Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ad Industry Keeps Texas Moving

From the Dallas News:
Shot in Texas: Commercials keep cameras rolling in North Texas

02:38 PM CST on Friday, January 18, 2008

By JOE O'CONNELL / Special Contributor

Is North Texas retaking the film-video industry crown from Austin? If so, it's doing so with precious little in the way of feature films.
[Click image for a larger version]

Instead, the winning combination is commercials, television and animation, according to Janis Burklund of the Dallas Film Commission.

When you consider Hollywood accounted for a paltry $300,000 of Texas film spending in 2007 – a few scenes of A Mighty Heart shot in Austin – you get an idea of the drop-off in the film sector. Add an additional $5.8 million from nine independent feature films, and the picture isn't much brighter.

North Texas-shot Prison Break and Austin-lensed Friday Night Lights and other various film projects were expected to add about $67 million to state spending, according to Texas Film Commission numbers, but that estimate didn't take into account the work stoppage on both series in the wake of the Writers Guild strike.

Film and television spending combined don't match the $92 million in commercials, corporate videos and sports productions shot in Texas last year, with most shot in North Texas. The state didn't track production of commercials until 2006, says Bob Hudgins, head of the Texas Film Commission.

But the advent of the $20 million filming incentives program approved by the Legislature and in place by last September brought concrete evidence of the volume of commercials shot in North Texas. Of the 49 commercial projects actively in the running for incentive dollars, 29 were made here. The combined film, television, commercial and video game projects shot in North Texas and actively seeking incentives had total in-state spending of more than $48 million and brought with them 10,000 jobs. Austin? Just under $35 million in spending and fewer than 1,700 jobs.

Part of the breakthrough in commercials can be attributed to an established North Texas film-video community, and the 5 percent incentive on in-state spending didn't hurt, says Mr. Hudgins. "Our incentives are still not competitive with the film programs in New Mexico and Louisiana, but in this case we are competitive because those states don't offer anything for commercials."

Ms. Burklund sees a few other bright spots, as well as challenges. Reel FX, the Dallas-based animation studio, is getting a major national rep with production of the likely straight-to-DVD Open Season 2 under way and recent successes including work on the films Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium and Enchanted.

"They've got their hands in everything," she says. "They do it all. Music videos, commercials, feature films, television. They can do a complete project or pieces. They're really somebody to watch."

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