A Look at Texas Film Through the 2011 TFPF Projects



Last week, Austin Film Society announced the 2011 Texas Filmmakers Production Fund recipients, awarded a total of $92,000 in grants, film stock and services ... plus $7K for travel grants and $12K for the Slacker 2011 production, bringing the grand total to $111,000.

I always enjoy reading about the TFPF grants because they provide a sneak peek into upcoming movies from Texas filmmakers. Austin was well represented in this year's list, but exciting productions from around the state are included. Many of these productions held online crowdfunding campaigns; I've linked to the campaign web pages and recommend taking a look, because some of the teaser videos for these films are excellent.

Here are the Austin projects that received grants, with whatever info I could find about the filmmakers and their productions:

  • $7,500 to Computer Chess -- Andrew Bujalski
    Bujalski moved to Austin a few years ago and shot his feature Beeswax here. Now he's working on Computer Chess, a feature about what happens when chess nerds meet computer programmers in 1979. The movie is currently in production in Austin -- they've been looking for extras -- and had a successful crowdfunding campaign.
  • $7,000 plus $1,000 in Alpha Cine services to Yakona -- Paul Collins, Dean Brennan and Anlo Sepulveda
    Sepulveda directed the lovely Austin-shot Otis Under Sky, which played SXSW this year, for which Collins provided the sound design. Brennan is a San Marcos filmmaker. Yakona (pictured at top) is an experimental feature-length documentary about the San Marcos River and Spring Lake ... from the point of view of the river itself.
  • $7,000 to Barge -- Ben S. Powell
    Powell is a local filmmaker and photographer. Barge is his first feature documentary. It's about "the dying trade of barge shipping on the Mississippi River."
  • $7,000 to Pit Stop -- Yen Tan
    Tan recently moved to Austin from Dallas. His previous features include Happy Birthday and Ciao, and he produced Clay Liford's short My Mom Smokes Weed. Pit Stop is a feature film about "two men who find themselves in love in a small town in Texas." The script was a semifinalist in the Sundance Screenwriting Lab. Check out Yen Tan's website to learn more about his projects.
  • $5,000 to Kid-Thing -- David Zellner and Nathan Zellner
    The Zellner brothers have shot a number of memorable short films in Austin, as well as their feature Goliath, which premiered at Sundance in 2008. They successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign last year for Kid-Thing (pictured below), their latest feature, about a rebellious young girl.


  • $5,000 to Untitled Israel Football Project -- David Hartstein
    Hartstein is an Austin documentary filmmaker (Along Came Kinky: Texas Jewboy for Governor) as well a a producer (The Happy Poet, Where Soldiers Come From). His latest doc project is about the emergence of American-style football in Israel; for more info, check out the United States Artists fundraising campaign.
  • $5,000 to Zero Charisma -- Katie Graham, Andrew Matthews and Thomas Fernandes
    Graham and Matthews moved to Austin recently after working as cinematographer and editor for the documentary Best Worst Movie (SXSW 2009) and teamed up with local filmmaker/musician Fernandes for this project. Zero Charisma (pictured below) is their first narrative feature, a story about hardcore Dungeons and Dragons players starring San Eidson. They ran an extremely successful IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign for pre-production costs earlier this year.

Zero Charisma

  • $5,000 to The Vulture Project -- Russell O. Bush
    Bush is an Austin filmmaker and MFA student in radio-TV-film at UT Austin. The Vulture Project is a short documentary about the Tibetan Plateau; specifically, the relationship between Tibetan culture and the Himalayan griffon vulture. The filmmakers ran a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year for the production.
  • $5,000 to Sixes and Sevens -- Thomas Hackett and Katherine Feo Kelly
    Hackett and Kelly are doctoral students in the Department of American Studies at UT Austin. Hackett's feature Big Boy, which stars Chris Doubek and local musician Hilary York, is currently on the film-fest circuit.
  • $3,500 to Trade in Hope -- Michelle Nehme
    Nehme is an Austin documentary filmmaker whose first credit was in 1994 for writing/shooting Barbecue: A Texas Love Story. Trade in Hope is a feature-length documentary about modern-day child slavery in America. The production's website notes that it had a successful Kickstarter campaign this summer.
  • $3,500 to The Curse and the Jubilee -- Ivete Guerra Lucas
    Lucas is an artist and filmmaker from Brazil, currently pursuing her MFA at The University of Texas in Austin. Lucas and producer Otis Ike have already made a short-film version of The Curse and the Jubilee, a documentary about the residents of Ivanhoe, Virginia, an Appalachian mining town.
  • $3,000 to Kukeri -- Proletina Veltcheva
    Veltcheva is an MFA student in costume design at UT Austin. She's also worked on several short films while in Austin. Kukeri is a short documentary about the Bulgarian ritual of kukeri, which involves elaborate costumes and theater.
  • $1,000 to Teddy -- Bradley Montesi
    Montesi is a Nashville native who's lived in Austin since 2002. His short Recess was included in the AFS ShortCase at SXSW this year. Teddy is his next short film project.
  • $1,000 plus $3,000 in Kodak film stock to Viewing Blind -- Caroline Koebel
    Koebel is from Brooklyn but now lives in Austin and works as an experimental filmmaker. She also teaches at Austin School of Film. Viewing Blind is a series of films "clashing aesthetics with journalism." Visit her website for more details.
  • $2,000 in Alpha Cine services and $3,000 in Kodak film stock to Tiny Tape Recorder -- Paavo Hanninen
    Hanninen is a UT Austin student originally from Tuscaloosa, AL. His previous short films include Fertile (on YouTube) and Wind Session Tiger Woman. He's also in a band called Squirrelhouse. Tiny Tape Recorder is planned as a 20-minute narrative.

Other Texas recipients:

  • $6,000 to Jules of Light and Dark -- Daniel Laabs
    Laabs is a filmmaker in Fort Worth who's made a number of shorts and videos, including co-directing 8, which won the Texas Shorts jury award at SXSW this year. Check out Laabs' website for more information about his projects. Jules of Light and Dark is his first feature.
  • $3,000 to The Anderson Monarchs -- Eugene Martin
    Martin is a Dallas filmmaker. His latest feature documentary, The Anderson Monarchs (pictured below), is about an all-girls soccer team in an "at-risk" Philadelphia neighborhood. The documentary had a successful Kickstarter campaign in the spring.

The Anderson Monarchs

  • $3,000 to Far Marfa -- Cory Van Dyke
    Van Dyke is one of the credited screenwriters for Surfer, Dude, and worked as DP and editor for Baghdad, Texas. He's also one of the founders of the late lamented Marfa Film Festival. Far Marfa is a feature film; the IMDb summary for the comedy is "A down-on-his-luck music producer in a little far away town stumbles upon a lost work of art that could change his life."
  • $2,000 to Instructional Photography -- Kelly Sears
    Sears is a Houston animator and filmmaker -- check out her website for more info and links to some of her short films and videos. I also like this interview on 29-95 about her experimental animation projects.

Instructional Photography

  • $2,000 in Alpha Cine services to Wolf -- Ya'Ke Smith
    Smith is an assistant professor in art/art history at UT Arlington. His short film Katrina's Son received a TFPF grant in 2008, won the Narrative Short Jury Award at  Austin Film Festival last year and screened in the Short Film Corner at Cannes. Wolf is a narrative feature about a family's reactions when their son is sexually abused by their pastor. The film ran an IndieGoGo campaign earlier this year.
  • $1,500 to Benjamin -- Carolyn Banks
    Banks is a Bastrop author who has moved into filmmaking recently. She's a founder of Upstart, a nonprofit media literacy organization in Bastrop.

Ben Powell

Thanks for the great write up on these deserving filmmakers. I wanted to say a bit more about Ben Powell, who started at the Austin Film Society as an intern. He made two really wonderful videos for us - an Austin Studios promo video and last year's Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund fundraising video with the filmmakers talking about their grants and what they meant to their work. We knew Ben was the genuine article and are so proud of him for this accomplishment. Keep your eye on that Mississippi boy.