By Sasha Esquivel
Along with a few lucky others, I recently had the opportunity to be a part of the hustle and bustle of a real film set in town. Thanks to the City of Austin, the Austin Film Society and local chapters of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, I got to intern with the props department on the set of Parkland.
The movie is described on IMDb as being about "the chaotic events that occurred at Dallas' Parkland Hospital on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated." The cast includes current/former Texans Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Duplass, and Marcia Gay Harden; plus Billy Bob Thornton (who won the Tom Mix Honorary Texan Award at the Texas Film Hall of Fame in 2009), Zac Efron and Ron Livingston, among many others.
This was my first time on a film set and the entire experience taught me a lot about the filmmaking process. From the moment I arrived on set I felt welcomed, and everyone was extremely helpful.
By Kayla Lee
It all started on the red carpet, just before the screening of director Ramin Bahrani's (Goodbye Solo, Chop Shop) new film At Any Price on the last day of SXSW 2013. The stars of the film, Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, graced the streets of downtown Austin with their friendly humor and welcoming smiles. The screening, which took place at the Paramount Theatre, had a great turnout. The crowd was ecstatic when Janet Pierson welcomed the director and stars onto the stage to brief the crowd before the movie started.
An exhilarating atmosphere filled the room as Quaid and Efron greeted the guests with their down-to-earth swag and demeanor. After their brief introductions, it was time for the show. It was exciting to see Quaid (who sometimes lives in Austin) looking to the crowd for approval throughout the film from the balcony. Judging by the laughter from the audience and his constant smiling down into the crowd, I believe all were pleased.
By John Gholson
[Editor's note: This is part three of a three-part conversation between Austin film writers John Gholson and Peter Hall about what happens when film bloggers (and critics, journalists, columnists, etc.) move into filmmaking. Please read part one and part two if you haven't already.]
John Gholson: With Zero Charisma, the reviews are out -- they're not mentioning me. Film School Rejects mentioned me in their review, at the end, in a quasi-disclaimer kind of a thing. Scott Beggs didn't know I was in it when he sat down to watch and review it, but other than that, no one's doing me any favors by drawing attention to my performance in their reviews, and I know a lot of the people reviewing it. It's not like they're patting me on the back or anything.
What was the greatest Grow Up, Tony Phillips moment at SXSW?
Peter Hall: Maybe one of the surprises at the premiere was seeing people who were there that I didn't expect to be there -- like the Evil Dead director [Fede Alvarez] came and watched it. I didn't talk to him, but, hey, the director of Evil Dead was at our movie! Some web personalities that I don't know -- Film Critic Hulk -- I don't know whether he liked the movie or not. I haven't seen any reactions. I guess seeing the turnout was the most interesting thing and seeing that it was somewhat consistent throughout the festival.
By John Gholson
[Editor's note: This is part two of a three-part conversation between Austin film writers John Gholson and Peter Hall about what happens when film bloggers (and critics, journalists, columnists, etc.) move into filmmaking. Please read part one if you haven't already.]
John Gholson: My thing is if you like movies, I don't know why there has to be a line in the sand. I understand it from some degree, because it has to do with perceived professionalism, etc, but again, if you're interested in it, why wouldn't you want to be writing about films and producing films or acting in films?
Peter Hall: Biggest example that I've been studying is Todd Brown. Todd runs Twitch and is also a partner in a company called XYZ Films, which produces and puts together sales. They do a lot, globally, for cinema, and Twitch still covers the films Todd's involved with. They always put a disclaimer that XYZ is involved with the film. What they do is throw a thing in there that says "Twitch has a tie to this because of Todd Brown but Todd Brown had no editorial involvement in this piece" -- to me, that's fine. That gets them off the hook, because I know some of those guys and I know Todd, and even the ones I don't know, I know how Twitch operates. I know that they're above the board. There's really not anyone in this industry who I don't think isn't above the board.
By John Gholson
[Editor's note: Please welcome local film writers John Gholson and Peter Hall to Slackerwood. Gholson decided to interview Hall about what happens when film bloggers (and critics, journalists, columnists, etc.) move into filmmaking, since they were both involved in SXSW films this year. This is an issue that affected Slackerwood this year, too, so I'm pleased to present this conversation to you. It's long and in two parts, but fascinating and worth the time to read all the way through.]
It was an unusual year for some movie bloggers at SXSW. Peter Hall, an editor at Movies.com, produced Emily Hagins' Grow Up, Tony Phillips, a film that made it into the fest (and one that features appearances by movie bloggers Brian Salisbury, J.C. De Leon and Scott Weinberg), and I, a writer at Movies.com, have a role in Zero Charisma, a film that went on to win the Narrative Spotlight audience award at the fest. It was a year where we went beyond our typical coverage of the festival, to having a personal stake in the reception of the films that played.
For us, it's been a slow and natural evolution, but for readers, does the involvement of bloggers in the filmmaking process begin to color both professions in a negative light? During SXSW, one acquaintance insinuated that the film I was involved with got a great review from a certain website because the company doing the PR for the film was also handling the PR for the website where that positive review ran. Now, I know that wasn't the case -- no one was doing anything corrupt -- but it's a common perception that's worth discussing. What are the obligations a film blogger has, in their relationship with filmmaking, and how should our readers perceive these relationships, especially since the line continues to blur on a daily basis?
I sat down with Peter Hall after SXSW to discuss the question and our experiences, being bloggers who are now involved in the other side of the moviemaking process.
Please welcome guest contributor Brady Dial, an Austin-based film producer whose last film was the documentary Man on a Mission.
After seeing The Other Shore you'll either be inspired to pursue your most impossible dreams -- or to drop them in favor of fully appreciating your present. Either way, a win. There are many surprises in this documentary about Diana Nyad's attempt to swim the gulf between Cuba and Florida, not the least of which is this: it's not about swimming.
To be sure, the film includes plenty of training scenes, discussions of the perils of the trip and a history of Nyad's swimming career. But that's all merely icing on the dense layer cake that is Nyad herself. Her relentless pursuit of the Cuba-Florida swim is at once an inspiring story of dogged determination while also revealing the tragic costs of single-minded obsession.
At 60, after a 30-year hiatus from long-distance swimming, Nyad decides that she just can't let go of this one last goal. She starts training again for the grueling 103-mile swim from Cuba to Florida, fraught with perils including sharks, strong currents and the incredibly venomous box jellyfish. The scenes involving the latter are some the most harrowing moments of the film and a testament to Nyad's indomitable will.
By Jessica Pugh
Because Fourplay is such a unique film and could potentially appeal to only a select audience, I wasn't sure if there would be a full house at the Alamo Village the night I planned to see it. I could not have been more wrong. We were at full capacity, and there was excitement in the air to see what former Austinite Kyle Henry's movie would present.
After talking to producer Jason Wehling before the Fourplay screening, I asked him what someone should expect from Fourplay. He casually stated, "You might be offended, you definitely will be challenged." The audience didn't seem to be as anxious about the film as I was. Several people ordered a few drinks, and were casually chatting.
When the film ended, cast and crew gathered at the front of the theater for a Q&A and discussion about the film. The movie is an anthology of four shorts each set in a different city. Overall, "Tampa" stood out as far as sexual explicitness. Viewers seemed impressed with Henry and writer Carlos Trevino's boldness to not hold back, and construct a homosexual orgy experience where literally anything goes! However, it was "San Francisco" that seemed to complete Henry's desire to make sex a meaningful central part of a character's existence. It was a heartfelt experience, and I think it was a fantastic ending to the Fourplay series.
By Mariana Mora
School is all about learning, and sometimes it can get tiring and boring. In afterschool programs like ACE (Afterschool Centers on Education) though, it’s about having fun while learning new and exciting things. AFS Film Club is an ACE program where we at the Austin Film Society teach children from 17 different elementary, middle and high schools some basic skills in moviemaking, from script to screen.
The AFS Film Club Winter Festival 2013 took place in February at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. AFS screened dozens of student films made in ACE Film Club during the fall semester of 2012. Students from at least 10 of the 17 schools made it to this amazing event where we screened their movies.
By Barbara Cigarroa
It was a packed house at the Paramount Theatre. Sitting in the uppermost row of the balcony, I looked down and watched as hundreds of people took their seats below me, waiting for the Captain himself, William Shatner, to appear on stage and take them for a ride. Minutes later, the lights dimmed and there he was doing just that, a rolling chair with him as his sole prop for life -- toilet, ship, bus, table, and, coffin. From where I sat, the 81-year-old actor looked tiny, but as the words rolled out of him and as his gestures became grander and grander, the distance between us disappeared and I was right there with him. The title of the show suggested it and Bad Billy delivered: he transported me right into his world, "Shatner's World."
I went into the Paramount Theatre that night expecting to be entertained by an entertainment icon; I came out of there having experienced, yes, a hilarious, but also, a heartfelt look back at this man's thrilling, legendary and sometimes lonely career as an actor.
Shatner began his professional trajectory in a Shakespearean theatre ensemble – no, not as the lead, but as the lead's understudy. Even though he probably would not be but an extra on stage, he took it upon himself to study every syllable and inflection of that other William's iambic pentameter, memorizing and rehearsing those 16th century lines in the one place he ever felt truly confortable: the toilet.
By Raven Patton
The Austin Film Society was honored late last year by the visit of Ted Hope, who was there to discuss an important matter concerning the creation of a sustainable film community. Ted Hope is an award winning film producer who has had widespread success with several production companies including Good Machine, which went on to become Focus Features, one of the most forward thinking production companies around, and his most recent production company, Double Hope, that he founded with his wife Vanessa Hope. Hope is also the executive director of the San Francisco Film Society.
What exactly does it mean to create a sustainable film community and why is it so important? According to Hope, we are a society that is oversaturated and distracted. At the dawn of the film industry, movies were scarce and controlled. Hope, a self-proclaimed chronic listmaker, says he made a list of four and five-star films that he wants to see before he dies. He stated that if he watched roughly 250 films per year, the list of films would actually reach 8.5 years past his life expectancy. This is a fantastic way of driving home the oversaturation issue. He warned about taking a cue from the music industry, which faced their struggles with sustainability first and urged that we restructure the film industry now before the problem persists.