Austin Film News
As October draws closer, updates from the Austin Film Festival have become more frequent. Last week, we received several bits of news about this year's fest, which runs from October 18-25. Here are the items that have come up since our last AFF post:
- AFF has selected award-winning screenwriter Eric Roth as their 2012 Distinguished Screenwriter. Roth won an Oscar and a WGA award for his screenplay for Forrest Gump. Other screenplays Roth has worked on include The Horse Whisperer, Ali, The Good Shepherd, The Insider, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. More recently, Roth adapted the screenplay for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. He's currently exec-producing the upcoming Netflix miniseries House of Cards with David Fincher and Kevin Spacey. Roth will host a screening of The Insider and lead "A Conversation with Eric Roth" during this year's conference.
- Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez will be honorary chair for the Austin Film Festival Film & Food Party on Wednesday, October 17, the night before the fest officially begins, at the Driskill Hotel. Tickets are now available, with discounts for AFF members and badgeholders. This will be the tenth year for the gala event, which benefits the Young Filmmakers Program at AFF. Austin's food scene will be represented by culinary staff from Olive & June, Foreign & Domestic, Haddingtons, Trento and other local restaurants.
[Aside from Jette: I've been to this event twice and it is great fun if you're a foodie. There are also live and silent auctions and fancy cocktails, not to mention a great crowd.]
The City of Austin is asking for short film submissions for 2012 Faces of Austin. Faces of Austin is a program of the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office. This is the fifth year of the city's program; entries that are chosen show at City Hall, online, on Channel 6, and at other screenings throughout the year. This year's shorts will also be featured as part of a Community Screening during SXSW in March 2012.
Local filmmakers of all ages and experience-levels are encouraged to submit their original entries on DVD by January 16, 2012 to the City of Austin along with the completed application form (.pdf). The films -- no longer than 10 minutes -- should incorporate local flavor by depicting Austin characters, voices, stories, organizations, landscapes, music, events, landmarks, etc. Documentary, student film, music video, narrative film based in town -- anything along these lines is welcome. The call for entries (.pdf) has more information.
So much news this week, we had to post two rounds of Slackery News.
David Lowery’s narrative feature St. Nick will be the only American film in the main competition when it make its international premiere at the 50th Thessaloniki Film Festival as well as the Lone Star Film Festival. The film received a 2007 TFPF grant for production and participated in AFS’s Narratives-in-Progress program last year and premiered at SXSW 2009.
Since I've not personally known anyone with autism, it's not an issue I could relate to until seeing Michel O. Scott's The Horse Boy, which is currently playing at Arbor Great Hills. You may also remember it under its working title, Over the Hills and Far Away. This film, which was partially funded by the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, was nominated in 2009 for a Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and received the Audience Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival. The compelling documentary portrays the challenges of dealing with a young child stricken with autism, and chronicles the family's attempt to improve their quality of life by exploring non-traditional healing in Mongolia.
Having met abroad in India, Rupert Isaacson and his wife Kristen Neff found themselves unable to travel effortlessly to the store after their son Rowan was diagnosed at 2 1/2 years of age with autism. At the time The Horse Boy was filmed, 5-year-old Rowan was prone to autistic tantrums that could last for over four hours, and was incapable of using the toilet. It is surprising then that the family would endeavor to travel across the world to Mongolia, meeting with shamans and then ascending 12,000 feet near the Russian border to visit the shamam of the reindeer herders.
I was amazed by the unflinching optimism of the parents through such a laborous journey, but considering Isaacson's role as producer of the Horse Boy (with book option), it's understandable there's a reduction in objectivity. However, filmmaker Michel O. Scott successfully interlaces scenes from the family's "routine" life in Elgin, Texas and their expedition across Mongolia by van and horse with experts who offer insight into autism.
It is with great sadness to report that after 20 months of battling pancreatic cancer, Texas-born actor/dancer Patrick Swayze passed away on Monday.
Patrick Swayze was born on August 18, 1952 in Houston, where his mother Patsy Swayze was well known for her dance school. I remember stories my Aunt Judy told me after Dirty Dancing came out about "Pat" when he was a pre-teen. She would go to Patsy's dance studio with her best friend, and recalls Patrick hanging around the dance studio and getting underfoot. At the time he was about 13 years old and was not into dancing. Patrick later graduated from Waltrip High School in Houston and then "San Jack," as San Jacinto College is known.
He went on to follow in his mother's footsteps and became a professional dancer, performing with the Feld, Joffrey and Harkness Ballets and appearing on Broadway as Danny Zuko in Grease. He met his wife Lisa Niemi when she was a student of his mother's, and they married in 1975. After a series of injuries, Patrick turned his attention to acting in 1978.
Although his first film was Skatetown, U.S.A., in 1979, Patrick Swayze's first memorable role was his portrayal as the fatherly older brother Darrel "Dary" Curtis in S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders (1983). The next year, Patrick was back again as a protective older sibling in the post-apocalyptic film Red Dawn, which featured an emotionally powerful scene between Patrick as Jed Eckert and Harry Dean Stanton as Mr. Eckert. His acting career has spanned numerous genres and unforgettable characters, from bad boy Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing to loving husband Sam Wheat in Ghost to the refined Vida Boheme in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Love Julie Newmar.
Be Here to Love Me, by Austin-based filmmaker Margaret Brown, documents the life of Texas singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt through a series of interviews with family and friends along with his own home footage. This film screened at the 2005 SXSW Film Festival as part of the 24 Beats per Second Series. Several Texas musicians contributed to this film, including Guy Clark, Joe Ely, Willie Nelson, Kinky Friedman, and Lyle Lovett. I've not seen the film yet, but there's a great opportunity coming up to watch the movie and benefit a local organization.
The screening on September 10 at 7 pm at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is a benefit for Austin Bat Cave (ABC), a nonprofit organization that provides children and teenagers (ages 6–18) with opportunities to develop their creative and expository writing skills through their free programs. Their volunteers provide one-on-one afterschool tutoring and support local schools through programming.
This event includes a post-screening party and 'A Conversation with Filmmaker Margaret Brown' for attendees, so get your tickets online now before they are sold out.
Check out Joe O'Connell's review of Be Here to Love Me from the Austin Chronicle.
With the recent funding of film incentives in Texas, and the re-opening of Austin Studios after much-needed infrastructure upgrades in January, a lot of attention has focused on bringing new film business to Austin.
Right now there is brewing concern within the local film community over a potential five-year sub-lease to Soundcheck Nashville, a music recording/rehearsal studio and equipment/instrument renter. That's not a film-specific organization, which has lead to fears that progress that's been made will be eroded by this five-year commitment that will take up 28,000 square feet of Austin Studios stage space.
After hearing feedback about the potential lease, Austin Studios/AFS had scheduled a community forum for this Thursday. The forum has been pushed back a week to Thursday, June 25, to avoid a time conflict with a City Council meeting that will include a vote on Austin Studios' own lease renewal. Austin Studios is run by Austin Film Society, but it is also a city project. The city lease vote is not related to the potential sub-lease, which will also have to be approved by the city.
This past week was a good one for "local boy makes good" stories with a pair of screenings that both feature the stories of small towns.
On Wednesday P.J. Raval held a sneak preview fundraiser screening of his new doc Trinidad (set in Trinidad, Colorado) which will debut at the Los Angeles Film Festival later this month. A sternly worded e-mail from Matt Dentler (and read by Raval at the screening) reminded us that mum's the word on this film until the actual world premiere in L.A., but it's not giving anything away to say that the local crowd at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar received the film warmly.
Trinidad follows a group of transgendered women who have all had gender reassignment surgery in Trinidad, which is now the "world capital of sex changes" and, according to Raval, should have New York screenings and additional screenings in Austin following the L.A. fest.
Sunday saw the first hometown screening of Crawford, David Modigliani's chronicle of eight years in the life of the quintessential American small town. Crawford, Texas, you may recall, became the official home of George W. Bush shortly before his campaign for president in 2000. The town hasn't been the same since. First there were a few years of booming tourism followed by mobs of Iraq war protestors (both of which brought money to town) and finally stagnation as Bush's approval ratings sank. Modigliani said early in the evening that he always knew he would eventually have to show it to the townspeople, so he tried to make it as balanced as possible. Reaction from the Crawford crowd was overwhelmingly positive -- even from the townsperson who grudgingly admitted during the Q&A that the film was reasonably evenhanded in its treatment of politics, though he still felt it "leaned a little to the left."
Director David Modigliani rightly focuses more on the people of the town and their personal struggles than on Bush's troubled presidency, though of course the one affects the other in unpredictable and fascinating ways. Even if you'd rather forget the political events of the last eight years, however, the chance to see a film like Crawford unspooling for the first time in front of its subjects is an event few film buffs will want to pass up. Crawford is about 100 miles away, and even with gas prices being what they are I think it's worth the trip.
Crawford screens Sunday, June 8th at 8:30 p.m. in Crawford, TX.
To learn more about Crawford (the town and the movie), see the videos after the jump. In addition to SxSW 2008, the film has played the Independent Film Festival of Boston, Marfa Film Fest, AFI Dallas, and most recently the Brooklyn Film Festival.
indieWIRE reports this morning:
Janet Pierson has been named the new producer of the SXSW Film Festival and Conference, the organization has just announced. Matt Dentler, who has served as producer of the fest since 2004, has accepted a position in New York City to head the marketing and programming operations of Cinetic Media's new digital rights management unit, the festival said in an announcement.