Anton, Mark, and Al

Over the holidays, a motley crew of filmmakers — my Austin buddies Mark Hacker and Al Rodriguez — stopped by my local Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Beverly Hills. Mark is a talented producer and founder of Wildfire Films, Al an accomplished screenwriter and cousin to another Austin star, Robert Rodriguez. And they brought along a new member of their Wildfire Films team, writer and producer Anton Diether (Swiss Family RobinsonMoby Dick).

The subject quickly turned to the guys’ excitement about Austin as the new Hollywood. Anton has recently moved there after a 20-year career in Los Angeles and admits never feeling so inspired. “After years of being told to ‘just write’ I finally get a chance to produce and see my film scripts realized the way I want them to be,” Anton told me.

He has found an Act Two outside the confines of the 310 area code.

So have many others.

In my travels, I have seen many top “film towns,” including Austin. Each boasts a fiery independent streak and is very often populated by Hollywood escapees seeking more creative freedom. But as Mark said in our talk, ” A good film town has to go beyond just tax breaks and post-house facilities, there has to be a range of above- and below-the-line talent in a city eager to create something new.”

In my new book I will talk about these second cities including: Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, Nashville, Tennessee, Atlanta, Georgia, and of course Austin. What’s your “outside-the-beltway” experience in your film town? And what are the pros and cons of living outside L.A?

“For me,” Anton summed up with a movie reference, “it’s like the difference of Mommie, Dearest, in which all you know is getting beaten, and now suddenly you have a brand new parent who’s kind and caring. It feels great to be out of L.A.”

If our Cat! writing groups which are set up around the country, and the world, are any indication, we have a lot of talent out there ready for new opportunities, no matter where we find them.

Monday I will be introducing the leaders of our Cat! writing groups, and discussing further plans for even greater creative and networking opportunities.