Lights! Camera! Dallas!

Dallas steps into the spotlight as a top city for moviemaking

Dallas steps into the spotlight as a top city for moviemaking

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Lots of movie-making going on in Texas. Photo by Ruben Garcia

Dallas is reeling in a new creative accolade. On January 26, MovieMaker magazine released its annual list of the best places to live and work as a moviemaker, and Dallas stepped into the spotlight as No. 12 on the "big cities" list.

Like so many Americans impacted by the pandemic, filmmakers are looking outside of the traditional film hubs — Los Angeles and New York — to find other cities conducive to the craft. In ranking the best cities, MovieMaker concedes that the COVID-19 crisis is changing the industry (and its annual list).

"Best Places Hall of Famers Los Angeles and New York City will always be our greatest movie cities, and the strong lockdowns they’ve instituted over the last year will make them stronger in the long run," the magazine says. "But in the short term, they’re losing people to other great film cities, as many who have spent months inside insist on more space, lower housing costs, and more great outdoors."

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 bevy 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, and the Sundance Film Festival is being shown at Texas Theatre.

“It’s common for burgeoning filmmakers to work on each other’s films, which has created a true sense of community. Additionally, many filmmakers will work as crew and even talent on television projects of all types and sizes, as well as commercials, corporate films, music videos, etc., in between their own projects in order to gain valuable experience and make a living,” says Janis Burklund, director of the Dallas Film Commission.

Dallas keeps good company in the list, between No. 13-Cincinnati and No. 11-Toronto.

Not surprisingly, Austin came in higher, earning the No. 3 spot. 

MovieMaker notes that many LA- and New York-based filmmakers have decamped to Austin in recent months, a city anchored by Austin Studios and Robert Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios, among others. 

Along with statewide tax incentives available in all Texas cities, the magazine notes Austin's proximity to a range of filming locations, including "urban scenes to small towns, ranchland, lakes and just about anything else you can imagine," as well as the creative community's collaborative spirit.

“There is plenty of community spirit to be found among filmmakers in the bigger cities — but then, all your filmmaker pals in New York and LA are devoting their full energies to trying to survive their own daily trials there,” says Austin-based moviemaker Andrew Bujalski, whose films include Support the Girls and Results. “Austin is the only place I’ve known where, when a project gets going, everyone seems to drop what they’re doing to come help.”

Joining Austin and Dallas on the list is San Antonio, at No. 22.

Highlighting the city's variety of filming locations, which range from the historic to the modern, MovieMaker also calls out the city's variety of creative resources, including The Parish, the Brownstone Studios and Alamo City Studios, and the San Antonio Film Commission. It's also worth noting that permits are free for filming if the location is owned by the city.

“The fact that San Antonio earned this recognition from MovieMaker — even with new safety requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — is encouraging news that demonstrates the progress made possible by our City Department of Arts and Culture’s efforts,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg in a press release. “Our work to welcome and encourage filmmakers will continue to provide opportunities for us to become an increasingly desirable location for the film industry.”     

Surprisingly, despite a three-month shutdown, crews actually filmed 348 days in San Antonio last year, up from 342 days in 2019.

Joining third-place Austin among the top big cities are Albuquerque (No. 1) and Atlanta (No. 2). Among small cities, New Orleans (No. 1), Santa Fe (No. 2), and Pittsburgh (No. 3) took the top spots.