Resting along the banks of the Colorado River outside of Austin, Texas sits New Republic Studios, a sprawling 200-acre film and television production facility. With four purpose-built sound stages and several production facilities on-site, New Republic Studios is looking to make Austin another center for filmmaking in the US.
Originally opened as Spiderwood Studios, New Republic was recently purchased by tech entrepreneur John Robison. Robison is the Chairman and Co-Founder of the technology company, Gov Whiz, Inc. (with Morgan Warstler), multimedia technology platform ArenaEdge, Inc. and Vizidot, which helps brands to use their brand logos to bring consumable content such as music, movies and education to the masses.
Though Robison’s background is primarily in tech, he is no stranger to the film and arts community. He serves on the board of the Austin Film Society & Studios with filmmaker Richard Linklater, as well as Austin Public (Public Television) and the Austin Music Awards with SXSW.
Robison sees New Republic as the perfect facility to lead the convergence of technology and film. “I look at content as flowing more towards technology, and the two are becoming the same more and more,” says Robison. “The reason I purchased the studio and named it New Republic was because Texas, and in particular Austin, is a phenomenal place in the middle of the country that every tech company on the planet has learned to move more of their employees to.”
Mindy Raymond, Director of Marketing and Development for New Republic Studios, echoes Robison’s views on the technology side of the industry. “I think tech is obviously bringing a lot of people into the fold which is great,” she says. “We love that and there is a great convergence of media and tech that’s happening in Austin.”
Raymond, who began her career as an actress and producer, served on the board of the Austin Actors Conservatory before moving on to work with the Texas Motion Picture Alliance. “I still continue to act, but it was a natural step for me to run the studios,” she says. “My goal in all of this is just to bring more production to Texas.”
Robison shares Raymond’s enthusiasm for keeping film and television jobs in the region. “My goal is to just help create a farm team to fuel the system to further create the mechanisms for people to make their living here,” he says. “The technology sector has already learned that Austin provides a well-educated workforce with a good economy, a low cost of living and no state income tax.”
Filmmaking is not a new industry to Austin. Over the last couple of decades, dozens of movies have been shot in the area, including “Transformers: Age of Extinction, “The Tree of Life” and “Office Space,” and has been a favorite location spot for filmmakers like Texas-natives Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriquez. The city has also been the home of television series like “The Leftovers,” “Fear the Walking Dead” and “From Dusk till Dawn: The Series.”
One of the reasons for the relatively recent increase in production has been the lower cost of production. “If you really look at the line-item on how much it’s actually going to cost you to do business, it’s going to be more cost-effective in Texas than anywhere else, I can almost guarantee it,” says Raymond. “Any factors that come into play when a TV show or movie plops down for a few months, the cost of the crew, gas, accommodations, even the lumber are going to be cheaper here.”
Raymond also credits the generosity and eagerness of the locals as a reason for the recent growth. “People are bending over backward to get people to film at their locations,” she says. “They are phenomenal film-friendly folks where New Republic is located in our county.”
John Robison’s vision for New Republic goes beyond that of a traditional production studio. “I see it as a place that is everything a traditional lot is, but also a place that ties with the academic,” he says. “I want to utilize the university systems here. The University of Texas and Texas A & M’s systems are sending all of the jobs out of the area. I want to make it a home where it’s like a farm team, where the academics and people from the college system and people from the trade among the Austin Film Society and Austin Public can be provided with equipment to start making content.”
Robison also wants New Republic to be a destination for new technology. “This is a place where location-based AR/VR (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality) can happen,” he says. “Kids can come experience it. Companies can come train their people, from oil fields to medical to content-creators, whether they’re doing it for education or whether they’re doing it for entertainment.”
As the film and television production grows in the Austin area, New Republic is growing too. “This summer we’ll be breaking ground on 30,000 square feet of sound stages,” says Raymond. “The potential is to have two of them that can combine into a 60,000 square foot sound stage. The sound stages that we have now are great for commercials and some independent films, but we really need the bigger stages to draw in the TV shows and movies and the bigger projects.” Also included in New Republic’s expansion is more production office space, a water feature, production storage and an AR/VR immersive media campus.
“I want to create an environment where you have everything you need,” says Robison. “Where families can move and have a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood with great schools. Where someone can be twenty minutes from the airport and get to either side of the country as needed. I see that as my vision for what I’m building in this place.”
Transcribing services by Eaya Moore.