Jordan Gass-Poore''s blog
The Austin Film Festival keeps the typewriter smoking this summer with its recent announcement of this year's second round of conference panelists, which includes DFW-area filmmaker David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) and Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries).
From October 24-31, Lowery and Rivera (and maybe even you) will join the minds behind such films as the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey, (500) Days of Summer, The Silence of the Lambs, Fight Club and television shows like Veronica Mars, House of Cards and Breaking Bad.
There wouldn't be panelists if there weren't panels. AFF will continue its "Conversation With..." series, which joins filmmakers and moviegoers for in-depth, one-on-one discussions about their experiences in the industry.
Participants include this year's AFF Outstanding Contribution to Filmmaking honoree, director Jonathan Demme, who won an Academy Award for The Silence of the Lambs; creator/executive producer of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan, who is this year's Outstanding Television Writer honoree; writer Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind); Academy Award-winner Barry Levinson (Rain Man); Robin Swicord, whose writing credits include Memoirs of a Geisha, Matilda and Little Women; and Beau Willimon, executive producer/showrunner/creator of the Netflix series House of Cards.
Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.
- Texas is set to offer $95 million in incentives to bring film productions to the state over the next two fiscal years, Austin Business Journal reports. The money's in the state budget that's yet to be signed by Gov. Rick Perry.
- An attic in Pflugerville caught fire last week during filming of the as-yet-untitled fourth Transformers movie, according to Austin Movie Blog. The minor blaze was ruled as an accident by the Pflugerville Fire Department Lieutenant Tim Wallace. It started while the crew was filming a scene outside and caused significant damage to the attic, which is now back in the hands of the owners.
- The latest Transformers flick also transformed small town Taylor, Texas. KXAN reported that parts of the city's West Second Street were shutdown for production. Mark Wahlberg and a silver Dodge Challenger spottings ensued.
- Only God Forgives, the latest movie to receive the "Drafthouse Recommends" title by the Alamo Drafthouse, will have a pair of advance screenings on June 19 at Alamo Slaughter with director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) and composer Cliff Martinez in attendance. Ryan Gosling fronts this film about a drug smuggler in Bangkok whose life is further complicated when his mother asks him to kill the person responsible for his brother's recent death. Only God Forgives opens in theaters July 19.
Yes, I agreed to cover the red carpet of The East, this year's SXSW closing-night film, for my campus radio station because I wanted to meet actor Alexander Skarsgard (Eric Northman on True Blood). And it's tempting to go on about my reaction to meeting Skarsgard briefly and shaking his hand and how I made him laugh, but I'll spare everyone the details. I wasn't so much there on the red carpet to profess my like for him as I was to watch The East, in which he plays Benji (yes, like the dog, and with his Jesus-like beard throughout much of the movie he doesn't look that different), the charismatic leader of the eponymous group out to give corporate America the finger through "jams" -- targeted eye-for-an-eye-style attacks on the people they feel are responsible for destroying the environment.
Corporate negligence aside, I'm one to believe that not one, two or even a handful of people are to blame for, say, pollution of a community's water source that may have caused or been a cause of a person's cancer diagnosis. Members of The East have complicated rationales for their crimes that contradict their actions, and much of the dialogue incorporates fallacies that would make even philosophy majors balk. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The East is actress/writer/producer Britt Marling's sophomore effort with writer-director Zal Batmanglij (whose brother is the keyboardist for the band Vampire Weekend). The duo previously collaborated on 2011's Sound of My Voice, which explored similar themes about Stockholm Syndrome and cults.
In Greek mythology, Icarus is given a pair of wings constructed out of wax and feathers by his father, with the advice that he is to follow his flight path and not to fly too close to the sun or the sea. Icarus ignores his father's advice and, through his curiosity, unknowingly flies too close to the sun, which melts his wings and sends him falling to his death in the sea. The popular understanding of this tale is the consequence of not minding elders and of personal over-ambition. But maybe filmmaking legend Stanley Kubrick had it right during his 1997 D.W. Griffith Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech: The moral really is to build better wings.
Austin filmmaker Craig Whitney has taken Kubrick's advice to heart. Instead of searching for film projects to suite his taste, he "built better wings" and started Better Archangel Pictures in 2008 to coincide with the release of his first short film, the award-winning Harvest Home. The University of Texas alum, who was quick to point out that he had no formal filmmaking training, has swiftly navigated his way through the industry (Harvest Home premiered at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival's Short Film Corner). His second short, The Garden and the Wilderness, was recently chosen by the Houston Film Commission to represent the state at this year's Texas Filmmaker's Showcase on June 30 in L.A.
Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.
- Maggie Carey's screenplay, which was performed as a table reading at Austin Film Festival 2010 under the working title The Hand Job (Jette's article), will hit U.S. theaters July 26 as The To Do List (watch the trailer). Carey's husband, Bill Hader of SNL fame, co-stars in this ensemble comedy about a recent high-school graduate named Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) who, with the help of her friends (Alia Shawkat of Arrested Development and Sarah Steele of Spanglish), makes a list of sexually explicit acts to accomplish before college. Friday Night Lights alum Connie Britton and Scott Porter also star as Brandy's mother and love interest respectively.
- Austinite Robert Rodriguez's El Rey English-language cable television station, aimed at young Latinos, is scheduled to launch in December or early next year, IndieWire reports. The network's lineup includes two scripted shows: an adaptation of Rodriguez's 1996 film From Dusk Till Dawn, which he will write, produce and direct; and a 13-episode "Latino James Bond-type" action adventure series he's slated to direct.
- Universal has acquired the rights to comedy spec Don't Mess With Texas, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Reese Witherspoon, who most recently starred in Austinite Jeff Nichols' Mud, and Sofia Vergara (Machete Kills) are attached to star in this female-centered buddy pic about a police officer and a prisoner on the run.
- Austin School of Film is offering free summer movie choices with its new "Pesadillas Calidas, Horror Films from Mexico" series, which showcases B-classics made below the border from the 1950s-1980s (with English subtitles) at 9 pm every second and fourth Saturday of the month through August at 1634 E. Cesar Chavez. For more free and cheap movies in Austin, don't forget to check out Slackerwood's annual guide.
Here's the latest Austin film news.
- Austin Film Society recently announced the participants in its inaugural Artist Intensive, a program designed to mentor narrative feature writers/directors in the development stages of their projects. Last weekend, Austin and New York-based independent bigwigs, like Amy Hobby (producer of Gayby) and Austinite Jeff Nichols (Mud), mentored six filmmakers, which included Austinites Mallory Culbert and Carlyn Hudson with The Big Spoon; 2012 Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund recipients Andy Irvine and Mark Smoot with Lovers Crossing; 2011 TFPF recipient Daniel Laabs with an untitled project about the aftermath of a fatal car accident in Pennsylvania; and the Texas revenge thriller Seize The Body by James M. Johnston and Todd Connelly.
- The Houston Film Commission has announced this year's Texas Filmmaker's Showcase, a selection of short films representing the Lone Star State. The showcase will be screened in Los Angeles on June 30 for producers, agents and studio reps. It includes several films from Austinites: Kat Candler's short Hellion; Russell O. Bush's documentary Vultures of Tibet (which won TFPF grants in 2011 and 2012); Craig Whitney's The Garden and the Wilderness; and Tony Costello's Little Lions. Other selections include Cork's Cattlebaron by Dallas filmmaker Eric Steele (watch online) and documentary Vincent Valdez, Excerpts for John, by San Antonio filmmakers Angela and Mark Walley (watch online).
- Fantastic Fest will host an international co-production market for genre films called Fantastic Market/Mercado Fantastico, which aims to connect international genre film projects with potential production partners, sales agents and distributors. The market will premiere in conjunction with this year's Fantastic Fest. Austinite Robert Rodriguez's El Rey network will collaborate with Mexican production and distribution outlet Canana Films to produce the Fantastic Market. Film submissions will be accepted until July 15. Representatives from the projects, selected by industry insiders mid-August, will be invited to make pitches to a jury that will include Rodriguez and Fantastic Fest/Alamo Drafthouse co-founder Tim League, who will select and award the top three.
It's been native Austinite David Fabelo's philosophy for years: if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. It's worked in Fabelo's romantic life -- despite spilling a beer on a woman during their first date he redeemed himself and now they're married. It's also worked in his professional life, with the release of his award-winning short film Do Over, about Adam (Garrett Jester), a high schooler who attempts to make a good first impression on his date with Sarah (Jacobi Alvarez).
This attitude of utilizing experimentation in an attempt to get it "right" has led co-writer/director Fabelo to VHX, an online platform that allows independent filmmakers to distribute their content directly to their fans via paywall. Fabelo has used VHX to set up a site where viewers can preview and hopefully purchase a download of Do Over.
"It's about putting a value on our work," said Fabelo. "A way to value shorts."
Here's the latest film news.
- A "spiritual" follow-up to the 1993 Richard Linklater comedy Dazed and Confused may begin filming this fall, according to Flixist. Linklater discussed the film, which he describes as a college comedy with a large ensemble cast, during a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) last week.
- Get your questions ready for Alamo Drafthouse co-founder and CEO Tim League, who will participate in an AMA on Reddit along with other representatives from the local theater chain from 1-4 pm CDT Thursday.
- Speaking of the Alamo Drafthouse, its distribution arm Drafthouse Films has acquired the U.S. rights to the German drama Nothing Bad Can Happen, which premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival. It's about a young Christian who begins to live with a family after a chance encounter and becomes the target of a violent game to test his faith. Writer/director Katrin Gebbe's first feature is also the first feature in the Drafthouse Films library to be directed by a woman.
- Chef du Cinema will be offering a new cooking class for a four-course meal inspired by Terry Gilliam's fantasy/adventure Time Bandits on Saturday, June 8 at Central Market North Lamar.
Here's the latest Austin film news.
- The New York Times profiled the Austin film scene in Sunday's edition and interviewed locally based industry heavy hitters like Richard Linklater, Elizabeth Avellan, Bryan Poyser (Elizabeth's interview) and Andrew Bujalski (Jordan's interview), among others. Worth a look for the photos alone.
- Speaking of Linklater, he has now filed suit against his insurance company, alleging breach of contract, The Austin Chronicle reports. His Paige, Texas property, near Bastrop, which housed scripts, production materials, publicity information, among other movie memorabilia, was damaged in 2011's wildfires.
- More more Linklater: Filmmaker Gabe Klinger has created a Kickstarter campaign for his documentary about the Austin filmmaker and director James Benning, according to Filmmaker Magazine. The project will only be funded if at least $25,000 is pledged by June 8. More than $8,000 has been raised so far.
- More than 65 research fellowships have been awarded by The University of Texas Harry Ransom Center for the 2013-2014 academic year to support humanities projects that require substantial onsite use of HRC collections of manuscripts, art, films, and other resources. Austin author Alison Macor (Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids) has received a research fellowship for her work about the life and career of HRC.
The second annual Oak Cliff Film Festival seeks to showcase the best of independent filmmaking of all genres from Oak Cliff (a Dallas district), Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth and Austin. From June 6-9, these films will be screened in the heart of the city's burgeoning Bishop Arts District and in some of its most historic movie theaters, like The Kessler Theater, which is said to have opened in the spring of 1942. The fest's home theater is the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, which hosts eclectic repertory film programming year-round (and which has a colorful history).
The nonprofit fest, which donates a portion of all ticket and badge sales to the North Texas Food Bank, announced its lineup earlier this week. Highlights include movies screened at this year's SXSW Film Festival, like Oak Cliff's opening night films Drinking Buddies (Rod's review), about the relationship between two co-workers at a Chicago brewery, and the documentary Pussy Riot: a Punk Prayer, that follows three members of a Russian art collective who were arrested on charges of religious hatred after performing a 40 second "punk prayer" inside one of the country's main cathedrals.
In addition, the fest's closing-night film is the regional premiere of Bobcat Goldthwait's latest movie, Willow Creek, a horror film starring Alexie Gilmore. And DFW-area filmmaker David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) will present some short films, a secret screening, and a not-so-secret screening of McCabe and Mrs. Miller.