Lights, camera, action! Houston inks major film deal, bringing productions for 20 movies to Bayou City

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ABC13's Elissa Rivas gives details on a lucrative deal that will allow big Hollywood productions to take place in Houston. (KTRK)

The skylines of major cities like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago are a common sight on the silver screen, but not so much Houston.

"It's not that Houston has a bad reputation. We don't have any reputation," pointed out Sharon Adams, of the Houston Film Commission. "We're considered a 'flyover city.'"

The state of Texas does not provide coveted tax incentives to movie-makers, so the Houston Film Commission has taken its own approach. It's offering soft incentives like free hotel rooms and shoot locations to lure Hollywood names.

"My goal is to get 20 films done over the first 24 months, taking off for the hottest months of summer," said CEO of Here Media Inc., Paul Colichman.

Colichman is an award-winning veteran in the film industry who produced the Academy Award-winning movie, Gods and Monsters. These days, he's planning a series of family-friendly feature films, with budgets up to $2 million each. They're not only set in Houston, but they'll also showcase the city's character as a melting pot.

"They tell the story of a diverse community. They tell the story of working class people, middle class people, rural people, blue collar people. They're inspirational stories," described Colichman.

Using industry data, the Houston Film Commission estimates each one of the 20 films will generate about $1 million worth of business, meaning a potential $20 million total economic boost to the Houston-area's economy.

Producer David Millbern visited the city in May to scout locations for the films.

"We want to do local hires, and the ability to lean on colleges and high school drama departments for extras. And film students to come in and work as production assistants, working on the set. That's very valuable for them," said Millbern.
All of this sounds like a wonderful opportunity to Houston resident David B. Johnson. He spent years making movies in L.A., but has come home and is excited at the possibility of doing what he loves, in the city he loves.

"They're not going to just need actors. They're going to need production assistants, camera people," said Johnson.

Houston businessman Theldon Branch is the owner of Bud's Pitmaster BBQ at the George R. Brown Convention Center. He's looking forward to a gig catering film crews, or even better, serving as a shoot location.

"The idea of having scenes shot here, and people kind of seeing a Texas BBQ location, is just - it's amazing! It's phenomenal to have that kind of exposure," Branch observed.

The Houston Film Commission says it's currently working with the film producers to set up an open call, estimating to hire about 100 local people, both cast and crew, for each film. We'll keep you posted on the date.

If you want to find out how to get hired for movies made in Houston, click here.

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