Debbie Cerda's blog
Last week, Austin Film Festival (AFF) announced confirmed panelists from the film and television industries, including David Simon, this year’s recipient of the 2010 Outstanding Television Writer award. Simon is the creator of HBO’s The Wire, where he served as executive producer, head writer and showrunner for the duration of the series. Simon brought in local musical favorite and former Texan Steve Earle to play a struggling street musician in his new HBO series Treme. Earle's song "The City" was used in the season finale. I've not seen either series personally, but I'm intrigued enough to watch Treme after reading reviews by residents of New Orleans. General consensus is that Simon has painted a lifelike portrait of what New Orleans life was like post-Katrina -- and a plus is one of my favorite actors, John Goodman, stars.
The AFF Screenwriters Conference offers over 65 panels, craft sessions and roundtable discussions led by more than 100 industry professionals. As I mentioned in my wrap-up of AFF 2009, I enjoy attending panels and gaining insight into the creative processes of film and television writing and production. I think AFF has the most to offer for anyone wanting screenwriting content at a local conference.
The confirmed screenwriter and filmmaker speakers for the 2010 Austin Film Festival will include several writers who've worked on some films connected to Central Texas. John Lee Hancock wrote and directed A Perfect World and The Rookie, which were both filmed in and around Austin. Peter Hedges wrote the screenplay based on the original novel for What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Machete co-writer Alvaro Rodriguez will also speak at this year's conference -- whether co-writer and cousin Robert Rodriguez will make a surprise appearance is anyone's guess at this time. He unexpectedly popped into an AFF screening of Spy Kids yesterday. However, I'm sure Machete will generate a lively discussion due to recent controversy as reported in a recent Slackery News Tidbits.
While viewing online photos of Twilight-themed bedrooms earlier this week, I was a bit apprehensive about seeing the latest installment of the film series that's been anxiously awaited by hardcore fans. Walls covered with posters, full-size cutouts of Edward and patchwork quilts with scenes from the film were a bit disturbing, especially for the person who was obviously in her forties. However, a wall covered with images of Bella, Jake, and Edward struck a chord -- I was that pre-teen, with pictures of David Cassidy and Donny Osmond torn from the pages of Tiger Beat magazine. It was a humbling moment, and a prelude to my experience watching The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Eclipse is the most mature and palatable of the three romantic fantasy films so far. Melissa Rosenberg returns again as screenwriter, but it's director David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) who strips away much of the prior films' campiness and poorly-executed special effects and delivers an entertaining film.
Eclipse begins with an attack on a dark and ominous night in Seattle that sets a sinister tone to forthcoming events. A series of unexplained deaths and disappearances causes concern amongst the Cullen family. Even more disturbing is that the vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) has been prowling nearby to seek her revenge on Edward for killing her mate. Star-crossed lovers Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) are reunited -- she is determined for him to turn her into a vampire, so they can never be parted. Edward is reluctant to do so, but sets a stipulation that she's not too keen on.
It doesn't seem that long since my SXSW Film 2010 wrap-up, but SXSW staff are already preparing for 2011. The SXSW PanelPicker went live today, and you can add your ideas here for next year's Film, Interactive and Music conferences.
Per the PanelPicker press release, the SXSW Film Conference is "most interested in proposals geared towards creating, marketing, and finding audiences for films in this new digital age, as well as hands-on workshop ideas."
I really enjoyed this year's "How to Rawk SXSW Film," moderated by Agnes Varnum of Austin Film Society. Questions from the audience included where attendees could find screenwriting tips -- not in panels, but mentor sessions are good places -- to how and where to meet with Interactive Conference attendees. I recommended the "crossover" panels and special events as good locations to intermingle.
SXSW welcomes crossover panels, which focus on the areas where film, music, and interactive meet. Bear that in mind when you're planning to submit panel ideas for 2011. I mentioned some of these panels in my "SXSW 2010 Guide: Balancing Film and Interactive," but how cool would it be to have a film and music panel about film scores from local composers Graham Reynolds, who scored The Lost World screening at SXSW 2010, and/or Brian Satterwhite (Artois the Goat, Man on a Mission)?
Director Harald Zwart and screenwriter Christopher Murphey set their sights high with the newly released The Karate Kid, a remake of the memorable and inspirational 1984 original of The Karate Kid, both based on an original story by Robert Mark Kamen. Ralph Macchio starred as Daniel Larusso in the 1984 version as a New Jersey high schooler who moves to California with his mother. He is bullied by local teens until he meets Mr. Miyagi, a handyman/martial artist played by the late Noriyuki "Pat" Morita. Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel-san that there's more to karate than violence.
In the remake, Jaden Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness) plays Dre Parker, a 12-year-old kid who moves to Beijing, China, after his mother (Taraji P. Henson from Date Night, Hustle & Flow) is transferred for her job with a car company. Bullied by local boys who are trained in the martial arts by a merciless sensei, Dre is rescued from an attack by handyman Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) who then begins teaching him the art of kung fu. Dre must face his attackers one-on-one at a tournament -- who needs qualifying competitions in Hollywood?
As I noted last week, filmmaker Eric Byler was in Austin to promote 9500 Liberty, currently playing at the Dobie (Don's review). The documentary depicts the battleground in Virginia and on the Internet over an anti-immigration policy, the "Immigration Resolution," that the Prince William County board of supervisors adopted in 2008. To counteract the racial divisions that occurred in their community, county residents formed a resistance using YouTube videos and virtual town halls. The inflammatory showdown between the groups had profound and devastating social and economic impacts in their community.
Byler and Annabel Park not only co-directed 9500 Liberty, but co-founded the political action group Coffee Party USA in response to the politics that enabled the Virginia anti-immigration law to pass. Byler is the YouTube/Online Media Coordinator for the group, and has created a number of videos about political issues.
As he mentions in his interview, Byler screened two of his feature narrative films at SXSW: Charlotte Sometimes in 2002, which won an audience award; and Americanese in 2006, which won the Best Narrative Feature award and a special jury prize for Outstanding Ensemble Cast. I caught up with Byler before last week's 9500 Liberty special screening at the Texas History Museum and asked him a few questions.
Every summer night, hundreds of people gather to see the world's largest urban bat colony emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin. Approximately 1.5 million Mexican freetail bats reside in this mostly female colony, until early June when each one gives birth to a single pup. On their nightly flight out from under the bridge, the Austin bats eat from 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects, including agricultural pests. Recognizing the benefits of these gentle animals, the City of Austin has adopted the bat as its official animal, and is hosting its first ever city-sponsored family event "Night of the Bat" to celebrate these furry and fanged flyers.
Night of the Bat kicks off on Sunday, June 6 at 2 pm with a matinee screening of the original classic film Batman (1966), featuring the Batmobile and special guest and original Batman Adam West, who will introduce the film and host a Q&A. Batman made its world premiere at the Paramount Theatre forty years ago -- and a few months after the TV series debut. As a child of the '60s I watched re-runs of Batman religiously, although I thought that Batman was overly bossy towards quasi-hearthrob Robin. Hard to believe that Adam West is 81 years old, and still making appearances -- so don't miss this chance!
Local action film fans enjoyed an extra special double-fisted dose of bone-jarring action at a free screening of Mandrill and Undisputed III: Redemption at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar on Friday night. The audience was also treated to a Q&A with Mandrill producer and star Marko Zaror and Isaac Florentine, director of the second and third films in the Undisputed series -- seen above with Fantastic Fest and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League.
I enjoyed Mandrill at Fantastic Fest, and it was interesting to see it again with an audience full of action fans. I was disappointed to hear that plans for an American version of Zaror's 2007 action film Mirageman have been scrapped. Zaror alluded to the release of Kick-Ass having an impact on the loss of interest in Hollywood for a film about a hero from the streets that fights only with his fists. Check out a nice photo of Zaror (wearing a Mirageman shirt!) after the jump.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is an epic action-adventure film based on the Ubisoft video game of the same name. Set in medieval Persia, the story's central plot focuses on an adventurous prince who reluctantly teams up with a rival princess to stop a ruthless ruler from unleashing a sandstorm that will scour the face of the earth. Director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) attempts to create a film of epic proportions that falls a bit short of its predecessors.
Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) was born and raised a pauper, but after king Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) witnesses an act of bravery by Dastan, he is welcomed into the royal household. As an adopted prince and brother, Dastan enjoys wrestling with his men to the politics of the kingdom, leaving the future leadership to brothers Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell). The brothers invade the holy city of Alamut after their Uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley) convinces them that the citizens of Alamut are providing weapons to their enemies. Dastan isn't fully convinced, but rather than disagree with his brothers he instead leads a successful and heroic attack on the city. There he meets the mysterious and beautiful princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), who is guardian to an ancient dagger that is a gift from the gods. Through chance, Dastan discovers the dagger's exceptional power -- by releasing the Sands of Time contained in the hilt, the possessor can reverse time. It doesn't take long for Dastan to realize that the dagger is the ultimate weapon -- someone with malicious intentions could use the dagger to rule the world.
Arizona's new immigration law has provoked accusations of racial profiling, since it gives police the power to stop and detain suspects if they have "reasonable suspicion" they are in the country illegally. The law has triggered a national debate about immigration and the role that local and state authorities play in enforcing federal laws. A new documentary shines a spotlight on the social and economic impacts of immigration policies, including racial profiling.
The documentary 9500 Liberty, directed and produced by SXSW Award Winner Eric Byler (Americanese) and Coffee Party Movement founder Annabel Park, depicts the battleground in Prince William County, Virginia and on the Internet in the battle over immigration policy. Anti-immigration networks used online media to frighten local lawmakers and citizens in Prince William County. In order to counteract the racial divisions that occurred in their community, residents formed a resistance using YouTube videos and virtual townhalls. The inflammatory showdown between the groups had profound and devastating social and economic impacts in their community. 9500 Liberty shows how real people and local businesses were affected by the "Immigration Resolution."
Summer is almost officially here with plenty of free summer movies, and there's still time to register for kids' summertime filmmaking camps and workshops in Austin. A few of last summer's offerings are either full or are no longer taking place -- Dougherty Arts Center has no film classes this year -- but kids still have plenty of camps and sessions to choose from.
These affordable camps and workshops provide unique experiences for local youth in various aspects of filmmaking including acting, screenwriting, editing and animation. At the end of many of them, friends and family are invited to attend a screening of the movie campers helped make, or bring home a DVD to hold their own private screening party.
Here's a list of all the summer movie-related camps and classes in the Austin area that we could find. Some of the descriptions are pretty much verbatim from press releases or websites -- although I was the Sierra Cubs Camp director for several years, sadly I've yet to be involved in any kids' film camps. Although they're for kids and not adults, don't be too disappointed -- you'll find a couple of options for grownups at the end of the list.
If I've missed anything, let me know in the comments and I'll add the info to the list.