Copeland discusses future of Texas film industry
By Marc Speir
University News Service
SAN MARCOS -- Texas State University-San Marcos has ushered its fair amount of film and theatre talent to the nation with actors Powers Boothe (24, Deadwood, Sin City), Julie White (Best Actress Tony Award, Nadine on the television show Grace Under Fire, upcoming role on Desperate Housewives) and film director Thomas Carter (Coach Carter, Save the Last Dance, Swing Kids).
While the Department of Theatre and Dance at
“It’s pretty easy for anyone to go out and buy a camera now,” said Tom Copeland, adjunct professor of the business of film and problems in theatre courses at
Copeland, a former student of the theatre program at
“In the 70s you went to
Copeland is a player in the
“You have six different looks in a 30-40 mile range that could look like almost anywhere,” Copeland. “The weather is usually good, too.”
“The guys like (Richard) Linklater, (Robert) Rodriguez and Mike Judge really picked it up in the 90s,” Copeland said. “Things have leveled out a bit and we need to pick up the incentives to bring people here.”
While head of the TFC, Copeland did get incentive breaks passed by the state legislature to entice major studio productions. Unfortunately, his efforts were in vain when the funds were never allocated.
Two years after Copeland left the TFC, a scaled-down version similar to his bill was passed this summer advocating $20 million up front that could be awarded to productions spending considerable money on projects in
Copeland says that companies retreating to untested locations for such breaks probably won’t save as much as they hope after compounding the costs of assembling an outside crew and feeding and lodging them.
These are the types of problems that Copeland addresses in his courses at
His classes are designed to critique film as an investment, factoring in a number of positions required for movie making and meeting the demands of tight schedules and meticulous budgets.
The struggle for creative control is often tied up with monetary resources in the development of making a film from a conceptual idea to pre-production preparation and the filming process.
“Sometimes my students have a thing like a train hitting a car in their script,” Copeland said. “I have to look at them and ask if they think they can really pull this off.”
While Copeland says he enjoys working part-time at the university, he says he’d like to put together a film program at
“It wouldn’t need to be a traditional RTF (radio, television and film) department,” Copeland said. “My idea is more of a trade school approach with real ideas of what the jobs are and how to do it.”
Quick to give honest advice, Copeland maintains that the way to make it in film is to work up the ladder.
“You’ve got to be willing to do grunt work,” Copeland said. “That’s actually why I came here to Texas State to teach in the theatre program because these students have a real strong work ethic.”
While many students are disappointed by the realization that they won’t start out as executives or directors, Copeland says it is an attitude that must be understood.
“There are tons of guys out there with RTF degrees selling cars or doing something other than their degree because they didn’t have a realistic approach to how this business works,” Copeland said.
Copeland’s many contacts place students at internships nationwide, giving him a chance to utilize his oversized Rolodex.
“Most of them work as production assistants to start out,” Copeland said. “The question every one of my interns must say yes to is, ‘can you work with other people?’”
Copeland plans to continue consulting with Villa Muse Studios and would like to eventually form a collaboration between the studio and the university.
He says that further inter-departmental work between the
“These are two outstanding programs at our school,” Copeland said. “We just need to focus them a little more for film.”