Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Austin is the best city for indie filmmaking?

That's the word from MovieMaker Magazine's latest ranking of the top 10 cities for independent filmmakers. Austin ranks No. 1 followed by New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles and Portland.

The criteria include: “Film Community” (scored on a 10-point scale), “Access to New Films” (10-point scale), “Access to Equipment” (7-point scale), “Cost of Living” (reverse 5-point scale), and “Tax Incentives” (4-point scale).  Austin got 32 point out of a possible 36.

New Orleans, last year's No. 1 on the list (Austin was No. 2 in 2012) dropped out of the top five. 

The reaction among Austin filmmakers on Facebook today wasn't that rosy. "Wait, WHAT? Is this from 5 years ago? I'm so confused! Or maybe it's the best place to be a moviemaker because there is so much amazing behind-camera talent looking for work here these days?" one industry insider said after Gary Bond of the Austin Film Commission posted a notice of the list. 

Another called it nothing but hype. "Actors, in particular, need to get themselves to a bigger market and fast. Great talent pool, absolutely. Opportunities for said talent to make a living in the biz... little to none."

But the comment that got the most notice came from major Hollywood producer Lynda Obst, who brought Hope Floats to Smithville in the late '90s and Heartbreak Hotel to Taylor before that. "It's certainly my favorite place to make a movie but it's rebates are too far below the norm to compete with the bad places to make a movie," she wrote on Facebook. "If you match NM everyone, but everyone will be back in tonnage."

So why is Austin No. 1? Bond points to the currently in action at the Sundance Film Festival which is teeming with Austin (and Dallas) filmmakers this year, both fairly new faces and the old standbys of Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez.


Anonymous said...

Joe, so what is your take on the matter? Is Austin a place where actors can make a living in the biz? I am an actor and native Austinite going through grad school and considering whether to finally move back home in three years, when school is done.

It is my goal to make a living as a professional actor.

I would love to know more. Thanks for your time!

Joe M. O'Connell said...

I'd say it's better than it was, but you'd still have to either travel a lot (probably to New Orleans or Albuquerque) or work a lot of small independents. My actors friends still say you need to go to L.A. still if you really want to make a go of film.

Vin said...

I disagree with ranking Austin so highly, but then, I also think MovieMaker is using the wrong criteria.

In my opinion the top two factors to be considered when making such a list are: Can you make a living as a film professional in that city, and does it make sense to produce a film in that city.

Speaking only from personal experience, I think Austin - which is a very fine town - doesn't deliver on either account. I lived there for the better part of a decade, and left once I realized that, if I wanted a career as a film professional (meaning basically steady work and at least a middle class living), Austin was not going to be the place for that. I've met many ex-Austinites in NYC and LA who left for the same reasons.

As far as producing a film in Austin - or any Texas city for that matter - I'd be more inclined to consider NM, LA, or GA than TX - even if the film had a Texas setting. It comes down to the fact that those states have much more attractive tax incentive programs than Texas. As a producer, one of my main concerns would be making my investors whole, and there are many states that make it easier to do so than Texas.

Austin has an awesome community of filmmakers, great audiences, and the AFS is a treasure. But if making a living in film is your goal, I still think LA and NY are the places to be.