Just a little more than two years after opening AFS Cinema, which provides a home for its ambitious and long-lived film screenings and series, the Austin Film Society has completed a renovation that’s just as significant a contribution to the production side of the city’s film industry.
On Tuesday, AFS announced the completion of its Creative Media Center, a 38,500-square-foot expansion of the 20-acre Austin Studios campus. A voter-approved project created in partnership with the city, the center is located in a National Guard Building adjacent to the grounds of the former Mueller airport, where Austin Studios opened in 2000.
The center is an LEED-Certified adaptive reuse project that an AFS press release characterizes as “aligning with the community’s vision for the redevelopment of Mueller, as expressed in the Mueller Design Guidelines.” Designed by Gensler, which has recently had a hand in the new SXSW Center, Fairmont Austin, the Austin-Bergstrom airport expansion, and the city’s impending Major League Soccer stadium, the center is currently a flexible space to be finished out according to tenant specifications.
Those tenants can come in many varieties; the facilities—which include the adjacent Stage 7—are available for short-term production rentals or long-term leases to independent filmmakers, production companies, and other businesses in the field.
The exterior of the new center is framed by native grass lawns, courtyards, and a paseo. The central lobby and meeting spaces will be available for community use. In addition, the lawn will display Split Diopter, a large-scale sculpture by Texas artist Eric Eley.
Commissioned by the city’s Art in Public Places program specifically for the new Creative Media Center, the work references the anatomy of a film camera lens in a manner that acknowledges constantly changing perspectives on film and narrative media. Its square ceramic blocks are supported by an internal steel structure, and the artwork is lit by LED lights in red, blue, and green—the colors that compose all projected images.
Catherine Sckerl of Espero Planning and Design represented AFS and led the project team through a multiyear process on the center, which was built by Swinerton and project-managed by Broaddus & Associates. The City of Austin Economic Development Department, with assistance from the Public Works Department, was responsible for oversight.
The center is part of the essential growth of Austin Studios, which has seen steady growth in demand for its facilities and expertise since its opening. “The City of Austin has proven itself a visionary partner to the film industry,” said AFS founder and artistic director Richard Linklater in a press statement about the new media center. “They entrusted Austin Film Society to create this facility 20 years ago, helped us transform airplane hangars into soundstages in 2006, and worked with us to create a building that will provide essential space for independent filmmakers and small businesses.”
With the expansion, according to the statement, AFS expects to increase its already significant impact on Austin’s film and television sector, enabling the creation of new jobs, providing more accessible spaces for emerging artists, and supporting independent, locally owned, film-related businesses.