AUSTIN (KXAN) — With hundreds of films, television shows and advertisements under Austin’s belt, city officials are working to highlight the cinematic magic that’s called Austin home for more than 50 years — one pit stop at a time.
The city’s tourism department and the Austin Film Commission have collaborated on the launch of the Austin Film Tourism Guide, an interactive resource to highlight which locations throughout Central Texas have been featured on TV and silver screens.
Currently, the guide features 25 films and TV shows, ranging from the cult classic “Dazed and Confused” to the high school football drama “Friday Night Lights.” Brian Gannon, director and commissioner for the Austin Film Commission, will continually update the resource with a scene-by-scene breakdown of shots filmed in Central Texas.
While filmmaking has been in the works in Austin for more than 50 years, Gannon said the 2000s brought a boom in filming opportunity for the capital city. Since “Friday Night Lights,” he said approximately a half dozen TV series have filmed or are filming here.
“Currently, we’ve got HBO in production on a limited series in town. We just had ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ wrap after four years here in Austin,” he said. “And we currently have ‘Walker’ hitting season two right now.”
With the geographic diversity here in Central Texas and distinct feel of various Austin neighborhoods, Gannon said it’s offered ample opportunities for projects set in a variety of time periods or physical settings to call Austin its filming home. But as Hollywood has looked elsewhere to shoot projects, that’s risen the stakes and made landing the deal a bit more competitive.
New Mexico and Louisiana have gained traction as competitive shooting locations, while Atlanta has become a dominant force in housing projects. Still, he said the city has pursued new incentive opportunities to entice films and TV shows.
“There is a local incentive that’s available to productions at hiring Austinites. There’s a creative incentive within the city,” he said. “The city is also looked at permitting and ways to make permitting easier for production as a way to incentivize productions to film here, you know, at any budget level.”
Quantifying the amount of revenue the city gains each year through filming is difficult, Gannon said, due to the variations in revenues between a one-off feature film, an ad campaign or a recurring TV series. Ad campaigns can run anywhere from $50,000 to $1 million, depending on the scale, he said; it’s hard to find film budgets lower than $25 million these days, he added.
There’s also the secondhand revenues Austin gains through film productions, such as hotel occupancy taxes as productions host crews in area hotels, to money funneled into local restaurants and attractions feeding and entertaining casts and crews in town.
And with these film productions comes the promotional factor of highlighting Austin to a wider audience, Gannon said. For people tuning into the latest season of “Queer Eye” overseas, this might be their first exposure to Austin. Similarly, a film like “Boyhood” features Austin’s evolution over time — a city that now looks just a tad different from the first productions more than 50 years ago.
“It’s been really cool to see Austin on screen,” he said. “And it’s also a really phenomenal way to see how, if you look back over the filmography, you can kind of see how the city has changed over the years.”