Texas Is All Over the 2011 Austin Film Festival Features


Austin Film Festival announced its feature film lineup on Tuesday, including 23 U.S. and world premieres, although the opening and closing-night movies are still unrevealed. This year's selections include movies that have been creating a lot of buzz on the film-fest circuit, such as We Need to Talk About Kevin (which is also playing Fantastic Fest, interestingly enough), The Descendants, Shame, Martha Marcy May Marlene and Coriolanus. There will even be a special 3D screening of the animated movie Puss in Boots.

However, we're most excited about the 15 Austin and Texas-connected movies scattered among the Marquee, Dark Matters, Texas Independents, Documentary Feature Competition and Narrative Feature Competition programs at AFF this year. You know Slackerwood is planning to cover as many of these as we can. If you're one of the filmmakers, please feel free to reach out to us.

Austin Film Festival Announces First Films for 2011 Fest


While the full lineup for Austin Film Festival won't be revealed until mid-September, the initial film announcement has a rather promising, eclectic list of titles.

Among the titles announced today includes a new comedy from former Austinites Jay and Mark Duplass, Jeff Who Lives At Home, starring Jason Segel (pictured above). The 10 films also include the usual mix of provocative and controversial narratives, entertaining documentaries, more comedies and the most unusual twist to zombie plots I've ever seen. Most of these movies are on my "must-see" list so I can't wait to hear about the full lineup.

Without further ado, the first films of AFF 2011 including premiere information, synopses and more:

Horror Film Writers Share Their Secrets at AFF Event


Tom Holland and Alvaro Rodriguez

One of the most frequent questions in panels at Austin film festivals I've attended is, "What is available here for writers?" My advice on where to find the best content at a local film festival is the Austin Film Festival (AFF). During the mentoring sessions, roundtables and panels, emerging writers and filmmakers interact with veterans of the television and film industry.

You don't have to wait until AFF in October to catch great writers and filmmakers talking about their craft. AFF hosts Conversations in Film throughout the year. Their most recent event, "Words That Go Bump in the Night: Writing Horror Films," brought together screenwriters Tom Holland (Fright Night, Cloak and Dagger) and Alvaro Rodriguez (From Dusk Til Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter, Machete) to talk about how they started in the film industry and the state of genre filmmaking. The conversation turned into more of an interview of Holland by Rodriguez, who seemed as enthused as the audience members to ask Holland questions. I would like to have heard more from Rodriguez, but his well-thought-out questions and style kept the conversation lively -- especially when it came to talking about Anthony Hopkins and favorite horror movies.

Holland was in town to screen a new 35mm print of the original 1985 version of Fright Night at the Alamo Drafthouse. With the Dreamworks remake of Fright Night starring Colin Farrell due in theaters later this month, there's a lot of buzz for the original movie as well. I'm especially excited to see that the remake special effects were handled by K.N.B. Effects Group -- Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger's SFX house that also handled the From Dusk Til Dawn series in addition to hundreds of television and film projects. Find out after the jump what Holland had to say about the state of Hollywood, how he got into film and insights into writing.

Quick Snaps: 'Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story' Filmmakers


Monopoly Filmmakers

Every year Austin Film Festival hosts the "Hair of the Dog" brunch, and at the 2010 event I met Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story co-producer Craig Bentley and director/co-producer Kevin Tostado, pictured above. The pair could be found passing out "money" during the fest or playing Monopoly in the Driskill Bar. Their engaging documentary appeals to both young and old with a nostalgic look at a cultural phenomenon enjoyed for almost a century and loved across the world -- read my review.

If you've yet to see Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story, don't miss your chance. The Alamo Drafthouse will be hosting a special screening at the Lake Creek theater on Monday, May 23 at 7 pm.  I'm disappointed I missed the Monopoly playing party along with Mr. Monopoly's appearance at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar earlier this week, but I can console myself with a friendly game at home -- after watching Under the Boardwalk last fall I was inspired to buy a game set for myself.

AFF Teaming Up with Texas Book Festival


AFF 2010 logoI've really enjoyed Austin Film Festival's "Made in Texas" series, in which the fest screens Lone Star-shot films every month, often with the screenwriter or filmmaker in attendance. Now AFF is bringing the series back in 2011 and adding other great programming with help from the Texas Book Festival.

The 2011 Made in Texas series kicks off on Wednesday, Feb. 16 with Hook and one of its screenwriters, James V. Hart. After a 6 pm "Conversations in Film" seminar with Hart at the AT&T Conference Center (on the UT campus), you can cross the street to the Texas Spirit Theater and watch the movie at 7:30 pm. Tickets are available through AFF for the conversation and screening. After the jump, check out a list of the rest of the series offerings scheduled so far.

On March 10, AFF and Texas Book Festival will co-host a special sneak preview of Jane Eyre at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, with details forthcoming. Director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) has been to AFF twice with short films: Kofi in 2003 and Victoria para chino, which won the Best Student Narrative Short, in 2004. AFF and TBF are also teaming up in July for a free screening of How to Eat Fried Worms, as part of AFF's Made in Texas Family Film Series.

I hope this means we'll see more screenings associated with the actual Texas Book Festival in November, too. In the past, the fest would have one or two movie events related to authors -- I had a fine time hearing Joe Bob Briggs talk about Profoundly Disturbing movies back in 2003, for example. In the past few years it seems that these movie-related events have decreased.

AFF 2010: Enjoying 'The Hand Job' with a Stellar Cast


AFF 2010

Over at Cinematical, I wrote about Austin Film Festival's table reading of Maggie Carey's screenplay The Hand Job. The script reading took place at Rollins Theatre in the Long Center and drew a huge crowd, not just because of the script but because the readers included some well-known local actors as well as bigger celebrities like Jessica Alba and Bill Hader.

Check out the Cinematical article for the full details on the script reading. For that article, I used pictures from AFF's photographer, but I thought I'd share some of my own photos here, although the quality may not be quite as high. Warning: One of these photos has a picture of an overhead slide that explains part of the film's title and contains what some call "adult language" (although in a very juvenile way).

The cast for the script reading, from left to right: John Merriman (Narrator), Savannah Welch (Heather/Hot Girl), Gabriel Luna (Adam), Madi Goff (Wendy), Michael Stahl-David (Rusty), Alexa Vega (Fiona), Jessica Alba (Amber Clark), Aubrey Plaza (Brandy Clark), Daryl Sabara (Cameron), Bill Hader (Willy), Colin Hanks (Judge Clark), Barbara Chisholm (Mrs. Clark), Mark Potts (Duffy), Matt Bearden (Chip), and Todd Berger (pick-ups).

AFF 2010 Review: Veterans


VeteransI've been planning on wrapping up my Austin Film Festival content with capsule reviews for some of the short films I saw at this year's festival. However, after reflecting on Veteran's Day I thought it only fitting to give special attention to one short film in particular that I'd not covered in the AFF 2010 Preview: Selected Shorts: Veterans, directed by Miguel Alvarez (Mnemosyne Rising) and funded by a 2006 Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund grant. With so many great short films at AFF this year, Veterans hadn't originally made it to the top of my list. However, after subsequent viewings I have to admit that this poignant and somber short film is a "must see." It's a touching story of sacrifices not just made for our country, but for loved ones.

Shot on Super 8 by cinematographer Bear Guerra, Veterans has a home movie film feel but with higher production value and striking visual imagery. The story is told through a series of images of family photos and movies along with mementos, and is narrated by Joe Alvarez, the director's father. The film opens with Joe Alvarez recounting his memories of dreams at 17 years of age, a premonition that he was hit by a bomb and sent flying through the air. He had the same nightmare every week -- until it actually happened while he was in Vietnam. 

Joe Alvarez's father had also served in the military. During World War II, he was given an option to either join the army or go back to Mexico. Being patriotic, he decided to go to war despite family attempting to convince him that it wasn't his war with the response, "This country gave me everything I got, and now I'm giving my life for this country."He took part in the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, where he was hit with shrapnel in the back, knocked out and hospitalized. His experiences left him with a lot of anger and frustrations that he internalized. He kept secrets in his handmade souvenir box, including a collar from a German officer that he'd overtaken in a foxhole.

AFF 2010 Interview: Dax Shepard and His 'Brother's Justice' Partners


Brother's Justice

In addition to appearing for the red carpet premiere of Brother's Justice at this year's Austin Film Festival, the lead stars and filmmakers sat down with media while they were in town. I enjoyed a pleasant and humorous conversation with lead actor and director Dax Shepard, as well as cinematographer/director David Palmer and producer/actor Nate Tuck, pictured above.  

Brother's Justice (Jette's review) is best described as a mockumentary with Shepard aspiring to become an international martial-arts star. Check out what the filmmaking trio had to say about Brother's Justice as well as their thoughts on Austin actors and filmmakers, including the Wilson and Duplass brothers.

Dax, this isn't your first time in Austin. Can you talk about some of your prior experiences here?

Dax Shepard: In 2004, I shot Idiocracy here so I lived in Austin for three months. It is to date my favorite location, including New Zealand, which was pretty spectacular. I do hope to live here at some point. If I can get them to relocate Parenthood I'll be in heaven. To get into this film festival was really great. Even if the film festival sucked, it was still a trip to Austin so we were going to win no matter what.

AFF 2010 Review: Echotone


Echotone Stills selects

In the late 1980s, I was heavily involved in the Houston music scene due to my stint at a college radio station and later at a pub that featured nightly live music. However, the music scene there became stagnant and our establishment dropped to two nights a week with a meager budget to pay the bands. Local band Fab Motion captured the plight of many musicians with a lyrical response to the standard "Hey hippie, get a job!" with "What? I have THREE jobs." All ears turned to Austin, where bands such as the True Believers, The Reivers, Ian Moore, Joe Ely and Stevie Ray Vaughn had audiophiles wondering if our capital city would be the next Athens, Georgia. When I moved to Austin in 1993, I enjoyed the freedom to see live music any night of the week in the "Live Music Capital of the World" and play from a diverse range of local artists while deejaying at UT Austin's 91.7 KVRX.

Now that Austin has high-rises rising up amongst our downtown skyline, how are our local musicians impacted? Director Nathan Christ examines this important topic in his documentary, Echotone, as he and cinematographer Robert Garza follow Austin's independent music culture over a two-year period, featuring musicians, venues, promoters and others within the city landscape. Echotone is a poignant reminder of the abundance of talent and passion in the Austin music scene, along with the challenges and frustrations faced by creative artists and local music venues.

AFF 2010 Review: Miss Nobody



Likeable murderers in film are usually limited to those we admire for their style, not for being sweet and sympathetic. Miss Nobody is an exception and one of the sweetest black comedies you'll likely ever see from its vivacious opening credits til the startling final shot.

With its Pushing Daisies sensibilities, Miss Nobody is the colorful and cheerful murders-by-number tale of an insignificant admin assistant who takes a chance and becomes an executive ... with a pesky little body count. The invisibly mousey Sarah Jane McKinney (Leslie Bibb) follows up on her friend's suggestion to apply for a promotion, only to find her true calling as she climbs a particularly deadly corporate ladder. When a most fortunate accident launches Sarah Jane's career, she finds herself at the mercy of some of the most Machiavellian corporate execs on screen. This is a truly cutthroat business environment, leaving Sarah Jane no choice but to employ some creative career enders.

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