As the producers behind “Yellowstone” and “Bass Reeves” expanded their footprint in Fort Worth, they ran into a problem: There weren’t enough locals trained as gaffers, grips or other behind-the-scenes roles on sets. But a new set of certification programs at Tarrant County College seeks to remedy that.

Tarrant County College will offer a series of month-long curricula that offer students certifications to kick-start careers in the industry. The first cohort will launch this September and will include certifications in set building, lighting and electric. Additional certifications will be added in 2024. 

“This is a great place to live, the state of Texas and the city of Fort Worth. The cost of living is incredible, and it’s a great place to be,” said 101 Studios CEO David Glasser. “That’s where crews want to go … so let’s build from within and grow that program.”

To get this plan off of the ground, The Fort Worth Film Commission, Tarrant County College, 101 Studios, local officials and other leaders got together to talk about how they could keep the industry’s growth in Fort Worth going — and how to prevent these jobs from leaving the state.

Ensuring Texas could compete with incentive packages in other states was one of the group’s first steps. For Mayor Mattie Parker, her conversations with lawmakers focused on two things: the National Juneteenth Museum and film incentive funding.

“How does that apply for tonight? Because truthfully, you wouldn’t need a workforce if you weren’t bringing projects to the state of Texas in the first place,” Parker explained to a crowd gathered for a kickoff event.

Back in Fort Worth, other leaders worked on building partnerships.

(Fort Worth Film Commissioner) Jessica (Christopherson) and her team started creatively thinking alongside the leadership at Tarrant County College,” Parker said. “What would it look like to create true workforce pathways, not just for traditional students, but for nontraditional students, adult learners across Tarrant County and Fort Worth?”

“And that’s what tonight is really all about. This is a game changer.” 

Several speakers credited the leadership of Texas State House Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, for rallying bipartisan support and getting an increase in film incentive funding. Last budget cycle, the program had $50 million to work with over two years. That number quadrupled during the 2023 legislative session, with the program receiving $200 million for the next two years.

Goldman’s deskmate is Rep. Greg Bonnen, R- Friendswood, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee and puts together the budget. 

“(Bonnen) said, ‘Well, you’re definitely getting the 50 million. That’s no problem.’ I’m like, ‘No, doc, we need more,’” Goldman recalled. 

“It takes the House members, the Senate members, lieutenant governor, the governor. They all had buy-in. That’s really what it takes. But it wouldn’t have happened without the team coming down and educating people.”

Red Sanders, president of Red Productions and a founding member of the Fort Worth Film Commission, said that this type of collaboration is what has made it possible for him to run a successful film business in the city for the last 18 years. 

“Fort Worth is a yes city. And that collaboration we’re talking about here today is also in line with the fact that so many in the city are willing to say yes and come together and figure out how we can support new things and make really great things happen,” he said. 

“They shared how they needed to hire a lot more people and we needed an education component of that … I haven’t ever lived anywhere else, but I don’t think you can come up with an idea 12 months ago and launch it 12 months later in many other cities.”

Glasser, the head of 101 Studios, also praised the team for the quick turnaround. But he also issued a challenge to the group to report back one year later and share statistics of how many people participated in the program and how many landed jobs.

“That challenge will start with us at 101 Studios, with Taylor Sheridan, and with Paramount to give those opportunities, those jobs,” he said. “Thank you, chancellor, for starting it. And now we’re going to go ahead and execute it alongside you.”

Disclaimer: The Fort Worth Film Commission is a department within Visit Fort Worth. Visit Fort Worth COO Mitch Whitten sits on the Board of Directors of the Fort Worth Report. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at or on Twitter.

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For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...