By Stephanie Capizzo
Sitting in the "Hollywood Lessons" panel at SXSW this week made me feel like the event organizers must have created the panel specifically with me in mind (I haven't met any of them unfortunately -- but it's nice to think that they were thinking of me). As a young adult, fairly recent college graduate, and someone who wants nothing more than to make her break in the film industry, this panel was one of the most informative and realistic views on what to expect when trying to make it in such a tough industry.
Among the panelists were Shay Weiner, Adam Hendricks and Stephanie Hall, three industry professionals who have run the gamut of entry-level positions to get to where they are today, and who are not afraid to tell it like it is. On their list of things to expect when working your way up the metaphorical ladder? Working 16 hours a day for little to no money, getting things thrown at you, being yelled at and watching the less thick-skinned people around you drop like flies. It all sounds a bit depressing, yes, but one of the other things that all the panelists agreed on was the fact that they all love what they do and could never imagine doing anything else.
Crystal and Leo are the perfect couple.
Perfectly unhinged, that is. The two subjects of Sun Don't Shine live in a world of rage and are best avoided as they travel the highways of central Florida, greeting everyone who crosses their paths with wild-eyed looks of desperation. As their harrowing back stories unfold during their road trip, we learn the dark details of their lives and their journey.
If my description of Sun Don't Shine is cryptic, it's because revealing any further details would undermine most of the film's spellbinding tension. All I'll say is that Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley) are running a ghastly errand.
Filmmaker Amy Seimetz has crafted a gripping piece of cinematic horror with Sun Don't Shine, a film that peels away layer upon layer of darkness to develop its twisted story and characters. The story's simplicity and compactness belie its complex characters and broad indictment of human behavior. There is far more going on than just a crazed couple on a road trip from hell; the movie gets to the heart of what inspires people to commit violent acts and craftily blurs the line between good and evil.
In the midst of alleged Kanye West sightings, rumors of a Girl Talk show, and the overall chaos of the second day of the Music fest at SXSW, Shut Up and Play the Hits, a documentary chronicling the last days of the band LCD Soundsystem, was able to fill up the Stateside Theatre on Thursday afternoon. The film is centered on James Murphy, the eclectic leader and brain-child of LCD Soundsystem. Directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern weave together a personal interview with Murphy, footage from their last show at (a sold-out) Madison Square Garden, and footage shot of Murphy the morning after the final show.
Murphy's internal struggles are laid bare in the film as he discusses briefly the history of LCD Soundsystem, but mainly talks about his creative process, when something can be considered art, and his reasons for quitting. The rapid success of LCD Soundsystem came late in life for Murphy and it is extremely interesting to hear his thoughts on fame, popularity, and what inspires him to create art.
Look, I'm in my early forties. I listen to out of date, untrendy music. I had no idea who or what Girl Talk was, much less what it had to do with the movie Girl Walk // All Day. What I knew was that a lot of my SXSW filmgoing friends were raving about this dance-a-rific musical film, everyone was talking about getting out of their theater seats and dancing around, and the movie was playing at Alamo Drafthouse Village on a night when I didn't want to go downtown. From such unlikely beginnings are great SXSW moviegoing experiences made.
At its essence, Girl Walk // All Day is a feature-length music video/dance performance, but that's terribly reductive and misleading. The movie is set to the music of Girl Talk's 2010 album All Day -- if you haven't heard it, it consists of 372 samples of existing songs by other artists, which Girl Talk artfully and lyrically arranged into an amazing wall of music. (You can tell I will be downloading the album myself soon ... FYI, it's free.) Director Jacob Krupnick has artfully and lyrically arranged a film set to this music that involves continual dancing, primarily from three characters: The Girl (Anne Marsen), The Gentleman (Dai Omiya) and The Creep (John Doyle).
By Noelle Schonefeld
Tuesday marked the end of the panels and conferences for SXSW Film. That morning, Garrick Dion, SVP of Development at BOLD Films and Katie McNeill, VP of Production at Electric City Entertainment sat on the panel "Making it Happen: Financing an Independent Film." Aaron Kaufman of Troublemaker Studios served as moderator for the panel and also had great insight on the topic.
The main focus of the panel was the role of an independent producer, specifically related to movies with a target budget of $15-20 million. For low-budget films, the information was topical, but did not get into the specifics of selling the project or finding funding. The panel was most useful for someone who is or plans to work with an already established independent producer.
Topics covered included the types of projects to look for, working with first-time directors, and the role of "name" actors and foreign sales on securing funding. Each production office is different, but when you are talking about independent producers like BOLD and Electric City, they have to be savvy about what types of projects they choose to greenlight. Though they don't choose the same types of films and they approach the process of selection in different ways, the common thread of what they look for is a good story told in an interesting way that people would pay to see at any budget.
Each year, SXSW is a set of experiences that spark new ideas and directions in my life. My SXSW experience in 2005 prompted my now-defunct blog, Doc It Out. I consider that experiment a success since I stuck with it for three years and it spurred my career as a writer and programmer. The festival, via then-producer Matt Dentler and now-producer Janet Pierson, eventually led me to my job at the Austin Film Society and to live in Austin. SXSW creates an environment for thought, creativity and entrepreneurship. This year, I found my experiences pointing me toward the role of technology in our lives.
Avi Zev Weider and his wife Alex used science to get pregnant, and like so many couples these days, they wound up with multiples—triplets to be exact. Avi's film, Welcome to the Machine, is his exploration into whether or not this kind of technological intervention into human life is a positive development. It's easy to understand how they might question their choice when we see their three prematurely born babies in neo-natal incubators and the subsequent challenges. As the family struggles, Avi ponders if they have discovered a dark side to using technology to have a family.
Lost and Sound filmmaker Lindsay Dryden revealed during the Q&A at SXSW that she is partially deaf with a chance she might lose all of her hearing. As someone who is "obsessed with music," she wondered if she does lose her hearing, what can she expect her experience of music to be? She finds several people at various stages of deafness -- a dancer who was born deaf, a music critic who lost hearing in one ear and experiences pain when he tries to listen to music, and a young piano player who lost her hearing from a bout with meningitis. The girls have cochlear implants, or electronic devices in their inner ears and aids on the outside, to assist with hearing, while the music critic undergoes a series of medical scans to get help coping with tinnitus pain. Cochlear implants may also be an option for him.
Why isn't Bernie my favorite or runner-up? As good as the film is, Slacker and Dazed and Confused have earned their rightful places at the top of my list of Favorite Linklater Films and probably will stay there forever. Pap Smear Pusher and David Wooderson deserve nothing less.
Bernie, however, is arguably the best Linklater film in a decade, an uproariously funny and engaging movie based on one of those only-in-Texas stories that would be the stuff of great fiction if it weren't astoundingly and painfully true.
Based on a Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth, who co-wrote the screenplay with Linklater, Bernie is the story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a Carthage, Texas mortician who in 1990 befriended elderly widow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) after her husband's funeral. Tiede became Nugent's business manager and constant companion, tending to her needs and traveling the world with her for several years. Their relationship became the talk of their small East Texas town, the subject of much speculation and gossip about why the well liked thirtysomething Tiede took such an interest in the crotchety septuagenarian Nugent, who vied for the title of the town's most hated person. The most common theory had to do with Nugent's multimillion-dollar fortune, which she left to Tiede in her will.
The number of South by Southwest parties is so staggering that I unplugged from nearly all the SXSW Interactive parties and only attended a few SXSW Film parties this year. The opening and closing-night parties are always "must attend" events, as they provide an opportunity to mingle with festival attendees, filmmakers and actors from near and far.
At the Film Opening Party at Buffalo Billiards, I chatted with Austin filmmaker Geoff Marslett, seen above with actress Laura Aidan (Fright Night 2011) and her husband Chris Aidan. Marslett directed some of the SXSW 2012 Film Festival bumpers this year and starred in one -- I swear by the end of the bumper that he was emulating local film writer C. Robert Cargill.
Day nine, and the SXSW Film Festival has finally come to a close as it makes way for the last days of the Music fest, which is already underway. At this point, choosing films for the last couple of days has become difficult. In part, this is because the music fest crowds make downtown Austin something to be avoided more than usual. Not only that, but the "Catch a Chevy" and the Film Fest Flyer shuttle services have been cut back. Many slots the last couple of days are filled with shows I've already seen or have little or no interest in checking out. Yes, there's always the chance that something will surprise you, but after a week of constantly surprising yourself, most of the films with even slightly interesting descriptions have been exhausted.
My last couple of days included a couple of those "take a chance and be surprised" selections, one of which worked, and one that didn't. Both days, I confined myself to the Alamo Drafthouse at the Village, where long lines would not be a problem. No doubt, this was a response to lining up three hours early for Iron Sky on Wednesday. It feels like I spent more time waiting in lines this year than I did sitting to watch films! Consequently, I also skipped several earlier screenings just so I could relax at home and catch up on sleep.
The one I most regret skipping, based on word of mouth, is the Matthew Lillard-directed movie Fat Kid Rules The World. The synopsis of the film didn't really grab me, however. Likewise, I had scheduled the documentary Wikileaks: Secrets & Lies, but I'm already familiar enough with the story, and reactions were mixed among friends. My friend and Movies.com writer Jacob Hall (@JacobSHall) tweeted regarding the movie, "Essential if slightly dry viewing. If you want to understand the whole debacle. Made for TV and looks it."
Sleepwalk With Me is the semi-autobiographical film Mike Birbiglia directed and co-wrote with Ira Glass, based on Birbiglia's off-Broadway show. This was a lighthearted trip through his early career that highlights the struggles of a fledgling comic. It was entirely unclear which parts of the story were fiction and which were true. The movie never falters, but if at any point it did, Birbiglia has the charisma to carry it past that point. Lauren Ambrose and Carol Kane were delightful casting choices as his girlfriend and mother respectively.
As massive as the crowds may have been during the SXSW Film and Interactive Conferences, the number of people downtown when SXSW Music starts is overwhelming. Even on Wednesday night, which is usually a "soft" opening for SXSW Music, there were massive crowds on Sixth Street as seen above. I braved the crowds to attend screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz and the Paramount Theatre, both appropriately for music-related screenings.
Music at SXSW isn't just contained within the bars and clubs. Check out some of the other locations where well-known musicians and live music performances are found after the jump.