Austin: We're gonna need you to go ahead and visit the Office Space building
Mike Judge didn’t have to shoot Office Space in Austin. The office park that housed Initech could have been—and is—anywhere in America. Chances are, your city has one that looks awfully similar, but you’ve never really noticed it, because why would you? These kinds of buildings are designed not to be noticed. They are blandness made real.
And that’s precisely why Mike Judge shot here. Obviously it was more convenient for the Austinite to shoot in his hometown, but he didn’t have to go far to find an inconspicuous office park that captured the soul-crushing atmosphere of a dead-end cubicle job.
Local film critic and film professor Alison Macor spoke to just about everyone involved in Office Space for a chapter on the film in her book Chainsaws, Slackers, And Spy Kids: Thirty Years Of Filmmaking In Austin, Texas. She was a film critic at the Austin American Statesman when Judge was shooting Office Space, which was a popular time for Austin in film: Robert Rodriguez was doing The Faculty in town, Richard Linklater’s The Newton Boys had just come out.
Turns out it was a bad time to be making Office Space. Not only was it an oppressively hot shoot, even by Austin standards, but Hollywood had been shocked by the success of There’s Something About Mary that summer. Fox, the studio, was looking for something similarly outrageous from Judge—described by Macor as “big, fat faces with a wide-angle lens”—and thus began what would be a continual battle with the studio over the film’s execution.
But Judge didn’t have to fight to shoot in Austin. The Initech building, at 4120 Freidrich Lane on the city’s south side, was used for exteriors. (There’s some debate whether the nearby ditch is the ditch from the film, or if that was shot elsewhere.) The exterior of Chotchkies is about 15 miles north. Also up on the north side were Ron Livingston’s apartment and the site of the traffic jam at the start of the film. (Check out our Austin site for a complete list of Office Space locations.)
According to some of the office park’s other tenants, the Initech space has been empty for some time, though when The A.V. Club was there, it looked like it was being prepared for some new people, which sparked a debate among us: Would people be happy to know their office was the setting of Office Space, or bummed because the movie portrays the work environment as hell on earth? The exceedingly friendly guys we spoke to—from the nearby Toshiba office—seemed to think it was pretty cool. One even mentioned how he and he co-workers would try to sneak on set to raid craft service during filming.
“I think a lot of people who work in offices feel that that movie speaks to them,” Macor says. “It doesn’t belittle them. I think they think, ‘Yeah, the underdog coming through,’ and Mike Judge himself slaved away in cubicle life for a long time and based a lot of the characters in the short—based Lumbergh on somebody that he had known, and based Milton on a coworker. I think there’s a lot of affection for these characters—I don’t think the movie is against them.”
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