Big Cities: 6. Austin, Texas
Between SXSW, AFF, ATX and a slew of other acronyms (for the uninitiated, that’s South by Southwest, Austin Film Festival and, uh… ATX Television Festival), there’s no shortage of reasons to come to Austin on the festival circuit. The city itself is why you want to stay. The live music capital of the world, Austin hosts the famous Austin City Limits music fest every year. Add to that great bookstores, beer bars and (of course) barbeque, and it makes sense why the love gushes forth.
While Texas’s tax incentive budget took a bit of a hit recently, Austin’s vast support system, in the form of a strong cinema culture and an abundance of resources, hasn’t gone anywhere. The famous community spirit is alive and well in film organizations such as Austin Film Meet, Austin. Women. Film, and Dames in Film, not to mention the granddaddy of it all, Richard Linklater’s Austin Film Society, which hands out—amongst much other support—a yearly moviemaker grant.
Brandon Reich, a camera operator, editor and director of the short film “Prophecy of the Quill,” loves Austin’s “small-town vibe. Many small businesses are willing to let you use their establishment for little or no cost. That’s huge for indie moviemakers and their production value.” Reich, who works as an afterschool film teacher at Austin Film Society, points to a tapped-in feeling through the city: “Artists care about telling stories that are reflective of our time and the people here.”
Brian Gannon, director of the Austin Film Commission, adds that “the community is open, with filmmakers trading duties on each other’s works to make sure everyone can get their project off the ground.” Gannon cites indie video stores like Vulcan and I Luv Video for continuing to inspire and connect cinephiles around the city—as does the Austin-headquartered Alamo Drafthouse theater chain.
Seeing that the approximately $175 million-budgeted Alita: Battle Angel, produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau, and directed by Robert Rodriguez, came to town in 2016, you might assume that that production cornered the 22.5 percent cash grant offered. Yet the city found room for a number of indie projects, such as Louisiana Kreutz’s feature Quaker Oaths, and a bunch of movies involving Master of None star and native Texan Noël Wells: F*cking People, directed by Theresa Bennett, Infinity Baby by Bob Byington and Mr. Roosevelt, which Wells wrote and directed herself.