Is Austin the New 'Center of Independent Filmmaking?’ Acclaimed Filmmakers Weigh In From SXSW [PODCAST]

"Austin is its own incentive."

Austin, Texas has been called the "third coast" of U.S. filmmaking (after the coastal filmmaking hubs of Los Angeles and New York City), and it was easy to see why during the annual SXSW Film Festival, with thousands of filmmakers in town. 

For the No Film School podcast we talked to several acclaimed filmmakers about living and working in Austin: Yen Tan, co-writer and director of Pit Stop (Sundance and SXSW 2013), here at SXSW with his award-winning short 1985; Chris Ohlson, producer of Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (Sundance and SXSW 2014) and Thank You A Lot (SXSW 2014); and Bryan Poyser, writer-director of Lovers of Hate (Sundance 2010) and co-writer and director of Love & Air Sex (SXSW 2013). Listen to the podcast above or find us on mobile in iTunes and Soundcloud.

On the filmmaking community in Austin

Ohlson: The filmmaking community is wonderful and very supportive. The trick with Austin now is it’s a city growing very fast and it’s becoming a much more film-savvy city because we have a lot of television shows and some big movies shooting here. It’s not as easy to shoot at private residences. Maybe a small business was open to it 3-4 years ago but now that American Crime has shot here, it's trickier to do these small business sort of things... but there's still an incredibly talented crew base in Austin... that is willing to work on smaller films.

On Texas's smaller tax credit than neighboring states

Ohlson: When you’re making films under $1-2 million, incentives are a piece of the puzzle but there are a hell of a lot of intangibles. Great people, actors want to be in Austin, writers and directors want to be here for 6 months, there are breakfast tacos, it’s sunny 330 days of the year or whatever it is….

Poyser: Austin is its own incentive.

Can Austin rival Hollywood?

Poyser: Austin is never going to be a rival of Hollywood. The biggest part of that is talent. Of course actors need to live in LA because they have to go on two dozen auditions every month to get a part. To me the star system it flawed… but there is the idea that in order for a movie to have value it needs to have name actors in it. And that's one of the biggest struggles we have, to get those actors attached.

On taking meetings in LA and NYC from Austin

Tan: I have to make trips 3-6 times every year to NY or LA. It’s worked out okay. Sometimes when I go out it’s a hassle and I have to get a flight on 48-hour notice, but then I do these meetings and my friends in LA are like, “you got that meeting with so-and-so?” And they’re baffled because they live there and they couldn’t get that meeting. There’s this thing that happens where if people know you’re coming from of town they’re not going to cancel on you, but if you lived there [they would]. That’s something we take for granted, we’re the privileged out-of-towners... The flip-side is the real personal relationships you can forge with the guy who lives down the street who you run into every day, or you hike with this person every week, that sort of relationship is really hard to make that happen because we don’t live there.

Universal advice that has nothing to do with Austin

Bryan mentions Steven Soderbergh’s mantra from his book sex, lies & videotape (about the making of the film):


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Video is no longer available: soundcloud.com/nofilmschool/sets/sxsw-2016

No Film School's coverage of the 2016 SXSW Film Festival is sponsored by SongFreedom    

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I love my Austin friends, and it sure is a pretty part of Texas. The city truly is growing too fast, and by that I mean people/population. The infrastructure is not keeping up, the traffic is, in some places, almost 101/405-esque, and the locals have a habit of voting down things. When we fly in and film in Texas, we sometimes shoot in Hill Country, or Dallas, or even Houston. Not so much Austin itself anymore, it seems. The smaller businesses who used to be open to us filming (for cheap!) in Austin are now of the mindset that they're part of "Hollywood" and are trying to charge accordingly. All that said, yeah, it's definitely a place one would want to spend half their time in, if a writer or director. It's still weird and cool in pockets.

March 21, 2016 at 8:31AM, Edited March 21, 8:31AM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money.
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