Will Georgetown Become Texas Film Friendly?

March 1st, 2010 by jenel

Efforts are underway to get Georgetown designated as a Texas Film Friendly Community through the Texas Film Commission (TFC). When a film crew comes to town, the economic benefits to the community are astounding.

“It is the biggest payoff for the least amount of risk and investment,” says Jimmy Schwertner, whose family owns a feed yard outside Jarrell, where scenes of the recent HBO movie Temple Grandin were shot. For many years, Schwertner was a professional location scout in the film industry.

Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes, tells the story of an autistic woman who revolutionized the cattle industry. Although this was by no means a big budget movie, producers spent approximately $5 million in Texas. A portion of that money was spent right here in Georgetown, as the crew filmed on the campus of Southwestern University. (Southwestern served as a stand-in for an Ivy League college in the east.)

In some rare cases, the economic benefits continue long after the film crew has left town. Hope Floats, starring Harry Connick Jr. and recent Oscar winner Sandra Bullock, filmed in Smithville. The movie was released in 1998. At the time, according to Carol Pirie, Deputy Director of the Texas Film Commission, and Adena Lewis, President of the Smithville Chamber of Commerce, nearly $800,000 was added to Smithville’s coffers.

“And that doesn’t include beers they bought at local bars, meals they ordered at local restaurants, or fifteen years of residual income from tourists who come here to see the movie location for themselves,” says Lewis. Most film shoots are unlikely to generate that amount of long-term tourism, but lightning just may strike twice in Smithville. Brad Pitt recently finished filming Tree of Life there, which will be released later this year.

Three steps Georgetown must take to earn the Texas Film Friendly designation

  1. A community representative must attend a Film Friendly workshop.
  2. Location photos of the community must be added to the TFC location database.
  3. The City must pass a community film policy.

On February 26, TFC held a Film Friendly workshop at the Georgetown Public Library. The workshop was attended by people from all across the state. Georgetown was well represented by Main Street Manager Shelly Hargrove and several members of the Economic Restructuring Committee, a subcommittee of the Main Street Board.

Some location photos have already been taken, but TFC always welcomes new pictures, especially of unusual locations. If you’d like to submit Georgetown photos, please contact Shelly Hargrove at shargrove@georgetown.org for more information on what locations have already been submitted and on proper formatting of the digital pictures.

The third and final step in the Film Friendly process is the most critical. The vast majority of filming that takes place in Texas is of 30-second commercials. These shoots are highly lucrative, but they move fast.

“Commercials go from concept to filming in about two weeks,” says Bob Hudgins, Director of the Texas Film Commission.

That means that Georgetown’s standard permitting process just doesn’t work. If a producer wants to film in Georgetown but must wait a month or longer for the permit, he or she will be forced to choose another town. And Georgetown will lose out on the money that would have been spent here.

A draft of the community film policy has been written and will be refined by Hargrove and members of the Economic Restructuring Committee. Then it will be presented to the Georgetown City Council. If it’s passed and Georgetown earns the Film Friendly designation, locals may begin to see more camera crews around town, and Georgetown will have a new economic base on which we can rely.

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