When the COVID-19 pandemic began prompting shutdowns in March, Austin resident Jonathan Osborne and his childhood friend, Brandon Camp, were about halfway through writing a scripted podcast for kids.
The pair were inspired to create a production company, Austin-based HodgePodge Media, after observing the explosion of podcasts among adults. With kids of their own, they separately arrived at the same conclusion. "We both had this individual light bulb pop up over our collective heads in which we realized that, although the space was really blossoming, the kids podcasting space was not," said Camp, who is based in Los Angeles and wrote and directed the 2018 family movie Benji.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
Rather than continue with their script, Osborne and Camp scrapped their draft and began work on a new one—Quaranteen'd—about a ragtag crew of kids who believe they have found a cure to the pandemic. Its first four episodes are available now, with a new one debuting each week.
Producing the quarantine-themed show while sheltering in place required some ingenuity.
The cast and crew of Quaranteen'd held long Zoom calls.
With the help of Cindy McCreery, an associate screenwriting professor at the University of Texas at Austin, they hired a team of young writers, who fleshed out the story over long Zoom calls. "We treated it like any traditional Hollywood writers' room," Camp said.
In search of a cast, they created an Instagram account and put out a call. Close to 2,000 submissions filtered in. "We completely underestimated how much time people had on their hands," Osborne said.
Mayla Montgomery plays the lead role in Quaranteen'd
Mayla Montgomery, a rising seventh grader at Round Rock ISD, plays lead character Zoe Cross, a teenager who believes she's discovered the cure—but it is being hidden by the Bridge Corp., which stands to profit from the pandemic. "She's always fired up and passionate about something," Montgomery says of her character.
After hearing about Quaranteen'd from her neighbor, an executive producer of the show, Montgomery decided to try out. She put together a resume with her experience with improv at the local comedy club ColdTowne Theatre and musical theater. After submitting her audition, she was "shocked" to receive a callback. Her surprise doubled when she was offered the role.
Soon, Montgomery received a recording kit from Osborne and Camp. "We've been shipping equipment all over the country," Osborne said, adding that they soon learned how to conduct mic tests over Zoom and instruct the actors to wrap themselves in blankets for the best sound quality.
Sometimes kids' productions are shoddily made and don't take their audience very seriously, Camp said, but he wanted Quaranteen'd to be a true cinematic experience—on par with films by Steven Spielberg and moves such as The Goonies and Star Wars.
Montgomery said she has listened to the first few episodes with her younger brother, who is usually a little too distracted to sit through things. But Quaranteen'd has him hooked.
"We're not surprised because this is what we always felt like we were capable of bringing to the space, but it certainly has been pleasant," Camp said of the reaction so far.
Once this season is over, Osborne and Camp plan to tackle an even more ambitious project: remotely producing a musical podcast.
"The irony is that this is the time of isolation and yet I feel like we have brought together this family for this family podcast," Camp said. "Amid the 2 a.m. sessions with the sound engineering and pulling out hair and wondering why the heck we're doing this—those are the moments that have certainly inspired me and kept me going."
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Starting this coming August, Texas Longhorns linemen on scholarship will get $50,000 annually for use of their name, image and likeness to support charitable causes.
The program, known as “the Pancake Factory,” in reference to the pancake blocks popular among linemen, will start in August 2022. The nonprofit organization Horns with Heart announced the program Monday, saying it will be the first charitable NIL entity. Capped at $800,000 annually, the pancake factory program can support 16 scholarship linemen.
The organization was formed by six unnamed Texas alumni and supporters “with experience across multiple industries and disciplines to make a positive impact on local communities."
This is the latest in organizations looking to help athletes use their name, image and likeness after Texas passed a law for student-athletes to profit off it. Last week, another alumni-led NIL initiative known as Clark Field Collective announced $10 million in pledges to help Longhorn athletes facilitate deals across 17 sports. The collective is a key participating donor to Horns with Heart.
The news comes ahead of early signing day on Dec. 15. The offensive line is a key recruiting area, head football coach Steve Sarkisian has said.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced a new “no fee” public access lease along the Guadalupe River, giving fishing aficionados the chance to catch rainbow trout during the peak cold-weather stocking season.
The lease, located at Camp Huaco Springs near New Braunfels, stretches across a half-mile of bank access. Public access to the site will be open from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset until March 5, 2022.
“This lease location provides great bank angler access to river trout fishing coupled with gorgeous Guadalupe River scenery,” said Patrick Ireland, supervisor for TPWD Inland Fisheries Division San Marcos and Austin District.
The rocky bank will be open to non-motorized boats, canoes, kayaks, other floatable devices and wade fishing both upstream and downstream. TPWD said it will stock several sections of the Guadalupe River, also known as Canyon Reservoir Tailrace, with more than 20,000 trout, scheduled to stock weekly. Trout will be available from the beginning of December through late February.
Trout tend to prefer cool water streams and typically cannot survive the hot weather that Texas is notorious for, so they don’t usually reproduce in the state. Trout can survive in certain areas below large dams, like Canyon Reservoir Tailrace, though the only statewide self-sustaining population lies in McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains.
The extanded access will allow fishers to spread out for the best chances at angling. (Austonia)
Anglers will have a daily bag limit of five trout, with no minimum length, per statewide trout regulations. Anyone 17 years and older who wants to fish will be required to carry a valid fishing license and freshwater fishing endorsement.
Aside from the newly-leased area, anglers may also be able to find public access areas to fish in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-run Guadalupe park; Whitewater Camp, 4th Crossing, 3rd Crossing, and Camp Huaco Springs. However, starting 800 yards downstream from the Canyon Dam release to the second bridge crossing on River Road, special regulations say fishers must use artificial lures.
Furthermore, from that 800 yards downstream from the Canyon Dam release gate to the easternmost bridge on FM Road 306, a 12-to-18-inch slot limit is in effect, meaning trout smaller than 12 inches or longer than 18 inches can be kept and only one can be 18 inches or longer.
From the easternmost bridge on FM 306 downstream to the second bridge crossing on River Road, there is an 18-inch minimum and a one-trout daily bag.
So if you need to scratch that itch to fish, head to Camp Huaco Springs on 4150 River Road, and maybe you can break the state record of 8.24 pounds. According to TPWD, the leases were made possible by grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program.
Company relocations and expansions are driving record levels of job creation in Central Texas.
Data compiled by Opportunity Austin, the economic development arm of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, shows companies have promised to bring roughly 23,150 jobs across the metro, beating out the previous record of 22,114 jobs for all of 2020.
A major job propeller came at the end of November with the announcement that Taylor will be the site of a new Samsung chip-making facility, serving as the largest ever foreign direct investment in the state. Winning the plant through incentive programs and talent pool, Samsung expects to bring 2,000 high-tech jobs, thousands of indirect jobs, and at least 6,500 construction jobs.
Plus, there’s likely more to come. Last week, Tesla officially moved its headquarters from Silicon Valley to the under-construction Gigafactory in southeast Travis County. Specifics of the job impact are unclear still, but it’s speculated that up to half of the Palo Alto employees will opt for a move to Austin.
The under-construction Austin Gigafactory will not be the home of the new Tesla headquarters. (Tesla Owners of Austin)
Through November, 126 companies in Central Texas have chosen to expand, and 86 relocated. Still, December could see additional expansions and relocations.
The Austin Chamber of Commerce reports that the capital city is the second-best major job market in the U.S. In August, Austin surpassed the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month, which was 1,142,400 jobs in February 2020. Then in October added 18,300 jobs, the largest monthly gain since June 2020.
This growth was seen across a number of industries, including leisure and hospitality, wholesale trade and financial activities. Pandemic recovery is positive news for many, yet still draws some tension with recent job growth bringing transplants and increasing housing costs. Worries over Austin’s affordability crisis carry on, especially with the prediction that by the end of this year, Austin’s cost of living is expected to be the highest outside of California.
Laura Huffman, President and CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, told the Austin Business Journal that she’s thrilled 2021 is shaping out to be a record-breaking year.
“We’re bringing dynamic, globally significant companies to the region, and what that means for the people that are living in the region is more opportunities,” Huffman said.
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