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Austin Studios is deep in the heart of prod’n

Austin Studios, a project of the Austin Film Society, celebrated an impressive two years of production in November with a birthday bash for its film crew.

Since its inception, the studio’s production slate has included 12 feature pics, including Dennis Quaid’s “The Rookie” and Universal’s upcoming, “The Life of David Gale,” directed by Alan Parker and starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet and Laura Linney. The facility has also housed documentaries, shorts, commercials and music video productions.

“We are delighted that our partnership with the city of Austin has gotten off to such a successful start,” said Rebecca Campbell, executive director of the Austin Film Society.

Austin Studios, a 20-acre production facility, owes its conception to a public/private partnership with the city of Austin and the Austin Film Society. The venture has created more than 1,500 jobs, resulting in a $70 million infusion to the local economy.

The Austin Film Society is a nonprofit organization founded by director Richard Linklater (“Dazed and Confused,” “Slacker”) and is separate from the Austin Film Office and Texas Film Commission. The orgs work in conjunction to promote filmmaking in the region. Projects of the AFS include year-round film exhibition; the Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund, which has granted $328,000 to fledgling filmmakers; and an internship program.

Austin Studios recently added an additional stage to the facility, increasing the total production space to 100,000 square feet. “We were able to add Stage 5 just in time for ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,’ as the facility was at capacity,” said studio director Suzanne Quinn. “Our entire facility is currently booked up with home-grown Austin productions, including ‘Secondhand Lions,’ by writer-director Tim McCanlies starring Robert Duvall, Michael Caine and Haley Joel Osment, and ‘Spy Kids 3,’ the latest installment in the film series by Robert Rodriguez.”

The city of Austin snagged production for the upcoming feature pic, “The Alamo,” which will begin lensing later this month on a 40-acre replica of the Alamo built by Disney (Daily Variety, Jan. 6).

* * *

Academy Award winner Shirley MacLaine will serve as chairwoman of the newly created New Mexico Film Advisory Board.

“When it comes to the movies, and show business in general, Shirley MacLaine is truly one of New Mexico’s most valuable assets. Her familiarity with the world of film and television, as well as her contacts within the industry, will help us compete effectively with other states and countries,” said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

“Too often New Mexico is thought of solely for Western-style location shoots,” said MacLaine. “Our goal is to expand our capabilities to handle everything from pre-production through post-production.” MacLaine will work with the Film Office to establish the board of advisors, attract film production and build new in-state production facilities. She will also be instrumental in the implementation of film incentives and workforce training programs.

“Ultimately we want to stop runaway production … meaning we want to intercept it after it leaves Hollywood but before it leaves the country,” added MacLaine.

New Mexico will be the production home to an untitled Ron Howard film skedded to lense in March. Cruise/Wagner’s “Suspect Zero,” the first production to use the state’s new interest-free loan investment program (Daily Variety, Jan. 3), completed production last fall.

New Mexico film revenue for fiscal year July 1, 2002, to date is more than $33 million.

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