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.

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