3. Austin, Texas
If you’ve never been to South by Southwest, do yourself a favor and buy a pass now. A week at this fest may be all it takes to convince you to move to cooler-than-cool Austin. Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater paved the way for anyone to reject the notion that living on a coast is a requirement for a serious indie moviemaker, building a solid film community with plenty of resources in the way of studios and soundstages—like Austin Studios, ATX Studios, Spiderwood Studios and Troublemaker Studios.
But if you’ve already been to SXSW, and need more relatable examples than Linklater and Rodriguez, then take it from two of Austin’s contemporary working filmmakers.
Malaysian-born Yen Tan, who made the 2013 Sundance-premiering feature Pit Stop, works in Austin because “the sense of community here is unparalleled. Most Austin-based filmmakers know and support each other. That remains the biggest draw to me.” What if you’re new to film, new to Austin—where to even begin? “The Austin Film Society would be the very first place one should look into,” says Tan. “They have year-round screenings that’d impress even the most hardcore film aficionados, and events that facilitate a lot of networking. Being a member of the organization is a must.”
Jason Cortlund is the co-director of features Now, Forager (2012) and La Barracuda (shooting in the spring) and has been living and working in Austin for the past 20 years since attending the University of Texas. He does express some concern that Austin’s cinematic day in the sun has a shelf life, with recent Texas legislation reducing filmmaking grants from $95 million to $32 million—one reason our multi-time Big City champ has fallen slightly this year. “I wish the state incentive programs would improve, for both out-of-towners and locals. Every time a Texas-set story is shot in Georgia or Louisiana for budgetary reasons, Eagle Pennell sheds a tear in heaven.”
Even as storm clouds gather around public funding for Texas productions, Austin remains weird, cool and friendly. The city has famous bars and BBQ. There are more than 300 days of sunshine, a deep pool of seasoned crew and production staff, top-notch film schools and a nigh-unparalleled line-up of film festivals and independent theaters. And hey, beyond the scrappy indies, if shows like American Crime, The Leftovers, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series and Urban Cowboy keep knocking as they did in 2015, y’all can keep the industry you love alive and thriving.