On the last night of the Sundance Film Festival, a special awards ceremony to honor the winners of special prizes and audience awards is held in Park City, just as filmmakers and judges alike are ready to crawl back under the rocks from whence they came for another year. It's the last opportunity to put on the Ritz, do some hardball networking and consummate that fling you've been gunning for all week.
These awards, unlike the ceremonies we watch on TV, are less about competition than camaraderie. As emcee Joseph Gordon-Levitt put it, "This is art. Not basketball." Even so, it never hurts to brand your emerging feature with more than just the Sundance official selection logo when negotiating with would-be buyers.
In the night's very first announcement, the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize went to the Austin-shot movie Computer Chess, from local filmmaker Andrew Bujalski. Producer Houston King, pictured above at right, accepted the award. The prize, which honors the union of science and film, means that $20,000 in funds will be made available to the team for their next endeavor. The jury selected the film based on its "off-beat and formalistically adventurous exploration of questions of artificial intelligence and human connections."
While other media outlets want to let you know which movie the Austin Film Critics Association picked for Best Film, and how many awards other notable movies won, here at Slackerwood we like to lead with Austin news. So I'm happy to tell you that the AFCA announced its 2012 awards this morning and Bernie, the Richard Linklater dark comedy starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine (not to mention Sonny Carl Davis), won Best Austin Film. Read Don's review and then watch the movie if you haven't already.
In addition, the critics group recognized Austin native Matthew McConaughey with a Special Honorary Award for his excellent acting in four movies this year -- not just Bernie but also Magic Mike, Killer Joe and The Paperboy.
Zero Dark Thirty won Best Film, in case you were wondering, and Paul Thomas Anderson was named Best Director for The Master (Don's review). Zero Dark Thirty won't open in Austin until January, unfortunately, so you'll just have to take our word that it's a very good movie.
The full list of awards plus the Top Ten, which includes one film from a native Texan, is after the jump. (Full disclosure: I am President of AFCA and Debbie Cerda is a member.)
The deadline to vote in the annual Austin Chronicle Best of Austin awards is today (11:59 pm CST, to be precise). Have you voted yet?
If you have not, I'd like to point out a couple of interesting categories in the Media section:
- Film Critic
- Local Entertainment Website
Why yes, that's a hint. All right, forget about the hinting, I'd love it if you voted for our website.
Last year, Slackerwood was fortunate enough to win a critics' pick award for Best Austin Movie Blog in the critics' pick section of the awards for our News Mega-Feed. I couldn't have been happier. This year, I'm wondering if we can at least be a contender in the awards you vote on, which would be pretty amazing. We have a number of great film critics here as well -- pick your favorite.
The Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund grant winners for 2012 were just announced last night. This year, the TFPF has awarded $121,000 worth of cash grants for filmmaking projects, resources such as film stock, camera goods/services and post-production services, and travel grants for Lone Star filmmakers to attend festivals where their movies are screening.
Not only is it a pleasure to see Austin and Texas filmmakers receiving needed funds and other assistance for their projects, but the list of recipients provides a great sneak preview of shorts and features we might expect to see in another year or two (or more). One project received a $15,000 cash grant for production; others received grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Some names were very familiar, but I enjoyed learning about some new-to-me filmmakers as well.
What I've done below is to rearrange the descriptions of grant recipients from Austin Film Society's press release to pull out the Austin films and highlight them first; then the films from elsewhere in Texas. I've also added brief notes about many of the filmmakers.
Austin-connected filmmakers receiving TFPF grants:
ABOVE ALL ELSE
The story of the Keystone XL pipeline project and of the landowners and activists who set out to stop it.
$7,000 in MPS Camera Austin services for production/post-production
Note: Fiege's previous documentary was the excellent Mississippi Chicken. He was cinematographer on The Least of These and Inside the Circle.
Founded by actor and director Robert Redford in 1981, the nonprofit organization Sundance Institute is not only recognized internationally for its annual film festival in Park City, Utah, but also for its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, film composers, playwrights and theatre artists. The organization has supported critically acclaimed film projects including Born into Brothels, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth, Angels in America and many more.
Eleven projects were selected for the Sundance Creative Producing Labs this year, held from July 30 - August 3. The selected producers receive creative and strategic support through the year as well as fellowships for direct funding of development and production. Two of the Fellows selected are in Austin, Texas -- producer Kelly Williams (Hellion, Cinema Six), former Austin Film Festival Program Director and Director of Programming of Forth Worth's Lone Star International Film Festival; and producer/director/cinematographer PJ Raval (Trouble the Water, Trinidad). Find out more after the jump.
Find your second wind yet? I haven't, but I did manage to make it to three SXSW events on Tuesday. First up, I finally saw Trash Dance, which earned two standing ovations: first for director Andrew Garrison and choreographer Allison Orr, and then for two of the participants in the Trash Project, Tony and Orange, who had just finished their shift at work and had the audience in stitches. All the men and women who participated in the Trash Project will make you think differently about the people who help keep our cities clean. It may have been Bernie that won the Louis Black Lone Star Award this year at SXSW, but Trash Dance earned a Special Jury Recognition nod last night as well.
Even though we're halfway through the festival, the film conference is over, so most of the film awards were given out last night. Not all, as not all the audience awards have been tallied (more announcements on the 17th and the 19th). It was the first time I've made it the awards ceremony and it was fun ... and unlike the Oscars, there was no way SXSW Film Festival Producer Janet Pierson was going to let it go over the scheduled timeslot. Of course it helps that several filmmakers weren't there to accept their awards in person. Check out the list of awards and see how the new screening timeslots fit into your schedule.
The Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards event is just around the corner -- Thursday, March 8, the night before SXSW begins. Austin Film Society has recently announced some of the 2012 recipients as well as new innovations to the gala.
Three honorees have been named so far: actor Barry Corbin, orignally from Lamesa (between Midland and Lubbock); filmmaker Douglas McGrath (Infamous, Emma), who was born in Midland; and actor/musician Marvin Lee Aday, a native of Dallas. Wait, you don't know who Aday is? You've probably heard of him as Meat Loaf.
The Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards event moves downtown to the ACL Live Theater at the Moody Center this year, away from its traditional Austin Studios venue. The evening will include more live music than in previous years, with a lineup including Grupo Fantasma, Nakia, and Suzanna Choffel. Actor/comedian Wyatt Cenac (The Daily Show, Medicine for Melancholy) returns to emcee the evening.
The Film Independent Spirit Award nominations for 2011 were announced this week, and Austin fared very well on the list of hopefuls. Take Shelter, the feature from local filmmaker Jeff Nichols (pictured above), received a whopping five nominations: Best Feature, Best Director, Best Male Lead (Michael Shannon), Best Supporting Female (Jessica Chastain), and the Piaget Producers Award (Sophia Lin).
Take Shelter is still playing in Austin at Regal Arbor, although starting Friday it'll move to a late-show slot. Read Jenn's review to learn more about the film.
In addition, Austin documentary filmmaker Heather Courtney received a Spirit Award nomination in the Truer Than Fiction category for her film Where Soldiers Come From, which premiered at SXSW this year -- that's Courtney and the subjects of her film at a SXSW Q&A in the following photo.
Every year, Austin Film Society awards grants to emerging film and video artists in the Lone Star State through the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund (TFPF). Since its inception in 1996, the AFS has awarded over 300 grants, totaling over $1 million in cash and over $100,000 in goods and services to almost 300 projects. In addition to grants for production, post-production and distribution, the TFPF has provided approximately $21,000 in stipends to Texas filmmakers traveling to prestigious film festivals.
Past TFPF grant recipients have screened their films at renowned festivals around the world including Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto as well as right here in Austin at SXSW. One such project is Katrina's Son (pictured right), which was awarded a TFPF grant in 2008, then premiered at AFF last year and at the Cannes International Festival's Short Film Corner this year. Several TFPF-funded movies have been released theatrically and in the cable and home video markets.
This year AFS received 208 applications, and at least $90,000 will be awarded in cash, goods and services to emerging filmmakers in Texas. AFS invites three distinguishd filmmakers from outside of Texas to participate in grant applications review. Members of this year's panel were recently announced, and include Independent Spirit Award nominee Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy), Sundance Institute producer-in-residence Anne Lai, and Independent Spirit Award-winner Ian Olds (Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi). During the panelists' visit to Austin for the review process, special screenings will be presented by Austin Film Society. Find out more and watch one of the featured short films after the jump.
When I originally wrote about Austin and Texas films playing at Cannes this year, I had no idea that two of them would walk away with major awards. It has been a great year for Texas movies at the French festival.
The biggest news is that Terrence Malick's film The Tree of Life took home the Palme D'Or, the grand prize of the entire festival. The Smithville-shot movie opens in Austin on June 3 -- however, if you want to see it earlier, Austin Film Society is hosting a special screening and benefit reception on Tuesday, May 31 at the Paramount.
In addition, Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols' movie Take Shelter won the Grand Prize in the Critics' Week program ... and in that same category, Nichols also won the screenwriting award for his film. Take Shelter premiered at Cannes this year and will get a theatrical release in the fall from Sony Picture Classics ... no word yet on when we'll see it in Austin. Both Take Shelter and The Tree of Life star Jessica Chastain, who will be attending the AFS screening of Malick's film next week.
Other Cannes coverage and news:
- Charles Ealy at the Austin American-Statesman has a good round-up of all the Austin folks at Cannes this year.
- Ealy also reminds us that even a Woody Allen movie can have Texas ties. Allen's latest film, Midnight in Paris, which played Cannes (and will open in Austin on June 10), stars UT alum and Dallas native Owen Wilson.