Entertainment industry continues to bring artistic dollars to Austin

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Most UT students studying fine arts and film aren’t millionaires, but their field of interest brings millions of dollars to Austin.

According to economic studies from 2001 to 2006 released by the city, the entertainment industry in Austin boasts 44,000 permanent jobs with $827.7 million in compensation as of 2004, bringing in more than $2.25 million to the local economy. The studies reported data collected from film, music, entertainment and digital media organizations throughout Austin. City council members plan to update and review the analysis based on results from yesterday’s regular meeting.

Council member Mike Martinez said in a press release that the council gained a better understanding of the industry through the reports and called the creative industry a target for economic growth.

Despite the national economic recession, students pursuing jobs in the creative industry can take inspiration from the community’s support of their work, said UT Theatre and Dance spokeswoman Cassie Gholston.

“It’s not a great economy for it, but it’s not a great economy for anything,” Gholston said. “They’re carving out their own niche in a way, and the great thing is how Austin is really supportive of what they do. They can see the arts in the community and see that there is an audience for it.”

Gholston said several Austin-area artists have established their own studios, production companies and theatrical agencies, and the Department of Theatre and Dance connects students with faculty involved in these organizations. She said opportunities for students looking to showcase their work are also made possible through the department because of the community.

Stephen Jannise, program director for Austin Film Festival, said film festivals in the city offer opportunities for students to gain exposure with filmmakers.

“Film festivals play a role in bringing more filmmakers to town,” Jannise said. “Hollywood has always been the center for filmmaking, but people are considering moving operations here and that will give back to the local economy.”

He said several film festivals partner with hotels to house producers and film scouts, who also visit city coffee shops and bars during their stay.

Jannise said the Austin Film Festival accepts student submissions each year and also holds a separate student-only film contest.

Communication Career Services director Matt Berndt said participating in these opportunities is imperative for students planning to pursue film careers.

“If you have been bitten by the entertainment bug, you know you will have to try,” Berndt said. “People flock to Los Angeles and New York to begin their careers in film because that’s where most of the decisions get made, but students who do that have worked their way into those opportunities.”

Berndt said while film opportunities are available in Austin, they are more prominent in California, and UT advisers are willing to connect students with alumni already working in the industry.

“I think if you have the drive, there’s a lot of opportunity to make it in the film industry,” said Joshua Riehl, a radio-television-film senior who has produced short films on his own. “The community supports it, but you have to do a lot to make it on your own. You have to be dedicated, and it has to become your life.” 

Printed on Friday, August 26, 2011 as: Entertainment industry offers careers, student opportunities.