Gone to Texas: Austin’s Film Scene Through New York Eyes

on Thursday, Sep. 20th

Formerly our man in NYC, film writer Jonathan Poritsky is now our man in Austin, Texas. This is the story of how and why.

The end of July was weird for me. I quit my job, bought a car, left New York City and hit the road for Austin, Texas. My girlfriend, Kristyn, is getting her PhD at the University of Texas and, since I wasn’t in the market for a new girlfriend, I decided to join her on this adventure. By no means was it a simple decision.

It wasn’t easy to find my footing in New York, and I had gotten quite comfortable. I had a good day job in post production, landed a good deal for a large-ish apartment on the Upper West Side and was on all the invite lists for indie press screenings, local film fests, etc. Why start all over in a new town?

For one, I like Austin. I have attended the SXSW Film Festival and Conference since 2010, and every year I had a blast in this town. More than that though, I could feel how seriously the town takes its artists, and how supportive it is of them.

Once upon a time, you could come to New York with a dream and some talent and live an artistic life. I, of course, have no memory of such an epoch. Perhaps it’s just a bedtime story drafted inside the Empire State Building and sent out with the tooth fairy. The New York I lived in for six years was one where struggling artists would have to scratch and claw their way to the middle, and work their asses off just to get by. The expectation was put best by Loreen Horvath, the protagonist’s mother on “Girls”: “Why don’t you get a job and start a blog?!”

Which is exactly what I did. But what if I didn’t have to? What if I lived somewhere where the cost of living actually made it feasible for me to pursue work on my own terms? My friends in Austin would tell me not only how ridiculously low their rent was, but how free their schedules were. You can live here with what I would call “no money” and still get by, still make rent, and still pursue creative endeavors. Not that that’s the life I’d like to lead (I’m looking for a full-time job, if anyone’s hiring), but one could actually live as an artist out here.

And what are the results? A thriving artistic community, a happening film scene and America’s fastest growing city. Whatever Austin is doing, it’s doing it right.

Now, I’m still new here and finding my footing, but I can tell you what I do notice about the film community. When I first moved to New York, the biggest culture shock was the artistic sprawl. When I lived in Philadelphia, I felt I understood who was who in the film community at large. I didn’t know everyone, but I felt like I had heard of almost everyone. In New York you couldn’t throw a Metrocard into a crowd without hitting a filmmaker. Communities cleaved along neighborhoods and tastes; good like finding your way in that environment.

The people I’ve met here in Austin have been warm and open, rattling off lists of people to speak with who may either have work or would be good to share a coffee with. Folks I consider “Twitter acquaintances” bought me lunch and told me a bit about how to acclimate myself. Look, it’s not “Sesame Street” over here, but the community seems tight-knit enough that almost everyone knows almost everyone else.

That’s the kind of community I was looking for. I can’t wait to see how this decision plays out for me, but more importantly I can’t wait to see where Austin finds itself in five years. My money is on being an even bigger creative hot-spot.

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