“Hi, I’m a camera operator from LA and I’m thinking of moving to Austin. Is that a smart idea?”
“Hi, I’m a writer from LA and got totally burnt out. Do you think Austin will be a good place for me to write?”
Hi, my name is Lauren and I moved to Austin from Los Angeles.
Yes, it’s true.
I’m one of them.
One of the people you make the above bumper sticker about and place them all over town.
Since moving to Austin, the aforementioned sentences are all questions I’ve heard repeatedly over the past two years. In fact, during the beginning of the 2010, I was fielding at least 2-3 phone calls a week at the production company I worked for, in addition to the frequent inquiries from friends and blogger buddies.
This year’s South by Southwest Interactive even held a panel for creatives, titled, “Making the Move from California to Austin“.
So why are Angelenos moving to Austin?
In generalizing fashion: The truth of the matter is, creative types move to LA to find work, only to realize there is nothing creative about it. Then they read about Austin in Forbes/Kiplingers/New York Times/US News/MSNBC/CNN about how Austin is the place to live for both higher quality of life and lower cost of living and, well, then you got yourself a whole bunch of weary Californians in Texas.
So, you really want to know if Austin is a good place to make your movie? Write your screenplay?
The answer is yes.
You want to know if Austin is a good place to work as a producer, an actress, a camera operator, an editor et al?
The answer is kind of maybe not?
Unless you want to work infrequently and for little dough for a long time.
If you’re able to deal with that, then by all means, yes yes yes.
The problem is not so much that there is a lack of projects (though like any film city, Austin has its ups and downs) , it’s trying to compete for a spot in the already very tight-knit film community.
Heavyweights like Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, and Mike Judge typically bring/keep their work in Austin, but they also have crews they’ve been working with for years…and just like Los Angeles, it’s about who you know and how you maintain those connections.
Local producer, Will Semons, busted his butt for a year in and outside of Austin before he was able to find steady work.”But once you’re in”, he adds, “You have to fit in as well. People get ousted or black-balled because there are enough people here who can do the job and it’s a small town.”
He also points out that many Austin crew members are relocating to Dallas (larger city, more commercial work) and Louisiana (excellent tax incentives) in order to find steady work.
Now, of course, not everyone shares the same sentiment as Will and I do. Another producer friend points out that budgets are shrinking everyone, so why not move to a town that’s more affordable? Though I completely agree with my friend’s statement, the truth is, there is a ceiling that exists in Austin, and one that is most often shattered by people setting out forth/returning to Los Angeles and New York City to “make it to the big-time”.
To elaborate on the idea that Austin is a good place to make your movie/write your screenplay:
Austin is an extremely creative town with a plethora of very talented people. Every single freakin’ person wants to help one another. If you have the time and the money to work on your film, there is no shortage of inexpensive equipment, locations, and hands in Austin to help you. As for writing your screenplay? Austin is a great place! As long as you don’t fall into the “drinking-every-night-oops-I-just-woke-up-and-I’m-40-and-still-working-part-time-at-a-record-shop-and-have-never-completed-a-piece-of-writing-in-my-life-but-I’ll-keep-calling-myself-a-writer” syndrome.
What is the moral to my story? The grass is always greener in Austin if you live in LA, but the poop colored grass in LA still holds its weight on the black market.