Texas is an emergent filmmaking hot spot, driving millions of dollars annually into local economies and later this year to Kerrville.
That was the underlying message from Texas Filmmaking Commission Deputy Director Lindsay Ashley during a panel discussion Wednesday night at the Kerr Economic Development Corp.'s Business and Innovation Forums.
"The economic impact has been very fun to watch," said Ashley, who has worked for the Austin-based commission for 16 years. "We know how many jobs have been created."
While Texas hasn't historically been a filmmaking and production destination, that has shifted in recent years. Ashley said more than 162,000 Texans work in an industry ranging from actors who call Texas home to production assistants to a growing number of video game and virtual reality developers.
"It's interesting to hear what's happening in Texas," said Dustin Duke, a Tivy High School grad who is now a New York-based creative director for a major advertising firm. "It makes me miss it."
Duke was a virtual member of the panel at Arcadia Live — joining in via Zoom. Duke's career has taken him to Kerrville, to business school to art school, and then into the realm of high-impact advertising. Duke's projects range from Coca-Cola to an Emmy-winning American Express ad with Ellen DeGeneres. The panel also featured Kerrville-based filmmaker Alyson Amestoy showed two of her short films.
ALYSON AMESTOY'S BIG SEED MOVIE ABOUT KERRVILLE
With Duke's deep Texas roots, Ashley pinged him about productions in the state — advertising being a large part of the work done here. Filmmaking is far greater than just movies and television shows, but Lindsay and colleague Matt Miller said it's even more wide-ranging. In terms of scale, the industry generates more than $4.15 billion in wages, according to the Motion Picture Arts Academy. Only California and New York are bigger.
After the COVID-19 ravaged year of 2020, which slowed productions, Ashley said the industry had begun its recovery, and numerous movies and television shows are returning. In 2020, more than 40 movies and television shows filmed in Texas.
Some of that money — and jobs — will land in Kerrville when the HBO Max production "Love and Death" is shot in the coming weeks. Ashley said the planned television tells the story of a 1980 murder in Wylie, Texas, a story chronicled in a Texas Monthly article and books. However, the series production is helmed by producers David E. Kelly and Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman. Elizabeth Olsen, who starred in Marvel's "The Avengers," will star in the series that tells the story of Betty Gore's murder by Candy Montgomery.
On Saturday, producers from a television show slated will be in Kerrville to find extras. The casting call is from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Y.O. Ranch Hotel, 2033 Sidney Baker Highway. The casting crew is looking for couples 25-45 years old.
In the moments before the start of the panel, Ashley and Miller photographed Arcadia Live. The reason? It's a potential location for future films and television shows. Miller's focus is working with productions that are looking for places or assistance with production.
Miller and Ashley said the Texas Film Commission keeps an extensive database of locations that can be provided to production companies. In turn, the database is available to property owners to upload their photos about potential places for filming.
"You can literally contact our office and we will put together a personalized location in our database," Miller said. "Production locations are a huge part of what we do. That's one of the strengths of Texas. Texas has so much to offer."
Miller says it's also an opportunity to get paid because location scouts are ready to pay to use facilities, land, etc.
In the opening comments, moderator Julie Davis, who heads the Kerrville Convention and Visitor's Bureau, mentioned that the city is a film-friendly community — something Miller seized on.
"A community like Kerrville that is film-friendly, meaning it's very willing to do so," Miller said. "That's a big distinction."
But part of that work is connecting filmmakers and production teams with the resources available through the state, including grants and other funding mechanisms. Texas grant programs have funded millions of dollars worth of production. Ashley said $5 returns to Texas for every $1 allocated through grants.
THE COMMERCIAL WORK OF KERRVILLE'S DUSTIN DUKE