Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and fundraising endeavors related to Austin and Texas independent film projects.
This month's look at the local crowdfunding scene offers a diverse group of films made up of both familiar names and newcomers to this column.
Let's start with who you may know: Never Goin' Back (a recent AFS Grant recipient), is written and directed by Augustine Frizzell and tells the story of two teenage girls who enjoy a crazy day of bad behavior after losing their jobs at a pancake house. Fun fact: Frizzell grew up in Garland, TX and calls the script for Never Goin' Back "almost completely autobiographical." Time is running out to help this one meet its Seed & Spark goal -- you have until Friday to give.
I took a break from Fantastic Fest on Sunday to visit MondoCon at the Marchesa Theater. The crowds had thinned out a bit from Saturday's opening day, but the impact of the overwhelming response to the first-ever MondoCon was evident from the sold-out Mondo Beer and food-truck menu items.
I was quite impressed with the use of space for the event: two rooms full of artists and dealers, a pleasantly diverse assortment of food trucks, a special tent with Mondo posters and vinyl available for purchase, and a Shaun of the Dead record-tossing game booth, as seen above. I gave it a try and won a beer-colored variant of the Shaun of the Dead score.
The theater auditorium itself held panels and screenings throughout the weekend. I was sorry to miss local film composer Brian Satterwhite's Saturday panel "2001: A Lost Score", which featured a live presentation of several scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey with the original abandoned score by late composer Alex North (A Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus) reintegrated back to the film. However I was able to purchase an album (vinyl!) of "Music for 2001: A Space Odyssey" complete with liner notes by Jon Burlingame, who writes about television and film music.
It's been a couple of years since I've attended the Fantastic Debates, but since I began "casually" training in boxing earlier this year I wanted to see how well this year's debate participants would fare in the ring. This unique showcase of battle of wit, intellect and combat techniques features both rounds of debate and boxing.
Chilean martial artist and actor Marko Zaror (The Redeemer) was onhand (pictured above) to coach Alamo Drafthouse/Drafthouse Films staffer Jenny Jacobi and founder Tim League. The tenth anniversary of Fantastic Fest featured four matches at professional kickboxer and former world champion Randy Palmer's South Austin Gym, with the following participants and topics:
The tenth Fantastic Fest is halfway done, and that means many of the filmmaker guests and industry folks will be departing, but it also means an influx of new faces as second-half badgeholders join in the fray as most of the films' second screenings come around. Now begins your chance to see all the first-choices that the system didn't give you or the second-choices that took a backseat to something you couldn't wait to see.
For incoming second-halfers, you have probably been keeping track on Facebook and Twitter, but some of the hottest tickets for repeats will be Babadook, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, I Am a Knife With Legs, Cub, Force Majeure, Electric Boogaloo, John Wick and Tokyo Tribe.
There's more to life than Fantastic Fest -- here's a roundup of the latest local film news:
- Austin Film Festival has announced its full lineup and the schedule is now live. Check back with us in the coming days for a closer look at the Texas films being featured and general highlights. The fest will run Oct. 23-30.
- Vimeo and FilmBuff have picked up Wedlock, a 10-episode web series created by Mark Duplass, who co-stars in the show with Rob Corddry and Jennifer Lafleur. Wedlock premiered at SXSW and will debut on Vimeo on Demand on Sept. 29.
- Thank You a Lot, a film by local director Matt Muir, will screen at the Village Alamo Drafthouse Monday night and tickets are currently still available. Set in the Austin music scene, the film screened at SXSW earlier this year and Don called it "poignant and perceptive" in his review.
- Indiewire takes a first look at Andrew Bujalski's latest film, Results -- a romantic comedy set in the fitness industry starring Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders. (My mind continues to be boggled that this will be the follow-up to Computer Chess.)
I'm a couple days into my tenth Fantastic Fest, and it's easy to see why I keep coming back. Before the fest even officially starts, there are parties at Pinballz and Peter Pan Putt-Putt and barbecue with friends arriving from around the world.
Day One began with Kevin Smith rapping with Tim League backed by dozens of people in eyeball costumes. It ended with a food fight free-for-all of which I saw only the aftermath: League in a cheeky Carmen Miranda outfit and dozens of people soaked and slathered in every sort of slop.
Day Two was a full slate with Jacky in the Kingdom of Women, the Marko Zaror action flick Redeemer, James Gunn-produced horror The Hive, and surreal comic Free Fall. In between these movies, I visited Devin Steuerwald's Dia de las Paletas cart (pictured at right) to keep cool with frozen treats.
So far, the programming at Fantastic Fest 2014 has been heavy on realism, with characters and situations that could actually happen, and short on supernatural or escapist themes. My slate this year has been full of confusing films; Realiti and Free Fall were both difficult to follow in spite of some really amazing scenes and great performances. That said, I did skip the Studio Ghibli premiere of The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which has received rave reviews [note from Jette: I really liked it myself], to see Jacky in the Kingdom of Women.
Two days into Fantastic Fest and it already feels like Day Five -- daily downpours, full parking and an overflowing lobby can't deter the spirit of the 1,650 attendees at this year's jam-packed film festival. The theme song that comes to mind is Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." My mantra of "it's a marathon, not a sprint" has already been replaced with the festival motto "Chaos reigns," as I've managed to fit in five films, three red carpets, two parties and two late nights in just the first two days. Let's not even discuss how much I've already spent on alcohol at The Highball.
ABCs of Death 2 was one of the opening-night films, bringing together 26 directors from around the world. The filmmakers were sworn to secrecy about which letters they were assigned until the premiere of this ambititous anthology produced by Tim League and Ant Timpson. You can see Timpson in the above photo with writer/actor David Ashby, director Dario Russo of Danger 5, and ABCs of Death 2 segment producers Todd Brown and Marc Walkow.
With Fantastic Fest taking over the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar for the next week, not nearly as many specialty screenings as usual are going on in town. You will not, however, notice a lack of new releases in area theaters. I'll track those down below, but first I'll take a look at what is going on across town if you aren't engaging with the fest.
On Tuesday, the Austin Film Society will be screening Antonioni's 1966 mod classic Blow Up at the Marchesa. This special evening includes a 60s themed cocktail hour starting at 6:30 pm, complete with a "complimentary 60s themed hair and nail bar" courtesy of the Aveda Institute. The film will be introduced by Ned Rifkin at 7:30 pm. Bonus: if you show up dressed in your favorite 60s clothes, you may win a prize for the evening.
The AFS Screening Room is the place to be on Wednesday night for a special evening programmed with French Avant Garde Cinema of the 1920s. This collection will feature shorts from Jean Epstein, Rene Clair, Fernand Leger, Germaine Dulac and Marcel Duchamp. Finally for the week, you can head back to the Marchesa for the Essential Cinema "Masterpieces Of Polish Cinema, Selected by Martin Scorsese" series. They'll be screening a restored DCP of Wojciech Has' epic Saragossa Manuscript from 1965.
I'm about to head right out the door again for the second day of Fantastic Fest, but thought I'd share a couple of photos from the Q&A at last night's opening-night film, Tusk. Kevin Smith and Justin Long were game enough to participate in Tim League's crazy opening rap before the movie, but sadly, I don't have any photos of that. Yet.
Moderated by League, Smith and Long (okay, mostly Smith) held a lively discussion after the film that was simulcast not only to other theaters at the fest but to other Drafthouse theaters in other cities. My favorite part was Long's eerily accurate Marty McFly imitation (don't even ask how we got there). I had to leave a little early but no one had asked any dumb questions up until that point, although admittedly the questions were being filtered beforehand.
Liam Neeson taking on kidnappers, that's nothing new, right? This weekend's release, A Walk Among the Tombstones, is true to form. Neeson plays Matt Scudder, a detective who retired from the NYPD after being involved in a violent gunfight while under the influence. A plea for assistance from a fellow AA member involves him in a rather grisly kidnapping plot and also offers him a chance at redemption.
Writer/director Scott Frank (The Wolverine, Minority Report, Get Shorty), is responsible for some of Hollywood's biggest hits. This may not be one of them, as it attempts to re-create the formula of Neeson's Taken series. It is, however, a solid thriller that still manages a few surprises.
First is the introduction of a juvenile yet very capable sidekick. Brian "Astro" Bradley (Earth to Echo) plays TJ, a streetwise kid with a love of detective stories and knack for getting himself in trouble while turning up clues essential to Scudder's investigations. TJ never loses his cool whether confronting street thugs or the 6'4" frame of Neeson, and the young man has the beginnings of a great film career with his first three features (A remake of the 1999 Space Jam has already completed shooting.)
Speaking of shooting, another surprise in A Walk Among the Tombstones was the strong anti-gun message in such a dark and violent film. There are subtle references throughout as well as an emphatic lecture from Scudder to TJ on the subject. It seems out of place in a movie like this, though it serves the plot by providing some audience insight into Scudder's backstory.