The Other Worlds Austin science-fiction film festival blasted off to a great start last Thursday, with a pre-apocalyptic happy hour at The Tigress cocktail bar where several of us tried the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. I really appreciated that social events were scheduled around the screenings. Saturday morning's "2014: A Brunch Odyssey" was held at The Goodnight, and provided a great opportunity to network with other attendees including filmmakers.
Despite the fact that this was the first year for this film festival, which only spanned Thursday and Friday evenings and all day Saturday -- primarily at Galaxy Highland -- I was impressed by the number of filmmakers who traveled from as far as Los Angeles and New York to support their films. Just a few of the filmmakers in attendance included writer/director Cidney Hue (Odessa), director Bryan Costanich (Slumptown), and Apt 3D writer/director/actor Zack Imbrogno and editor/actress Maxxe Sternbaum.
As a film critic, I hear a lot about websites where thieves steal and repost other critics' reviews, sometimes not even bothering to remove identifying material.
But this week, I got my first experience in seeing a purported "filmmaker" post short films to his website that he might claim are his, but obviously do not belong to him. I know this because I saw one of the films in its original incarnation: the very funny short My Mom Smokes Weed, from Austin filmmaker Clay Liford -- it screened at Austin Film Festival in 2009 as well as a number of other film fests. And if you've watched any of Liford's movies (Wuss, Earthling), you know this is so very much his trademark work that anyone else trying to pass it off as his own is an idiot.
If you haven't seen My Mom Smokes Weed, now's your chance. I've embedded it below. And as a bonus, I would like to point you to an Arts + Labor blog post that includes some of the back-and-forth between Liford and the genius who retitled the film Smoked and posted it to his film production site, as well as a link to the Reddit thread where Liford learned about the plagiarism in the first place. He's not the only filmmaker whose films this person is stealing.
When he's not battling moronic plagiarists, Liford is currently working on Slash (aka S/ash), the feature-length expansion of his short film of the same name. You can follow the status of that production on its Facebook page. The short screened at Fantastic Fest 2013 -- read Debbie's interview with Liford about the short and planned feature.
And now the authentic My Mom Smokes Weed (YouTube link), starring Nate Rubin and Sylvia Luedtke, shot in Dallas before Liford moved to Austin:
Shorts Break spotlights Austin and Texas short films that you can watch right here and now ... take a break and take a look!
For the inaugural edition of Shorts Break, I decided to go with puppets. You can't go wrong with puppets (just ask John Oliver), especially if there's a catchy tune too.
Keith & Heath is a short comedy from Andy Young, and if I'd written this two months ago, I would have called him "Austinite Andy Young" ... but he's just moved to Los Angeles after graduating from The University of Texas at Austin. Keith & Heath is his undergraduate thesis film. Young also worked on the Austin-shot feature Intramural. Rumor has it (okay, his Facebook page has it) that he's working for some other former Austinites this summer, the Duplass brothers. Besides being a filmmaker, he also contributes to Moviemaker Magazine (check out his recent interview with Richard Linklater).
Easy is a semi-autobiographical short about brothers from former Austinite/current Dallas resident Daniel Laabs. The director recently completed a successful crowdfunding campaign to cover post-production costs for the film, which will have its world premiere at SXSW. The short he co-directed with Julie Gould, 8, premiered at SXSW in 2011, where it won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Texas Short.
Easy will be shown as part of the Texas Shorts program at this year's festival. Laabs answered some questions I had via email before SXSW Film.
What drew you to tell the story of the two brothers in Easy?
Daniel Laabs: I tend to write films that come from personal experience. The idea of showing what it is like to be both an older brother and a younger brother was very interesting (I'm a middle child).
Dallas actress Augustine Frizzell shows up in two films at this year's SXSW, playing roles in both Kat Candler's Hellion and Toby Halbrooks' short Dig. Meanwhile, the short film she directed, I Was a Teenage Girl, premieres at the film festival as part of the Texas Shorts competition. Frizzell's short stars her daughter Atheena Frizzell and Claire Stuart Meiner as two teens having an intense discussion after one of them suffers a breakup.
Frizzell recently answered a few of my questions about her film via email.
Slackerwood: How did you conceive of the idea for your short?
Augustine Frizzell: I wanted to explore some of the issues that girls of this age face that feel (and are) much more mature than what they dealt with maybe a year earlier. We shot three shorts based around this concept, but only the third was finished in time. Each of the three was about these big issues and how they change the girls and impact their futures in unexpected ways.
The Austin Film Society jury has chosen eight selections for the AFS ShortCase program, which annually presents to SXSW attendees a diverse mix of shorts created by AFS members. The 2014 jury included Austin filmmaker Clay Liford (Wuss), AFS programmer Lars Nilsen and Slackerwood contributor Debbie Cerda.
The ShortCase screening will take place during the first weekend of the fest, Saturday March 8 at 2 pm at the Marchesa. (Add the screening to your schedule here.) It's free and open to the public even if you don't have a SXSW badge or wristband -- but get there early, because last year this event filled up fast and a number of people were turned away.
The short features and documentaries include:
Digging for the Water (Joshua Riehl) -- In the hilltop village of Creve, Haiti residents have no electricity or running water. Their only supply, which they must carry by hand from a neighboring village, is contaminated with bacteria. Volunteers from the organization Mountain of Hope and The University of Texas at Austin arrange to help drill a well for the village.
Updated 2/9 to include a review of Prison Terminal.
In previewing all of the short films that have been nominated for the 2014 Academy Awards this season, I must give a shout out to film programmers here and around the world. I don't know how you guys do it, but trying to watch an amalgam of films (short and feature length) and deciding which you like best makes my brain turn to oatmeal.
Okay, so that's a little dramatic, but I have a new respect for both programmers and short filmmakers alike. To make a feature is an incredible feat, but to try and tell a story in under 20-30 minutes? The thought alone could make one's head spin. Thankfully, the Academy has already narrowed down which films they think are the cream of the crop, and it's easy to see why.
I've always been one to gravitate towards this category. Perhaps its the inner child in me longing to still watch Disney films, but I truly love the craft of the animation process and am fascinated to see how it is constantly evolving. Get A Horse! is probably the most recognizable name in this bunch, as it's the short that preceded this past year's Disney hit, Frozen. Although I always enjoy a good Disney short, my favorites of the bunch were Room on the Broom (United Kingdom), about a young witch and group of animal friends who have a daring adventure, and Mr. Hublot (France), about an eccentric robot man who finds his life changed upon taking in a robot dog.
The short film Witch is one of two Austin-shot shorts accepted for programming this year at Fantastic Fest 2013. It's screening as one of the Short Fuse selections. I spoke with local writer/directors Tyler Mager and Americo Siller about the production.
Slackerwood: Which of you had the idea for Witch? And what was the inspiration?
Tyler Mager: We came up with the idea together over numerous writing meetings.
Americo Siller: It's a bar, a beer, a table, and a two-hour talk as Tyler scribbles everything down in a spiral notebook.
Mager: It started with an idea of classic supernatural monster mythology and how it would be looked at now. If a crazy psycho was going around eating the hearts of victims, most would automatically think it was, you know, some sort of serial killer. But what if it was a witch, an honest-to-goodness evil entity that lives through the life force of others. So we decided to maintain the realistic aspects of a potential serial killer while still staying true to classic witch mythology.
Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.
I've had a passion for animated films for as long as I can remember, having grown up with Disney classics such as Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty ... and as an adult, enjoying The Iron Giant. A short animated film project that's currently funding on Kickstarter through September 10 caught my interest -- Is There Anyone Out There?
Texas writer/director Jonathan Reynolds has brought together a talented creative team to support this family-friendly film, which addresses the universal question in a whimsical manner.
The score for Is There Anyone Out There? has already been performed and recorded in Austin by British composer Andy Dollerson and Austin's own Tosca String Quartet. San Antonio-based voice actor Terry Anderson is providing the narration for the tale of two boys questioning their fathers whether there's life beyond their own planet.
It's always a great joy for us to bring you updates on our local filmmakers, so when we heard that Black Metal is back on the radar, we here at Slackerwood couldn't have been more thrilled. Director Kat Candler and the rest of her team announced Monday that the film has been selected as a finalist in TheWrap's Short List Film Festival.
Now in its second year, TheWrap has brought together 12 awardwinning shorts, showcasing the best of the best of this year's top international festivals. The films are available to stream online and on your mobile device until next Thursday, August 29. Viewers can then go and vote on which films they think should make it to the finalist round. This year's winning films will get a first-look deal, will be aired on an MTV network and will receive a package of camera equipment for their next short or feature.