Into the spotlight

Powered by 1883, 2 North Texas cities shoot onto list of top places for filmmaking

Powered by 1883, 2 DFW cities shoot onto list of top filmmaking spots

Sam Elliott, 1883
 Sam Elliott as Shea Brennan in 1883. Photo courtesy of Paramount+
Tim McGraw, 1883
Tim McGraw as James Dutton. Photo courtesy of Paramount+
Faith Hill, 1883
Faith Hill as Margaret Dutton. Photo courtesy of Paramount+
Isabel May, 1883
Isabel May as the Duttons' teenage daughter and the series' narrator. Photo courtesy of Paramount+
Sam Elliott, 1883
Tim McGraw, 1883
Faith Hill, 1883
Isabel May, 1883

Fort Worth officially joins Dallas in the Hollywood spotlight. For the first time, Fort Worth ranks among Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker, an annual list compiled by MovieMaker, a quarterly magazine and website based in Los Angeles.

Fort Worth lands at No. 25 in its debut appearance on the list. Dallas comes in at No. 15 (down a bit from No. 12 in 2021).

In their write-up about why Fort Worth made the list this year, MovieMaker specifically cites Taylor Sheridan's 1883 (yes, a series and not a movie), which, as fans know well, was shot in and around North Texas last year. They say:

Oscar-nominated screenwriter Taylor Sheridan returned to his home state when he bought a ranch outside Fort Worth in 2020, and he brought a good chunk of the television industry with him. 1883, a spinoff of his hugely popular Paramount+ series Yellowstone, started filming in the Fort Worth area last August, and it’s a safe bet that it will keep filming locally for seasons to come, considering Yellowstone is currently cable’s most-watched show.

Of course, that’s not all that’s happening in this city. Taylor Hardy, associate film commissioner, tells MovieMaker that commercials for clients including Toyota, NFL, Penske, and Wrangler shot in the area this past year, as well as the Michael Chiklis football drama The Senior.

Fort Worth-set 12 Mighty Orphans was also a big release last year.

As one might expect, Austin stole the show as the top city for filmmaking in Texas, and was ranked No. 8 nationally. MovieMaker specifically highlights the in-person return of the SXSW Film Festival this year, along with 35 other film fests in the Capital City, and the area’s many equipment rental houses, production facilities, and collaborative filmmaking community.

San Antonio ranked No. 22.

MovieMaker compiles its annual list based on a variety of factors, among them surveys, production spending, tax incentives, additional research, and personal visits.

Like all Texas cities, Dallas reaps the rewards of Texas' tax incentives, but its cost of living is lower than the national average, giving filmmakers the chance to not only survive financially, but thrive.

North Texas also boasts a full slate of film festivals, including The Dallas International Film Festival, Oak Cliff Film Festival, Dallas VideoFest, EarthxFilm, and Asian Film Festival of Dallas, that provide up-and-coming artists a platform to showcase their work and help cultivate the film community. This weekend, in fact, neighboring Denton is hosting a virtual Black Film Festival.

As the publication notes, the ongoing pandemic has put a wrinkle in the usual production of most movie-industry projects.

“The COVID pandemic continues to rage on two years after the virus landed on American shores, and one of the few silver linings has been a revolution in telecommuting — giving us all more freedom than ever before to live and work where we want, how we want. The movie industry is no exception,” MovieMaker says. “Post-production coordinators are managing workflow between editors and animators from the comfort of their own homes, and the writers’ room may also be a bedroom. Production, however, can’t always be facilitated through Zoom calls. So, for on-set crew, producers, and directors, it remains essential to be close to someone yelling, ‘Action!’”

The publication cites the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program managed by the Texas Film Commission, which has increased the number of projects being made in the Lone Star State since its inception in 2005. According to the TFC, between September 1, 2007 and August 31, 2021, that program has generated $1.74 billion in in-state spending, created 162,000 jobs, and produced a 510 percent return on investment.

In fact, the TFC even notes as an example that thanks to the incentive program, one animation company spent $1.5 million for a 302-day project in Austin, and offers similarly significant figures for project spends in Texas’ other major markets.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, claimed the No. 1 spot on the MovieMaker list for the fourth year. And on MovieMaker’s correlating list of the Best Small Cities and Towns to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2022 — which included no Texas cities — New Orleans landed at No. 1 for the second year (though many would question the designation of the Crescent City as a “small” city or town).

The full rundown of the MovieMaker list for 2022 appears in the magazine’s new winter issue.