It's another full day at the Austin Film Festival -- are you ready? If your brain is starting to lag a little and you need some direction, here are a few promising film and panel picks to help you plan the next few hours.
Saturday Panel Picks:
Independent Filmmaking Track: The Climate of Indie Film -- Local director Kat Candler is one of the indie filmmakers on this panel geared towards aspiring creatives. Texan (and former AFF staffer) Ryan Piers Williams, Frank Hall Green and Jeffrey Brown (co-producer of No No: A Dockumentary) join Candler for this discussion, which aims to help attendees make sense of a changing industry. (Saturday, Oct. 25, 9 - 10:15 am, Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Assembly Room)
Scribble to Screen: My So-Called Writing Process -- If you're here to perfect your craft or learn how the experts work, sit down with Winnie Holzman, the creator of My So-Called Life and writer of Wicked and Thirtysomething, as she discusses her storytelling methods. (Saturday, Oct. 25, 9 - 10:15 am, Driskill Hotel Citadel Room)
A Conversation with the 2014 Awardees -- If you don't have time to make it to the individual conversations with this year's festival honorees, see all three at once at this panel led by AFF Executive Director Barbara Morgan. Jim Sheridan, Matthew Weiner and Edward Zwick will draw on their impressive histories to discuss their careers and offer advice to developing writers and directors. (Saturday, Oct. 25, 10:45 am - noon, Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Ballroom)
Friday is the first full day of the Austin Film Festival (bravo to you if you make it all the way from a 9 am panel to the last film of the night), and whether you plan to wing it or stick to a schedule, here are just a few of the many events worth considering.
Friday Panel Picks:
Short Films, Big Leaps: Story Development in Pixar Short Films -- Pixar panels tend to be pretty entertaining, and today's will be led by Mary Coleman, a Senior Development Executive at Pixar Animation Studios. Her job is a fascinating one, and she's here to share. (Friday, Oct. 24, 9 am - 10:15 am, Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Assembly Room)
Deconstructing: No Country for Old Men -- Walk through this Coen brothers, Texas-filmed classic with Rachel Getting Married writer Jenny Lumet and Noah Hawley, creator and producer of the television show Fargo. Accompanying this panel will be Cormac McCarthy archival material presented by the Wittliff Collections on display in the Jim Hogg Parlor in the Driskill. (Friday, Oct. 24, 10:45 am - noon, The Driskill Hotel Maximilian Room) UPDATE: This panel has been rescheduled for Sunday, Oct. 26, 11:30 am - 12:45 pm and will be held in the Driskill Hotel Crystal Room.
Chicks with Bics -- Hollywood has a long way to go before it can be called female-friendly, and this conversation will check in with a few women working in the industry to find out about the particular challenges they face. The panel consists of writers Jenny Lumet, Tiffany Paulsen, (former Austinite) Pamela Ribon and Liz Tigelaar, who together have an incredible amount of television and film experience to draw from. (Friday, Oct. 24, 3:15 pm - 4:30 pm, St. David's Episcopal Church, Historic Sanctuary)
Friday Film Picks:
The Twilight Zone, Presented by Matthew Weiner -- Peek into the brain of the adored and awardwinning Mad Men creator when he screens and discusses two of his favorite Twilight Zone episodes: "It's a Good Life" and "A Stop at Willoughby." (Friday, Oct. 24, 1 pm - 3:15 pm, State Theatre)
Believe it or not, the 21st annual Austin Film Festival starts today. If you're a procrastinator or chronic second-guesser (that's me) you probably haven't mapped out a definite schedule yet, but you know what? That's okay. To help you along, Debbie has offered her film and panel picks for the entire festival and I'll post a few daily highlights that may help to offer some direction.
If you're into taking it one day at a time, start here with a few Thursday panel and film possibilities.
Thursday Panel Picks:
A Conversation with Cary Fukunaga -- The conference starts out strong with a discussion with the director of True Detective, Jane Eyre and Sin Nombre. How did one person end up behind such different projects? Maybe Fukunaga will tell us here. (Thursday, Oct. 23, 1-2:15 pm in the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Ballroom)
Award-winning director Vanessa Roth tends to look deeply into social justice issues in her documentaries -- the effectiveness of the foster care system in Aging Out, the repurcussions of that film in No Tomorrow, equal rights for a lesbian couple in Freeheld (Roth produced), and schools and education in American Teacher and The Third Monday in October. Her most recent film, The Texas Promise, hits close to home as it peers into the state budget cuts to education in Texas. This new documentary from Roth will debut at Austin Film Festival later this week.
Roth answered a few of my questions via email about her work.
Slackerwood: Why is education a recurring theme in your works?
Vanessa Roth: I have so much to say about this that I don’t know where to begin... education as a theme is what all my work focuses on because it is the what holds the key to creating and determining a person’s opportunities in the world. By looking at the system of education and the policies that shape that system, I think we are given an intimate view of our values as a society.
Our country is wrestling with equity, opportunity and the very basic question of what education is supposed to look like at this moment in history. This fascinates me and drives me to find stories about both the system and the lives of those inside it to try to separate rhetoric from real human experience and attitude.
What drew you to this story in Texas for The Texas Promise?
Roth: Equity and opportunity are always themes that I want to explore in my work and when Texas cut so much from its education budget that directly affected the students who needed the resources the most I felt that this story needed to be told.
"Keep Austin Weird" isn't just a catch phrase created by some offbeat tourist marketing campaign, but rather a mantra that emulates the quickly diminishing quirkiness that drew me to Austin from the big city of Houston, Texas in 1993. The cast of characters often encountered in the local scene, whether on the Drag or downtown, contributed to the charm and allure of the Capital City.
Any given day or night you could walk down Sixth Street and see street musicians and vendors hawking their talents or wares, including Crazy Carl Hickerson -- is best known for selling and spinning flowers. Crazy Carl's penchant for flashing his man boobs and dancing outside of Esther’s Follies has long been a source of amusement -- and sometimes horror -- for unsuspecting visitors to the intersection of Sixth and Red River.
Beef and Pie Productions filmmakers including director Mike Woolf, producer Karen Yates, and director of photography Andrew Yates have captured the public and personal story of Crazy Carl in their latest documentary Crazy Carl and His Man-Boobs, which premieres at this year's Austin Film Festival. Woolf and Andrew Yates as well as editor Landon Peterson answered questions about the film via email recently, and here's what they had to say:
Slackerwood: Why Carl?
Andrew Yates: He is my neighbor. And he has boobs. Man-boobs.
Landon Peterson: Crazy Carl is Yates and Karen's (our co-director and producer) neighbor in an old neighborhood in central Austin. So they would see this aged hippie doing very noticeable things like checking the mail in his underwear and robe with his boob jars bulging underneath.
Mike Woolf: Yates started this whole film because he saw (partially naked) Carl taking care of his wife Charlotte Ferris who is a polio survivor. Yates said there is a great love story going on over there. I thought he was just enamored with Carl’s man-boobs.
Seeing filmmaker Eric Hueber at a local film event in August reminded me that I hadn't heard about screenings or distribution of his bittersweet drama Flutter. I'd thoroughly enjoyed his narrrative debut when I watched it back in April at the Dallas International Film Festival (my review), as well as meeting the movie's talented Texas cast and crew.
I'm pleased that this touching film about the relationship between a impoverished young mother (Lindsay Pulsipher) and her imaginative son (Johnathan Huth Jr.) will be featured at the 2014 Austin Film Festival and Conference on Saturday, October 25, 7 pm at the Rollins Theatre and again on Tuesday, October 28, 4 pm, at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Check back later for input from cast members including Dallas-based Flutter executive producer and co-star Glenn Morshower about the making of this family drama.
AFF offers content from around the world and across film genres, as science fiction meets psychological thrillers and international documentaries open windows to problems that we may be contributing to -- or at the very least, can empathize with.
The haunting events that occur while a young woman cares for her ill mother are the basis for thriller The Sideways Light. The dramatic feature is Austin writer/director/producer Jennifer Harlow's first full-length film, and screens as part of the Dark Matters content at Austin Film Festival. Before the fest kicks off, Harlow chatted with me via email about her subject matter, directing while introverted, and finding the right cast.
Slackerwood: Why focus on these two women and their intimate conflict? What drew you to tell their story?
Jennifer Harlow: I knew I wanted to write a ghost story. I was hung up on the idea of being haunted by memories. What if I took those three words literally? Who would that happen to? Someone that is losing their memory, someone that lives in a place full of memories. What if Grandma handed down more than her rocking chair?
If people in compromised states of mind are more sensitive to the supernatural, then a dementia patient and her caregiver/daughter are prime victims. Pile on that the fact that women are afraid of turning into their mothers. That was territory I knew I could write about.
After years in the making, the documentary 61 Bullets will screen at Austin Film Festival next weekend. The film, which won an AFS Grant and was partially backed through Kickstarter, is the latest project from Austin director David Modigliani (Crawford). He and co-director Louisiana (Lucy) Kreutz worked with producer Yvonne Boudreaux to delve into the story behind the death of famed Louisiana governor/controversial figure Huey Long.
Before AFF kicks off, the filmmakers answered some questions for me via email about what led them to make the film and the process involved.
Slackerwood (for Boudreaux): Can you talk about your connection to this historical event, and what drew you to look deeper into the circumstances of Huey Long’s death?
Yvonne Boudreaux: "No one has ever told the story right," my grandmother Ida Boudreaux said to me when I was an eighth grader studying Louisiana history. I was working on a report of the shooting of Huey Long, and had learned from my mom that my great uncle, Carl Weiss, was the alleged assassin.
I was fascinated that the subject was never spoken about in the family, and even more so by the mystery that I sensed in the official version of the story. Obviously, this film and the characters are very close to me personally. As production went on and I approached the ages of Carl and Yvonne [Carl Weiss's wife] at the time of the shooting, I began to connect with her story very deeply.
I worked hard to wrap my head around the consequences for Yvonne and her young son after losing the man she loved, leaving family behind, and raising a child alone. The pain that she must have endured and the strength that she showed in moving on were both heavy on my mind. I still think about and admire her often, and will continue to do so as my life unfolds.
Slackerwood (for Modigliani): How did you become involved in this project?
David Modigliani: My friend from graduate school in Austin, Yvonne Boudreaux, brought the story to me. She had seen my first feature documentary, Crawford, and she knew I was interested in exploring political stories through the eyes of the people they impacted. As I learned about the mystery, about the extraordinary, larger-than-life history of Huey Long, and about the families seeking to find closure over the death of their patriarchs, I knew we had a compelling film to make.
The full lineup and schedule have now been announced for this year's Austin Film Festival. Along with buzzy Marquee Selections like Wild and The Imitation Game and a few exciting late additions, including Jon Stewart's debut film Rosewater, The Humbling (starring Al Pacino) and dramedy/musical The Last 5 Years, dozens of world and regional premieres are slated to screen, too -- many with Texas ties.
You can take a look at the full lineup and conference schedule (they're using Sched this year) and start planning your own path, but for now here's a quick overview of the films appearing at the festival made by and about Texans.
21 Years: Richard Linklater -- Austin is the perfect place for the world premiere of this documentary, as it covers the first 21 years of the local director's career. The film features interviews with some of Linklater's regular collaborators, including Matthew McConaughey, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. You can bet this Friday night screening at the Paramount will be packed with proud local film fans.
The Austin Film Festival has announced its first wave of film screenings, including Centerpiece Film Black and White (directed by Mike Binder and starring Kevin Costner), documentary 21 Years: Richard Linklater, and Dawn Patrol, directed by AFF regular Daniel Petrie Jr. This initial list is a mix of world and regional premieres and provides glimpses of a diverse program; among other things, festivalgoers will have the chance to see a Texas-based political documentary, a pioneer drama with an all-star cast, and Benedict Cumberbatch playing the role of Alan Turing.
The writer-focused festival runs Oct. 23-30 and includes feature films, short films, film competitions and conference panels. See below for a list of the titles announced so far, and find out more about attending AFF here.
If you're ready to get festival season started already, don't forget that the 27th Anniversary Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) takes place in just a couple of weeks (Sept. 10-14) at the freshly remodeled Alamo South Lamar and the Stateside Theatre. This year's festival includes over 100 films and the theme is "We're not an Audience. We're a Community."
aGLIFF's opening-night film will be Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine and the centerpiece is Regarding Susan Sontag. The program promises a diverse array of genres and subjects and also includes a secret screening of "one of the best-reviewed films of 2014" -- any guesses? Either way, this year's fest looks like a thoughtful and festive collection of films and events. Badge information and the full lineup are available here.
Stay in touch for more festival updates, and read on for the festival-provided descriptions of the AFF films announced so far.