More than 1,300 film projects have been made in Texas since 1910, including “Wings,” the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture (made in San Antonio  in 1927). Film production in Texas has been a vital part of the state’s economy for decades, bringing thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars to the state each year.
With mild winters and more than 267,000 square miles of diverse landscape to work with, Texas is an extremely versatile place to shoot movies, TV shows, music videos, commercials, and other independent film projects. Texas locations have doubled for the American Midwest, Mexico, Washington, D.C., Vietnam, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Africa, Florida, and a host of other places throughout the world.
The Texas Film Commission, a division of the governor’s office, lends filmmakers a hand by providing free information on locations, crews, talent, state and local contacts, weather, laws, sales tax exemptions, housing, and other film-related issues. The assistance certainly pays off, as Texas has received more than $2 billion in film-related expenditures during the past decade.
Filmmakers look kindly upon Texas because the state has experienced crew members, equipment vendors, and support services. On most features shot in Texas, 75 percent of the crew is hired locally, and the production company is 100 percent exempt from state and local sales taxes on most of the services and items they rent or purchase. In addition, Texas has several regional film offices that court the major studios and provide production assistance.
Dozens of acclaimed and influential films have been shot on location in Texas (of the hundreds of projects completed), and several have become celluloid classics. Most notable are the 1956 movie Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean, and John Wayne’s 1960 film The Alamo. Giant was filmed in West Texas, and its legacy is still celebrated in Marfa , where the stately 1930 Hotel Paisano  served as home base for the cast and crew. A glass case in the lobby displays movie-related magazine clippings and photos, and guests clamor to stay in James Dean’s hotel room.
The Alamo isn’t always remembered for its integrity as a dramatic film, but its set near the southwest Texas town of Brackettville remains a critical location for film projects and tourists. The Alamo Village bills itself as “Texas’s most active and versatile movie set” and features one of the industry’s largest and most complete backlots, boasting “no false fronts here.” The site has hosted more than 200 major feature films, TV movies, miniseries, documentaries, commercials, and music videos.
Other significant film projects shot in Texas include The Last Picture Show (1971, screenplay by Texan Larry McMurtry), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973), Urban Cowboy (1979), Terms of Endearment (1983, based on McMurtry’s novel), David Byrne’s brilliant True Stories (1986), McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove (1990), Austinite Richard Linklater’s generation-defining Slacker (1990), David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, Austinite Robert Rodriguez’s groundbreaking El Mariachi (1992), Linklater’s classic Dazed and Confused (1992), Christopher Guest’s hilarious Waiting for Guffman (1995), Dallas  native Wes Anderson’s masterpiece Rushmore (1997), Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000), and Quentin Tarantino and Rodriguez’s double feature Grind House (2006).
In addition to its mighty movie credits, Texas has hosted noteworthy television shows. Perhaps most significant of them all is Dallas  (1978–1990), which entranced audiences across the globe with its Texas-worthy dramatic storylines centered around oil magnate J. R. Ewing and his family. Equally as remarkable yet more artistically viable is PBS’s venerable Austin City Limits  (1975–present), broadcasting top-notch country, roots, and alternative music across America and spawning its thriving annual music festival. Other notable Texas TV shows include a season of MTV’s The Real World shot in Austin (2005), NBC’s critically acclaimed Friday Night Lights (2006–present), and finally, in the bizarro category, Barney and Friends, filmed in Dallas (1992–2002).