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.
The Austin Film Festival just sent me their latest email newsletter with a list of new panelists for the 2014 conference, and I thought I'd share it with you. And yes, there's a local filmmaker in the list. I should not even have to tell you which one, since we've written about her movies enough that you can figure it out.
Here's the list:
- Vera Blasi (Emperor)
- Kat Candler (Hellion)
- Stephen Falk (Orange is the New Black)
- Susannah Grant (Members Only, Erin Brockovich)
- Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
- Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
You can read a complete list of 2014 panelists on the AFF website. Austin Film Festival runs from October 23-30 this year.
Also, don't forget that the next film in AFF's "1968" series is Rosemary's Baby, which screens next Tuesday, July 29 at 7 pm at the Texas Spirit Theater in the Texas State History Museum [tickets].
Austin's getting fest-y (and the rising summer temps aren't to blame) with recent news about two new fall film festivals, plus some updates from a longtime local favorite fest.
The fest-o-meter will get turned up a few notches as the weather (hopefully) starts to cool beginning in September with the inaugural MondoCon. Sponsored by the Austin-based art-and-media company/gallery Mondo, MondoCon is scheduled to take place smack dab in the middle of Fantastic Fest, the city's annual genre festival, from Sept. 20-21 at the Marchesa.
MondoCon will be more than a poster show -- with panels, screenings, special guests from various disciplines and good food options. Single and full-weekend tickets are on sale while supplies last. All VIP badges for Fantastic Fest get full-weekend admission.
Fan favorite artists and legends like Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and award-winning comic book artist Bernie Wrightson, among others, are expected to be in attendance at MondoCon. In celebration of the festival, Mignola created a sold-out movie poster for The Bride of Frankenstein (pictured at right).
MondoCon will be accepting volunteer applications in conjunction with Fantastic Fest. Volunteer information will be available next month.
The holidays can, indeed, be out of this world. And a group of local filmmakers and science-fiction enthusiasts are pushing those boundaries with the launch of Austin's first dedicated science-fiction film festival, Other Worlds Austin, from Dec. 4-6 at Galaxy Highland 10 (6700 Middle Fiskville Rd.).
Bears Fonte, former director of programming for Austin Film Festival, founded Other Worlds Austin as a shorts program after discovering the number of excellent sf movies that other fests just didn't seem to have room for. Now that he's no longer with AFF, he expanded his idea into a full weekend festival for science-fiction shorts and features alike.
Change is in the air at Austin Film Festival: They recently announced a few major updates to the film and conference staff structure and have also revealed a year-round programming slate packed with special events.
First, former Conference Director and Film Programmer Erin Hallagan has been named Creative Director of the newly-combined Conference and Film departments. Austin Film Festival (AFF) Co-Founder and Executive Director Barbara Morgan describes Hallagan as "an inspired programmer and leader" and calls her promotion "the natural next step."
Also taking on new roles are Elizabeth Mims and Harrison Glaser, both previous festival employees, as well. Mims was a Young Filmmakers Program Director at AFF and also directed Only the Young, a documentary selected to screen during AFF in 2012 (here's Elizabeth's interview with the Austin-based filmmaker). Mims will now act as a Senior Programmer for the festival. Glaser, who served as a Conference Assistant for the last two years, has been named the new Film Program Coordinator.
The official festival doesn’t happen until October, but several AFF-hosted screenings and panels take place between now and then. Highlights include the On Story conversation series and an ongoing partnership with the Los Angeles-based Writers Guild Foundation.
Awards season is in full swing, and the Austin Film Festival, known for its recognition of screenwriters, announced last week that Academy Award-winning writer/director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot) will receive this year's Distinguished Screenwriter Award, joining past award recipients Harold Ramis and Robert Altman, among others. Sheridan will accept the award at the fest's annual awards luncheon on Oct. 25 and will also speak on panels during the 2014 conference.
Other confirmed panelists at the 21st annual AFF and Screenwriters Conference, which will take place Oct. 23-30, 2014, include writers and producers from such television series as Breaking Bad, Girls and Seinfeld and movies like Fight Club and Donnie Darko. Some of these industry insiders will be present for meet and greets and roundtables during the conference, as well. Read the full list of 2014 panelists at the bottom of this article.
But you don't have to wait until October to stay up to date on the movie industry. This Saturday, Beau Willimon -- creator of the Netflix Original Series House of Cards -- will discuss the show's creative process at 2 pm at the Harry Ransom Center through AFF's Conversation in Film Series.
Updated Nov. 18, 2013.
The Slackerwood team was all over Austin Film Festival this year. Here's our coverage, including guides, reviews, interviews and fest dispatches.
Austin Film Festival may be well behind us, but I am still thinking about some older Texas films at the fest that I stumbled upon almost accidentally. As I was planning my schedule for the Sunday of the fest on Saturday night, I noticed some oddly named films at the Rollins with descriptions that included "Texas independent film." I ended up skipping My Man Godfrey (which I can watch any time) to see what this screening was about.
All I knew about Invasion of the Aluminum People (1980) and Speed of Light (1981) were that apparently Jonathan Demme liked them, since he was going to "present" them. I assumed "presenting" meant he would do a nice intro, then scoot, as is typical at many such events.
The theater was about halfway full and I was one of the younger audience members. Later I would learn that many people in the audience had worked on one of the two films, or provided music, or been in a band with someone involved with the film. Both films employed a lot of musicians as their cast and crew. Well, it was Austin in 1980, I kind of assumed most of the people living here were musicians (or claimed to be). Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater sat a couple of rows in front of me, and I took that as a good omen -- this must be worthwhile.