How to Market a Home Development Called Castle Hills: Make Motion Picture Magic

We all know that, when it comes to marketing, the world has changed. And when it comes to marketing real estate, we may as well be on a different planet. No longer are cute cards and glossy brochures and, some might add, print advertising in pretty magazines and newspapers, enough. You’ve got to go viral, go FaceBook,  go Hollywood.

Which is why Chris Bright, son of the Texas Bright dynasty built on oil, football and banking, probably thought there was noting wrong with spending a million dollars to make a 60 minute, family-focused major movie about Bright’s 2,500-acre Castle Hills development north of Dallas near Denton. Remember, Chris’ dad, H.R. “Bum” Bright, owned the Dallas Cowboys from 1984 until selling the team to current owner Jerry Jones in 1989.

The movie was shot entirely in the neighborhoods, parks, shopping centers and golf courses of Castle Hills, and even used some resident kids and homeowners in large scenes. Produced by Ditore Mayo Entertainment, the film will debut Saturday April 2 at NorthPark Center mall as part of the Dallas International Film Festival. After its debut,  it will stream everywhere on the development’s website. And then, baby, it’s viral!

How can you make a movie about a housing development, even one as really nice as Castle Hills? Think Dennis the Menace meets Hank Hill in twenty years. “Cooper & the Castle Hills Gang,” follows the quest of 11-year-old Cooper (played by Kyle Kirk, an actor), his three friends and the elderly Mr. Wilson (played by J.B. Edwards) as they canvass Castle Hills for something Mr. Wilson has lost, a wedding ring. The film has B grade actors, and according to the Wall Street Journal,  really “focuses on its story rather than lingering on obvious marketing shots.” Nice.

Except ooops: WSJ said a hiccup comes when Cooper uses the term “mixed use urban center” in casual conversation. No, don’t think 11 year old talk like that. If he does, I want him as a blogger.

The movie will show Cooper at several of the more than 20 parks Castle Hills has to offer, along with the hike-and-bike trails, fishing lake, sports fields, community swimming and splash pools, and the outdoor Village Shops and Plaza.

Mr. Bright, 58, said he foresees the film helping his Bright Realty market Castle Hills’ commercial and residential land.

“Castle Hills was originally our family farm and holds childhood memories for the entire Bright family,” said Chris.

He may be onto something and find his phone ringing: the Saturday screening is sold out. Many second home developers are also taking to the movies, making docu-films of happy families enjoying life in their mountain, beach, or lakeside homes. I expect we’ll see lots more of this.

Castle Hills, which the family started developing in 1997, has 2,500 homes built, with another 600 planned. One third of its potential 1 million square feet of shops is built. An office-and-residential complex of more than 2 million square feet is in the planning.

“It’s a way of letting the community tell a little bit about itself through the residents and showing the community as a backdrop and not the focus,” Mr. Bright said.

There were several opportunities throughout filming for residents and neighbors to be part of the cast and crew, including a fireworks-filled re-enactment of the Castle Hills 4th of July event that calls for hundreds of extras. There will also be opportunities to help behind-the-scenes as a “PA for the day” (production assistant).  To give you a taste of the flavor,  a 1965 red Ford Mustang was called for as a prop.

PS: I have been to Castle Hills and love it. Chris Bright (who’s kind of a big kid at heart) took me on a personal tour in his 1960′s era auto, showing me each park he personally designed. His greatest wish, he said, was to give kiddos great places to play and create memories. It’s the closest thing to bubble living outside of the Dallas “bubble” I have ever seen, and I loved the multiple castle themes for kids. Dare I say, I even felt a bit as if I were in The Truman Show: life in Castle Hills can look that perfect at times.

And now, Hollywood!

Update: people have emailed me about Castle Hills, some saying a few homes in the area had foundation problems back when it was first built out. Here’s what I received from an agent who asked to remain anonymous: “There is a high concentration of clay soil in CH (along with a lot of other areas in Dallas) and there were some publicized issues with houses in one area back in the early days of the neighborhood. The cause of the foundation issues in that case was a ruptured water main that flooded the clay substrate and it was confined to one custom builder that has not been building in the area for many years. Builders have been working in this area for a decade now, and do full soil testing to determine what is necessary to prevent shifting. Regardless, I think you should advise readers to hire an independent soil engineer for an analysis. I will add there is clay substrate in many parts of Dallas south of LBJ, including the Marsh Lane area. Buyers need to do due diligence.”

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