The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is fast becoming one of the largest in the country, and its film scene is bustling with energy and opportunity.
Independent moviemakers in Dallas have harnessed the city’s rapid growth to their advantage, building film culture in formerly unoccupied, currently higher value areas on the outskirts. Each year the city sees the opening of a new independent theater, increased attendance at more than 20 regional film festivals, and the arrival new film crews looking to take advantage of the city’s underutilized space.
Among the 15 feature films shot in 2017 in Dallas, the city provided a home for two particularly distinguished productions: Yen Tan’s 1985, based on his SXSW Special Jury Prize-winning short about a terminal AIDS patient, and Augustine Frizzell’s Never Goin’ Back, the Texas native’s directorial debut which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
The Texas Film Commission has made Dallas an enticing prospect as a film location. Texas offers incentives up to 22.5 percent, with no annual cap. The exact amount is based on a percentage of the project’s eligible Texas expenditures, including eligible wages paid to Texas residents. The incentives come in the form of grants provided by the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, and the City of Dallas does on occasion offer additional assistance on a case-by-case basis.
Dallas’ incentive program is paying off: Episodes from 25 scripted TV shows and more than 120 commercials for brands as big as Toyota, Hasbro, and Adidas, were shot in 2017 alone.
The city has worked to rig its surroundings with more offerings than just open space for filming. Young Dallasites and transplants to the city can learn film craft at Southern Methodist University or The University of Texas at Dallas. Both schools offer a variety of film and film-related bachelors and masters programs, including Interactive Media, Film Studies, Video Game Development, and even a doctorate in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication from UT Dallas.
The city is also home to the longest running video festival in the country, the beloved Dallas VideoFest. Launched in 1987, VideoFest has grown to become one of the country’s most progressive, mold-breaking festivals in the country. It’s also abandoned the traditional week-long marathon of films in favor of a series of “VideoFest presents” events held throughout the year. Dallas is one of the only metro areas in the country where you can continuously catch new and exciting projects shot on video, from features, to shorts, to commercials, to art films.
To some out-of-towners, Dallas’s sheer size (it’s the fourth most populous metro area in the U.S.) might seem daunting, but local leaders and creatives are eager to show visitors how much more there is to see beneath the surface as they work to flesh out the city’s already burgeoning film community. MM
Featured Image, from Left to Right: Greta Zozula–Cinematographer, Augustine Frizzell–Writer & Director, & James M. Johnston–Producer.