By Raven Parks
Early in December, the Austin Film Society was joined by nearly a thousand of its members and creative media people for the Make Watch Love Austin event. The event was designed as a creative industries expo, where Austin's film, music and videogame lovers and companies came to network and celebrate the expansion of Austin Studios by way of the old National Guard Armory. The recent acquisition of the old Armory, plus the bond Proposition 18 that voters approved in November, will allow Austin Studios to expand the organization and create a seventh production studio along with plenty of space that will house the offices of local creative companies.
By Katie Ormsbee
The setting: a grade-school classroom.
The players: eight obscure but promising up-and-comers.
The theme: treachery, unjust punishment, redemption, and reconciliation.
It's the first day of filming, and all is quiet on the set. What this picture's visionary 4'5" director lacks in height, she more than makes up for in a set of pipes that could raise the dead.
"ACTION!" she bellows.
The air is thick with the palpable anxiety of both crew and cast. This is the third take of the film's most pivotal and emotionally charged scene: an inciting incident of brutal betrayal. While sitting only inches away from their victim, our two antagonists -- the victim's purported best friends -- clandestinely plot the tragic heroine's downfall.
By Susan LaMarca
The documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling screened at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on December 4 with Houston filmmakers Brett Whitcomb and Brad Thomason in attendance. Alongside an 80s commercial featuring Hulk Hogan in his most terrifying prime, pre-screening bumpers featured a clip of classic women's wrestling from the 1950s: Blond Ballerina vs June Adair with commentary from two male announcers who "sure do love to see a ladies' wrestling match." Then an Alamo programmer took the stage and asked the audience: "Who is your favorite GLOW lady?"
GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was the first ever all-female wrestling show, recorded in Las Vegas and airing for four seasons in the late 80s. Aspiring actresses, stuntwomen and models went face-to-face in wrestling matches staged before a live audience and remained in character to perform sketch comedy throughout the show. Although some of the participants speculate that the show was originally conceived as a vehicle for product placement and Vegas spectacle, GLOW became wildly popular among adults and children all over the world. The audience response to GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling proved many of the characters of GLOW continue to be very revered.
Longtime GLOW fans, director Whitcomb and writer Thomason were inspired to make the documentary by "childhood memories, idle time at work and YouTube." Their film celebrates the wrestlers of the television show. For many of the Ladies, being part of GLOW was an unexpected experience that they are proud to have been a part of.
During the Q&A portion of the evening, Whitcomb and Thomason discussed how almost all the performers were thrilled to be a part of the documentary. The Ladies remembered the sisterhood that developed backstage and felt regret that many of them lost touch since the show was cancelled. Former GLOW Lady Little Egypt was even inspired to organize a reunion that the filmmakers were able to capture for the documentary.
By Kaliska Ross
It’s Thursday night and Theater #2 at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar is filled to the brim with eager moviegoers and a palpable excitement over the special guest, Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, arriving at any moment, for the sneak peak of Rick Alverson’s latest film. While we waited for the lights to dim and the film to begin, clips of Tim and Eric were playing in the theater to set the mood. After a bit, the director Rick Alverson took the stage to briefly introduce his film, The Comedy.
The Comedy is about Swanson, played by Heidecker, a 30-something well-to-do Williamsburg hipster, and his group of friends, grappling with their privileged lives and ultimately trying to make meaning where seemingly none exists. Rick describes the main character as having a creative desire to reclaim language from banality. While a positive goal, Swanson’s methods -- berating those around him and completely ignoring political correctness -- often leave the more open-minded audience member feeling uncomfortable and the easily offended patron possibly even angry.
By Kaliska Ross
Walking into the Central Market Cooking School for a Chef du Cinema class felt like walking into a French café. Well, sort of. There was wine and French bistro music was playing. I guess the similarities end there.
Unlike a French café, the cooking class had bright lights, a televised demonstration table, and an effervescent instructor who was very personable and greeted us when we walked in. You certainly won't find that in a French café. He made small talk while the participants trickled in. I took that time to look over the menu. Tonight we'd be making Artichoke and Tomato Tartlets, Warm French Green Lentil Salad, French Style Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Endives au Gratin, and Maple-Pumpkin Crème Brûlée. Naturally, I was starting to get excited.
Next came a brief introduction of the chef, Ron Deutsch, and his assistants. He then went on to explain the dishes being prepared and how they related to the evening's movie, Amélie. The appetizer (Tartelette d'artichauts et tomates) appeared on the menu because a line in the movie is "At least you'll never be a vegetable -- even artichokes have hearts." The dish was a puff pastry topped with artichoke hearts, sun-dried cherry tomatoes, shallots and melted Gruyère. Let me tell you, those little pastries were good!
By Susan LaMarca
A local sneak peek of the documentary 1: The Unvarnished Story helped kick off the 2012 Formula One US Grand Prix in Austin on November 15. The red carpet included former drivers Emerson Fittipaldi, Jackie Stewart and Brett Lunger, plus Bernie Ecclestone, President and CEO of F1 Management and F1 Administration.
1 is an account of Formula One from the 1960s and 1970s, culled from thousands of hours of archival footage and contemporary interviews with 60 drivers and professionals. During those years, television audiences and sponsors brought business to motor racing as advancements in technology and engineering increased the performance of race cars. These decades marked the most dangerous period in the history of the sport, and many drivers were killed due to lack of safety regulations.
Producer Michael Shevloff introduced director Paul Crowder (Riding Giants, Dogtown and Z Boys) and writer Mark Monroe before the screening. After working on the project for three years in the making, the filmmakers expressed excitement at the opportunity to screen the film during Austin's Formula One weekend. They were also thrilled to announce that the final version of the movie would be narrated by Michael Fassbender.
By Ashley Harkrider
Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Mike McGill, Rodney Mullen, Lance Mountain ... Even non-skateboarders will recognize some of these names. The impact they had on skateboarding in the 1980s made them household names, rock stars of sorts, and legitimized skateboarding as both an art and a sport. They were a group of kids, some as young as twelve, formed into an elite team by Stacy Peralta, who had partnered with George Powell to form Powell-Peralta Skateboards. The team became known as the Bones Brigade.
When I was 12 years old, I saw an ad in the back of a magazine to "join" the Bones Brigade. After a long day of begging, my mother relented and soon the mailman delivered a box with my official membership card and the greatest t-shirt I had ever seen. It had all-over print featuring the board logo designs from every single rider and a large "Member: Bones Brigade '89" on the back. They were my heroes, and I was now a part of them in my young eyes. Long story short, I spent the next 10 years of my life doing everything I could to be just like my heroes. I may not have achieved those dreams, but in watching Bones Brigade: An Autobiography and hearing both Rodney Mullen and Lance Mountain speak in person after the film, I couldn't help but find myself feeling the same rush I once did. I believe that everyone who experienced the rise of the Bones Brigade will never forget the effect it had on us all.
By Ayshea Khan
While my stomach has finally recovered from the Halloween sugar overdose, I'm still reveling in the eerie magic that occurred at Mendez Middle School two weeks ago. The students in the Austin Film Society's after-school Film and Game Club program brought a haunted house to life through the principles of game design, filmmaking and theater arts.
Last summer, in partnership with the AMD Foundation's Changing the Game initiative and AISD's ACE Afterschool, the AFS Film Club began to delve into the realm of videogame design with the Digital Media Magic pilot program. The three-week workshop was offered to students from both Martin and Mendez Middle Schools to keep them thinking creatively about media production outside of school time. AFS was able to extend the transmedia curriculum into the school year with the AFS Film and Game Club at Mendez Middle School co-taught by myself and Lora-Jean Garza, the school's theater arts instructor, teaching both the art and technology of the two media.
I was excited to have the opportunity to be an AFS Filmmaking Mentor at Mendez and couldn't wait to get started. Lora-Jean and I both wanted to think outside the box for something particularly creepy and fun to engage our students during the pre-Halloween months. Well, what would be more fun than creating a haunted house in the school auditorium? Plus, a haunted house is the perfect project to build while learning the tools and techniques of game design and filmmaking.
Here's how we did it: We started the semester introducing students to game design through the online gaming resource Gamestar Mechanic. Alongside that, we did simple forms of animation including flipbooks and thaumatropes to provide students with a historical context of the computer animation they would use in the process. Some of the most important concepts a young digital media maker must learn are the five elements of game design: space, rules, components, mechanics and goals. (See AFS Community Education Manager Katy Daiger Dial's look at these elements through a film lens.) To bring these elements into a more physical space, students were tasked with creating their own board games that replicated the maze-like aspects of a haunted house.
by Stefan Gill
On September 14, at the Scottish Rite Theater, a few dozen film denizens gathered for the final night of the Lights. Camera. Help. film festival under a very inauspicious mood. The rain, ever rare in the dry Austin atmosphere, began its weekend-long parade, which only highlighted another strange occurrence -- an unrealized bomb threat at UT, which cleared the campus of its 50,000+ students. So on the final night of the 4th annual nonprofit-themed fest, which focuses on the good and triumph of humanity, there were many examples to counter such statements of good.
But any idea of giving into the negative was wiped away by the keynote address by Turk Pipkin, an actor who became a filmmaker with a heart for the humanitarian world. Noticeably tall and vocal, it is quickly obvious that he puts his passion for the good of humanity first, and his life as a filmmaker is motivated by that passion.
Pipkin highlighted his work with The Nobelity Project, the organization he founded to work with Nobel laureates and other humanitarian groups to promote their work with film and art and to create new opportunities. The YouTube page for Nobelity contains dozens of films, two of which Turk showed to the audience: 1000 Books for Hope - Join the Club, a about a donation drive to give books to five schools in Kenya; and Replant the Park, about the Bastrop fires and how Nobelity has fostered a youth tree-planting project in the area, which is embedded below for you to watch.
By John Elder
Do you have a film that is special to you? Not necessarily a favorite film, or even a film you would consider to be good. I'm talking about a film that you have a soft spot for. No matter the reason, this is a movie that is close to you, and you're close to it. You can identify with something about it. It hurts a tad to hear someone criticize it. It might be a guilty pleasure, but that's only half way there, because a guilty pleasure isn't necessarily special.
On Saturday September 8, I was fortunate enough to be at The Paramount for their "In Conversation" series. This installment featured Spike Lee and his 1999 film Summer of Sam. It was an event I'd had on my radar for a few months and had been eagerly awaiting. To see the director of Do The Right Thing in person giving a talk about one of his films, no matter how routine or rehearsed, had me in great anticipation.
Here's the Paramount Theatre's pitch: "Join us for an intimate interview with Spike Lee followed by a screening of Summer of Sam." I figured we'd get some very general questions with some very general answers to go with them. Preceding the prepared Q&A, we'd get some prepared remarks on Summer of Sam recited like a daily routine. Even if this was a routine gig for Spike Lee, I was still excited to be graced with Lee's presence.
Let me just say that I was pleasantly surprised. I now know why Summer of Sam is a very special film to Spike Lee (besides the fact that he made it). After hearing from Lee himself, that he wanted Sam to be "loud and full of colors," I now know what his guilty pleasure is, too. Summer of Sam is Lee's dramatization of the Son of Sam murders in Brooklyn during 1977. There is plenty of graphic violence, sex, and drugs to go around as we follow the lives of several eccentric characters in a closely-knit Brooklyn neighborhood. The film is loud and colorful, and its certainly not for the faint of heart, of which I saw a few leaving the theater a couple murders or expletives in.