Most of us know what New York City is like through film. Even those who have never been to the Big Apple can recognize Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages and tree-lined trails and Times Square jammed with crowds of sight-seers. Although it was refreshing to catch glimpses of our city’s iconic skyline in the new PBS series “The Brain,” with Baylor scientist David Eagleman, Houston – the most diverse city in the country – is an under-filmed place.

Money may be the root cause: Our state provides an anemic incentive program to attract movie makers to Texas. But just as important, Houston doesn’t have a well-developed film culture.

Yet, Houston’s status as a film outsider may be slowly changing. “In the last few years, there’s been a lot more indigenous film-making that’s representative of Houston’s ethnic make-up, and it’s beginning to be recognized on a national stage for the first time,” said Rick Ferguson, executive director of the Houston Film Commission.

Houston’s expanding film reach will be on display starting Nov. 12 at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. For the first time in its seven-year history, the festival – founded by Houstonian Franci Neely – is heavy on Texas connections. “The primary reason for our Texas emphasis is the explosion of cinematic talent here,” Richard Herskowitz, Houston Cinema Arts Festival artistic director, said at Thursday’s kick-off. To give a few examples: Trey Edward Shults, who was raised in Houston, filmed “Krisha” last year in nearby Montgomery. It won two prizes at the SXSW Film Festival. Patrick Wang, born in Sugar Land, is returning home to present two films that have garnered much acclaim in the indie film community. And former Houston SWAMP and Austin Film Society staff member Katie Cokinos is bringing her debut feature, “I Dream Too Much,” to the festival. She’ll be accompanied by its producer, our state’s most highly regarded director, Richard Linklater to the festival.

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