When writer-director David Lowery (“A Ghost Story,” “Pete’s Dragon”) set out to make his new film “The Old Man & the Gun,” a true-crime story starring Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek, he quickly chose Fort Worth, Texas, as a primary location.
Redford plays real-life professional criminal Forrest Tucker, who claimed to have successfully escaped from prison 18 times. The actor, now 82, has said that this may well be the film that caps his long career.
Lowery says shooting in Fort Worth “made perfect sense.” The action “all took place there, and the real Forrest Tucker was based there at the height of his bank-robbery career,” he says. “It also feels older than nearby Dallas, and has that sense of the West, so aesthetically it was just right. We didn’t even consider anywhere else.”
Lowery describes Fort Worth as “a great resource, if maybe a bit under the radar and underappreciated by filmmakers in general.” He says he would have shot the entire movie there, but financial considerations intervened. “The incentives in Texas are just not enough to lure big productions,” he notes, “which is a great shame,”
Ultimately roughly two-thirds of the shooting took place in Ohio, but enough was shot in Fort Worth to make the movie feel “authentically Texan,” according to Lowery.
The director and his producing partners are now working on a new film that they plan to shoot entirely in the Texas city. He has high praise for the Fort Worth Film Commission and its head, Jessica Christopherson.
“They definitely made it financially worth our while to finish shooting ‘The Old Man’ there,” he says, by helping find locations and making local resources available. “I’d call Jessica with requests like ‘We need a wall that looks like a prison exterior by 4 p.m. today — can you help?’ And she’d drive around, find the perfect spot, and we’d show up at four with a permit and crew.”
Lowery adds that “The Old Man” wouldn’t have been able to film some of its more difficult scenes without the help and input of Christopherson. “All the exciting sequences, like the bank heists and the prison escapes, were technically challenging to shoot,” he explains.
Since the Fort Worth Film Commission was established three years ago, it has helped some 200 projects, from independents to bigger productions, film in the city. “We have a couple of major indie films that are due to start shooting this fall,” Christopherson reports. “We also have three home-renovation shows that are shooting pilots right now.”
She notes that Texas, in addition to its experienced crews, offers a base incentive that ranges between 5% and 20%, and additional bonuses once productions meet specific cultural criteria and involvement of Texas residents. Plus, the city’s Worth Savings Program provides productions with discounts at local restaurants and stores.
“The Old Man & the Gun” screened at Telluride. Fox Searchlight will release the picture Sept. 28.