Hollywood in Texas: Austin on the Silver Screen

A simple cottage style white house with vines growing up the walls.
Friday Night Lights fans can tour Austin for filming locations like Matt Saracen’s house. Photo © Joselito Tagarao, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

For most of the past decade, MovieMaker magazine has named Austin among the top moviemaking cities in the country. More than 350 major features and made-for-TV movies have been filmed in Austin over the past 20 years, and hundreds of commercials and independent projects have also used the capital city as a backdrop.

One of the city’s first high-profile projects, aside from the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was 1989’s Lonesome Dove, which took full advantage of the Austin area’s diverse scenery. Other big-name projects filmed in Austin include Office Space, Dazed and Confused, Waiting for Guffman, Friday Night Lights, Tree of Life, the Spy Kids series, and the seminal Slacker.

One of the main reasons filmmakers choose Austin is its diverse topography and moderate climate (suitable for year-round filming). The city has rolling hills to the west, flat prairies to the east, crystal-clear lakes, and pine forests all within a half hour of the production office. And because Austin is surrounded by small towns that haven’t changed much in the past few decades, there are abundant locations to film period pieces that use historic county courthouses, Main Street storefronts, and vintage homes as scenery. Also, since the area has been a hot spot for filming since the early ’90s, there’s a deep talent pool of qualified crew members.

Finally, as most Austinites will quickly and enthusiastically claim, the city is a fun place to be on location for a few months. Residents are welcoming without being overly starstruck, the restaurant and bar scene is a fun destination after a hard day’s work, there are plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, and the plethora of actors and directors make for a wealth of qualified available talent.

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