Texas Film Incentive Pays Off With New Taylor Sheridan Streaming Series
February 1, 2024
Texas Film Incentive Pays Off With New Taylor Sheridan Streaming Series
Billy Bod Thornton and the creator of Yellowstone are some of the big names behind a news Dallas-based series.
Bad Santa star Billy Bob Thornton is rolling back into town as the marquee-topping name on a new TV show being filmed in North Texas. His supporting cast includes Ali Larter of Legally Blonde and Varsity Blues fame and Jacob Lofland, the breakout star of Matthew McConaughey’s Mud.
The show is called Landman, and it comes to us from the mind of Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan as the latest in an ongoing effort to make Texas a big-time player in the movie biz.
Last year, Texas passed a landmark $200 million film/TV incentive bill to entice big-spending production companies to shoot their movies and tell their Texan stories in Texas. The spending increase is expected to bolster local economies and provide much-needed jobs by aiding in the establishment of a multi-billion dollar industry haven outside of Hollywood. Texas is still in competition for those high-dollar contracts with other, more competitive surrounding states.
Leila Heise is a successful Dallas-based costume designer who has been described as legendary by her crew. She experienced just that when working on Hell or High Water (a Sheridan-penned flick) in 2015, which is based in West Texas but was actually filmed 10 miles east of the border in Clovis, New Mexico, due to the incentives the state film program was offering at the time. In 2015, Texas’ 84th State Legislature slashed its incentive program down from $95 million to $32 million.
“It was just a drop in the bucket,” Heise says. “Now that they’ve pushed it back up again, there are rules that we have to follow.”
The rules she is referring to state that for a production company to access those funds, the film crew must be made up of at least 55% Texas workers, and 60% of the shoot dates must also take place within the state.
“All of my team is local. I’m glad that they did,” Heise says of the program. “Now we have incentives and there’s a lot of stuff coming into Dallas.”
Heise has designed costumes in the film business for over 20 years, and in that time she’s seen some fluctuation. She says she got her feet wet with local productions Barney and Walker, Texas Ranger. Now she’s a head designer on the locally filmed religious phenom The Chosen and donates a portion of each check to her union-sponsored PAC fund.
“They lobby to get us better-paying jobs,” Heise says. “Anyone in our union can put money towards the PAC fund. Which is good because that way we have a nice little chunk of change that we can pay the lobbyists to speak for us and get better incentives, and they did a great job this past term.”
The payoffs are in. Already, Sheridan (whom Heise describes as the “golden boy of Paramount”) has his latest series, Landman, gearing up for pre-production. The show will be the latest project from adopted Texas icon Billy Bob Thornton, who is set to play the leading role of Tommy Morris, a crisis manager for an oil company.
Along with Dennis Quaid, who’s a staunch supporter of Texas-made film, Thornton and Sheridan previously championed the 2023 incentive bill. The latter’s success correlates to Sheridan’s. In industry-speak, it’s called the Sheridan Effect, and it’s what initially prompted the uptick in the program from $45 million to a state-record $200 million in the first place. Needless to say, it’s good for Texas businesses to have Sheridan at the helm of a new series, though Landman deviates from the Yellowstone universe.
“This one is more modern,” says Carolina Tolentino, a Landman costume buyer who worked on both 1883, and Lawman: Bass Reeves, both Sheridan-produced shows that were filmed almost entirely in North Texas.
“I actually tell a lot of people this and have been telling them for years: Texas has a working crew,” she says. “I’m a Texas crew person who is very blessed to be working constantly. I don’t mind calling and saying I’m available. Of course, you’re a freelancer so you’re going to have some time, but for the most part, I see everyone always working, and that’s a blessing. It’s really awesome for all of us in Texas.”
“I actually tell a lot of people this and have been telling them for years: Texas has a working crew. I’m a Texas crew person who is very blessed to be working constantly.” – Costume buyer Carolina Tolentino
Tolentino’s background is in textiles, designing clothes for department stores such as Dillard’s and Academy. She cut her teeth in the film industry on the Dallas-based B-horror film Ghost of Goodnight Lane starring Billy Zane.
“That was many years ago. That is really amazing to me, to see how much the film industry has grown with the opportunity that the Texas Film Commission gave us,” Tolentino says. “I feel good to be a part of it. Anyone would feel great. We have work. The team that I’m working with are people that I see around Texas all the time.”
Of course, any recent momentum gained on the Texas film front was thwarted by historic simultaneous strikes by both the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild, which ended after a 118-day standoff just before the holiday season, forcing local film crew workers to file for unemployment.
But while many film crews were out of work, many in the industry are grateful for some of the changes to the industry. Both Heise and Tolentino remained informed and well-prepared.
“I completely understand what was happening. We all did,” Tolentino says. “We all understood that something needed to happen. It happened for a reason, and in the long run, it benefits all of us.”
The 11-part podcast itself isn’t a linear story so much as a portrait of the lives of the people surrounding the oil business. They range from wildcat oilmen to migrant sex workers and high school football stars. Podcast host Christian Wallace is credited as a co-creator of the show.
Dallas-based Legacy Casting has issued a casting call for real-life North Texas oil workers, as well as Texas Christian University students and alumni to work as background actors on the show. “We are looking for a few more REAL roughnecks with oil/gas/pumpjack experience — specifically we are looking to cast Latino guys between 20-40,” read the agency’s Facebook announcement.
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