Debbie Cerda's blog

Ready, Set, Fund: Visiting Seed&Spark

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Love Land

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

At South by Southwest this past March, I came across a new project funding platform called Seed&Spark, which was launched in December 2012. Founder Emily Best was inspired by her experience making her first feature, Like the Water, to team with other independent filmmakers to create this funding platform for filmmakers and their audience. The name comes from their philosophy that "films are not just art, they are business ventures. They require the seed of an idea and the sparks of human and capital investments to bring them to life."

To participate via Seed&Spark, a filmmaker posts his or her "wish list" of items and associated costs needed to complete a film project. Donors can choose to either donate funds or loan an item from the project list in exchange for perks or credits in the film. Once the filmmaker receives at least 80 percent of their budget, the funds are released.

Filmmakers can also upload completed films to the Seed&Spark site, where you can view the films for a fee. Viewers can earn site credits for viewing by engaging on the site and spreading the word about Seed&Spark projects. Filmmakers are encouraged to use other distribution methods as well including festivals, theatrical release, and other VOD platforms.

Discussing 'Much Ado About Nothing' with Joss Whedon and Cast

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Much Ado About Nothing Director Joss Whedon with Amy Acker

As a fan of writer and director Joss Whedon (pictured above on set) and his recurring ensemble of talented actors including Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg, I was intrigued to hear about Whedon's thematic version of a classic Shakespeare comedy, Much Ado About Nothing. I saw this darkly humorous film at SXSW this year (Don's review) and participated in a roundtable discussion with director Whedon and several members of the cast -- Denisof, Fillion and Gregg. The movie is now in theatrical release and will open in Austin on Friday.

Whedon successfully delivers a dark and humorous portrayal of lovers at odds due to misunderstandings of their own making as well as from outside forces. I strongly agree with Don's observation that "with its cast of stars from Whedon's hit films and shows, it may also introduce an entirely new audience to the wonders of Shakespearean theater."

Whedon's direction stays true to Shakespeare's language, with a modernization in the setting "princes" of industry within a house in Santa Monica designed by Kai Cole, Whedon's spouse. The use of windows and doorways to frame scenes as well as long tracking shots effectively keeps the audience engrossed within the story as well as if portrayed onstage. Whedon stated that he chose to film Much Ado About Nothing in black and white to capture both a comedy noir and "give it an elegance" that is more affordable than in color.

Film on Tap: Remembering Walt Powell of Flix Brewhouse

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Walt Powell of Flix BrewhouseTragic news in our community derailed my week: Walt Powell, Vice President of Operations at Hospitality Investors, Inc. and co-founder of Flix Brewhouse, passed away unexpectedly on June 4 at age 33. On Tuesday, June 18 at 1 pm, Flix Brewhouse will host a memorial service for Walt. The event is open to anyone and everyone who was affected by the loss, to share stories and raise a pint to Walt, self-proclaimed beer geek.

I find myself struggling between the professional responsibilities of covering a local newsworthy film community event and processing the loss of a dear friend. I've repeatedly had the impulse to vet my facts through the source -- Walt himself -- with the realization that he's gone. The most difficult part of writing this memoriam was not being ready to write in the past tense, something anyone can identify with after the loss of a loved one. However, the importance of memorializing a valuable and well-respected man in our local film and beer communities far outweighs these difficulties.

Walt and I were vaguely acquainted many years ago when he was general manager at Main Event Entertainment in northwest Austin. Being a Dave and Buster's alum myself, I teased him about it being a "D&B wannabee." Walt's reaction was to brag about his staff, ask me for my feedback, and challenge me to compete in skeeball.

Review: This Is The End

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This Is The End Still PhotoIt's the end of the world as we know it, and at what more fitting location than a drug-and-booze-filled housewarming at James Franco's fortress in the Hollywood Hills would the damned be found? Based on their original short film, Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, writers Jason Stone, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen expand on how Rogen and pal Jay Baruchel -- playing characters named Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel -- come to terms with one another during the Apocalypse in the bromantic comedy, This Is the End. Only this time, they are holed up and trying to survive on the last Milky Way and crackers with James Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, while also dealing with the likes of Danny McBride and Emma Stone (all also playing "themselves").

You don't have to be a fan of these celebrities to enjoy this scary rollercoaster ride, but you do need a strong constitution for the explosions of profanity, nudity, gore and bodily fluids. With that said, I found This is the End to be a sidesplitting raunchy ensemble piece that draws strength from a cornucopia of humor ranging from immature to witty self-referential, as well as razor-sharp timing of physical jokes.

This Is the End begins with a simple premise -- in Los Angeles for a visit, Jay just wants to hang out with pal Seth at his place, playing games and smoking weed like old times. However, Seth insists on meeting up with his new group of pals including James, Jonah and Craig. Jay reluctantly goes to the party full of celebrities, which includes a coke-infused, butt-slapping Michael Cera, as well as Mindy Kaling, Emma Stone, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and many other familiar faces from the big screen and comedy stage.

Review: The Internship

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The Internship Still Photo

Actors Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson pair up for the first time since their wildly successful 2005 movie, The Wedding Crashers, in The Internship, which opens in wide release today. The onscreen team that prefers to play by their own rules has gone from chasing skirts to competing for a coveted job at one of the largest tech vanguards, Google. What results is a fairly lighthearted comedy that attempts to transcend the transgenerational gap by including current pop-culture references alongside outdated ones from the 1980s. Rather than bridge that gap, these references provide an opportunity for The Internship to be appreciated by a broader audience.

The premise of The Internship is built on fairly simple principles: The digital age is no place for watch salesmen Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson), with everyone dependent on their smartphones to check the time of day. When the boss (John Goodman) closes up shop without warning, the pair must find a way to start anew.

Nick reluctantly accepts a job at a mattress store owned by his brother-in-law (Will Ferrell in a cameo), but Billy has bigger dreams. Billy gets lucky when he discovers that Google is interviewing for their summer internship program. The pair are then on their way to Mountain View, California, to the Google campus where they are faced with job competitors half their age and exponentially more tech-savvy. They must collaborate with their team of misfit geeks if they want to win new jobs.

Movies This Week: May 31 - June 6, 2013

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The Rookie Jim Morris and Dennis QuaidThe Austin Film Festival (AFF) and Bob Bullock Museum's fourth annual Made in Texas Family Film Series continues this weekend with Texas native John Lee Hancock's The Rookie. Based on a true story, the film follows the story of Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid), a small-town baseball coach who has a chance at the major leagues. Hancock, who's also known for his award-winning film The Blind Side, will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. This screening is free and open to the public, but you do need to RSVP here.

Texas documentary favorite Trash Dance returns for another week-long engagement with afternoon matinee screenings beginning Sunday at the Violet Crown Cinema. Don stated in his review, "In the Austin indie documentary and the dance performance it celebrates, the treasure isn't the trash -- it's the unlikely beauty of trash collection." City of Austin employees receive a $2 discount on ticket purchase at the box office or by phone.

My Facebook newsfeed has been abuzz with friends enjoying The Paramount Summer Classic Film Series, and this Sunday is The Paramount Kids Opening Day featuring The Adventures of Robin Hood and Looney Tunes. The Kickoff Party starts at 1 pm with crafts and games before the 2 pm screening of Robin Hood. For the Paramount Kids Classics movies, kids 18 years old and under receive $5 off the regular ticket price at the box office day of show.

Ready, Set, Fund: Bubbles, Dirt and Sharks

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Out of the Bubble still shot

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

A new chapter in life in life is beginning for many Central Texas teens with graduation ceremonies taking place over the course of the next week. My words of advice to these graduates? Take some time out from college or work to travel and get out of your comfort zone, whether it's backpacking with friends in Big Bend National Park in West Texas or trekking across Europe. Better yet, find a service project in another country where you can experience different cultures and meet people from around the world.

Brothers Colin and Michael Harman are doing just that with their film Out of the Bubble, which is funding through Thursday, June 13 on Kickstarter. However, the Harmans are taking their travels to a whole other level. What was originally intended to simply be documentation of their explorations of the landscape and culture of Norway as they venture "out of their bubble" is now intended to be the foundation of a online movement. The Harmans hope to inspire others to step out of their familiar surroundings and document their stories. These travelogues will then serve to build a network connected through an online hub. See their inspiring pitch video after the jump.

Alamo Previews 'The Silence of the Lambs' Signature Wines and Feast

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Silence of the Lambs Feast Menu

Last year the Alamo Drafthouse inaugurated their signature wine series featuring classic movie themes with the inaugural Princess Bride-inspired "Bottle of Wits" Inconceivable Cab and As You Wish White.

Today, Alamo revealed their second wines in the limited edition series: The Cannibal Chianti and Suit Yourself Pinot Grigio, inspired by Jonathan Demme's Academy award-winning 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs. The wines will  be available at The Silence of the Lambs Feast at select Alamo Drafthouse locations nationwide -- the Austin event will be held June 19 at the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter. I had the chance to sample the wines as well as the feast at a press preview on Tuesday night at the Slaughter location.

The Cannibal Chianti is an Italian wine (DOCG, for those in the know) from a vineyard located between Sienna and Florence. This dark fruit-forward medium-bodied wine gets its flavor from a blend of 85% Sangiovese with small amounts of Canaiolo and Malvasia del Chianti. Suit Yourself Pinot Grigio is a crisp and light-bodied white wine featuring grapes from California’s Central Coast and inland vineyards. The light citrusy finish makes it suitable for summertime enjoyment.

Movies This Week: May 17-23, 2013

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AFS Film ClubWhile we wait for various summer movie series to begin, Austin still has lots of interesting alternative film choices this week. And of course the summer blockbusters have begun and you already have your choice of the new movie with the Star Trek gang or the movie that released last week (and therefore is practically ancient) with the man in the iron suit.

Tickets are still available through the Austin Film Society website for Sunday's triple-feature of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and the sneak peek of Before Midnight, with director Richard Linklater in attendance after the first movie.

On Tuesday, Violet Crown Cinema presents Holiday Road, a comedy in which 13 filmmakers each devote a short film to a different American holiday. UT alum Todd Berger tackled January and October, and Austin's own Kelly Williams was a producer for this anthology.

If you're interested in young filmmakers, AFS presents the 2013 Film Club Spring Festival  screening (pictured at right) on Saturday at 10:30 am at the Marchesa, showcasing student projects. The AFS Film Club is an afterschool program that teaches AISD students about filmmaking and other digital media techniques to promote self-expression and creativity. Schools presenting work in the Spring Festival range from elementary to high school.

Film on Tap: American Craft Beer Week

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Crafting A Nation's Courtney Cobb with Scott Metzger and Davis Tucker

The Brewers Association proclaimed May 13 - 19 as this year's American Craft Beer Week, which means film-and-beer events are taking place across the nation. Just down the road in San Antonio, the documentary Crafting a Nation premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse Stone Oak last evening. Unfortunately I missed the screening, but I did get to the premiere after-party at Freetail Brewing Company. There I caught up with producer Courtney Cobb and a couple of the featured subjects in the film: Scott Metzger of Freetail and Davis Tucker of North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery (pictured above with Cobb).

The Crafting a Nation filmmaking team has been traveling across the U.S. this week with their film -- director Tom Kolicko hosted the San Diego screening. Cobb reports that the team is holding off on the Austin premiere so that they can "do it up really big" since central Texas was a featured region of the film. I heard a few of the audience members got a bit teary-eyed during a couple of scenes, and hope to see the movie for myself in Austin soon.

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