Texas Film Fests
Yes you read that right -- in honor of the 50th anniversary of contributing sponsor Mary Kay, the traditional red carpet at this year's Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) opening night was replaced with Mary Kay's favored pink. The evening featured a public service announcement-style video produced by the Dallas-based company to promote their "Don't Look Away" campaign, which focuses on ending domestic violence.
In addition to the film stars and filmmakers to walk the carpet, which you can see after the jump, several festival dignitaries were also in attendance including Dallas Film Society (DFS) CEO Lee Papert and DFS board chair Lynn McBee. Emmy nominee and Dallas television series producer Ken Topolsky was accompanied by Janis Burklund, Director of the Dallas Film Commission (seen above), and spoke about the receptiveness of the Dallas residents to film and television production in their community.
This year's Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) kicks off tomorrow night and runs through April 14. Many familiar faces and movies have made their way there from Sundance and SXSW, not to mention Austin Film Festival. In addition, the film festival will debut movies with local and state connections, some as part of the Texas Competition, a juried competition of films either shot in or relating to the Lone Star State.
Austinite Jeff Nichols' movie Mud screens on Friday, April 5, as part of the Premiere Series at DIFF -- read my review from Sundance. This engaging and mystical tale features Austin native Matthew McConaughey and Tye Sheridan from Eckhart, Texas, with music by local composer David Wingo and sound by Austin's Stuck On On.
Here are all the other films we found with Austin and Texas connections -- let us know if we're missing anything.
- The Bounceback (Don's review) (screening times)
Austin filmmaker and two-time Independent Spirit award nominee Bryan Poyser's latest feature shows us that breaking up can be even more difficult if your ex hasn't given up and is willing to travel many miles in the hopes of making up. It's even harder when your friends who are breaking up try to keep you apart as well. (Elizabeth's interview)
On Saturday, September 15, a small film showcase was held by indie film distributor UnderDogs.com in San Marcos to help highlight some of the indie films being made across the country that might otherwise fly under the radar.
UnderDogs, a non-exclusive distribution startup based out of Huntsville, Texas, has spent the last year cultivating a catalog of various indie titles with the idea of helping these filmmakers to "four wall" their movies in a variety of locales.
This event featured four very different features all making their Texas debuts. Opening the show was a documentary, The Right to Love: An American Family, following the Lefew family as they fight to stop Prop 8 in California. The film follows this same-sex couple and their children through their daily lives as they try to convince voters that gay marriage should not be banned.
A trip to a Tucson movie theater in 2010 provided San Antonio-based filmmaker Kimberly Suta with the inspiration to start what may be one of the Alamo City's most dreaded and fun-filled interactive film festivals.
In its third round, Gong Shorts promises to return with a bang at 7 pm tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse Park North in San Antonio.
The festival invites filmmakers of all ages and genres (except pornography) to submit their 3-15 minute films for the opportunity to be screened in front of a live audience. The catch: After three minutes of screen time, if audience members dislike the film they have the opportunity to yell "Gong," eliminating the filmmaker from the competition.
However, filmmakers may rework and resubmit their (hopefully better) film for future Gong Shorts events.
Suta co-owns NiffNot Productions, which runs the fest, with fellow San Antonian Catherine Nored. Suta has heard people are intimidated by the short film festival's theme, feeling as though they are being set up to fail.
"If it's a good film, people are going to watch it," she said. "People want something to win, but they're definitely happy to gong it."
Few genres have been as seminal a part of American and world cinema as the Western. Before the talkies, good guys in white punched and shot bad guys in black. While the genre has faded in recent years, several Western gems have stepped to the forefront. In 1993, Tombstone was such a gem.
Texas Frightmare Weekend held a reunion for the movie with Austin actress Dana Wheeler-Nicholson as well as Michael Biehn, Joanna Pacula, Michael Rooker and Buck Taylor. The men in the cast chatted about working with gunfight experts and living with their weapons for weeks to get the feel for it. The women were proud of their authentic costumes, with this drive for authenticity made more important to them when they learned of the competing film Wyatt Earp being shot at the same time. Tombstone was the underdog going up against the Kevin Costner Western.
It didn't take long for the fun anecdotes about playing with guns and fitting for cool costumes to give way to the same tension that plagued the Tombstone set. Beginning with what was, by all accounts, a brilliant script by Kevin Jarre, the production immediately dealt with the stress of dealing with a writer/director who didn't understand the delicacies of working with actors. Jarre felt that the actors were just there to say lines and bounce light. As the morale dropped Disney realized that Jarre wasn't getting coverage of the film, preferring to shoot the whole thing in wide shots. The studio learned of the frustration that the actors were facing from day one.
Part of the fun of Texas Frightmare Weekend comes from experiencing the new voices in independent cinema. Patrick Rea's movie Nailbiter serves as a great example of this. Before directing and co-writing his first feature, Rea has made a name for himself writing and directing award-winning short films, including Time's Up, Eve and Get Off My Porch. His writing and his meticulous work behind the camera put him ahead of his peers.
When writing Nailbiter, Rea and co-writer Kendal Sinn start by playing off our natural fear of Mother Nature. A family traveling through the Midwest becomes stranded in a random basement by a tornado. Immediately, we find that not all is well as a mysterious creature and a dark secret are attacking family members, one by one.
The camerawork shines above all else in this thriller. Rather than using the now-tired "dirty camera" to excess, the lens glides along the action at an almost comfortable pace. Nailbiter is gorgeously lit, creating eerie contrast with the gruesome narrative.
Also contrasting the narrative's horrific nature is the lack of gore -- Lea chooses to leave the violence just off-camera, as opposed to seeing how much Karo syrup he could get away with using in each scene. The result is a unique combination of old-school suspense and thrills with modern horror sensibilities.
With Nailbiter, Patrick Rea takes our natural fear of nature and pushes it past the boundaries of natural terror.
Keep an eye on the Nailbiter Facebook page to find out when the movie will screen next.
Texas Frightmare Weekend offered a diverse array of entertainment for horror fans of all generations. Indie film nerds could check out indie flicks of all budgets while fans of classic and old school horror could meet and talk to stars of films from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. All of these celebrities gathered in one place, creating some great opportunities to discuss classic moments from the history of cinema.
Once such moment was a reunion of three cast members from the classic movie Carrie (1976). Actresses Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles and three-time Oscar nominee Piper Laurie spent an hour sharing anecdotes from the making of the film.
All three women had different motivations for taking the job. Laurie, who played Carrie's mother Margaret, was retired from acting when she got the script, and was actually told that it was a satire when she took the role. It wasn't until rehearsals started that director Brian De Palma informed her that it was a drama/thriller.
By James Christopher and Terissa Kelton
[Editor's Note: James Christopher and Terissa Kelton of Twitchy Dolphin Flix spent the weekend at Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas, and are sending us dispatches, photos and other interesting material.]
On the first day of the blood-and-gore covered Texas Frightmare Weekend, we ran into a unlikely attendee of the Dallas genre fest -- iconic Texas actor Barry Corbin. Barry greeted us with the type of Texas welcome one might expect through the introductions we as an audience have had over a decades-long film career (War Games, Lonesome Dove). He welcomed us with a firm handshake and tip of his hat to Terissa.
He spoke about being honored by the Austin Film Society this year and how much it meant to him. Barry also let us in on what he's got going on now. He's still working, flying out to LA on a regular basis. He just wrapped ten episodes on the new Charlie Sheen show Anger Management. Barry chuckled when asked how Charlie was doing. Apparently, Charlie is still winning. So is Barry.
The Hill Country Film Festival programming this year included a number of blocks of short films, and on Saturday morning I decided to watch some shorts. After a quick breakfast (yay for having my own kitchen there), I zipped over to the Stagecoach Theater in plenty of time for the morning shorts program.
The main reason I picked this shorts program was because it included the Austin film The Man Who Never Cried. Debbie has been raving about this film for ages -- she visited the set and reviewed the film -- and I was pleased to have the chance to finally watch it myself. Filmmaker Bradley Jackson and producers Russell Groves and Andrew Lee were at the screening (pictured above, if a bit tiny).
The Man Who Never Cried is a sweet, sweetly funny tale about -- well, the title says it all. Ralph (Kier O'Donnell) has never been able to shed a tear. Now he works as a clown and tries to make people laugh instead. But when his father dies, he feels like it is high time he learned to cry like everyone else. The storyline may sound a little silly, but it's beautifully done with an expert cast led by O'Donnell and Jess Weixler.
Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen these days, whether they're Hollywood films trying to eke laughs out of cruel jokes and raunchy humor, or indies with the ever-popular Manic Pixie Dream Girl and an overly earnest soundtrack. 6 Month Rule, which I saw at Hill Country Film Festival, looked like it might fall into the latter category ... but some very real emotional scenes and a refreshing lack of artificiality made it a standout movie.
Tyler (Blayne Weaver) has a lot of rules about his frequent and brief relationships with women -- when to call (or not), what to say, how to "fade" out of a relationship, and how long it takes before recuperation from a painful relationship is complete (the title rule). A montage of breakups with women in the same bar, using the same lines, says it all. When his best friend Alan (Martin Starr) loses his fiancee to another man, Tyler takes him in and attempts to teach him the rules and find him someone even better.