New film studio coming to central Texas college town in 2025

The film and television landscape of Texas has been largely dominated by the city of Austin for decades, but in 2025, it will have new competition.

Hill Country Studios, a 200-acre film production studio with new virtual film technology, is under construction in San Marcos, Texas and is scheduled to complete construction in 2025.

The studio hopes to bring digital production technologies and purpose-built production lots to the growing central Texas town. It would be the first of its kind in the state, and with Texas State University located in San Marcos as well, the studio has already drawn the attention of many of the school’s students and faculty.

This new stage is an XR stage where they’re using the next level of green screen,” said Jon Zmikly, senior lecturer and co-director of Digital Media Innovation at Texas State University. “Hopefully some of our students get jobs and be exposed to digital technology in the film industry.”

XR refers to the concept of extended reality. It’s a blanket term for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality programs and technology. The XR technology that Hill Country Studios plans to bring to San Marcos is called virtual production, which involves a combination of augmented reality, green screen, motion capture and special effects. The goal of virtual production is to use these techniques to create environments that eliminate the need to go to specific locations to film.

While the virtual reality technology that Hill Country Studios wants to bring to San Marcos will certainly be enticing, it’s not the only goal they have. Since it’s being newly constructed, Hill Country Studios will have tools other studios in the area may lack.

You can come into Texas and do production in Texas because it makes sense financially,” Blake Kotrla, chief technology officer of Hill Country Studios said. “But then you want to stay because it’s just one of the best experiences you’ll have during production.”

Austin, Texas has been the center of film production in Texas for several decades, and is home to a number of production studios and sound stages. Most of them, however, are housed in buildings that have been repurposed for media production. Hill Country Studios will be purpose-built for film production from the start. It’s being built from the ground up to accommodate the needs of film crews who come to Texas to shoot their projects.

While Hill Country Studios is still some time away from being completed, it will have 3 major sources to draw labor from: Austin, San Antonio, and Texas State University. With the school in its backyard, Hill Country Studios could be a place of interest for students looking for internship and employment opportunities in the film industry.

I’m for any kind of collaboration between students and a professional organization, whether it’s a television station, series of radio networks, Hill Country Studios, because it creates opportunities for our students.” Dr. Kelly Kaufhold, program coordinator of Electronic Media at Texas State University said. I always like to bring professionals from the industry back into our classrooms to sort of show, ‘Here’s the current state of how things are happening’.”

No formal relationship exists between Texas State University and Hill Country Studios for potential work-study and internship opportunities for students, as the studio has yet to break ground. Texas State does offer a film production concentration for theater majors and a film emphasis for english majors, but there are a number of avenues students could potentially take to find employment in the film industry. The School of Journalism and Mass Communication offers courses in virtual reality content creation, 360 video and drone photography skills, and television news and sports production.

With construction yet to begin, it may be quite some time before the studio is complete, and it hasn’t been without struggle. The company behind the studio, Hill Country Group, came under some heat in 2023 for choosing the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone as its location for construction. The aquifer provides water for many cities in the surrounding area, including San Antonio, New Braunfels and Uvalde.

The 800,000 square-foot film studio is a massive undertaking. While the surrounding area has the characteristic hills of central Texas, the site of the studio is flat. It will be constructed on the La Cima development off of Centerpoint Rd. and Wonder World Drive, a development of new suburban homes.

To learn more about Hill Country Studios and the team behind it, visit their website.

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