For a long time, Austin has been considered the “Third Coast” in the film industry, with more filmmakers on the rise in Austin, and more Hollywood types coming to Austin to shoot their movies.
One of the biggest proponents of the up and coming filmmakers is UT's Radio-Television-Film department. Though the film courses are a challenge to get into, with many vying for a slot and low numbers of students per class, many consider the red tape worth it, as UT has become a highly regarded film school, comparable to UCLA or NYU.
Though UT's film school is on the rise, Austin is still not the heart of the movie industry, but some graduate students have taken it upon themselves to get UT's student films in from of Hollywood big shots, and created their own film festival called CinemaTexas. The award winners of the UT student film festival, with help from prominent UT alumni, get their movies screened before the Director's Guild in Los Angeles, solidifying CinemaTexas as a true festival.
In 2003, the University of Texas Film Institute (UTFI) was set up. Not only does it help students keep up with the newest film technologies, but it is also partnered with Burnt Orange Productions, allowing students to participate directly on feature length big budget independent films.
Some local budding filmmakers looking to gain some skills, but not deal with UT's bureaucracy find themselves enrolling at Austin FilmWorks. Their 14 week-long course is taught by former UT professor, Steve Mims. When Robert Rodriguez couldn't get into UT's film school due to a low GPA, he turned to Mims' classes for insight, and considers him a crucial influence on his film making skills.
In the mid 1980s, local filmmaker and creator of cult hit Slacker Richard Linklater, helped create the Austin Film Society as a non-profit educational organization. Though the organization began strictly as a film appreciation group, today the Austin Film Society holds their own film making camps for Austin's youth, has discussion panels with experts in different aspects of movie making, and offers an internship program.
In 1999, Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, and other movie making heavy hitters approached the Austin City council explaining that Austin was becoming a movie making hotbed which could lead to several million dollars for the city. Linklater and Rodriguez went on to point out that office and studio space was hard to come by, due to Austin's constant popularity and the tech boom of the time. In November of 2000, the Austin Film Society leased the old Robert Mueller airport from the city for a mere 100 dollars a year, and has turned the old hangars into official sound stages called Austin Studios.
Sandra Bullock was the first to bring Hollywood to town with her Warner Brothers movie “Miss Congeniality” which used two stages for 5 months. Since then, several feature length movies have been shot at the studios, as well as documentaries, television commercials, music videos, and photo shoots. With over 100,000 square feet of production space, and a tolerance for productions at any budget level, the Austin Studios have become popular among multi million dollar blockbusters and local low budget creations alike.
With the variety of film making options to local Austinites, and the amount of high end productions coming into town, the possibility of becoming a filmmaker, or running into a Hollywood movie star, are ever increasing.