Ewing Better Have a Better Plan Than This

In about two hours, Mayor Laura Miller, Dallas Film Commission director Janis Burkland and Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau president and CEO Phillip Jones will gather at City Hall to debut their latest pitch to lure the big-screen version of Dallas. From what I hear, their latest "initiative" prominently features this lousy, ho-hum slogan:

"Shoot J.R. in Dallas."

It's almost as awful as the city's slogan "Live Large. Think Big." OK, so it's not quite as bad. Not much could be. But, still...

The fact Dallas is even begging for Dallas is a little embarrassing. Fact is, 20th Century Fox ain't gonna be swayed by some pep-rally sloganeering. It comes down to money and unions and a whole bunch of things over which the mayor has no control, including the rewriting of legislation that ain't gonna get done at some Wednesday-afternoon city council lunch-break prayer meeting. As Christopher Kelly wrote last month in the Fort Worth-Star Telegram:

"Texas just can't compete with these other places when it comes to offering financial incentives to lure Hollywood productions to the state. More than a blow to the city's ego, losing Dallas could also mean losing the multimillion-dollar windfall that a big-budget film would bring to the local economy...'The studio (20th Century Fox) has been asking us to consider a number of states,' says Michael Costigan, who is producing the film along with David Jacobs, the original show's creator. 'Honestly, Dallas was never high on the list, because it didn't seem like a feasible, economic place to do the movie.'"

A pal of mine whose livelihood depends on local film and television production says trying to bring Dallas here is "like fighting an uphill battle," because you can't lower union rates any further and because it's just cheaper to shoot, well, just about anywhere else, especially if you go to Canada, where Toronto's often a stand-in for Manhattan, or Louisiana, one of the states in the running for the production.

"I don't want to discourage them, certainly, but I don't know what you can do," says my friend. "I've listened to people bitch when they don't have any work, but you can't just make it free. Any help is appreciated. I just don't know that I would try to put everything on Dallas."

Absolutely, especially when you consider the high crap potential. According to Chris Kelly:

"The film, which was first announced in fall 2002, already has a number of significant elements in place: The screenplay is written by veteran playwright Robert Harling (Steel Magnolias) and Sacha Gervasi (The Terminal); Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Monster-in-Law) is attached to direct. And though casting is still being worked out, John Travolta (as J.R.) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (as Pam) have been rumored to be in negotiations. The movie is expected to be in the spirit of such recent, slightly tongue-in-cheek TV-to-movie transfers like Charlie's Angels and The Dukes of Hazzard."

Yup, this is just the kind of quality production we oughta grovel for. Shouldn't we be asking them to go away, please? I know the money would be nice and is needed and necessary, but me, I'd be begging Chuck Norris to resurrect Walker, Texas Ranger; at least folks would get regular work without being burdened by the expectation of making quality product. And have you seen a John Travolta movie lately that was any good? Thought not.

Can't wait to hear the slogan in-person. —Robert Wilonsky

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