Is 2014 the Year That Puts Dallas Filmmaking on the Map?

If the perception of Dallas as a place where movies are made changes after 2014, then it is a testament to what a handful of super-charged talents can do to a community. This past January, the Sundance Film Festival was chock-full of Texas movies, but three of the most touted had strong Dallas ties: Yen Tan’s Pit Stop, Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, and David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Now all three of those movies find themselves in the mix of nominations for the 2014 Independent Spirit Awards.

Upstream Color has been nominated in two categories, best director and best editing. If you remember, Carruth’s film was made after a long hiatus that followed his first feature, Primer, and it was shot in Dallas and co-edited with Dallas’ David Lowery.

Lowery is all over all of these films. He co-wrote Pit Stop with former Dallas resident Yen Tan, and that film, which was also co-produced by the Texas Theater’s Eric Steele and Spiral Diner owner James M. Johnston, is up for the John Cassavetes Award, an award given to film’s made for under $500,000. Lowery doesn’t have any individual nominations for his work on his own film, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, but that movie’s two producers, Toby Halbrooks and James M. Johnston, are up for the 17th Annual Piaget Producers Award, which honors films with limited resources that still demonstrate “creativity, tenacity, and vision.”

In sum, it’s a remarkable showing for the city’s filmmaking community, and one that shows how a few individuals can galvanize a scene. The news does come with a caveat, however. Both Tan and Carruth are no longer Dallas residents. Carruth decamped for New York for a variety of personal reasons, including citing a complacency that he experienced living in DFW. Tan moved to Austin, though, as he told us earlier this year, he is intrigued by how Dallas has changed since he left. But there is still much practical distance between the two cities, most notably Austin’s resources of crew and acting talent, as well as groups like the Austin Film Society which offer important grants to Texas filmmakers to kick-start production financing.