As I said in the opening line of my SXSW 2014 dispatch, "The life of a wristbandit can be a lonely one." I'd like to amend that by saying that although it's lonely, it's still just as fun, and often unexpectedly more eventful than a badge. There are obvious differences, of course, but I enjoyed myself immensely while donning a wristband last year. I got to see films, go to some great parties, and made some new friends along the way. With all of that, I would like to share some information that I feel is pertinent to the "wristbandito."
SXSW Film Wristbands are $90 (tax included) and will be sold at Waterloo Records, The Marchesa Theatre, Violet Crown Cinema, Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, Alamo Ritz and Alamo Slaughter Lane. As a wristband holder, you will be admitted into any SXSW film venue once all badgeholders (Platinum, Gold and Film) have been let into the theater. This is, of course, if space permits.
Below are a few pointers/tips/thoughts that I took away from my adventures. You might think that some of these points are a bit repetitive, but I promise they will be helpful to you when you're trying to navigate the festival.
- Try to pick up your wristband on Thursday. Last year there was some confusion about where I could get my wristband, but it turns out you CAN pick it up a day early at the Austin Convention Center on March 12 from 9 am - 7 pm at the Vimeo Theater box office outside Exhibit Hall 2. If you can't make it then, try to get to one of the listed venues way before the first film shows.
Krisha is a passion project by Austin director Trey Shults set during a fraught family Thanksgiving dinner. The intimate film was shot in his parents' house and stars members of his family, with his aunt Krisha Fairchild playing the lead. Shults based the feature -- premiering at SXSW 2015 -- on his short that played last year at the fest and won a Special Jury Award.
Shults answered a few questions I had about the making of Krisha via email interview.
Slackerwood: What was the process like to adapt your short film into this feature?
Trey Shults: We got the ball rolling on the feature pretty soon after the short played SXSW last year. The short seemed to be well received at SX but it wasn't like anyone was coming up offering us money to make the feature version. So we took matters into our own hands.
If you keep up with Texas gospel music, you have likely heard of the Jones Family Singers. The family, based out of Bay City, has performed together for more than 20 years despite many setbacks.
Austin's own Arts & Labor tells the musical family's story in the documentary feature The Jones Family Will Make a Way, debuting at SXSW. The film will premiere Wednesday, March 18 at the Paramount Theatre [more info] and some of the family members will likely be in attendance.
The Jones Family Will Make a Way includes interviews with Bishop Fred A. Jones (pictured above), the glue that holds the band together, as well as his daughters and sons, who discuss their faith journeys and how involved they are in the group. Music critic Michael Corcoran also plays a large part in the film, as he expresses his love for gospel music and joy in finding this musical group.
Writer/director Micah Magee may not live in Texas full-time now, but she has strong connections to the Lone Star State. She graduated from UT (dual degree Plan II Honors and Radio-TV-Film) and worked as programming director for Cinematexas International Short Film Festival. Most recently, she filmed her feature Petting Zoo in San Antonio.
In Magee's film, Layla (young actress Devon Keller) is a teenager living on the edges of poverty whose plans to attend college are subverted by an unexpected pregnancy. Petting Zoo played as part of the Panorama Special programming at Berlinale in February, and has its North American premiere at SXSW later this month.
In these hectic days before the festival begins, Magee answered questions for us via email interview.
Slackerwood: What drew you to tell this story?
Micah Magee: Petting Zoo was shot in San Antonio, Texas. It was filmed in the places of my childhood, where my teenage cousins live now: high schools built by prison architects, trailers, rock bars, abandoned half-built subdivisions, the corporate parks between the fields. I wanted to highlight the kinds of people in the film, and San Antonio itself. I think if you can be super specific about a community and a place, other local communities identify with that too -- somehow from being really specific and local, you can reach universal.
After covering SXSW for the past several years, I felt a sort of aimlessness upon seeing the slate of films this time, like maybe I should shake things up as far as my viewing selections go. In the past year I've tried to watch more films made by women, even starting a feminist film club with a couple friends. Why shouldn't I try to carry that focus into SXSW?
So I am aiming to see films at SXSW 2015 made by female filmmakers, or based on work by women screenwriters. Spy, directed and written by Paul Feig, is the only film in my schedule that doesn't follow my rule, but I really want to see it at the Paramount!
Here are some of the movies I'm most looking forward to at SXSW:
By now you have had the chance to see The Dog, one of Drafthouse Films' most intriguing acquisitions this year. If not, you can watch it online via Amazon or Vimeo. Released in theaters last month, the documentary covers the remarkable character John Wojtowicz, aka "The Dog," inspiration for the 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon about a man who robbed a bank pay for his male lover's gender reassignment surgery. I saw the movie during SXSW earlier this year.
Stunned after watching the intimate portrait from Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren, I made my way to meet them during SXSW, at the end of a hotel hallway across from another room where (ironically) Snoop Dogg was also meeting the press. Here's the transcript of our two-on-one interview.
Slackerwood: John Wojtowicz died in 2006. What work or shooting on the film have you done since then?
Frank Keraudren: The first four years we shot John exclusively, maybe a little bit of his mother. After that, we had this blueprint of the film, which was a long monologue with a lot of empty spots on the screen. We had already looked up other people that we wanted to find. It took a long time to track down people, but after John passed away we interviewed all the other people who appear in the film. He knew we were going to talk to them. He was perfectly fine with it, but I think while he was alive a lot of them had been antagonized by him to the point that they didn't really want to deal with him. So that dictated the sequence of events, and it allowed us to flesh out the film and explore scenes like the prison sequence we couldn't really build without finding George, who was the third wife that he married in prison, and stuff like that.
Slackerwood was all over the SXSW Film Festival this year. Here's the list of all our guides, features, interviews, reviews and whatever else we wrote (or photographed). Check out the @slackerwood Twitter feed for the latest links, news and other info.
Austin was filmmaker Alex R. Johnson's "something better" from the hustle and bustle of New York City life. Johnson had searched for a city that wouldn't necessarily compete with his memories of the Big Apple, but for a community of like-minded individuals that weren't worried about their role on Law & Order. His dear pal and composer Andrew Kenny, aka Kenny, also made the move with his wife last year after an extended SXSW trip. The house that Kenny and his wife bought became the fictional home of a character in his and Johnson's latest movie Two Step (Don's review).
"I didn't really know what I was getting myself into," Kenny said.
That may have been an understatement. Once a truck and generator showed up at the Kenny home, they knew they were in for surprises. Memories of the ten-day shoot at their house continue to show up in the form of fake blood droplets.
"Still finding blood but no damage," Kenny said. "There's a little bit by the front door... it's gonna stay there." To Kenny's wife, it's kind of like Christmas, finding needles from the tree months later, Johnson said.
Working a film festival, selfies and internet privacy. These were just a few things that writer/director Nacho Vigalondo and actors Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey chatted about regarding their latest film, Open Windows, shot partially in Austin.
The movie premiered at SXSW (my review), and I was beyond eager to hear firsthand what went into the making of this film. Check out what they had to say about what drew them to the idea, as well as the technological hurdles they had to overcome.
Slackerwood: Congratulations on the premiere of your film here at SXSW. How does it feel to bring it back to Austin?
Nacho Vigalondo: It's amazing, but I prefer to come here [to this festival and others] without a movie because I enjoy movies -- I love watching them. I love other people's movies more than mine. I enjoy making my films, but I don't enjoy watching my own films. I hate to be a critic to myself.
Austin is called the "Live Music Capital of the World," and a very large influence on it was singer/songwriter Stephen Bruton. In 2007, only a week after completing his treatment for throat cancer and in his final appearance on stage, Bruton led his band through a four-hour, 38-song "Road to Austin" performance in front of 20,000 fans. Director Gary Fortin covers the concert and history of the Austin music scene from 1835 to today in Road to Austin, which premiered at SXSW 2014.
Beginning with Kris Kristofferson and John Paul DeJoria relating their experiences, Fortin weaves photos and film footage from the earliest days of Austin into a vivid tapestry. Artists recount tales of legendary venues, some now gone, including Threadgill's, Antone's, the Armadillo World Headquarters, Broken Spoke, Continental Club and Saxon Pub.
Road to Austin explores how the city became, like a microcosm of the United States, a musical melting pot where country, blues, Latino and psychedelic influences combined and grew, creating a unique scene and a strong community.
The interviews and history serve as an introduction to footage from the concert itself, where Bruton takes the stage with his band and a host of 60 star performers. The festival cut of the film includes eight songs emceed by Turk Pipkin. Blues, country, even an operatic performance by Cara Johnston are represented, but the peak of the concert has to be Malford Milligan's performance. When Milligan sings Bruton's "Bigger Wheel," you can't help jumping and dancing along. The energy is infectious and powerful.
The full concert includes artists Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, Joe Ely, Eric Johnson, David Grissom, Bob Schneider, Carolyn Wonderland, Raul Salinas, Bobby Whitlock & CoCo Carmel, Lisa Hayes, Joel Guzman & Sarah Fox, Ian Mclagan, James Hand, Ruthie Foster, and the Tosca String Quartet.