Austin filmmakers keep hope alive

Alek Zayas-Dorchak

The city of Austin, Texas is famous for its role as a sort of mini-Hollywood, due to the high number of independent filmmakers in the area and the amount of films being produced annually. Austin has always been a city that flourishes on the arts, especially the strong music scene, but now even that has been rivaled by the film industry stepping into the spotlight. So far more than 580 films have been filmed in and around the Austin area, according to the Internet Movie Database.

“It’s a great place to get started in and a great place to say you have roots in.” James Kracht, a sophomore at CPHS said about Austin. “Quite honestly it’s better than Hollywood.”

Most recently Sin City, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Alamo and other popular feature length movies have been filmed in Austin. The Texas Film Commission has stated that Austin is the “hottest place outside of California to shoot a movie,” and MovieMaker.Com ranks the city of Austin as the number one city in which to live and work for cinema.

“I think what originally got me into filmmaking was just when my friend and I grabbed a camera and started making shorts.” Kracht said. “When we saw an article in the Chronicle for an Austin School of Film event that rewarded $250 for making a video for some band, we decided to go do it. Turns out we were actually talented, and we won the $ 250. Unfortunately, it’s been about a year since we won and we’ve yet to see a dime come of it.”

An independent comedy motion picture, Code Enforcer, is currently in production here in Cedar Park and in neighboring Lakeway. Unfortunately, filming of the movie has been postponed due to financial insecurities, among other obstacles. The setbacks marring the production of Code Enforcer may, if anything, serve as an example of what to expect to many of Cedar Park High School’s aspiring film students.

Greg Dorchak, forty-four, is a Cedar Park resident currently involved with the production of Code Enforcer, a satire of strict suburban Home Owner Associations, the cast of which includes such old school television actors as Eddie Mecca and Morgan Fairchild, among others. Dorchak co-wrote the script for Code Enforcer, and is currently producing, co-directing, and acting in a starring role in the film.  

“When I was younger, I really wanted to get into acting, and filmmaking.” Dorchak said. “When I moved to Austin about seventeen years ago I looked forward to getting involved with the film industry, which I had heard was growing phenomenally. It’s true that there are a lot of films being produced in the area, but honestly not many of them are any good. Sure, a few big-budget films have rolled out of here, but the industry is actually not as booming as most people think. At least not right now, with the economy in the state it’s in.”

Funding for the motion picture Code Enforcer, initially scheduled for release early next year, has been hard to come by from corporations in the Austin area. The film’s producers have been getting some support from independently wealthy Texans, namely Austinite millionaire Richard Garriott, but filming for the movie has still been put on hold indefinitely.

“We’re having a really hard time getting investors,” Dorchak said. “In theory it’s a really fun hobby and it can be really fulfilling once you actually get something shot, but the reality of it is it’s a very slow and painstaking business. I mean, this is a low-budget, three-hundred-thousand-dollar deal, and even so getting investors has been like pulling teeth. On top of that we had to let go of our director of photography, who just wasn’t getting the shots we wanted. With her went a few of our grips and other staff as well.”

This does not seem to worry Kracht and other student filmmakers, who are still willing to enter the motion picture business.

“Of course it’s something I’d still do, because I love to do it,” Kracht said, “but I’d also make films for the money, I’m not going to lie.”

When Code Enforcer was still in production, the Lakeway sets were abuzz with activity, employing as many as a dozen workers and several extras. Now, cameras have been packed up and life in the suburbs is returning to normal as the filmmakers take an indefinite hiatus, eager to get back to the drawing board. As for the film students, they can only wait and hope that the future holds better luck for their endeavors.