On February 23, 1836, the Battle of the Alamo commenced, marking the date when the meager Texas forces secured a place in middle school history textbooks for generations to come. But while San Antonio denizens are proud to tout the city’s historical significance, present-day attractions are the real story when it comes to moviemaking.
Texas offers some unique financial benefits for shooting in-state, including the recently announced Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program. This new incentive offers grants equal to five percent of spending that’s done in-state, with an additional 1.25 percent for films utilizing underused areas of the state. The program is yet another financial break offered by The Lone Star State, which already provides moviemakers with tax exemptions for items rented or purchased for a film and tax refunds for extended stays in hotels and off-road fuel (i.e. for boats or generators). Without enticing locales however, financial incentives mean little to prospective moviemakers looking for the right location. Luckily, San Antonio strikes a unique balance of urban sprawl and historical sites, all with a culture heavily influenced by its Mexican neighbors.
Also attracting moviemakers to the city is the San Antonio Film Forum. This monthly discussion series focuses on educating local moviemakers, while strengthening the city’s film community.
To find out more about this growing community, MM asked several local moviemakers what makes the Alamo City such an ideal location. Their responses are below.
Living in Texas—and San Antonio in particular—is great for filmmakers. The Texas Film Commission in San Antonio, headed up by Drew Mayer-Oaks, has helped me tremendously. They take filmmaking in Texas very seriously and work hard to provide indie moviemakers like myself with the resources they need to complete films and get them to the public. I also find the general public to be very interested in filmmaking, and helpful when needed.
—Anthony Henslee, Director (Palo Pinto Gold)
“Isolation breeds originality.” Not being in Hollywood helps us with creativity and being able to come up with different or “out of the norm” ideas.
—Paul Ramirez, Producer/Director
San Antonio is a city where it helps to foster moviemakers, because a sense of community helps in many bases, from easy and accessible city property permits to actually lending a hand to others. That spirit in turn stimulates moviemakers to produce—and keep producing—in San Antonio.
—Ricardo Mendoza, Writer/Director (Ash Wednesday: Capitulo Unus)
San Antonio is a great place for filmmakers to consider because it has mild climate conditions throughout the year. It also has a different look than any other area that we typically see and there is a limitless variety of locales in and around the city. The city also has excellent resources to draw from, there are excellent accommodations and the people are friendly. It’s a warm and welcoming place to work.
—Annette Hoffman McCaughtry, Film Costumer (The Alamo, Sin City)
San Antonio is a city that’s full of culture and flair. It’s a little hard to find a crew out here, but as long as you write within your means the city and its people are more then accommodating. With so many untouched locations it’s amazing that more people don’t film here. We were able to make a film called The Lawless for pennies; because of the locations and talent, we found that our production value was through the roof.
—Phillip Reyn Guzman, Writer/Director/Producer (The Lawless)
San Antonio is a perfect place for filming because of its people, culture and locations. It’s like a filmmaker’s paradise that has been untouched for centuries, just waiting for film conquistadores to hit shore.
—Daniel Maldonado, Director/Cinematographer (The Servants)
Richly preserved historical architecture, San Antonio is the urbano masterpiece. From southside barrios to exuberant mansions, it’s a locations manager’s dream. Fire is in the Tex Mex Chicano Vato-belly. Shoot a film here to address the anguish of the human condition versus reality/destiny in society. Embrace San Antonio.
—Kelley Collopy Hankins, Scenic Artist/Signwriter
The Film School of San Antonio at Harlandale
Attached to Harlandale High, this program caters exclusively to high school students. So far two of the school’s movies have been nominated for an Emmy.
Apple Productions isn’t kidding when it say it’s a “full-service” company. Facilities include shooting stages, lighting packages, pre- and post-production for 16mm, 35 mm and digital, as well four editing suites, animation/graphic design and all things audio.
Bauhaus Media Group
Bauhaus is a full-service production house with more than 70 years of experience behind it.
Black Lion Productions
An independent production group, Black Lion is in the process of attempting to make four feature films in just three years. They employ screenwriters, producers, directors and editors.
Cineprop offers costume and prop sales and rentals, production photography and sound consulting and design. The owners have traveled as far as Germany to show their work.
Dan Fissel Custom Music
Dan Fissel Custom Music offers music at a one-time, royalty-free price, which means you can avoid any legal hassles.
About 80 miles outside of San Antonio is Gear Rental, which rents grips, cameras, lights and Steadicams. If you can name it, they probably have it. If they don’t, they expand their inventory every week, so check back soon.
Jackson Walker L.L.P.
A law firm for “creatives,” Jackson Walker is familiar with all the ins and outs of the entertainment business. They also have books, literature and events for lay-people looking to learn more.
This San Antonio radio station offers location sound mixing services for all types of productions. They can provide their own gear or work with yours.
San Antonio Film Commission
For more than 20 years, the San Antonio Film Commission has been providing movies with the production information and assistance they need to get the job done right.
This production house specializes in marketing, offering integrated production solutions based on your movie. They also produce movies, TV, commercials and music videos.
The Alamo Drafthouse
Recently selected as the “Best Theatre in America” by Entertainment Weekly, the Alamo Drafthouse serves up dinner, drinks and a movie—all at the same time.
Aztec On The River
Originally built in 1926, this theater is “the only surviving exotic-themed movie palace in Texas.” Built to look like an Aztec temple, the cinema shows a variety of classic and nature films.
The Mission Drive-In
Originally opened in 1947, like most drive-ins The Mission offers two movies for the price of one, and is closed during fall and winter seasons.
The Slab Cinema
This series of outdoor screenings brings both local and classic movies to San Antonio’s backyard.
National Association of Latino Producers
The San Antonio chapter of NALIP offers a great way to network with other producers to find funding sources. The group’s mission is to promote film and media that deal with Latino/a themes.
The Texas Motion Picture Alliance
This is a great resource for the bureaucratic side of moviemaking. Keep up with all movie-related legislation, as well get information about production incentives. They also have a wealth of local contacts.
San Antonio Local Film Festival
Put on by the San Antonio Film Institute, this independent fest showcases films by local artists. Cash awards are given out to help locals continue to make films.
The San Antonio Underground Film Festival
This fest celebrates films that might be a little different—those films that may otherwise never see a release on the big screen.
The Seguin Film & Arts Festival
An annual fundraiser for the Seguin Cultural Arts Foundation, a local nonprofit arts group, this fest showcases indie and student films from the area.