Friday, December 24, 2010

Making sense of the Texas film industry

My latest SHOT IN TEXAS column in The Dallas Morning News looks at where things stand for the Texas film industry going into the January session of the Texas Legislature.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My guest stint on 'Writing on the Air'

Francois Pointeau mans the microphone.

You can listen to me talk writing, admit my bad vision and read a bit from my novel-in-stories Evacuation Plan on the KOOP-FM show "Writing on Air" in Austin, Texas by clicking here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A nursing home Christmas

A few images I shot in a nursing home that is crowded with Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

'The Good Guys' is gone for good

Fox has not officially canceled Dallas-shot The Good Guys; they just won't order more episodes that the 20 that have already aired. With a reduction in episodes ordered for Chase, the television flurry in Big D looks to be drying up. More from me on this Saturday in The Dallas Morning News.

Perry names interim Texas film commish

This just in. Perry has named a temporary replacement for Bob Hudgins as head of the Texas Film Commission. Hudgins stepped down Nov. 30 amid sexual harassment allegations that he has denied.

The replacement is an entertainment attorney and has ties to both Austin and Dallas:

Gov. Rick Perry today named Evan E. Fitzmaurice interim director of the Texas Film Commission. The commission supports Texas’ growing and diverse media industries, and helps increase Texas’ competitive position worldwide as a production destination.

Fitzmaurice will head to the Film Commission after a stint in the Governor’s General Counsel Office. Before joining the Governor’s Office, he practiced law in Los Angeles at the entertainment law firm of Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris and Klein P.C. While representing the firm’s writer, director, actor and producer clients, Fitzmaurice focused on film, television and digital production company financings and related transactions.

Fitzmaurice practiced transactional law at the international firm of K&L Gates LLP in Los Angeles and Dallas, and in the Dallas office of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP. He is a member of the State bars of Texas and California, and a past member of the Beverly Hills and Dallas Bar associations.

Additionally, Fitzmaurice co-produced the 2007 independent documentary, A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar, which premiered at the 2007 South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 AFI Dallas International Film Festival, and appeared at several other film festivals.

A Dallas native, Fitzmaurice received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1993 and a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1999.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Major Applewhite next to flee Texas Longhorns?

The previous rumor was Major Applewhite would be the next offensive coordinators for Mack Brown's Texas Longhorns. Now reports have him following Will Muschamp to the University of Florida. Looks like Texas fans will get the usual medicine of a rare losing season--an almost new coaching staff. Brown gets to stay and try to find a "coach in waiting" to replace Muschamp and the gang.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

'Ruth's Locket' highlights pain of Alzheimer's

I've been meaning to mention Gene Burns' upcoming production of Ruth's Locket for a while now. The short film is about "characters robbed of their past and present, and the connections between the two. The central plot revolves around the loss of a second chance at one’s first love due to the loss of memory."

Set to shoot this month in San Marcos, the film is a nonprofit project that Burns, a longtime actor who wrote the script and will direct, describes as a labor of love based on his own parents. Filmmakers are seeking donations to keep the project going. Check out more about the film and how to contribute to the cause here. Filmmakers are halfway to their financial goal.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Incentive nix for 'Machete' marks major policy shift

I'm frankly a little shocked by word that the Texas Film Commission has denied incentives for Robert Rodriguez's Machete. And even more interested by what it says about the future of both the Texas Film Commission and the state's film industry.

A letter from the film commission is signed by Carol Pirie, the deputy director, and denies the incentives based on either "inappropriate content" or "content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion." It doesn't specify which. The letter is dated Dec. 1--the day after Bob Hudgins left as Texas film commissioner amid sexual harassment allegations that he says were unrelated.

Gov. Rick Perry's office seems to be giving credence to access televsio/radio conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who raised this issue earlier this year.

What's fascinating about all of this is the change of course it illustrates. Now former Texas film commish Hudgins had said a planned film about the Branch Davidian siege in Waco would likely be denied (filmmakers never actually applied for incentives and the film has yet to be made).

Hudgins' response to critics at the time was that the content provision only applies to films based on actual events. That was his clear take, so the move by Perry's office (I sincerely doubt Pirie made this decision on her own) is a sea change.

Hudgins told me in 2009: "If they are depicting real events and they don't do it accurately, we've got to say no to them. They can show scoundrels as long as they are accurately portrayed."

Machete is fiction. It's been termed "Mexplotation." It's not based on anything factual. The incentives denial seems more of a reaction to an early trailer for the film than the film itself. That trailer, released on Cinco de Mayo 2009, has star Danny Trejo speaking directly to the camera with a "special message to Arizona." The reference is to an immigration law passed by the state. The law was passed AFTER Machete was filmed.

The big question now is which policy will the next Texas film commissioner follow--Hudgins' or Perry's?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CW picks up Rob Thomas-produced show

We told you a while back that Rob Thomas the TV guy (not to be confused with the music guy) had moved back to Austin. This is now all the more intriguing with word from The Hollywood Reporter that Thomas, who got his street cred with Veronica Mars, will executive produce the show Beautiful Strangers for the CW.

The show is described as about: "Two young thieves who given a second chance as informants for a new FBI division."

Which begs the question: where will the show shoot? Bring it home, Rob.

Writers Guild nominates 'Friday Night Lights' for best drama

Austin-shot Friday Night Lights is finally getting the love as the lights begin to dim on the series. The Writers Guild of America has nominated the show for best written drama. Listen to the list of other nominees and you'll see it's no faint praise: Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

Friday Night Light's fifth--and almost certainly last--season is airing currently on DirecTV and will show on NBC in the spring. Stars Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler both were nominated for Emmy Awards this year.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

'Chaos' TV series sneaks across border to Canada

Remember when Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert showed up at Dallas City Hall to announce the CBS mid-season replacement series Chaos would shoot in Dallas? Not going to happen. Instead it's about to begin production in Canada with Kurtwood Smith (That '70s Show) replacing Stephen Rea in the cast.

As I told you here, Dallas' loss of the series was completely out of the city's hands. Instead the change came about during the Chaos chaos between Twentieth Century Fox Television (the maker of the show) and CBS.

Friday, December 3, 2010

NBC cuts 'Chase' by four episodes

This just in from The Hollywood Reporter: NBC has opted to reduce the order of Dallas-shot Chase episodes from 22 to 18. It's a dismal sign for a Warner Bros. show that has had some trouble getting viewers.

'Meet Jane' says howdy to Austin shoot

The good news to come out of the quick cancellation of Austin-shot My Generation? One of the producers took notice of the Capital City--and specifically the Capitol--as a great location. The result is the Lifetime series pilot for Meet Jane, a Washington D.C. set story (thus the allure of the Capitol) starring Molly Parker of Deadwood.

Here's the description of the show via "centers on Jane Bilinski (Parker) whose stale life as an unhappily married mother of two daughters in the Washington, DC area is suddenly re-energized and empowered when the FBI enlists her to spy on her husband, a computer technician the government suspects is selling top-secret information to Russia."

The show is from Andi Bushell who was a co-executive producer on My Generation. Bushell wrote the Jane script and will executive produce the pilot.

The series looks to have some clout behind it. The other executive producer is Mark Pedowitz, former prez of ABC Studios.

For my potential extras out there, On Location Casting is handling those chores and is sending you to their Facebook page.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sundance says you better 'Take Shelter'

The Sundance Film Festival's Austin pick of the year is Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter. You remember Nichols from his 2008 Southern gothic debut film Shotgun Stories.

Here's Take Shelter as described by Sundance: “A working-class husband and father questions whether his terrifying dreams of an apocalyptic storm signal something real to come or the onset of an inherited mental illness he’s feared his whole life."

It was filmed in small town Ohio, and saw the filmmaker reunite with Michael Shannon. It also features Katy Mixon, Shea Whigham, Kathy Baker, Ray McKinnon and Jessica Chastain (who also stars in The Tree of Life).

Also, expect a 20th anniversary screening of Richard Linklater's Slacker this year at Sundance.

'Tree of Life' Trailer to hit theaters this weekend!

The Playlist is reporting that the first trailer for Terrence Malick's Smithville, Texas-shot The Tree of Life is set to hit theaters this weekend before showing of the film Black Swan. It's a safe bet the trailer will soon after appear online.

'Benavides Born' brings South Texas to Sundance

I have to admit I'd never heard of Benavides Born before it was announced today as a competition film in the upcoming Sundance Film Festival. Why? Because it was shot primarily in South Texas in small towns (Benavides, San Diego, Alice, Carrizo Springs) near Corpus Christi earlier this year, and I frankly don't expect a lot of films to be shot there. Thus it's a nice surprise.

Here's the story: “Benavides Born is a drama about Luz Garcia, a fictional high school senior who desperately wants to go to UT Austin and has earned admission by being among the top in her class. The problem is her family cannot afford it. She therefore pins her hopes on a scholarship awarded to the winners of the State High School Powerlifting Meet. When her powerlifting plans don’t work out as she hoped, she has to find a different kind of strength to keep her dream alive. “

We'll be hearing a lot more about the film and it's director Amy Wendel in coming months.