Over the past several years, the Texas Legislature has slashed budget incentives for film productions, some of the most high-profile Texas-set movies and TV shows (Hell or Highwater, Waco, Hap & Leonard) have been shot in the neighboring states, and the dream of Austin as a laid-back, iconoclastic alternative to Hollywood seems to be in peril.
And yet, the Austin Film Society’s eighteenth Texas Film Awards on Thursday was packed with Hollywood luminaries who have a soft spot for Texas. (Full disclosure: Texas Monthly was a sponsor of the Texas Film Awards, and Executive Editor Kathy Blackwell was the chair.) Academy Award-nominated actor Timothée Chalamet referenced the famous Texas-map scene in Richard Linklater’s Bernie. Chalamet’s Call Me By Your Name co-star Armie Hammer—who founded Dallas- and San Antonio-based BIRD Bakery with his wife, Elizabeth Chambers—accepted the Variety One to Acclaim award, honoring breakout talents. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson—who shot much of his 2007 oil epic, There Will Be Blood, near Marfa—was presented with an inaugural Jonathan Demme Award, which honors the late director who championed young, little-known Texas filmmakers in the early 1980s and exhibited their work around the country. In an on-stage conversation with Anderson, Linklater credited Demme’s “Made in Texas” film program with convincing him that Austin was a place where a young filmmaker could go to make bold, personal work.
At least for one night, concerns about the state of the state’s film industry took a backseat to art.