Texas is home to studio films, independent films, television series, commercials, industrials, and educational videos. It's obvious why Beth Sepko, one of the state's top casting directors and an Emmy winner for helping cast "Friday Night Lights," calls Texas the "third coast."
Local casting director Diana Guthrie thinks so many films are shot in Texas because the state looks so diverse. "You've got Texas hill country," she says. "You've got the Big Bend area, which is very mountainous and very desert-looking. You've got west Texas, which is just flat and plain and deader than a doornail. Northeast Texas has big pines and is very mountainous-looking. Texas is wonderful for filmmaking in that respect." But the talent is as diverse as the land, she notes. "Great Latin American actors, African-American actors, character actors up the wazoo, which is great, and the kids are terrific."
"There is a surprising amount of work in the state and in Dallas especially," says casting director Shannon Pinkston of Atomic Casting. Pinkston did the location casting for three seasons of Fox's "Prison Break" but now mostly casts commercials. "It's a great state to work in," she adds. "There are good projects that come here—great, résumé-building projects. It's a deep talent pool. We've got an amazing and impressive improv base here. There are good teachers, a lot of places you can go and really stretch your acting muscles and stay current."
The actors in the area are eager for the work. Guthrie is often surprised by how far some actors will drive to be considered for her projects, which have included the Disney Channel show "As the Bell Rings." Besides coming from all parts of Texas, performers drive to her office from Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico. She thinks the actors in Texas are underestimated. "They work harder because it's not like living in a market like L.A., where you're going out for auditions every day or every third day," she says. "The work isn't as plentiful as it is there. They have to work harder and train more so that when they do go in, they hit it."
Guthrie recommends that actors who want to get on her radar put together a showcase and invite casting directors and agents. Pinkston says that while she usually finds talent through agents, she always leaves audition spots open for people she hasn't met yet.
Actors who move to Texas are often surprised by how much they enjoy living and working there. "They think they're going to come here, get some experience, and move on," says Pinkston. "But a lot of people stay, or go away and come back, because they like the quality of life here, they like the opportunities that they have, and it's a great little market to shoot in. Plus, clients love coming here, which makes it even better."
Guthrie, who moved to Austin from Los Angeles 11 years ago, says it has a different feel than the larger markets do: "If you want to move here, it's a fun place to live, and I think you'd have a great time. But don't move here expecting it to be a major market like Chicago, New York, or L.A. It's not as busy a market, but it has a lot to offer. The talent, not just actors but directors, producers, and writers, is awesome. The feel is awesome here. It's a great state. I really enjoy Texas very much."
Diana Guthrie, www.dianaguthrie.com
Shannon Pinkston, Atomic Casting, www.atomic-casting.com