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The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2019: Big Cities

The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2019: Big Cities

Annual Lists

17. Dallas, Texas

“When filming in Dallas, you actually get two cities in one: Dallas and Fort Worth, and they are very different from one another,” says Liz Cardenas, producer of 2017’s acclaimed A Ghost Story and the 2018 comedy Never Goin’ Back. “You also get several unique neighborhoods and communities within and just outside of the DFW Metroplex. In my experience, both film commissions were extremely helpful with locations, as well as our various production needs, Fort Worth on Never Goin’ Back and Dallas on A Ghost Story.”

Cardenas says that Texas being a right-to-work state is also beneficial for low-budget indie moviemaking and that Dallas is a very commercial city, so there is a surplus of friendly and skilled crew members who work regularly and maintain an open mind when it comes to choosing projects even if they are low-budget. “For instance, on A Ghost Story I literally went door to door in the neighborhood and surrounding area to try to find a place we could use for ‘holding’ and sure enough, a very kind woman let us use her home,” she recalls. “I also got the wrecked car Casey Affleck’s character is in for free and a towing company took it to the set and back to the salvage yard for free when we were done.”

Augustine Frizzell, director of Never Goin’ Back, echoes Cardenas’ sentiments, particularly on the Dallas-Fort Worth nexus. “The Fort Worth and Dallas Film commissions both stepped in and worked to help us find authentic and accessible locations,” Frizzell says. “We had an embarrassment of riches with regards to the hardworking, professional crew. Given the budget level and the look I was going for, there’s no way we could’ve shot my film anywhere else.” 

Cardenas adds that going the extra mile on Never Goin’ Back meant a business allowing them to shoot at their location for free or at a discount in exchange for “letting their kid be an extra in the movie.” 

Another group to watch in Dallas is the entertainment company Cinestate, which bought horror brand Fangoria in 2018 and is building a new movie brand with a reimagining of the Puppet Master franchise, among other things. They recently wrapped on horror feature Satanic Panic, with Blumhouse alum Chelsea Stardust directing. “In terms of bang for your buck, there’s no better place to make a movie than Dallas,” says Cinestate VP Amanda Presmyk. “We’re able to stretch every dollar to make a movie that looks beyond its budget because of our home-field advantage.” She adds that having a talented crew base went a long way to achieving their mutual goal: “Satanic Panic’s budget was under a million and it’s a perfect example of what we’re building with Cinestate/Fangoria. We want to satisfy audiences who crave entertaining, boundary-pushing movies and we believe awesome movies don’t have to cost a fortune.”

Star Maia Mitchell (C) and the crew of the Spirit Award-nominated indie Never Goin’ Back film on their Dallas-bound set. Courtesy of Liz Cardenas

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