Pilot Point sees film action
By Abigail Allen
"Roll camera. And—action." That's what A.J. Bleyer, Los Angeles-based DGA director and photographer, called out on Nov. 7 on set inside Pilot Point's Lizzy- Gator venue.
Bleyer and Luke Lashley of Austin-based BL&S worked together to shoot and produce a video featuring big figures in the eSports world for the VALORANT Champions Tour.
"A lot of these projects are not only to document and interview these different Esports players, but also to capture some fun content that's representative of them or where they're based out of," Bleyer said. "So, we oftentimes like to lean into spaces or themes that would just be a fun intro to the video that's representative of them."
Bleyer has been to the Austin area previously, but this was his first project in the Dallas-Fort
"Some of the biggest gaming talent oddly enough in the entire country is really centered in Texas," he said.
Pilot Point caught Bleyer's eye on the list of over 150 Film Friendly Texas communities selected by the Texas Film Commission.
The city was granted that designation on April 15 by Gov. Greg Abbott, with state Senator Drew Springer and state Rep. Jared Patterson adding their congratulations to the city on the step. Getting the distinction took the time, energy and effort of Municipal Development District Executive Director Denise Morris and Economic Development Coordinator Wendy Haun.
"Pilot Point is excited to make our Film Friendly certification official! Film crews took over the streets of Pilot Point in 1967 during the filming of ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ and the city now celebrates ‘the day Hollywood came to town’ with an annual Bonnie and
Clyde Days festival,” Morris said in April. “Pilot Point and the Lake Ray Roberts recreational area have endless opportunities for future site locations."
The feel of the piece Bleyer and Lashley created was a mix between Western and Spaghetti Western, which made LizzyGator the perfect spot, Bleyer said.
"When we stumbled across that location online, it looked just fantastic and really quirky," he said. "And then when we arrived it was really everything that we wanted it to be."
Bleyer was complimentary of both the area and of venue owners Elizabeth "Lizzy Gator" Jones and Chris Duncan. "This is what [being a Film Friendly Texas community is] all about," Jones said. "I'm honored to be the first."
The usual eclectic mix of furniture that fills the room was moved or removed to make way for the set and the equipment, and Jones was on hand to help provide any additional help as needed.
During the project, Bleyer stayed in an Airbnb near Ray Roberts Lake, which he called beautiful.
"Coming from LA where there's really no place to kind of get quiet and catch your breath without it being a paid experience somewhere, it's really nice to not deal with traffic and have these big beautiful open roads and the weather was absolutely perfect and everyone was friendly," Bleyer said. "We got some great barbecue. It was great."
That's part of what Lashley loved about his work with Bleyer in Pilot Point.
"It's always great hosting people from LA or New York," Lashley said. "I feel like there's more people relocating here. More production companies and agencies and brands seeing Texas as a viable production destination, so that's been our niche, really,
is hosting those people."
Bleyer and Lashley have collaborated on multiple projects.
"Producing something from across the country is difficult, so for our company to help facilitate that's really great, and it's fun," Lashley said.
He said Texas working on having more and more film friendly cities is "a step in the right direction" for the state to become a bigger draw.
"Production's [got] a really solid impact," Lashley said. "We've catered entirely through local restaurants, we're shooting at a local venue, we have a '79 Dodge Super Bee that we rented from a local owner as our picture car. Production comes and to shoot locally, you have to spend local. It's smart that Pilot Point's doing it."
Dallas Customs and Classics provided that car, with business and car owner Todd McGuire saying he loved seeing his car serve as a costar.
"They've taken a lot of footage of it," he said. "Driven it around, slammed it around, burned tires."
Michael Tomassetti, who provided the lighting, was also glad to get to work on the project just down the road from his home in
Dallas. Texas "always has been" a good option for film projects, Tomassetti said.
To see the footage featuring Andrej "babybay" Francisty, Jaccob "yay" Whiteaker, Pujan "FNS" Mehta and Austin "crashies" Roberts, visit youtu.be/TOmMgL0dsPs .