Along with the many economic and lifestyle benefits Austin offers its residents, in recent years it has also become a popular location for Hollywood productions. The low cost of filming combined with the numerous historic landmarks and picturesque natural scenery of the Austin area makes it exceptionally attractive for producers seeking that special Texan atmosphere. Abundant local accommodations and Austin’s unique and friendly style ensure that these special visitors come back time after time. Some of the most notable productions are found below.
Screenwriters and directors Joel and Ethan Coen began their rise to stardom in 1984 with a little film called Blood Simple. Filmed in and around Austin, this stylish noir showcased the talents of an up-and-coming actress who would go on to star in numerous other Coen productions. Frances McDormand’s debut performance as the sensual, faithless wife ensured her future success.
The groundbreaking and exceptionally popular miniseries Lonesome Dove was also filmed in the Austin area, taking advantage of the unspoiled natural surroundings and local color. Lonesome Dove has an additional connection to the Austin area, as its screenplay was based on a book written by acclaimed western author Larry McMurtry whose son, James McMurtry, is a roots-rock icon and an Austin resident.
As a longtime Austin resident, Robert Rodriguez has produced a number of motion pictures in the area, including the popular Spy Kids trilogy, GrindHouse (with Quentin Tarantino), The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, Sin City, and The Faculty. His production company, Troublemaker Studios, is located in Austin and houses the largest green screen in all of Texas. An adjunct facility, Troublemaker Sound, is also located in the area and provides post-production editing and sound for Rodriguez’s films. Troublemaker Studios is currently producing Machete, derived from the previous film GrindHouse and starring Danny Trejo in the title role.
The popular television series Friday Night Lights is also filmed in and around Austin. Recounting the stories surrounding a small town high school football team, the series focuses on the effects of high school sports on students, teachers, coaches, and the town at large. Critically acclaimed, the series struggled at first, but soon found a local core audience due to its realistic portrayals of Texas small-town life.
More recently, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, Whip It, was loosely based on the Lonestar Roller Girls, a roller derby company based in Austin and owned by the women who perform for it. Critically well received, several scenes for this movie were shot in the Austin area.
Austin resident Mike Judge wrote and directed the 1999 comedy Office Space; primarily filmed in Austin, it is now regarded as a cult classic. Satirizing the office environment and computing firms in general, it starred Ron Livingston and Jennifer Aniston, with Gary Cole and Stephen Root in unforgettable supporting roles. Released to tepid critical and audience response, it has gained in popularity each year since its release, and was awarded the #73 spot on Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 100 best films from 1983 to 2008.
The Austin Tourism Board takes an active role in attracting filmmakers to work in Austin. Experienced filmmaking professionals and seasoned crew members are readily available in the Austin area. Additionally, Austin’s exceptionally sunny climate and diverse natural surroundings offer a variety of different scenes and backgrounds for filmmakers, all within a relatively small area. Austin’s friendly atmosphere is an additional bonus for filmmakers looking for a warm welcome; local government agencies and the Austin Film Commission are ready to help if any problems arise.