Friday, July 6, 2012

Texas film commissioner steps down

Evan Fitzmaurice's brief tenure as head of the Texas Film Commission has ended. I know because I read it here in the Austin American-Statesman. The industrious reporter there found out about it a week after Fitzmaurice left. I'm sure Fitzmaurice announced this to his boss months ago.

Here's the deal: Up until I voluntarily (as in it was my idea) ended my The Dallas Morning News column in December, I'd had a column about the Texas film industry for 12 years (first in the Austin American-Statesman, then The Austin Chronicle). I never once met Fitzmaurice (pronounced Fitz-morris). I talked to him when he was hired and a few times after that by telephone. He was a nice guy, an attorney brought in, I was told, to streamline the state's film incentives program. Then the contact stopped. It wasn't his fault; Gov. Rick Perry's staff--the Texas Film Commission is a part of the governor's office--decided that all contact would henceforth come through the Guv's press office, the office that is notorious for not returning calls from the media or, if they do, offering as little information as possible. I wasn't even sure what Fitzmaurice looked like until I saw the photo above.

Compare this with his predecessors: Longtime film commish Tom Copeland is my Facebook friend.  He and his assistant director Carol Pirie (who has retired) were always helpful and honest with me as I began trying to let the public know about Texas film. Copeland's hand-picked successor Bob Hudgins left with some allegations hanging over his head, but he was helpful in getting word out about the Texas film industry and its goings-on. Fitzmaurice made it clear pretty early that he wouldn't have a lot to say to folks like me who write about the industry. I started checking with him less frequently. Finally I was told I couldn't talk to him. I mentioned this to some film commission staffers, who shall remain nameless, while waiting in line for a South By Southwest Film Festival screening this past March. They seemed very surprised I'd never met him in person.

OK, this may sound like no big deal, but it is when the Texas Film Commissioner has historically been a face for the industry, a promoter if you will. It will be interesting to see who Perry picks to fill the slot next. For now a guy named David Morales, another attorney, is in charge. He joined Perry's staff late last year and before that was a long-timer in the attorney general's office. Here's betting I never speak to him at all.

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