Leander gets Hollywood exposure
Community Impact News – By Jenn Rains Friday, 18 June
LEANDER — Leander recently got a dose of Hollywood as a film crew set up shop in town to shoot scenes for the independent film “Dadgum, Texas.”
In the process of going through the Texas Film Commission Film-Friendly Texas program, the city attracted the film’s producer and Leander became the location for the romantic comedy, set to open next year.
The Texas Film Commission has sought to make the process for a producer to choose a location for a film, commercial or TV show a little easier over the last two years with its Film Friendly Texas program.
“Big cities have their own film commissions, but smaller communities don’t really have someone on staff that can deal with film requests,” said Carol Pirie, Film Friendly Texas Program manager. “We started this program to train communities for on-location filming to educate them.”
There are 25 cities in the state, including Cedar Park, Smithville and Bastrop in Central Texas, that are certified film-friendly. Georgetown is in the process of becoming certified.
Kirk Clennan, Leander’s economic development director, was looking for ways to help the city’s push for destination tourism and get Leander’s name on the map.
“I started thinking ‘What do we do to reinforce the beautiful sustainable community we have?’” Clennan said.
In March, he attended one of the Texas Film Commission’s workshops, choosing one on how to work with the film industry.
The workshop focused on presentations “about how a community can put their best foot forward to know how to respond if they get a [movie] request,” Pirie said.
The workshop also taught cities the steps to take to become a film-friendly city and provided a template of a film policy that any city can utilize.
Back from the workshop, Clennan presented the idea to the city’s public arts committee and the City Council. A film tech committee with representatives from Leander’s public safety and parks and recreation departments was also created to collaborate on future projects. The committee has not been formalized yet.
“We’ve established a philosophy and policies for [a] sustainable communit[y] so we have this really great canvas to work with, and the film industry’s visual component fits that canvas,” Clennan said.
Taking the steps
Once the idea to become film-friendly had been planted, Clennan and the film tech committee began working through the details and process needed to obtain film-friendly status.
While the workshop is the first major step in the process, Pirie said the next is to document and photograph different locations throughout the city that could make good venues for shooting.
“We’re looking at taking pictures of mostly facilities and a few vistas,” Clennan said. They are in the process now.
The other step is getting an ordinance passed by City Council outlining the city’s film policy. Leander City Council passed the ordinance at the May 20 meeting.
“The film policy is good to have in place so the council doesn’t have to figure it out on the fly [if a movie crew comes to town],” Pirie said.
When Leander becomes film-friendly certified, the city will be added to the database the Texas Film Commission will provide to producers looking for locations, Pirie said.
Aside from the publicity of having a movie filmed in Leander, another important aspect to the process is the economic impact it will have.
“The biggest impact to any community is that it can be a tremendous economic boost,” Pirie said.
The A-list movie “The Tree of Life,” starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, which is set to open this year, was filmed for six months in the town of Smithville, southeast of Bastrop.
When filming was over, about $800,000 had been spent in the town during the six months, Pirie said.
“Even if it is not an A-list movie, it will still have an impact,” she said. “A low-budget movie is still going to house some people locally and feed people locally.”
Clennan said the experience is key right now as a step toward branding the city, but “from a very economic standpoint, it is another step in the diversification of our economic base,” he said.
On the radar
Although having the film-friendly status is an advantage for both the city and the film crew involved, it is not necessary to be chosen for a film.
“When you go on their [Texas Film Commission’s] site and choose from their list of locations to see, it cuts the process down considerably knowing you will be welcome,” Tiffany Almeida of Terran Enterprises said. “Everyone has the same guidelines to work under so there is no confusion, especially when dealing with city property.”
Terran Enterprises, based in Hollywood, Calif., is a motion picture and television production company.
Almeida finished filming “Dadgum, Texas” in Leander May 28. The film is one of the few filmed in the city over the years.
She said working with the city was a pleasure, especially because officials in the city had some knowledge of the film process.