RTÉ, Ireland's national TV broadcaster, will be showing a series of pieces this St. Patrick's Day celebrating Irish diaspora and heritage, called "How to Be Irish." Included in this special will be two shorts by Austinite Jake T. Powell and his production partner Micha L. Crook. The two partners make up Monthly Adventures Productions, based out of Austin and Syracuse, New York -- both are Syracuse University grads.
Their first documentary short from 2008, The Feast of St. Patrick: Family, Friends and Food, focuses on the celebration of family history on St. Patrick's Day. The short first showed at London's Wyllie O Hagan Film Festival that year.
"I'm pretty pumped about this showing because it's the second time one of our shorts has screened internationally," Powell said. "I think that the reason it has appeal to the folks in Ireland is that we take a look at Irish-ness which isn't about silly stereotypes but is still a very American perspective. I like green beer as much as the next guy, but growing up around so many people of Irish descent I know it's a lot more than that, and that's what we want to illustrate."
RTÉ asked them to do a follow-up piece along the same lines to show in tandem with the 2008 short, so the duo filmed Fáilte: Irish Hospitality in Central New York earlier this year. "Fáilte" is Gaelic for "welcome." This second documentary short includes thoughts about the theme of hospitality from some Central New Yorkers with Irish ties.
Monthly Adventures starts principal photography on their first fictional short in the fall of 2012.
Saturday was a big day for Austin film, not just because of the SXSW super-secret screening of local C. Robert Cargill's horror debut Sinister (J.C.'s review), but also because it saw the world premiere of Austin-shot (and choreographed, scored, acted, and directed) Trash Dance, for an afternoon screening at the Paramount Theatre. Trash Dance was shot by Austinite Andrew Garrison as he followed choreographer Allison Orr creating the largest project of her life.
Orr spent a year working with employees of the Austin Department of Solid Waste Services: working their routes, learning their jobs, studying their movements and most importantly, gaining their trust as she designed and worked with them during their spare time to craft a performance including 24 workers with 16 of their work vehicles. While just ordinary people, they all demonstrate unique and wonderful talents, playing harmonica, breakdancing, or barbecuing. The level of time commitment was even more extraordinary given most of these people worked second and even third jobs to help make ends meet.
This first photo is actually from Tuesday, Day 5, taken at the Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter for the most packed screening line that venue has seen yet. Both the badge line and the pass/single ticket line for Safety Not Guaranteed stretched out the doors and curled around the courtyard in front. The studio sent a camera crew to film crowd reaction shots after the very successful movie's second performance.
The ironically titled film Somebody Up There Likes Me is more like Somebody Up There Is Messing With Me, for all the characters' suffering. But their losses are our gain.
Bob Byington's latest feature is everything we've come to expect from the Austin filmmaker, a charmingly off-kilter examination of human relationships torn asunder. It's a thoroughly eccentric film, a movie so hilarious and engaging that I can forgive its slightly nonsensical premise.
At the center of Somebody Up There Likes Me is the bumbling, befuddled Max (Keith Poulson), a hapless everyman who can't seem to hang onto the breaks life gives him. When his ex-wife -- a nameless woman billed only as Ex-Wife (Kate Lyn Sheil) -- rejects his attempts to reconcile, Max plunges into the dating game with coaching from snide and sarcastic co-worker Sal (a show-stealing Nick Offerman). Max wastes little time in wooing and marrying Lyla (Jess Weixler), a breadstick-addicted waitress at the upscale steakhouse where Max and Sal work.
Beloved Fantastic Fest directors Adam Green (Hatchet, Frozen) and Joe Lynch (Knights of Badassdom, Wrong Turn 2) appeared on a SXSW Film panel on Sunday, presenting their new TV show Holliston for FEARnet. This graphic, chaotic sitcom will be making its premiere on April 3.
The show is produced like many other sitcoms on broadcast television, including a laugh track, three-camera set-up and even shot on a soundstage (the same soundstage used for Seinfeld's first few episodes). Although shot like a sitcom, it does not feel like your traditional sitcom whatsoever. During a sizzle reel, we were hit smack in the face with some very obscene (yet still funny) humor. The length of the show does vary though, with some episodes going over 35 minutes. But given their first season is fairly short (six episodes), more is better.
If you've ever seen any of Lynch's or Green's movie work, you can expect some of that same attitude to come through the tube. The show is filled with several references but not the typical Star Wars or Lord of the Rings references that you'd see in shows today. Their jokes show their diversity in taste, ranging from Cannonball Run to Cannibal Holocaust. The film geek ratio of their jokes is very high and its actually a big relief to not see a joke coming from a hundred miles away. The casting of Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) and Oderus Urungus (GWAR) really shows that FEARnet is giving these directors full control of their work and it'll be refreshing to see that.
Austin locals and indie film champions Jay and Mark Duplass have always stayed true to their philosophical roots. This is evident in every movie they've made. The only difference as you go along their filmography in chronological order is that they are able to secure more famous acting talent than the movie prior to it. Despite the enormity of talent they're able to bring in, every film still manages to be charming and full of heart.
The Do-Deca-Pentathlon will be about as close as you can get to the Duplass brothers going back to their true roots. They filmed it immediately after Baghead in 2008, and it stars one of the same actors. After Baghead, they signed a deal to make Cyrus, and they've been two of the hardest working filmmakers in the business ever since. They were thrilled to finally show this movie to an audience.
In 1990, Mark (Steve Zissis) and Jeremy (Mark Kelly) embarked on the brotherly competition to end all brotherly competitions, the do-deca-pentathlon. The 25-event competition would declare the winner the champion of all time, but when they were tied, the final event ended in controversy due to some interference from a well intentioned father. This started a feud between the brothers that Mark never got over. Fast forward to when the brothers are now adults. Mark has a beautiful family and Jeremy is a professional poker player. On a weekend getaway for Mark's birthday, Jeremy comes back and antagonizes Mark into doing the do-deca again, much to the chagrin of his Mark's wife Stephanie (Jennifer Lafleur).
At the beginning of Girl Model, dozens of girls are shown standing in bikinis and heels in a room of mirrors; the metaphor is obvious but succinct. It's hardly news that young women are exploited in the meat market of modeling. But Girl Model explores that on a deeper psycho-emotional level. Motivations are obscured and rationalized, making it impossible for an adult to navigate, let alone pubescent girls.
Filmmakers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin have a well earned reputation with a strong body of work, including Intimidad (SXSW 2008), Kamp Katrina (SXSW 2007), and Mardi Gras: Made in China. Their latest documentary Girl Model attempts to illuminate the illusive reality of young girls in the international modeling industry through a new model and the scout who found her.
Saturday morning provided an impressive selection of panels for SXSW Film badgeholders, but one stood out above the rest -- especially for any aspiring producers and screenwriters in attendance. "Collaborations in Film: Writers & Producers" featured writer/director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter), producer Brunson Green (The Help), and producer and Austin Film Society Board of Directors member Sarah Green (Take Shelter, The Tree of Life). The panelists discussed and fielded questions about what it takes to have a successful working relationship between writers and producers.
While each panelist brought their own impressive career and experience to the panel, it was exciting to see such a great pair like Sarah Green and Jeff Nichols discuss this topic, with their collaboration on films like Take Shelter as well as the much-anticipated Mud.
Green expressed her interest in working with Nichols after being impressed with his writing right from the start, emphasizing how important it is to establish good, clear communication between writer and producer. Admitting that her notes to writers have been known to be straightforward and challenging, Green stated that it is essential to make sure that both parties are working to make the same movie.
Everyone on the panel agreed that a successful partnership allows the writer to properly establish their ideas and accomplish their vision, while the producer must challenge and push the writer in order to get the screenplay to its full potential. The key is striking the perfect balance between creativity and criticism.
One of the more fascinating few minutes of this panel was Nichols elaborating on what initially inspired him to write Take Shelter. From a simple image of a man standing in front of an open storm shelter, to the fundamental emotion of anxiety throughout, he built a truly captivating story. Nichols jokingly added that he threw in some of the more thrilling scenes so people would actually want to watch it. He certainly made it clear that ultimately it is much more fulfilling as a writer to work with producers who allow him to put himself into the entire screenplay, rather than having to bend to notes that work against his original vision.
Brunson Green gave insight into giving a writer the proper amount of leeway throughout the development process. It was fascinating to hear his experience producing the widely successful film The Help from the initial adaptation process to the final release.
Upon first glance of the trailer, or even hearing that God Bless America is a movie written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait -- you know, that guy from the Police Academy movies -- it'd easy to dismiss the film as a dumb and very violent action comedy with nothing to say. That couldn't be further from the truth. It's got a lot of things to say, and it will say something to everybody. Not everyone will be ready for this a harsh a dose of reality, but it's a film that people in this country could clearly benefit from watching.
What would you do if you were at your lowest point? Fired from your job, everything on TV makes you miserable, your daughter hates you and you just can't catch a break. This is where Frank (Joel Murray) finds himself, and to make matters worse, he's diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. When he's just about to take his own life, Frank watches the most vile of reality TV characters, a 15-year-old teenager in a rich family. He decides to track her down and end her life, righting a small wrong in the world before he will leave it. He's witnessed by a young girl named Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who has a similar disdain for the victim but also, like Frank, for the rest of the country. Together they decide who should die and who should live as they venture across the country.
I don't like interviewing people over the phone, since I can't make eye contact. I don't like interviewing a filmmaker without seeing his or her movie first, in case it turns out to be awful. And I don't usually like two-on-one interviews with a filmmaker and actor, because I'm not confident about questions I have for actors, and always worry I'll lapse into lameness. So I try to avoid these situations.
However, I jumped into a combination of all of them a few weeks ago to talk with Austin filmmaker Bob Byington and actor/producer Nick Offerman about their latest film, Somebody Up There Likes Me, which had its world premiere at SXSW on Sunday night. It was well worth working outside my comfort zone. And yes, I ended up really liking the movie, so I didn't have to hide from Byington afterward.
The original plan was to interview Bob Byington at a local cafe, but he emailed me a day or two beforehand and asked if we could make it a phone interview to include Offerman. Offerman is actually in four films at SXSW this year -- besides Byington's movie, he has a supporting role in Casa de mi Padre, and briefer appearances in 21 Jump Street and Slacker 2011.