Indie filmmakers flocking to South Texas
Jan. 10, 2011 at 4:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 11, 2011 at 7:12 p.m.
If you happened to be driving through the small Texas town of Weesatche last week, it may have felt a bit like playing a game of "Which One Of These Things Doesn't Belong?" There were huge pastures with grazing cattle. A few houses dotted here and there. A tractor slowly making its way down a nearly empty road.
Oh, and, of course, the bustling movie set of the comedy "Buck Wild" at the old Duderstadt Garage.
Stranger yet, this is actually the second movie that has been filmed in the one-horse town, which boasts a population of approximately 500. The movie "The Eves" was filmed there last year.
Start heading north toward Gonzales, and chances are good you'll run into the film set of the modern western, "September Morning."
And if you wait until this weekend, you could catch a film crew making a documentary about the horror movie, "Death," that a local production company hopes to film in Yorktown this spring.
Welcome to South Texas-wood.
Although cities like Los Angeles and Austin have long had a firm monopoly on movie locations, the past few years has seen a small but steady stream of movies being made locally, both by local filmmakers and Hollywood dwellers. So just why are independent filmmakers flocking to the area to make movies?
"I just like Texas," director and co-writer of "Buck Wild," Tyler Glodt, said. "People in L.A. are just so jaded with filmmaking. But the people here welcome you with open arms and are willing to help. Instead of saying 'you have to pay me X amount of dollars to use my location,' people here are like, 'Yeah, sure, you can shoot here. Come on over.'"
Produced by Conation Films out of L.A., "Buck Wild" is a comedy about a group of friends on a hunting trip that find themselves amid a zombie war and is described as "Zombieland" meets "Dawn of the Dead" with a bit of a "Deliverance" vibe. The movie is being shot entirely in Weesatche and Goliad and even includes the South Texas legend of the chupacabra, Glodt added. Approximately 90 percent of the cast and crew are originally from Texas, including Victoria, and all the extras cast in the film are locals. Actor and script co-writer, Matt Albrecht, has ties to Victoria. Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor is set to make a cameo and film producer Taylor Thompson was born and raised in Victoria.
"It's really exciting to come home and get with people that are really pumped about making a movie and helping you out," said Thompson, who now lives in L.A. "In L.A., movies are all business, but here people are friendly and willing to lend a hand. It's nice to bring a little bit of movie magic to the small towns where I grew up. The communities really rally around the project."
For example, Victoria Nissan lent Conation Films a four-door, fully-loaded Titan truck to use in certain scenes, Thompson said.
One of the few people not originally from Texas working on the movie is fellow producer Stacey Crawford, who grew up in Michigan and now lives in L.A. Although she's only been in Texas a short while, she said she sees why the filmmakers choose the area as the film's location.
"The movie is classified as an ultra-low budget movie, according to the Screen Actors Guild, but we're able to utilize local contacts and resources, and that itself has helped tremendously. It's going to look like a million dollar movie," she said. "People just get really excited about it, and they want to help you and participate. In L.A., when they shut down the freeway to film, everyone gets annoyed, including myself, just because it happens so often. But coming to a place like this, where people get excited, it helps filmmakers and producers get re-energized. It re-ignites that passion and you start to appreciate what you're doing and the project itself more."
Filmmaker Chris Eska knows the feeling of having the community rally around you all too well. Originally from Gonzales, Eska, 34, is currently filming his second feature-length movie in his old hometown.
"I'm able to rely on the support of the community. I mean, everyone is helping out. People are making meals for the cast and crew and giving us props and locations for free," he added. "We're also sitting on a variety of settings. This area has a unique look that I like. I grew up here and want to show the world my home."
This spring, the five members of Shatter Glass Entertainment, which is based out of Victoria, hope to be filming their movie in the Yorktown Hospital. On Saturday, the entire cast and crew will be shooting a short documentary in the small town about their project, which they plan to send off to various companies in the hopes of securing some grants for the film.
"The hospital is the biggest attraction Yorktown has. It's the closest thing we have to a landmark, and we want to put it on the map," John Brunson, the film's director and screenwriter, said.
Although having a film set come to town gets people excited and helps stimulate local economy, it's actually the filmmakers who are thankful for the opportunity to come to town.
"We're all just so grateful for all the help we've gotten," Eska said. "Indie films can never be made or realized without help from the community."
Glodt, who is originally from Plainview, echoed that sentiment.
"We'll always come back here to film if we can," he added.