Fox's hit series Prison Break was supposed to start shooting in Dallas last Thursday; didn't happen. Turns out, though, the delay lasted merely 24 hours as the show's producers were in negotiations with Invasion star and oh-it's-that-guy William Fichtner, who eventually signed on to play the federal marshal charged with apprehending Michael (Wentworth Miller), Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) and all the other cons who made, duh, a prison break at the end of last season. That means Fichtner will be around town for a good eight or nine months, which is what Dallas Film Commission director Janis Burklund figures it'll take to shoot the 20 episodes slated to be filmed locally. Having Prison Break here's kind of like having spring break in Padre--big news, big money, a big deal. "It's hard to get a series," Burklund says, "and to get one that's already a hit, that's a bonus."
But Prison Break's not the only thing shooting in town at the moment: Danica McKellar--yup, Winnie of The Wonder Years--is here, or about to be any moment, to shoot something called Inspector Mom, which is on the one hand a made-for-Lifetime movie and on the other hand an online-only series consisting of 10 webisodes. She plays woman named Maddie Monroe who's a mother by day and mystery-solver by, uh, late afternoon--think Murder, She Wrote meets Spy Kids, or something. Burklund says this project is "very low-budget, a small thing." In other words, not Prison Break. Speaking of breaks, we received yesterday a clearance form from Warner Bros. Pictures wanting to know if the studio could use Dallas Observer boxes in its upcoming movie called Spring Breakdown, starring Amy Poehler (who stars with Fichtner in the upcoming Blades of Glory) and Rachel Dratch of Saturday Night Live and Parker Posey of everything. But it doesn't look like the movie's actually going to be made in Dallas; says here in Variety it starts shooting early in July...in Los Angeles. "That happens all the time," Burklund says. "The movie's set here but shoots there." Spoken like someone who went through a little bit of hell just to get the Dallas film shot in Dallas for a few weeks, rather than just a few days.
In order to plug that leak and lure more films here, Dallas' film commission and others from around the state have banded together as the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, which will act as a lobbying organization to pressure the state legislature to get off its ass and finally fund Texas Senate Bill 1142, which passed last May but was never funded in the budget. The bill would offer rebates and other incentives to entice filming in the state, but Texas is still holding nothing more than an empty promise while some 29 other states land bigger projects than, oh, Inspector Mom (no offense, Winnie). Last week, the TMPA held one of its first formal meetings in Austin and elected as its president none other than Dallas' Hector Garcia--owner of Hector's on Henderson, former member of the City Plan Commission, member of the Screen Actors Guild and partner of former Dallas city councilman Craig Holcomb, which makes him one connected guy.
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"He understands how to speak to the politicians, having the actor and politician in him," Burklund says. "Hector works that very well. All we had to do was get him in front of the group Friday and have him speak for them to know he was the man we needed speaking for us. Because this is important: We need to get that legislation in place, and we need to do it as a true statewide alliance and not as a few individuals or as a loosely formed group here and there. We have to make a push to make this happen before we lose more productions to other states." Till then, if you see Bill Fichtner around town, tell him he was awesome in Go. --Robert Wilonsky