June 22--LOCKHART -- When Hollywood producers went searching for the perfect place to film an epic battle between shape-changing robots from outer space, they looked no farther than Central Texas.
Filming for "Transformers 4," the latest installment of Michael Bay's blockbuster movie franchise, wrapped up in Lockhart last week, with other scenes shot in Taylor, Elgin and Pflugerville.
The filmmaker behind movies such as "Armageddon" and "Pearl Harbor" chose the small towns for their Americana aesthetic, according to Austin Film Commission marketing director Gary Bond.
The cities are also attractive because they are used to dealing with film crews, and the costs associated with shutting down streets and taking over buildings are often less than in larger cities. The abundance of tasty barbecue probably doesn't hurt, either.
Each city is a part of the Film Friendly Texas Communities program with the Texas Film Commission. The program helps prepare cities for the needs of film crews -- from road closures to police presence -- and the crews' often fast-paced schedules, said Heather Page, director of the Texas Film Commission.
Lockhart provided police and fire protection during filming and closed several roads, said Capt. John Roescher of the Lockhart Police Department. The production company paid the city about $16,500.
But the economic impact to the town is much bigger than that. "Transformers 4" delivered an estimated $70,000 boost to the city, said Sandra Mauldin, Lockhart's economic development director. The cast and crew of about 200 spent three days in town, filming mostly car chase sequences. They stayed in local hotels and ate at local restaurants.
"We're not even talking about the indirect impact of the people who came into town to watch the filming and eat barbecue," Mauldin said.
City officials noted few disruptions, aside from road closures and detours. A fire damaged the attic of a 100-year-old home in Pflugerville that was being used for filming, and one person was injured.
As Lockhart and other Central Texas cities prepare to take their turn on the big screen, many are hoping to see more high definition cameras on their streets. This is not the first time these cities have appeared in films, but "Transformers 4" is probably the most high-profile project to visit them.
Lockhart appeared in "The Faculty," "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" and "Bernie." Elgin showed up in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (the original one from 1974) as well as the film "Friday Night Lights." Taylor was used to film portions of "The Rookie" and "Varsity Blues." Scenes from "The Newton Boys" and "Secondhand Lions" were filmed in Pflugerville.
Despite the road closures and detours this week, residents in Lockhart took it in stride, Mauldin said. Lockhart has appeared in 50 films, television shows and commercials, she said. Volunteers with the tourism committee even a run a movie tour to show off where key scenes were filmed.
Lyric Sanchez, 15, was surprised when he found out that crews would film at his house in Lockhart. The longtime "Transformers" fan was thrilled when his backyard became a backdrop for the latest movie.
"It was basically a dream come true," said Sanchez, an aspiring filmmaker. "There was so much action and equipment and people. It was surreal."
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