SXSW 2011 Impact on Austin: $167.8 Million


Sea of green

No wonder some hotels are already sold out of rooms for SXSW 2012. The 2011 fest saw a 20 percent jump in hotel room nights (47,500 nights, and that doesn't include couch-surfing).

Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Councilmember Mike Martinez were present on Tuesday as SXSW and Greyhill Advisors announced the details of the fifth consecutive study quantifying the dollar value of the music, film and interactive conferences, trade shows and festival. This year's magic number is $167.8 million of economic impact, which includes $44 million that SXSW contributes to the Austin economy during the non-fest portion of the calendar year. The study only includes those events "sanctioned" by SXSW. 

There’s been a steady increase in the millions of dollars that flood the city for the nine-day trio of events. While SXSW is 25 years old, the study has only been done since 2007, when $95 million flooded the city. In 2010 that jumped to $113 million.  You can read full economic impact report on the Greyhill blog.

The published report doesn't include specific numbers for SXSW Film other than to note that there were 1,500 passholders.  SXSW was able to confirm with us that SXSW 2011 had 13,409 film registrants (actual film badges) and 66,842 that attended film screenings (passes and film, gold, and platinum badges, and I assume filmmakers and guests). 

Austin Film Festival Announces First Films for 2011 Fest


While the full lineup for Austin Film Festival won't be revealed until mid-September, the initial film announcement has a rather promising, eclectic list of titles.

Among the titles announced today includes a new comedy from former Austinites Jay and Mark Duplass, Jeff Who Lives At Home, starring Jason Segel (pictured above). The 10 films also include the usual mix of provocative and controversial narratives, entertaining documentaries, more comedies and the most unusual twist to zombie plots I've ever seen. Most of these movies are on my "must-see" list so I can't wait to hear about the full lineup.

Without further ado, the first films of AFF 2011 including premiere information, synopses and more:

Slacker 2011: Duane Graves Swelters at the G/M Steakhouse


Slacker 2011 from Duane Graves

In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF). As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project -- check out our interviews so far.

Today's interview is with San Antonio native Duane Graves. Graves and Justin Meeks have been making films together in Central Texas for about 10 years, starting with the horror short Headcheese in 2002. Their 2008 movie The Wild Man of the Navidad, shot south of San Antonio, played Fantastic Fest 2008 and is now available on DVD. Read on for more not only about their Slacker 2011 sequence but their latest project, the horror feature Boneboys.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you shoot?

Duane Graves: Justin [Meeks] and I did the scene outside/inside the G/M Steakhouse (Counter Cafe) where Happy-Go-Lucky-Guy (played in the remake by Justin himself) has a string of encounters with several nutty patrons.

See 'The Perfect House' Free This Weekend


The Perfect HouseYou may have heard or read about an on-demand platform for streaming movies called FlickLaunch, an alternative to traditional distribution that uses Facebook as its interface. FlickLaunch is promoting the platform through advance theatrical screenings of the horror/thriller The Perfect House, including a free screening here in Austin that includes filmmaker Kris Hulbert and actors Andrea Vahl and William Robertson in attendance. We have some reserved seats to give away -- keep reading to find out more.

Not surprisingly, Austin is the first city of the 30-city The Perfect House tour complete with a bus and a "reality-style tour." Why start with Austin? Co-director and writer Kris Hulbert said, "When we came up with the idea to hit the open road and host screenings around the country, the Alamo Drafthouse was immediately at the top of our list. The Drafthouse goes hand-in-hand with high quality independent entertainment and provides the perfect location to start our tour!"

The Perfect House is a horror anthology consisting of three separate stories ("The Storm," "Chic-ken" and "Dinner Guest"), which reveal that a young couple's dream house has a very dark past. It's every homeowner's fear that their ideal home will turn into a money pit, but in the case of The Perfect House, Hulbert's story turns it into a real nightmare.

FlickLaunch will allow filmmakers to capitalize on social media strategies, from promoting films through fan pages to allowing filmmakers to give away free views -- paid views will cost between $1-5.  A FlickLaunch app has been developed for the iPad and plans are to develop apps for Android and iPhone.

Photo Essay: Blood and Bones at Drafthouse Sneak Previews


Franco, Yelchin, Mintz-Plasse

Austin film fans were treated to two very special events last week as the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar hosted advance screenings with special guests for both Fright Night and Conan the Barbarian.

At the Fright Night screening, stars Dave Franco, Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse showed up for a post-movie Q&A, as shown in the above photo.

Mintz-Plasse, who was in Austin for his third Drafthouse premiere (Superbad and Kick-Ass were #1 & #2, respectively) dominated the Q&A with the comfort and confidence born of familiarity with Austin audiences, while Yelchin and Franco were generally more shy and reserved, as you can see in the following picture.

Slacker 2011: The Zellners Drop Stuff from Bridges


Slacker 2011 from the Zellners

In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF). As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project -- check out our interviews so far.

Today's interview is with David Zellner. David and Nathan Zellner are an Austin filmmaking team -- they're brothers -- who have brought us such comically twisted short films as Sasquatch Birth Journal 2, Aftermath on Meadowlark Lane and Quasar Hernandez (available online). They also wrote and directed the feature Goliath, which played SXSW in 2008 and is now on DVD.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you reshoot?

David Zellner: The jilted boyfriend throwing his typewriter/tent off a bridge.

Photo Essay: 'Spy Kids' at the Long Center

Spy Kids 4 at OSS Spy Headquarters

The Long Center was transformed into a carnival setting and red carpet on Saturday, August 13, for the gala premiere of the Austin-shot movie Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D. Austin Film Society hosted this benefit screening for the Dell Children's Medical Center and the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund.

The attendees for the event included not only a lot of very happy kids but also filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, producer Elizabeth Avellan, new Spy Kids Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook, and the original Spy Kids, Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, who are also in this fourth installment in the series. I was out of town and missed the whole thing, sadly, but fortunately AFS has published a lot of great photos from the event, some of which I'm happy to share here.

Why the Long Center? I found out when I saw Spy Kids 4 this weekend (my review). In the movie, the exterior of the secret spy headquarters is in fact the Long Center. My guess is that it was very convincing for people who don't live in Austin; I thought it was amusing myself.

Check out the whole AFS photo set from the premiere on Flickr. For another viewpoint on the day, you might enjoy reading AFS intern Lauren Hill's behind-the-scenes account.

Shameless Self Promotion: Vote for This SXSW 2012 Panel


This is the second year SXSW has opened up the Panel Picker for its annual film conference, a tool that allows people to submit proposals for panels and other conference events. It's an ingenious way for the festival to vet proposals; instead of the staff or  advisory panel coming up with all the ideas, anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can submit a proposal, which is then voted on by the public, which gets a lofty 30 percent of the decision power. This is no small thing, since those who plan on attending the conference have the opportunity to weigh in on what they feel is relevant and keep the topics fresh. The only downside is that there are many panel proposals to read and decide among.

So please allow me to direct your attention to a Slackerwood-inspired panel: Removing Barriers Between Press, PR, and Producers, submitted by yours truly. The original idea for the panel happened during SXSW 2011, when I surprised a producer of a great little film by mentioning that Slackerwood gets mileage out of reviews far beyond festivals. In some cases, we get serious spikes in page views more than a year after a review was posted.

For example, this month one of our top traffic-getting pages is a review of Main Street, which screened at Austin Film Festival last year and is about to get a limited theatrical and VOD release. Our list of top ten pages for 2010 includes a review of AFF 2010 selection DMI: The Spirit Molecule and also my review of AFF 2009 film The Donner Party. Cummings Farm may have been renamed All American Orgy but my AFF 2009 review was still being read by many, over a year after I saw the movie.

Review: Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D


Spy Kids 4

I remember the delighted surprise of seeing the original Spy Kids with a friend one Sunday afternoon ten years ago. I didn't know who Robert Rodriguez was, didn't know much about the Austin film scene at all, but we'd heard the movie was fun even for grownups and gave it a try. It was a little silly with a few eye-rollingly juvenile jokes but much better than we'd expected. And the problem I've had subsequent Spy Kids movies has been that they simply don't measure up to the experience of the first.

Possibly if I were nine years old and hadn't watched any of the previous movies in the series, I might enjoy watching Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D. Not being in those circumstances, I can't be sure. But I think even my childhood self would get impatient and annoyed by the last 30 minutes of the film. On the other hand, my grownup self quite liked the first 20 minutes or so and is sorry the movie couldn't sustain that tone.

Also, I was disappointed by a shocking lack of Danny Trejo, who is billed high on IMDb for this movie but appears in a single blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment.

Review: Conan the Barbarian


Conan The BarbarianJoining the ranks of this summer's excellent slate of reboots, rehashes and reimaginings is Marcus Nispel's movie Conan the Barbarian, a 3D adventure starring Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman and Rose McGowan. With a story little resembling that of the 1982 hit that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name, the 2011 Conan the Barbarian could best be described as a total reboot. This is not a bad thing, after all -- no sense fixing what was never broken.

The movie begins with a Morgan Freeman Patented Voiceover explaining the backstory about ancient sorcerers, their war with the barbarian tribes and a prophecy about a great warrior born on the field of battle. The first third of the film is therefore an origin story modeled on Robert E. Howard's writings with Ron Perlman as Conan's blacksmith father. Perlman's work here is outstanding, the best acting in the film and perhaps the best of his career.

After the pillaging of Conan's village and the murder of his tribe, Conan the Barbarian jumps 15 years, and Jason Momoa is finally introduced. His is a better image of Conan than Arnold gave us: more catlike, more intelligent and closer to the barbarian described by Howard's original works. The rest of the movie is concerned with his quest to track down and kill the warlord Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), who murdered Conan's father, as well as the other warriors involved.

Nispel shows off his skills as an action director here with a solid fight sequence in almost every scene. Little time is wasted in exposition or idle conversation. This is, however, unfortunately one of those films that gains nothing from being shot in 3D except for the rich detail of Momoa's bare ass in one brief sex scene. The only place 3D was used to any effect was in the opening titles.

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