The Dallas Filmmakers Heading to Sundance: Toby Halbrooks

Seven filmmakers from Dallas are bringing films to this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which kicks-off on January 17. We caught up with them, and over the next week, we’ll share their thoughts on their movies, filmmaking, and Dallas. Click here for all the profiles in the series.

Former Polyphonic Spree band member and producer Toby Halbrooks has worked with filmmaker David Lowery on many of his films, including St. Nick, “Pioneer,” and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which premieres this weekend at Sundance. Highlighting the close-knit nature of the Dallas film community, Halbrooks also co-produced Shane Carruth’s Upsteam Color and worked as a colorist on that film.

Toby Halbrooks

Name: Toby Halbrooks

Age: 34

Films: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (producer), Upstream Color (co-producer, colorist)

How did you become involved with making and why did you make Ain’t Them Bodies Saints?

David Lowery and I have been working together for about seven years now, writing, producing and directing things together here in Texas and in LA. After our short film Pioneer premiered at Sundance in 2011, I applied to the Sundance Producing Fellowship with our parter James M. Johnston. The application had to include a script with a director attached. David had been working on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints for a short while and finished it in a hurry for us to apply to the Labs.

The “why” of it is even less complicated. We’re partners. Beyond the script being amazing, comes a belief in each other to do our best work.

There are a lot of Dallas filmmakers in or with films at Sundance this year. Does this say anything about the state of filmmaking in Dallas?

I’m not really sure about the state of filmmaking here in Dallas. I think we’re just trying our best. Saying things are better or worse than ever is tricky. I hope that after this Sundance we’ll be able to participate more in making it better. A broader knowledge of who’s here and what’s happening could only help.

Are there any advantages to being a Dallas-based filmmaker?

I’ve been working here in commercial film for about eight years now, and that is a huge advantage. I’ve been able to work in the industry and make friends and pull favors. It has gone a long way in helping us get Ain’t Them Bodies Saints off the ground, for sure.

Where do you see Dallas filmmaking in ten years? Do you think there is a progressive nature to the growth of a film scene? In other words, is Dallas becoming a stronger city for filmmaking, or is this just a singular moment when a number of people from here happen to making good films?

I believe there are a number of talented folks here in town that will continue to make great work and hopefully start getting some national attention.

Is there a filmmaking community in Dallas, and do you consider yourself a part of it?

I think there is a support group here in Dallas. I believe it will eventually turn into an actual community with many members contributing, but in the meantime we’re all just focusing on the craft.

Be honest, do you see yourself continuing to stay in Dallas working on films, or do the coasts still have too strong a pull?

I think Texas will always be my home. There will no doubt come a time when we’ll be pulled to Los Angeles or New York to work, but I’ll always come back.

Image at top: The filming of the titles for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (via David Lowery’s blog).


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