Debbie Cerda's blog

Interview: Wes Anderson, 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

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Wes Anderson of Grand Budapest HotelThe University of Texas at Austin alum Wes Anderson returned to his home state this month for the premiere of his latest movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival (Don's review). This adventurous story recounted by the elder Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) spans several decades and stars colorful characters including lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), who accompanies legendary concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) in a battle for a priceless painting.

Recurring Anderson ensemble cast members are liberally planted throughout this entertaining and often exotic film, including Tilda Swinton as a wealthy lover of M. Gustave, Adrien Brody as her money-grubbing relative Dmitri, Edward Norton as the police captain Henckels hot in pursuit, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman as fellow members of the clandestine fraternal order "The Society of the Crossed Keys."

I joined fellow film critics for a roundtable interview with Anderson while he was in Austin last week. We spoke at length about the production of The Grand Budapest Hotel as well as his personal influences. His unconventional production process lends to the lavishly complex style of his projects including this entertaining film.

SXSW Review: Butterfly Girl

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Butterfly Girl Still PhotoAs the main subject of the documentary Butterfly Girl, written and directed by Houston-based writer and director Cary Bell, lovely 18-year-old Abigail Evans appears to be a typical teenager -- moody, stubborn, and sometimes overly dramatic -- longing for her first alcoholic drink and someone to hold her who is not a parent. However, her everyday drama and challenges are far apart from the usual high school experience. Abbie was born with the life-threatening skin disease of epidermolysis bullosa (EB), and has been homeschooled by her mother Stacie so that she can be safer at home or on the road with her father, Austin musician John Evans.

Much of Abbie's life has been spent in hospitals being treated for her genetic disease and the physical damage wreaked upon her hands, skin and esophagus. She depends on her mother as a caregiver, who does her laundry and housework. Unable to eat regularly due to blisters in her esophagus that require multiple surgeries a year, Abbie must supplement her caloric intake through a gastrostomy tube daily.

On the Set of 'From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series'

Zane Holz and D.J. Cotrona as the Gecko Brothers

The Gecko Brothers are back, and attendees of the 2014 SXSW Film Festival can see them first at the world premiere of the pilot episode of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series on Saturday, March 8, 4:30 pm at the Vimeo Theater in the Austin Convention Center. The debut is part of the new Episodic screening category for this year's festival.

The Episodic category was inspired by previous SXSW featured content, including A&E's Bates Motel and the HBO series Girls. Other series featured at this year's fest will include the educational Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, the comedic series Deadbeat, and Austin writer/director Mike Judge's Silicon Valley. The television premiere of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series will be broadcast on Tuesday, March 11, 8 pm CST on El Rey Network.

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series is a re-imagined story based upon the original film but with the addition of new characters and storylines. This includes an intertwining of the Mesoamerican mythology that the main characters, bank robber Seth Gecko (D. J. Cotrona) and his volatile brother Richie Gecko (Zane Holtz), encounter while on the run from Texas Rangers Earl McGraw (Don Johnson) and Freddie Gonzalez (Jessie Garcia).

Texas at SXSW 2014: Toby Halbrooks, 'Dig'

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Toby Halbrooks of Dig

Two Texas-based short films that were in competition at Sundance 2014 are making their Texas debuts at the SXSW Film Festival: writer/director Todd Rohal's Rat Pack Rat and Dig, by Dallas-based filmmaker Toby Halbrooks.

Halbrooks is an integral member of the filmmakers at Sailor Bear, a Dallas-based production company that includes David Lowery, James Johnston, Shaun Gish and Richard Krause. Last year's Sailor Bear feature Ain't Them Bodies Saints received an award for cinematography at Sundance, and this year's festival featured Alex Ross Perry's Listen Up Philip, also produced by the Sailor Bear team.

Dig stars Austinite Jonny Mars and newcomer Mallory Mahoney, who plays a young girl intrigued by the large hole her father (Mars) is digging in their backyard.

I spoke with Halbrooks in Park City during Sundance about Dig as well as other Sailor Bear projects, including the short film Pioneer. Here's what he had to say.

Austin at SXSW 2014: SXSW Shorts Programmer Claudette Godfrey

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David Hartstein and Claudette Godfrey An exhaustive amount of time, energy, and effort goes into programming one of the largest film festivals in the United States, and it takes a dedicated team of programmers to carefully select the best program for the SXSW Film Festival each year.

Recently the Austin Film Society (AFS) hosted "An Austinite's Guide to the 2014 SXSW Film Festival," a panel discussion moderated by AFS Associate Artistic Director Holly Herrick and featuring Head of SXSW Film Janet Pierson, Producer and Senior Programmer Jarod Neece, and Short Film Programmer and Operations Manager Claudette Godfrey. And I've been chatting via email with Godfrey as well.

At the panel discussion, the SXSW programming team talked about what's new this year and what films they were excited about. Neece mentioned the new episodic category and is most excited for the new series Silicon Valley, directed and written by Austinite Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky.

Austin at SXSW 2014: Matt Muir and Chris Ohlson, 'Thank You A Lot'

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Chris Ohlson and Matt Muir of Thank You A Lot

In August 2012, I visited the set of the movie Thank You A Lot, which features Texas singer/songwriter James "Slim" Hand as a fictionalized version of himself along with actor Blake DeLong as a small-time music agent who struggles within the Austin music scene. Texas musicians who appear in the film include hip-hop artist Da'Shade Moonbeam, members of the Austin band Hundred Visions and jazz vocalist Keri Johnsrud.

Thank You A Lot will debut at this year's SXSW Film Festival in the Narrative Spotlight category, with the premiere screening at the Topfer Theatre at ZACH on Friday, March 7 at 7 pm. Additional screenings take place on Sunday, March 9 at the Marchesa and Saturday, March 15 at the Vimeo Theater in the Austin Convention Center.

I recently spoke with writer/director Matt Muir and producer Chris Ohlson to continue our discussion about the journey of Thank You A Lot from the set to the screen. Muir and Ohlson are business partners in the film and video company Revelator, and the duo perform commercial and corporate work while developing film projects within their schedule.

Ohlson also produced David and Nathan Zellner's critically acclaimed narrative Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (my Sundance review), which makes its regional debut at SXSW on Tuesday, March 11, 1:45 pm, at The Paramount Theatre.

Austin at SXSW 2014: Kat Candler, 'Hellion'

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Kat Candler at Sundance 2014 by Leslie Langee, all rights reservedLast month while at Sundance Film Festival, I spoke with local filmmaker Kat Candler -- seen above at the Sundance 2014 premiere -- about directing her feature film Hellion. which makes its regional debut in the Festival Favorites section at SXSW on Sunday, March 9, at the Topfer Theatre at ZACH. Check out my Sundance review of Hellion here.

This was the third year in a row that Candler and Austin producer Kelly Williams (Cinema Six, Pit Stop) made the trip to Park City in support of their film projects. In 2012, the filmmakers attended the fest for the premiere of the short version of Hellion. Last year, the gripping dramatic short film Black Metal debuted at Sundance and was even selected for the Sundance Festival's online Screening Room. Williams also received a fellowship to the 2013 Sundance Creative Producing Lab, where selected producers receive creative and strategic support as well as direct funding for development and production.

This year brought even more attention to the talents of Candler with the feature-length movie Hellion, starring Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis and in his acting debut, Dallas-based Josh Wiggins. The supporting cast includes actors from the original short including Deke Garner and Jonny Mars in this emotional drama about a widower and his sons who are grieving for their deceased mother in their own destructive manners.

SXSW Photo Preview: 'Boyhood' Red Carpet at Sundance

Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Richard Linklater of Boyhood by Debbie Cerda

Attendees at this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival will finally have an opportunity to watch the coming-of-age family drama Boyhood, written and directed by local writer and director Richard Linklater over a period of a dozen years. Shot for a total of 143 scenes in intermittent 39 days, Boyhood was well received at Sundance Film Festival last month where it debuted even before the credits were completed. Linklater -- seen above with Boyhood stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette -- seemed quite pleased that the movie had reached its own maturity.

Filmed from 2002 to 2013, Boyhood covers 12 years in the life of a family with a focus on the young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). They must deal with the impact of their divorced parents' decisions and actions while maturing into their own individuals who can determine the course of own lives. Read my Sundance review here.

Ready, Set, Fund: Pre-SXSW Film Crowdfunding Updates

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Rat Pack Rat Still

Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and fundraising endeavors related to Austin and Texas independent film projects.

Several local film projects that ran successful crowdfunding campaigns are making their regional premiere at this year's SXSW Film Festival including the experimental documentary Yakona from San Marcos-based filmmakers Anlo Sepulveda and Paul Collins, Thank You A Lot from Matt Muir and Chris Ohlson, Jeffrey Radice's No No: A Dockumentary, and Todd Rohal's Rat Pack Rat (pictured above). Yakona also received two Austin Film Society Grants (formerly known as the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund), as did local filmmaker Kat Candler for her feature-length version of Hellion, which also makes its Texas debut at SXSW.

The SXSW Film Conference will feature several sessions that should be of interest to filmmakers who want to learn more about achieving funding for their projects.

"Meet the Insiders: Funding and Special Organizations" will feature several speakers from the nonprofit film world and they'll speak about "what NOT to do in your proposals to grants, fiscal sponsors, film labs, and other programs." Independent Film Project Producer and Program Manager Rose Vincelli Gustine will moderate this panel, which includes industry experts such as Sundance Film Fund Director Rahdi Taylor, Independent Lens Senior Series Producer Lois Vossen and Chicken and Egg Pictures Operation and Programs Manager Iyabo Boyd.

Submit Your Short to the AFS ShortCase at SXSW

SXSW Film 2014 LogoAustin Film Society (AFS) members who are filmmakers have the opportunity to submit their short films to screen during the SXSW Film Festival as part of ShortCase, this year's AFS Community Screening. ShortCase is a 70- to 90-minute special screening of locally connected short films.

To submit, you must be a current AFS Make-level member (or above) and either a producer, director or writer of the piece submitted -- one of the people most creatively responsible for the work. If you are not currently an AFS member at the Make level, you can join or upgrade here.

This will be my third year curating the ShortCase film series. This year's jury includes AFS Film Programmer Lars Nilsen and local AFS filmmaker Clay Liford, who produced the Sundance award-winning short Rat Pack Rat, which also screens in the SXSW regular programming.

We remind AFS filmmakers to take advantage of the wealth of member resources provided through AFS Artists Services, including the AFS Grant and Moviemaker Dialogues.

Highlights for this year's AFS ShortCase submission process:

  • Submit films using online screeners with private or password-protected links (either via Vimeo, Youtube or any other streaming service). If you set an expiration date for viewing, it should be available until at least March 15, 2014.
  • Your submission form must be submitted by Monday, February 17, at 6 pm CST -- be advised this is not a "postmark-by" date.
  • Short films must be no longer than 20 minutes, so we can open up the screening to more AFS filmmakers.
  • Entries are limited to one submission per membership, so send your best work -- no works-in-progress.
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