Remember how I mentioned in the Insider's Guide for SXSW to plan for all sorts of weather? Betcha you're glad you listened. Or peeved that you didn't. Bit nippy out there, huh? No worries, it will be balmy in a few days. I'm glad I picked up my badge Thursday afternoon; on Friday, the lines were hours long at one point. On early Thursday afternoon, I spent more time walking the labyrinth in the registration room than I spent waiting for my badge.
I stopped by the Beginners Guide to SXSW Film panel, which had some great classic tips (Network! Plan but be flexible! Ride the #3 bus! -- the last from yours truly in the peanut gallery). After a quick dinner, it was off to Thale.
I should point out that I rarely go to official opening-night movies at any festival. I usually find a gem playing opposite, and it's a great way to support filmmakers who might not have a full theater because of the siren call of Big Names. Not dissing Joss Whedon or Cabin in the Woods, but one of the bet things about SXSW is seeing the films you might not see elsewhere, and you know Cabin in the Woods will play at a theater near you in another month or so. That wasn't the case for Thale, which sold out despite the rain and the cold -- the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar lines are all outdoors -- and an inexplicable delay in seating. Perhaps it was because Matthew Lillard was there for the Fat Kid Rules the World red carpet (pictured at top)?
Native Texan Amy Seimetz may be familiar to Austin film fans as the winner of Fantastic Fest's Best Actress Award for her role in A Horrible Way To Die. Now she's back in town for SXSW to premiere her latest film, the thriller Sun Don't Shine, which she wrote and directed. If that seems like a vague Austin or Texas connection, keep reading, there's a veritable Who's Who to follow.
Describe Sun Don't Shine for us in a couple of sentences.
Two lovers on the back roads of Florida do very bad things. That is all I will tell for now ...
Last month, I had the chance to interview the director and one of the producers of Somebody Up There Likes Me: Bob Byington and Nick Offerman, respectively. Offerman also has a starring role in the movie, which will premiere at SXSW 2012 on Sunday night. As is the case with good interviews, I ended up with a lot of material -- too much for one article. But Byington and Offerman were so much fun together, I hated to leave anything out.
Look for a longer feature about the movie itself on Monday morning, based on my interview, and featuring a great photo of Offerman from the set of the movie. In the meantime, I'd like to share the parts of the interview where Byington and Offerman talk about Austin itself (and Smithville) -- barbecue, Brad Pitt's mojo, the Texas heat, and some SXSW advice (sort of).
It started when I asked Byington and Offerman what they liked about working together.
Nick Offerman: Well, I like any excuse to visit Austin and sample the barbecued meats there.
Just a quick reminder -- okay, I guess it's a shameless self-promotion, really. But SXSW Film starts tomorrow (Friday, March 9) and one of the first panels is "Beginners Guide to SXSW Film," which is a lot of fun even if you have been to the fest before. The panel starts at 2 pm in Austin Convention Center, Room 16AB.
As in past years, the panel will be skillfully moderated by Agnes Varnum, Austin Film Society Director of Marketing. I'll be on the panel too -- it's my second year, as will Austin film producer Joel Heller (Winnebago Man), film writer/programmer/consultant Basil Tsiokos, and attorney George Rush.
We all have our standard tips and tricks for people who haven't been to the fest before, and in addition, we'll take questions from the audience. It's a lot of fun. So I hope you'll be there and ask us about any area of SXSW Film for which you feel you need advice.
This second part of my SXSW shorts coverage takes a marked musical turn, including a number of music videos, a short with no dialogue, and an adaptation starring Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew. In case you missed it, you can go back and read Part One.
Christeene: African Mayonnaise (Music Videos)
If you're not familiar with Christeene Vale, this latest music video from the outrageous Texan drag queen is a great introduction. Performing first in the mall, she is chased out by a mall cop on a Segway and then moves on to other recognizable Austin locations. This is the most in-your-face drag queen you're likely to find, and I only hope I'm fortunate enough to witness a live performance at some point. Directed by Austin filmmaker and cinematographer PJ Raval.
Knife (Texas Shorts)
Rich, immersive sound mixing is integral to this short, which tells a story without the use of dialogue. An unsettling tone is enhanced with a beautiful original score. Written and directed by Fort Worth filmmaker James M. Johnston. Edited by DFW-area filmmaker David Lowery, whose SXSW 2011 short Pioneer was produced by Johnston.
SXSW starts tomorrow, and one of the best parts of the festival is the shorts program, a perennial favorite. I've pre-screened a number of this year's excellent entries, and here is part one of my pre-fest short film coverage.
Tumbleweed! (Texas Shorts)
Wow! Offbeat, whimsical, and completely delightful. Tumbleweed! is an inspirational story of a tumbleweed that refuses to tumble. This seven-minute short is the kind of little nugget that makes the shorts program a must-see. Very loosely set in Texas.
Heimkommen (Narrative Shorts)
A poignant and touching look at sibling tensions in the wake of a tragic accident, Heimkommen (Come Home) tells a story that is simple yet deep. Director Micah Magee is a San Antonio native and UT Austin grad, and she's also a former Cinematexas co-director.
In the Pines (Narrative Shorts)
In nine minutes, In the Pines managed to re-create the mood I felt after two hours watching Tree of Life. Meditative, hopeful, and brilliant, it features stunning macrophotography shots interspersed between grand natural vistas. I could watch hours of this.
Brute Force (Documentary Shorts)
Brute Force is the stage name of musician Stephen Friedland, who performed with The Tokens and wrote for Peggy March, Del Shannon, and The Chiffons among others. This is important to know, as he's such a character the 15-minute documentary about him would almost seem a mockumentary. By the time it reached his song "The King of Fuh," I was convinced it couldn't be real. But this is a man who indeed is real and was admired by (and performed with) The Beatles. Directed by Austin filmmaker Ben Steinbauer, who brought us another fascinating real-life character in Winnebago Man. Read Jenn's interview with Steinbauer.
In September 2009, I noticed an unusual special event in an Austin Film Society weekly bulletin about a unique performance piece. The Trash Project was meant to "educate audience members about waste reduction while acknowledging the hard work Austin’s sanitation workers." Choreographer Allison Orr of Forklift Danceworks had organized "the biggest dance of [her] life." It was almost a footnote that director Andrew Garrison (Third Ward TX) would be documenting the event, especially when it included 15(!) vehicles.
Now the film Trash Dance is set to make its world premiere at SXSW on Saturday. Andrew Garrison directed, shot, and produced the documentary, with editing by Angela Pires and sound design by Graham Reynolds. Steve Mims (Incendiary: The Willingham Case), Deb Lewis (Troop 1500, Crawford) and Nancy Schiesari (Tattooed Under Fire) provided additional photography. Here's what Garrison and Allison Orr had to say about their project.
Slackerwood: Describe Trash Dance for us in a couple of sentences.
Andrew Garrison: A choreographer and city trash collectors make something ridiculously beautiful together. It is funny, unexpected, and genuinely powerful.
I haven't been writing about film for very long. I've always been passionate about it, but I never had the kind of access to it that I have now. Though I still have a lot to learn and great colleagues to learn it from, I know that in a short time, I've come a long way.
How do I know this? As little as three years ago, when the SXSW film lineup would come out, I'd scour it for hours figuring what I'd want to see later that year. This would result in maybe three to five films a year from SXSW that I'd look forward to. This year, based on cast, writers, directors, studio affiliations, past festivals and general industry knowledge, I can glance at this year's lineup and easily identify upwards of 20 films I am chomping at the bit to see.
I've compiled a list of ten films that I'm really anxious to watch at SXSW 2012:
10. The Last Fall (schedule) and The Announcement (schedule)
These are both sports movies, which if you know me, you know that I love. The Last Fall examines what goes on in a player's mind when his playing career is over, and The Announcement is a documentary about the day Magic Johnson retired from the NBA due to being HIV positive. Incredibly compelling stories, neither of which have ever really been told. Here's the trailer for The Last Fall:
Updated March 10 with a new section on free non-SXSW screenings!
I've been getting a surprising number of email messages this year that run along these lines: "We know there are a ton of cheap and free concerts and parties with live music during SXSW, what about free movies?" SXSW has set up several screenings and film-related events that are free to the public this year. In addition, I've found at least one other free movie-related event happening during the fest that I can recommend. If I've missed anything, don't be shy about letting me know in the comments.
Remember that although these events are free, you might have to pay to park near some of the venues. Check out our Guide for Locals and Passholders for some parking and transportation tips.
Free Panels and Events
Women in Cinema's SXSW Panel: Wednesday, March 14, 7-9 pm, Studio 4D, CMB, The University of Texas
This event might have been perfect for the SXSW Film Conference, but is actually on the University of Texas campus and is sponsored by Women in Cinema, a UT student organization that supports student filmmakers. The group's brought together a powerhouse panel of female filmmakers and actresses who have films at SXSW this year -- a don't-miss lineup. UT instructor Kat Candler (Hellion) is moderating the panel, which includes Houston filmmaker Kelly Sears (Once It Started It Could Not End), Megan Griffiths (Eden), Amy Seimetz (Sun Don't Shine), Annie Silverstein (Spark), new-to-Austin Hannah Fidell (The Gathering Squall), producer Kim Sherman (V/H/S, Sun Don't Shine), and actress Anna Margaret Hollyman (Somebody Up There Likes Me, Gayby). I can't believe this event is free.
Who knows the Austin food scene better than Austinites? Hungry festgoing Austinites (and a few honorary locals). For SXSW 2012, Austin has been through some restaurant changes -- closures, moves, new venues. and more alternatives to brick-and-mortar restaurants. This guide will help you find your way. We'll start with some general tips, then venue-specific recommendations, followed by some other recommendations by Slackerwood contributors and filmmakers.
Four Star Dining, Two Step Dress. The best part about Austin is few restaurants employ a strict dress code. Which means it's okay to show up at Barley Swine in your jeans. Some upscale restaurants like Uchiko do have a "smart casual" dress code, so don't show up in shorts and flip flops, mmk?
Top Chef. Speaking of Uchiko, yes, Paul Qui is an Austinite (and from all accounts as nice as he is talented). No, you are not likely to be able to use your connections to get a seat at Uchiko. Few reservation slots are available for Uchiko (and fewer for Uchi) during SXSW on OpenTable. But don't forget, Qui also co-owns East Side King food trailers, which has three locations along 6th Street.
No Reservations. If there's a place you really want to dine at during SXSW, check to see if they make reservations and make one ASAP. As in, stop reading this guide and go make the reservation now, especially if you're planning brunch.