Debbie Cerda's blog
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last 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.
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 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.
Austin 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.
Here at Slackerwood we often publish survival guides prior to film festivals to help attendees get the most of our their fest experience. Therefore my wrap-up of my 2014 adventure to Park City for the concurrent Sundance and Slamdance Film Festival will be worth re-visiting for the "lessons learned" for future years. As seen above, there are a lot of critical essentials -- chargers, transit maps, food and hydration supplies, hand sanitizer -- plus some extras to include when packing for a 12-hour day out and about in Park City.
Tackling two festivals in seven days proved a bit tricky as I tried to fit in as much content as possible, while skipping most social and party events. In hindsight, I regret not staying long enough to attend the Slamdance awards ceremony and closing party. It was a bittersweet and anxious experience to wait for Slamdance award announcements via social media as I was homeward bound on a late flight.
Of the five documentaries nominated for Academy Awards this year, four played Sundance Film Festival 2013. Festival Director John Cooper credited this to the heightened aesthetic excellence in the films at the festival as well as that "the world is accepting non-fiction in really interesting ways." During a discussion of the business and profits of independent films, Cooper stated that "at Sundance, we have to think a little differently. We think of impact. When you look at something like Invisible War is changing policy, when you look at Blackfish -- awareness is actually changing how things are done in our world. It's as important as how much money they (the films) make -- and actually way more important to us."
The documentary film that most affirmed this vision at this year's festival for me was director Michael Rossato-Bennett's documentary Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory. This moving and groundbreaking documentary received the Sundance Audience Award for U.S. Documentary, as well as a standing ovation at its premiere at Sundance 2014.
As high as I'd set my expectations for Alive Inside, the film far exceeded what I'd imagined. I nearly left the press screening that I attended simply because I was emotionally overwhelmed and in tears, while still a response that I would still describe as a positive experience from the aspect of grieving and healing after witnessing the mental deterioration of a beloved elder. Anyone who has ever had a loved one suffer from Alzheimer's disease, dementia, stroke or mental illness will recognize the profound impact of the this film's core message -- that personalized music therapy can not only awaken but in some cases prolong our emotional and mental faculties.
Preconceived notions about the male entertainment industry can drive some viewers away from film content, and I myself had little interest in seeing Magic Mike when it was released in 2012. However, a timely discussion with local filmmaker Richard Linklater about Matthew McConaughey's stellar roles of that preceding year led to his recommendation of Magic Mike due to the depth of McConaughey's performance as male strip club owner Dallas.
Joe Manganiello co-starred as Big Dick Richie in the film, which became a smash hit. Manganiello was so inspired by the discussions about the film's related topics of "objectification and post-feminist relations between the sexes" and interest in the characters that he and his brother Nick Manganiello decided to capture the men's stories themselves. The 3:59 Incorporated production team went to the birthplace of male entertainment -- the first La Bare club in Dallas, Texas, which has been open since 1978 -- resulting in their documentary, La Bare.
The men of La Bare are each unique and engaging in their own right. First up is the veteran Randy "Master Blaster" Ricks, a self-professed "205 lbs of twisted steel and sex appeal" who has danced at the club since its opening. His elderly mother Mary Lou supports him in his endeavors, even helping to run a side strip-o-gram service. Backing up Randy are the younger generation who go by first-name-only nicknames -- "Channing," "Chase," "Cesar," for example -- and who come from various backgrounds, including ex-military.