As was widely reported last week, a new film studio has opened in North Austin, Texas under the direction of a partnership between Bulltiger Productions and 25 year industry veteran Randall P. Dark. Stephen Brent formed Bulltiger Productions in 2011 to develop film, games, mobile apps and graphic novels. Dark is the founder of HD Vision in New York City and Dallas, a co-founder of HD Vision Studios in Los Angeles. I spoke with Dark to learn more about the new facility.
Digital Cinema Report: Working with Stephen Brent and his company Bulltiger Productions, you are developing what you’re billing – at 10,000 square feet – as the largest sound stage in the Austin, Texas area. Is the facility open for business yet and, if not, when do you anticipate opening?
Randall Dark: We've opened the doors for business and several film projects have already used the facility while we continue to make cosmetic improvements to the space. We're in pre-production for a number of our own projects but our official opening is expected in mid-January. We're also adding offices, edit suites and an additional shooting stage.
DCR: Your wife, Kristen Cox, is a well-known successful filmmaker and producer herself. The two of you have partnered on many ventures. Is she officially involved in this new effort?
RD: Although Kristen is not officially involved with this, she will be helping where and when she can.
DCR: Austin is home to one of the most vibrant independent film communities in the country. How much of a factor did that play in your decision to develop a sound stage there?
RD: Bulltiger’s founders are life-long Texans who have called Austin home for nearly two decades. While creating a home base for their own projects, it just made sense to open up to the local film community. In addition to providing support for independent film makers, the relationships we forge with people who use our space only increases our awareness of Austin’s talent pool. Austin is home to a number of really excellent studios that are open to the public, but we’re a production house as well. Rentals are a great opportunity to “audition” tech talent for our really large projects.
DCR: This is a significant investment. Was there a specific need that you identified in the area?
RD: Initially, the studio was going to exclusively facilitate Bulltiger projects. Dialogue with our local and international filmmaker friends made it clear that there was a need for additional studio space as well as production and post-production services in Austin.
DCR: Is the space completely open or are there columns?
RD: There are columns but since we have such a large amount of floor space, most sets will be able to work around them.
DCR: Other than its square footage, what are the exact dimensions of the sound stage?
RD: It’s 130 by 80 feet. In January we will be expanding and adding an additional 130 by 240 feet.
DCR: How many, if any, of the walls have windows? What size are the windows?
RD: There are no windows inside the sound stage or our edit bays. The production offices are bright and sunny.
DCR: What is the ceiling height to the grid?
RD: It’s 28 feet.
DCR: What support equipment, if any, will you provide on sight?
RD: We have relationships with local equipment companies to supply everything we need from the start. As we evolve, we'll be adding equipment that supports the type of productions we're attracting. Our own needs require us to have edit suites up and running immediately. I have my own cameras and am constantly testing the latest and coolest equipment to see what I want to use next and what I would recommend, which normally depends on the end look desired and the budget parameters.
DCR: What was your thinking in including a 2,500 square foot green screen?
RD: We wanted a sound stage that had as many options as possible. Having a large green screen just made sense.
DCR: Other than its square footage, what are the dimensions of the green screen?
RD: Presently the size of the green screen is 40 by 28 by 40 feet. x28x40. What I love about our facility is that we can increase that size if required.
DCR: Austin is home to the University of Texas, which has one of the country’s most widely admired film and television programs. What relationship, if any, does your facility have with the university?
RD: None yet but we will reach out to all the surrounding Universities. Texas has a number of Universities with high quality film and video departments and we plan on utilizing them as we can.
DCR: Similar question. Every year Austin plays host to the increasingly important SXSW Festival. What relationship, if any, do you have with the festival?
RD: Over the years I have been involved with SXSW a number of times. In fact, we had the world premiere of [Randall Dark’s] Angels Sing there two years ago. We plan to work closely with members of the SXSW team.
DCR: In addition to an indoor shooting space, what, if any, production or post services will you provide to producers?
RD: To start with, we'll have a variety of cameras on site as well as an editing suite. The equipment and services will grow as we do.
DCR: Will this new venture partner with filmmakers on projects or serve as distributor?
RD: We want to function as a service provider for filmmakers but have not ruled out the possibility of distribution for certain types of projects.
DCR: In the press release announcing the new sound stage, you mentioned an upcoming film technology festival. The industry seems inundated by trade shows. Have you identified a niche you feel needs to be addressed?
RD: I think there needs to be a focus on a business to business film technology festival. Trust me, we have enough that give out awards.
DCR: Finally, everyone accepts and agrees that the movie and television production business is transforming before our eyes and at a rate that seems faster than at any time in a generation or two. At this juncture this question that may have no definitive answer, but as someone who has always been viewed as an early adopter, what are your thoughts about the direction the industry is moving?
RD: Vertical integration of creative ideas is more important than ever. Creating multiple revenue streams for a franchise has been the hallmark of companies like Disney for years. Movie, sound track and a line of everything from talking toys to lunch boxes is not a new concept. However, with the advent of tablets, iPads, and gaming consoles (products that operate as simple playback devices up to 3D immersive experiences), the business model has to be different to accommodate the gamut of opportunities. Bulltiger will take an idea and develop it for everything. And I mean everything.