TV & Film Production: Why Are Dallas And Austin Kicking Houston's Ass?

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Action!! (In Austin or Dallas)
Yesterday we spoke with Bob Hudgins, the head of the Texas Film Commission, about the mini-brouhaha over the movie Machete and possible Texas tax breaks.

We then moved on to another subject: Why is Dallas getting all the film and TV work these days?

Currently five major TV series are shooting in and around Big D. Currently none are in Houston.

The answer seems to be that Dallas has a deeper pool of local behind-the-scenes talent.

"Projects save by using local people -- it can cost up to $30,000 per worker if you have to bring someone on and pay a perdiem and for a hotel," Hudgins says. "The crew base in Dallas is pretty strong."

These things are cyclical -- in the `80s, Houston was stronger -- but people tend to go where there's work. Dallas has a bigger base of ad agencies producing commercials, and those productions serve as entry-level jobs that lead to bigger gigs.

From April 23, 2009 -- when the Texas film-incentive program went into effect -- to August 31, 2010, spending on feature films totaled $14.3 million in Dallas and less than a million in Houston ($873,000).

Austin, home to directors like Machete's Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater and Terrence Malick, had $54.8 million in feature spending.

San Antonio had zip, zero.

Hudgins says Rick Ferguson, head of the Houston Film Commission, "is doing a great job, but he can't control where people live." (We asked Ferguson for comment but haven't heard back.)

The five series being shot in Dallas include Lone Star (Dallas is playing Houston in that one), My Generation, Friday Night Lights, Chase and The Good Guys. Not all have debuted yet.

Total spending -- including films, TV, video games and commercials -- was $219.2 million in Austin, $166.1 million in Dallas and $21.1 million in Houston.

Ouch.

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