Did you know there’s never been a rom-com set in Austin?? Come on! Love is in the air in this city! Here are our top 5 must have locations to include when someone finally decides to lasso this cash cow.
“I put my thing down, flip it, and reverse it.”
In the immortal words of the great Missy Elliott, I am taking two of our previous pieces and remixing them. If you take a music theory course in college, they call this, ‘“variations of a theme.” It’s what Hamilton did at the highest level with American history. It’s what Chris Dodson argues Drake’s “November 18th” failed to do with DJ Screw’s “June 27th.” It’s what Mean Girls beautifully did with Shakespeare. (Wait is that one actually true or did I make that up?)
I am going to take my Love in the Time of COVID series where I have been prepping for the inevitable COVID rom-com, Dodson’s New Orleans Top 20 Artists to Survive 2020, add some hometown love, and give you the Top 5 locations for the ATX rom-com.
Austin has a proud film history. Of course we have our Patron saint, our version of Boston’s Larry Bird, Richard Linklater. Rick deserves his own deep dive, and we’ll make that happen. For now, I’ll just say I was listening to an interview with Linklater where he said they were shooting Dazed and Confused and the cast was super low energy and lethargic and he eventually got them to fess up to having taken shrooms the day before. Lol.
We have Mr. Robert Rodriguez, who feels to me like Austin’s Kylo Ren. And of course we have our true icon, the hero of Austin, Matthew McConaughey. Oh sweet Matty McCon. The rumors are true, on the right day you can catch McConaughey driving UT students around campus in a golf cart. My wife got a ride from him once. And guys, having experienced this first hand, there is truly no experience parallel to when they put McConaughey on the jumbotron during a UT football game and he starts doing the chest pound from Wolf On Wall St… It’s hypnotizing. Honestly my blood is rising just thinking back to it.
So here is the list of movies (I’d heard of) set in Austin:
Dazed and Confused
Zombieland (at least the beginning)
And just for fun, some movies filmed in Austin:
Kill Bill: Volume 1
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
Also this not the movie, but I have to raise a glass to the Friday Night Lights show, which was filmed here. I still love, and folks in the Austin film industry will tell you was a BOON for Austin film because there was so much work. If nothing else, we can all agree, “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
But guys, NO ROM-COMS!!!! Are you kidding me??!? Love is in the air down here! Nothing says love quite like strapping in a pair of cowboy boots and heading down to The White Horse to two step to live, old school country on a hot Texas Summer night. The balmy dusk air, embracing the sweat, Topo Chico in the back pocket of your worn jeans, Tito’s vodka or a Lone Star in your hand… Come on film folks! We’re readymade for you!
So here we are, when a studio finally lassoes this obvious cash cow, they are welcome to use ideas from this post for free, just make sure to tag @musicmoviesandhoops!
[Insert: Enough COVID already, I need a break—and it might be enough COVID forever, have you seen the vaccine news? I’m putting this damn virus aside, for the purposes of this piece and this hypothetical movie: NO COVID.]
1.) Manor Road
If it’s your first day in Austin you’re probably saying 6th Street. If it’s your second rodeo to Bat City, you’re likely going with Rainey. And if you live here, it’s probably East 6th or if you have kids, South Congress. For me, my favorite street in Austin is Manor Road. (Blows kiss to Manor.) Austin has a frustrating issue where even seemingly neighborhood streets have two lanes each way and a merge lane that make them intimidating to pedestrians. One reason I love Manor, one lane each way. Feels very cozy. A place where you want to park your car and set out on foot for an adventure.
Our blossoming lovers can grab a frozen marg and sit on the deck at Mi Madre—best tortilla chips in Austin! Get a coffee and people watch at the delightful Thunderbird Coffee. Play corn hole and shuffleboard at Haymaker. Of course the leads will HAVE to pop in for a mini-cocktail flight, the duck fat fries, and the beef shoulder at my favorite cocktail and dining spot in the whole city, Salty Sow!
And the real holy grail of Manor, the Vortex Theatre, Patrizi’s food truck, Butterfly Bar trifectorate. These three businesses share a common outdoor space in what feels like a super vibey, throwback to an older, more DIY Austin. Patrizi’s makes their own pasta from scratch and it’s to die for. You can have a delicious meal for $10. I’m sure that if they had a brick-and-mortar, they could charge $25/plate. The Vortex does stellar work putting on avant-garde productions of original and reimagined work promoting diverse communities and “voices from the global majority.” And on the right night, you can enjoy a delicious cocktail from the Butterfly Bar by the fire while enjoying my friends lead the Bluegrass Jam!
Umlauf is a sublime reimagining of an art museum. You’re outside, in a woodsy, borderline fantastical space, surrounded by sculptures. It’s dope! The garden contains 58 sculptures by the incredible Charles Umlauf. “Umlauf’s sculptures range from haunting expressionism, to detailed neoclassical realism, to lyrical abstraction.” Mmm, yes please.
I see this being a fantastic first date scene. It’s beautiful, shooting it would be a joy. You can’t lose.
Austin is filled to the brim with breweries. What a great thing to have in abundance! And they continue to pop up like bluebonnets in Spring. You could film at so many of them and it would be excellent. With the third selection in the ATX location draft, I’m going Jester King because it’s out in the woods, it’s big, open, heavenly sour beers, and hey, I used to play their every month and sometimes you gotta rep your people!
Jester King Brewery is a ways out of town, you take 290 South towards Dripping Springs. Maybe we get some nice shots on the way down. When you get there, it’s like a big compound out in the Texas brush. Multiple buildings, giant barn, amazing wood fired pizzas. There’s a men’s bathroom made from an old trailer, a nice touch. It’s always packed with families, revelry, parties, music!
But as I said, you simply can’t go wrong when it comes to the brewery scene. Other spots that would be terrific, Lazarus Brewing Co, Vista Brewing, Oskar Blues Brewery, and Zilker Brewing Co, would crush, just to name a few!
4.) Cactus Cafe
If we’re shooting an Austin rom-com, the characters are going to see live music. I mean, that goes without saying. In fact one of the leads should be a musician. And like the last location, when it comes to live music, you’re like Quentin Tarantino choosing actors for his next film, choices for days. For my taste, I have to go Cactus Cafe. The Cactus is probably the definitive listening room in Austin. It only holds up to 100. Housed in UT’s Student Union, the Cactus has been around for 40 years and seen the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, T-Bone Burnett, Dixie Chicks, Brandi Carlile, and Nickel Creek grace it’s enchanted stage. The sound is impeccable, the space oozes music, no one goes there to talk or get loaded. You go to the Cactus to experience great music in its purest form.
Our leading couple could sit up front, 4 feet from the stage, at one of the trademark round wooden tables, and enjoy the songs and stories from one of Austin’s finest songwriters: Ray Wylie Hubbard, Carrie Rodriguez, Walt Wilkins, or Eliza Gilkyson.
5.) Barton Springs
You know, to try and keep this a bit more local, share some deeper cuts, I actively tried to stay away from some of the famous “Austin attractions,” the bat bridge, the Capitol, but when it comes to Barton Springs—the three acre, semi-manmade-semi-part-of-the-river super pool in the heart of the city—there’s no swimming around it. It’s beautiful, it’s unique, the water is cold. If even a scene of this movie is set in Summer, it’s a must. Had to do it, wanted to do it!
ATX folks, where would you like to see a scene take place?