

The news comes a year after a dispute erupted in Cannes over whether the movie would qualify for state incentives. At the time, Bob Hudgins of the Texas Film Commission said that Entertainment 7, the production company, need not apply for incentives because they would not be approved, citing what he called inaccuracies in the script about the government raid on the David Koresh compound near Waco.

Ferrari received the news about the Texas incentives during the festival last year and strongly rejected the contention of script inaccuracies.

On Thursday, Ferrari said that Kurt Russell has been cast to play Byron Sage, the key FBI agent at the siege of the Branch Davidian compound, which left 54 adults and 21 children dead.

Sage was one of the key sources for the Texas Film Commission’s determination that the script was inaccurate.

Other cast members include Adrien Brody as Koresh’s right-hand man, Steve Schneider, and Sharon Stone as Judy Schneider, his wife. The role of Koresh has not been cast yet, Ferrari said.

Three TV series to shoot at once in Dallas

Yes, we have confirmation that both Chase and Midland (possibly retitled Lone Star) will shoot in Dallas starting in mid-July. The Good Guys will get an additional seven (at least-expect nine in the end) episodes. More about this in my SHOT IN TEXAS column in the Dallas Morning News on Friday. It's the best news to come out of the Dallas film/television scene in years.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fox picks up 'Midland'

Midland pilot picked up by Fox! The pilot shot in Dallas. Will the series? With the title expected to change to Lone Star, I'd bet on it.

Jon Voight stars in the show, which is an odd oil biz/polygamy drama.

SXSW ranks #4 on Indiewire film fest list

SXSW ranks #4 on Indiewire's best film fest list. Does this mean the lines will be even longer?

Minka Kelly stars in Fort Worth film

Minka Kelly of TV's Friday Night Lights is the star of Searching for Sonny, which started filming in Fort Worth this week. The script is from Fort Worth native Andrew Disney and it's produced by Cowtown's Red Productions.

And, yes, they want extras. Details are below.

Here's what they sent me about the film:

“It’s been a long time since a full-length feature film was shot here,” said Red Sanders, Sonny producer and owner of Red Productions. “We’re excited to use our lens to bring notoriety to the community that has supported us from the beginning and that has such a strong devotion to the arts.”

According to Sanders, scenes for Searching for Sonny will be shot at the following well-known local sites:

• Trinity Valley School
• Historic Electric Building
• Ol’ South Pancake House
• Caravan Inn
• Spinks Airport

“After combing the country for the right script, we ended up finding the perfect one in our own backyard,” continued Sanders. “Andrew Disney is extremely talented and shares in our vision to bring great filmmaking to Fort Worth; we’re excited to be teaming up with him for Sonny and beyond.”

The film will feature Kelly, known best for her role in the popular television series Friday Night Lights and for her recent appearance in the independent film hit 500 Days of Summer, as well as Jason Dohring, whose breakout role was in the critically-acclaimed show Veronica Mars. Nick Kocher and Brian McElhaney, who form the New York City comedy duo, BriTANick, will also play key roles in the film.

Members of the community who are interested in participating as extras in the film are welcome to send an e-mail to and are asked to provide their contact information, age and gender.

About Searching for Sonny:

Searching for Sonny is a film that tells the story of Calvin, Elliot and Gary who return to their high school reunion to discover that their old buddy, Sonny, is missing under mysterious circumstances. After run-ins with the law, an ex-girlfriend and the corpse of the high school quarterback, the mystery turns meta when they realize that everything happening seems eerily similar to a play they performed in high school – a play Sonny wrote. To learn more, visit

Spiderwood Studios gears up

Lots going on outside of Austin at Spiderwood Studios. Here's the latest from Tommy Warren:

The upcoming thriller/horror film Wilderness directed by Scooter Downey recently shot on the studio's back lot. The film stars Lance Henriksen and Sean Elliot.

Perhaps even more interesting, Bo Duke hisownself John Schneider will star in Doonby, a film to be shot soon at Spiderwood. The cast also includes Joe Estevez, Jennifer O'Neill, Ernie Hudson and Jenn Gotzon. The story is about Schneider as "Sam Doonby, a happy-go-lucky drifter who takes up residence in a small Texas town but seems suspiciously immune to the misfortunes that beset the other townsfolk."

Schneider has started blogging about the film over at the Huffington Post.

Make Watch Love Film

That's the title of the big fund-raising event Friday, June 18, at 6:30 p.m. at Austin Studios featuring Richard Linklater, Mike Judge, Robert Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellán at Austin Studios . The evening honors movie prop-meister Moody Anderson and celebrates CHAINSAWS, SLACKERS AND SPY KIDS: 30 Years of Filmmaking in Austin, the new book by Alison Macor.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

NBC picks up Dallas-shot 'Chase'

The pilot for Chase shot in Dallas. No official word if the series will as well, but it look likely. HINT: They are currently--as in right now, today--scouting locations.

Here's the press release from NBC:

Drama Becomes NBC's Fifth New Scripted Series Announced for New Season

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. - May 10, 2010 - NBC has picked up its fifth scripted series pilot for the 2010-11 season in "Chase," a new drama from Emmy Award-winning executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer ("CSI" franchise, "The Amazing Race," "Pirates of the Caribbean" films) and executive producer Jennifer Johnson ("Cold Case").

The announcement was made by Angela Bromstad, President, Primetime Entertainment, NBC and Universal Media Studios.

"Chase" joins previously announced "Undercovers," "The Event," "Love Bites," and "Outsourced" as the fifth new scripted series currently announced for NBC's new season with additional pickups yet to be announced.

"'Chase' has all the undeniable elements of a thrill ride that you would expect from a Jerry Bruckheimer action series," said Bromstad. "Equally important, it also features a great cast. Kelli Giddish is a breakout star as the lead."
"Chase" is a fast-paced drama that drops viewers smack into the middle of a game of cat-and-mouse as a team of U.S. marshals hunts down America's most dangerous fugitives. Kelli Giddish ("Past Life") stars as U.S. Marshal Annie Frost, a cowboy boot-wearing deputy whose sharp mind and unique Texas upbringing help her track down the violent criminals on the run.

Cole Hauser ("K-Ville"), Amaury Nolasco ("Prison Break"), Rose Rollins ("The L Word") and Jesse Metcalfe ("Desperate Housewives") also star as members of Frost's elite team.

"Chase" is produced by Bonanza Productions Inc., in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Television and Warner Bros. Television. Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman ("CSI" franchise, "The Amazing Race," "Cold Case") and Johnson serve as executive producers, while KristieAnne Reed is co-executive producer. David Nutter ("The Mentalist," "Without a Trace" "The X-Files") directed and is executive producer of the pilot which was written by Johnson.

'True Grit' goes to court in Blanco

Joel and Ethan Coen'sTrue Grit arrived in Blanco this week as Granger tries to deal with the layer of dirt the film set applied to its brick street. The shoot at the old Blanco Courthouse is only expected to take a couple of days. Already, the locals are lining up to watch what they can (probably not much since shooting will be indoors). The Uptown Blanco Restaurant across the street is offering extended "movie fan hours" through Wednesday to allow fans to eat and drink and star watch.

Thanks to the kind reader who forwarded on this photo of the courthouse extras arriving Tuesday.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A few last shots from 'True Grit' in Granger

Here are a few last photos from the True Grit set in Granger. I should repeat that I did not take these photos. The person who took them viewed the set from the street, was not an extra or a crew member--just a local watching the filmmaking process.

As a film writer, I was not invited to the set, so I did not go during the shooting at all. I, however, see nothing wrong with the invitation by the photographer to pass on these photos taken in a very public space. I also believe doing so promotes the cause of what appears to be a great movie in the making.

Filming at this point has moved on to the courthouse in Blanco, Texas.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

'True Grit' performs movie magic

Part of the wonder of movie-making is just how they fool the audience's eyes. Here are a few examples from Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit set in Granger, Texas:

Filming is taking place in the spring, but the story is set in winter, so a worker had to meticulously remove all of the new leaves from this pecan tree!

Smoke pots were used to add a spooky feel to the street.

Got a telephone pole that is not true to the film's time period? Make it into a tree.

'True Grit' boarding house

This house in Granger, Texas, served as the interior of the True Grit boarding house in Fort Smith, Arkanaas, where the young female head stays. The covering was added to keep out exterior light during filming. Also here you can see the exterior view of the boarding house facade that was constructed just off the main filming strip in Granger.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

'True Grit' hangs 3 men in Granger, TX

There was a triple hanging on the set of True Grit in Granger, Texas, today. The man in the middle cried uncontrollably before taking the big fall!

Filming in the town is expected to end by Thursday, when action moves to Blanco for courthouse scenes. Thanks to the kind reader who passed on these great pix! I'll be posting more from the Granger filming tomorrow. (Look closely at the bottom photos here. Is that Jeff Bridges with the white beard and wearing a straw cowboy hat?)

Three men were hung in Granger.

These dummies really took the fall.

The hanging drew a crowd of extras.

Lots of extras on the street.

Playing an Indian who hooted and hollered during the hanging was Jonathan Joss, best known as the voice of John Redcorn on King of the Hill.

Some other shots from Monday and Tuesday's filming at the gallows: