Sean Doherty is bringing Hollywood to Amarillo, Texas.
The recovering lobbyist created a new, trust-friendly production studio eager to open the eyes of industry stalwarts. Sharp Iron Studio’s location alone can do just that.
“We have an ocean of land here [in Amarillo] … it’s flat and just goes on,” says Doherty, the studio’s chief executive. “It is the second largest natural canyon in the United States, [Palo Duro Canyon]”
The location also makes sense on other levels. Prices for leases, building rents, homes and more are “quite affordable” compared to New York or Los Angeles, Doherty notes.
The perks don’t stop here.
Doherty cites local reception at the studio, with the city’s leadership “on the moon” about their new neighbors. They say the project brings a new industry to Amarillo, which has no direct connection to Texas oil and gas. He further said that the locals welcomed “Sharped Iron Studios” with “open arms”. Also, the city through a unanimous decision granted a 90 percent rebate on studio taxes for 14 years.
Movie industry “magic” has its advantages.
The name Sharpened Iron Studio links to Proverbs 27:17 – “As iron sharpens iron, so does one sharpen another.” Doherty came up with the studio concept while lobbiing Congress a week later on a cross-country flight.
“I was lazy, half awake, half asleep and I woke up with such a start that the flight attendant literally jumped,” he recalls, describing the moment as a sort of divine intervention. Huh. “I started writing, and by the time I landed at LAX, I had written the bones of the business plan.”
Sharpened Iron Studios has a faith-based current flow through its corporate DNA. Doherty appreciates the work of the Kendrick brothers, the team behind openly Christian hits like “Courageous” and “War Room.” He wants his studio to take “The Word to the Unbelievers” with a more nuanced approach to storytelling.
“We want to do quality work that leaves the audience asking questions,” he says. how? “Give the audience good, solid entertainment that will leave people, ‘Huh… I never thought of that.'”
Sharp Iron Studios hopes to align itself with a variety of creative partners. However, its first official partner is Amarillo College. The studio is housed within the college’s “Innovation Outpost” on its downtown campus.
The new Amarillo School for Cinematic Arts gives students access to the studio’s sound stages. At the same time, they will also be able to gain direct experience on real film and TV sets, lessons that allow them to be employed by studios after graduation day.
Doherty wouldn’t want anything better, confirming the “feeder system” relationship between the college and the studio. With studios in place, cinematic arts classes are set to begin in the fall “Fully operational” by January 2022.
The pandemic forced studio staff to wear masks and socially distance as they assemble on various stages and sets, but the measures did not adversely affect their plans. In fact, the studio’s first home production, the kid-friendly “Tolly Take”, is now in post-production.
The 10-episode series focuses on local businesses, adding a string of faith-based themes to the mix. “Once Upon a Time in Amarillo,” a musical with crime elements, “will begin shooting in October with a budget of $1.2 million.
Another Sharp Irons Studio original, “Flatlands”, sets up an intricate detective yarn where and, Amarillo.
“I want Amarillo to become a character [in the show]Like how Albuquerque, New Mexico was in ‘Breaking Bad,'” he says.
Doherty may have been perfecting his vision on that important plane ride, but not everyone agreed with his concept.
“The initial reaction was, ‘Amarillo? Really? Nothing comes from Amarillo,'” he says. However, word began to spread, along with some heavy lifting, with mutual contacts within New Mexico’s thriving production network. “More and more people are watching us,” he says. “The major studios and production companies want to know, ‘Are you allowed? What are your rates?
The studio’s Texas ties help make those conversations possible.
“We don’t have the best [film] Incentive program in the country. We don’t have to.. [Texas] Incredibly business friendly,” he says.
Now, with the outbreak of the pandemic and platforms hungry for fresh content, Doherty is sure her studio will be part of Hollywood’s creative restart. And he suspects he will soon find new competitors in New York and LA. shop miles and miles away from
“There will be more.. We are proving models,” he says. “Streaming services are producing more and more original content. We look forward to the future.”
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