Leaving L.A. behind: The Hollywood of Texas
Hey, Lauren. I'm kind of done with L.A. and thinking of moving to Austin. Is there work in the film business there?
Since moving to Austin, I've heard these words leave the lips of my battered and broken industry friends time and time again. Hollywood people moving to Austin has become such a growing trend that in 2010 a film panel was hosted at SXSW called "Making the Move from California to Austin." Even stickers touting "Go Back to Hellifornia" have been sprouting up around town.
So why are so many Californians moving to Texas?
Because when creative types move to L.A., they don't realize there is nothing creative about Hollywood.
Wow. That sounds like the sentiments of a super jaded and bitter lady, but it's true. I am both of those things.
But L.A. is also a void of lost hopes and dreams and after a few years, burnt-out Angelenos start taking notice to this "Shangri-La-esque" place that Forbes or Yahoo or CNN keep putting on their top places to live, and next thing you know, Austin is full of Californians.
So what do I tell people that ask about the film industry in Austin?
That Austin is a great place to make your movie, write your screenplay, cool down and reclaim your creative mojo if you have the time and resources, but if you want steady employment as a producer/director of photography/crew member/actor, it's better to stick with the reality shows in Tinsletown.
Austin is not a film town where you can quit your day job. Let's face it, L.A. and New York are where most of the productions are, and it will probably always be that way. Even though Austin has its high times of production, it's not enough to keep someone from worrying about their mortgage payment or feeding the kiddies—except for a select few.
When creative types move to L.A., they don't realize there is nothing creative about Hollywood.
Not only are productions limited in Austin, but there is already a built-in crew based here in Austin. Spots will be claimed on set early, and trying to break into the small and tight-knit film community here might be difficult. It's not that people don't want to help you—there just aren't enough jobs to go around! Local producer, Will Semons, busted his butt in and out of Austin for a year before he was able to find steady work. "But once you're in, " he adds, "You have to fit in as well. People get ousted or black-balled because there are enough people here who can do the job and it's a small town."
Also, Austin doesn't pay L.A. wages. This town is cheaper to live in, so bloated paychecks are not common. In fact, you might find yourself being asked to work for free. Not because people are being cheap, there just isn't the money spent on productions here. Austin is the guerilla filmmaking capital of the world- small crew, zero budget, shoot whatever you can get.
Though you most likely will not find the financial backing you need or the agents to tout you here in Austin, you will find the head space and crew to help you get the job done.
Which leads me to: If you're passionate about filmmaking, then Austin far exceeds Hollywood or the Big Apple. Austin is a creative mecca filled with talented and supportive artists. Not only do people here want you to succeed, they will do everything they can to help you. This ideaology is inspiring and I can say first hand that Austin helped me find the writing voice I always hoped for but never found in Los Angeles. This is why Austin is a great place to finally finish that screenplay or finally start shooting that movie idea you've been playing around with for the past five years but never got around to doing.
Though you most likely will not find the financial backing you need or the agents to tout you here in Austin, you will find the head space and crew to help you get the job done. But that's not to say that there aren't "business" related resources here in Austin, as well. The Alamo Drafthouse and SXSW are both very supportive of their local filmmakers and they both have the industry connections. Year after year, talented filmmakers in Austin get their work seen by a broader audience because of these two pillars in the film community, but again, there are no agents, lawyers, sales reps or producers here to help push your product except once a year.
So is Austin a good film town to move to? I guess the answer is, it depends on what you are looking for.