AFF 2011 Interview: Eric Steele and Adam Donaghey, 'Uncertain, TX'


We're deep in the heart of the 18th Austin Film Festival we've been spotlighting the Austin films, but Uncertain, TX has so many Texas filmmakers working on it, we just had to do a quick interview with director Eric Steele and producer Adam Donaghey, both based up in the DFW area. Austin's Clay Liford (Wuss, Earthling) did the cinematography. Uncertain, TX may be Steele's first feature film, but he's been active in the local film community. Steele, Donaghey, Barak Epstein and Jason Reimer are all part of Aviation Cinemas, which revived the historic Texas Theatre in 2010.

Describe your film for us, in a quick and dirty paragraph.

Eric Steele: Uncertain, TX is, in essence, the worst bed and breakfast experience imaginable. Two drifters happen upon an old bed and breakfast in a bayou town near the Louisiana/Texas border and encounter a very odd family who psychologically torments them during their stay. It’s a tragicomedy at its core and is purposefully theatrical - inspired by film versions of Shakespeare.

Tell us one thing about this film that is going to make it impossible for people to resist seeing it at the AFF?

Eric Steele: Blind B&B owners. Vast, sprawling Caddo Lake as the backdrop. Nutria. Gar. What else could you want?

Adam Donaghey: Boogie-woogie!

Review: Paranormal Activity 3


Paranormal Activity 3

[Note: This review is based on the cut screened during Fantastic Fest, which we were told was not final, and which might feature differences from the theatrical release.]

Just two years ago, on an impossibly small budget, Oren Peli started the biggest new horror franchise of the decade. The writing of this marks the first year of my contributing to Slackerwood which began with a review of Paranormal Activity 2, a clever prequel penned by Christopher Landon. Now Landon continues to extend the franchise and expand on the mythos of Katie and Kristi with another prequel set this time in the 1980s: Paranormal Activity 3. This time, his script is directed by Catfish filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.

This setting provides a challenge for a series of found-footage films, as the home security camera technology featured in the first two movies was not yet available back in the Eighties. (However, large, clunky B/W cctv options were available and could have been used.) To work around this, the girls' father is written as a professional videographer who just happens to have a studio full of the newest VHS camcorders he can bring home to record the strange events that have been occuring around the house. In a very clever feat of duct-tape engineering, he even fixes up one camera on top of an oscillating fan so it can cover both the living room and the kitchen. (Through a feat of magical engineering, these VHS cameras are also able to capture widescreen high-def images.)

The strength of Paranormal Activity 3 is the weakness of the series. The "events" are more aggressive, more powerful and scarier than ever, but with each movie we're moving more into the past. Thus, looking at the events in chronological order, the demon that's tormenting Katie and Kristi is apparently growing steadily weaker even as it appears to grow angrier until at the end someone has to die. While we learn a little more about the sisters and their family with each film, Landon is painting himself into a corner. If there is ever to be a Paranormal Activity 4, it can't stick to the same formula and try to extend even deeper into the past. Yet an attempt to jump the story forward in time could present some difficulty in reconciling with the events seen in previous films.

AFF 2011, Day Two: Super Woman Shoes and Free Firefly


Just who is the girl in the picture and why is someone getting her autograph? It's Stella Otto, one of the stars of Sironia.

But first, let's start at the beginning. Today was a packed day, despite only making it to one panel. Had to decide between much needed sleep and a panel, and the sleep won out. But I did make it to one of the Pixar panels.

Kiel Murray and Mary Coleman talked about "Pixar's Story Development Process" and how the innovative animation studio approaches the development of stories and films. Unsurprisingly, no one at Pixar works in a vacuum; while they have directors on staff, every director has to come up with three separate and unique stories to pitch before the script process. Then an iterative approach is used that involves a "brain trust" feedback process as well as feedback from the entire staff of 1200 people. It was refreshing to hear that Pixar films don't get test screenings with kids (which would explain why they work so well for adults). They also use a similar development process for shorts, only anyone at Pixar can submit a story idea.

Movies This Week: The Names of Paranormal Mixtape


Yes, we're in the midst of Austin Film Festival. But there are other film things going on if you're not attending AFF. On Monday night, Austin Cinematheque is showing a (free!) screening of Werner Herzog's The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser at the Texas Union Theater, 

The next Essential Cinema screening in the "Goin' for Baroque" series is Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover on Tuesday at Alamo South Lamar. Starring Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon and Richard Bohringer about a bored wife considering an affair, this is the only movie I ever stopped watching after a few minutes back in the days when VHS was king, so I need to give it one more try.

Love music and documentaries? Directors Lev Anderson, Chris Meztler are bringing thier doc Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone to town on Wednesday and will be in attendance along with Fishbone's John Norwood Fisher and Angelo Moore. The screening coincides with the release of a new album and a concert tour. Check the event details on the AFS website for more. 

Free screenings this week include a number at the Austin Public Library, and the Whole Foods Sunset Supper Cinema tonight featuring E.T. The Extraterrestrial complete with a costume and pumpkin contest).

Movies We've Seen:

Paranormal Activity 3 -- Jumpscares and stationary cameras. But does it work?  Mike saw it at Fantastic Fest and says, "Paranormal Activity 3's anachronistic horror ups the ante. Like the demon in the films, fans of the series will keep coming back." Look for his review this weekend. (wide)

AFF 2011 Interview, 'Austin High'


Austin High

The 18th Austin Film Festival is almost here. To help celebrate all the locally connected movies at this year's fest, we've reached out to a number of filmmakers to find out about their Austin and Texas-tied films screening at the fest.

The world premiere of the stoner comedy Austin High will take place on Saturday, October 22 at 10:30 pm at the Rollins Theatre in the Long Center. The film screens a second time on Monday, October 24 at 9:30 pm at Rollins.

At fictional Ladybird High School, Principal Samuel Wilson's (Michael S. Wilson) clock is perpetually set to 4:20, that is, until a politician from an unnamed city to the north of Austin comes to town. The politician wants to build more condos, turn Barton Springs into a water park and strictly enforce federal marijuana laws.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

AFF 2011, Day One: Uncertain Freak Dance


There's something inherently refreshing about sitting on the East balcony at the Driskill right before the first scheduled event of AFF. Despite the occasional smoker, and the incessant clanking of metal on metal in a nearby alley that's closed for construction, the cool breeze makes it a perfect Austin day. 

Checking out the other balcony to see if it had fewer smokers (it did), I happened upon the front-runner for best film marketing at a fest this year. The Upright Citizens Brigade had "protestors" out at Sixth and Brazos warning about the dangers of Freak Dancing. Freak Dance screens Friday night at ACC.

For the first time I actually made it to the Opening Remarks kickoff of Austin Film Festival. I was surprised to hear that the Polly Platt tribute and special screening of Bottle Rocket on Saturday was cancelled. Apparently it's been replaced by James Franco's Sal. And the last TBA slot has been announced; it's Post, written and directed by Texas native and True Blood regular Jim Parrack. However, Post is not yet showing on Festival Genius. 

'Dance with the One' Premieres at Texas State


Dance with the OneA small-time Texas marijuana dealer gets in over his head when the million dollars' worth of hashish his boss has given him suddenly goes missing in the family drama Dance with the One.

The October 12 Texas State University - San Marcos screening of Dance with the One was held in room 206 of the school's Department of Theatre and Dance. The Texas Independent Film Network, an Austin-based statewide coalition of film societies, universities and independent theaters, sponsored the event. The network tours a different Texas independent movie each month around the state.

"If you're at UT this sort of thing [independent film] is around you all over the place, but it's places like Waco, College Station and San Marcos [where] you're going to have to drive somewhere to go see it," said Tom Copeland, a lecturer in the Texas State Department of Theatre and Dance.

Mike Dolan, Dance with the One director, was in attendance at the Texas State premiere. Dolan, a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers program at The University of Texas at Austin, was chosen to direct the film through his previous work with the University of Texas Film Institute, a nonprofit educational film institute at UT.

Dance with the One is the first film produced by UTFI. The film premiered at SXSW 2010 -- read Debbie's review for more details about the movie itself.

AFF 2011 Interview: Steve Collins, 'You Hurt My Feelings'


The 18th Austin Film Festival is almost here. To help celebrate all the locally connected movies at this year's fest, we've reached out to a number of filmmakers to find out about their Austin and Texas-tied films screening at AFF, and to hear about what they're looking forward to doing during the festival.

Former Austinite Steve Collins has written and directed You Hurt My Feelings, which had its world premiere at Los Angeles Film Festival this summer. You may have seen his last feature, Gretchen, which also starred Courtney Davis and John Merriman. Collins may be living in Connecticut these days but you can tell he sure misses Austin. And he has some ideas about the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue.

Slackerwood:  Describe your film for us, in a quick and dirty paragraph.

Steve Collins:  It's about a damaged guy who uses his job as a nanny to prove to an ex-girlfriend that he's grown up and ready to have a relationship. I never can describe it without it sounding like Mrs. Doubtfire. I wish I could say fans of Mrs. Doubtfire would like it -- maybe they would --but its really a love story about people who are so locked inside themselves they can't communicate. The film uses the beauty of children and the natural world as a beacon of light that draws the characters out of their shell towards love. And Robin Williams plays a man who is slowly turning into a tiny bearded robot.

AFF 2011 Interview: John Merriman, 'You Hurt My Feelings'


Last year the Slackerwood gang declared it the Year of (Chris) Doubek, seeing the local actor everywhere in numerous films. This year it seems to be the Year of Merriman, even if several of the movies in which he appears won't hit screens until next year. 

If you played the six-degree game, you'd have plenty of degrees left over to connect to John Merriman in the Austin and indie film scene. He's acted in at least six feature films in the last year, including  You Hurt My Feelings and An Ordinary Family, which are playing Austin Film Festival this week. He's also in the cast of the upcoming Pictures of Superheroes, Cinema Six, The Man from Orlando and Loves Her Gun, all shot locally this year. Merriman has been in countless shorts including his own Sleep Study (co-written and co-directed by Kerri Lendo), which played AFF last year, and Scott Rice's (student) Oscar-nominated short Perils in Nude Modeling. I'm losing breath simply writing all that and it's just the highlights. 

Insider's Guide: Austin Film Festival 2011



It's the last big film festival of the year in Austin, are you ready? Austin Film Festival has a distinctly different vibe from the other fests in town. It's chiller, for one thing, in part because it's winding down the festival season, if not actually cooler temps. Whether you're a local or visitor, if it's your first time at a film festival, check out our Festival Survival Tips for the basics (and then some).  But there are things to know specifically for AFF, and for this year.

Dressing for the Occasion. Austin is a very casual town, so unless you're going to the Film and Food Gala, no need to get decked out.  Just remember to layer and don't complain about any rain as we desperately need it.  Check Weather Underground for the latest forecasts. On a related note, if you're a smoker you better police your butts and don't even think of throwing one out of a car window, or on the ground during the barbecue on Friday (fire danger is a serious problem in Texas these days).

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