Local Cast and Crew

SXSW Review: Yakona

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yakona still

Filmed in Texas and told "from the perspective of the San Marcos River," Yakona had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival last week and went on to win an Audience Award in the Visions category. This meditative and visually captivating film can't be neatly categorized, and it will surely speak to the hearts of locals, nature lovers and anyone who has ever taken a swim in the San Marcos.

Filmmakers Paul Collins and Anlo Sepulveda chose to use a Pure Cinema stylistic technique, which relies on vision and movement rather than traditional narrative storytelling (not a single talking head is included and there is only minimal speaking). Instead, with footage captured using underwater cameras and reenacted scenes depicting life from prehistoric to modern times, Collins and Sepulveda create a collage of moments and emotions that together capture the spirit of the San Marcos River and the ecosystem of which it is an integral part.

SXSW Review: Premature

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Premature

Ferris Bueller meets Groundhog Day in the raunchy teen comedy Premature, from first-time writer/director Dan Beers. Rated R for language and sexual themes, Premature is unafraid to push the boundaries of good taste in the pursuit of laughter.

Beers has assembled a dynamic and talented cast including native Texans John Karna, Alan Tudyk and Carlson Young (look for interviews with these three next week). Karna stars as Rob Crabbe, an average teenager who wakes up on the most important day of his senior year lying in a wet spot on his bed. The events of the day, including his Georgetown college interview with Jack Roth (Tudyk) and tutoring session with sexy vixen Angela (Young), play out until he finds himself in bed with Angela, prematurely climaxes and immediately finds himself again in his bed at home, starting the day over.

Cursed to continue repeating the events of the day, Rob tries to work out a solution with the help of his best friends Stanley (Craig Roberts) and Gabrielle (Katie Findlay). Karna's charisma and naturally keen comic timing help to overlook weaker moments of dialogue where the teens sometimes don't feel like authentic teens as much as people delivering adult lines. Some lines are followed with a touch too much dead silence, as if edited to allow for insertion of a laugh track, but after such stumbles the pace always picks back up and delivers genuine laughs.

SXSW Review: Faults

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I've never been one for films about cults. I suppose it's because they're such a taboo subject within our society, not to mention they flat out give me the creeps, I've never gone out of my way to watch films on the topic. And no, not even when people gave me the nickname "Martha Marcy May Marcelena." But something caught my attention in reading about Riley Stearns' debut feature film, Faults.

The story starts with a deadbeat guy getting kicked out of a restaturant. He is trying to use a free meal voucher, but the manager knows he already used it the night before. The guy downs his food, then tries to eat all of the condiments on the table. After a physical struggle with the manager, he is thrown out of the restaurant. This is Ansel (Leland Orser), our film's protagonist. What I later realized I enjoyed so much about this intro is that it sets up the main character perfectly: a washed up, once-famous public speaker who will do what he can to con people, even for a free meal.

SXSW Review: The Great Invisible

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Roosevelt Harris talking to a woman in The Great Invisible

April 20, 2014 will be the fourth anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which caused a spill of an estimated 176 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This horrific incident seriously altered the lives of the men who worked on the rig -- and the families of the 11 who lost their lives -- as well as the communities who once survived off jobs based on healthy waters in the Gulf. In The Great Invisible, director Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths, Be Here to Love Me) explores the aftereffects of the explosion and oil spill from multiple viewpoints.

Doug Brown, the chief mechanic for Transocean on the Deepwater Horizon (owned by Transocean, but leased by BP), gave the director some video he filmed on the rig before the disastrous night. He and another victim of the explosion, along with their wives, talk about their experience that night and their current fragile existence.

Keith Jones, father of one of the men killed in the explosion, comments on America's "insatiable thirst for gasoline" and follows the BP/Halliburton/Transocean trial to New Orleans. Brown gives these interviews intimacy, while framing them against the larger issues of America's dependence on oil and our government's participation through oil leases.

Austin at SXSW 2014: Gabe Klinger, 'Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater'

Any documentary filmmaker will tell you that the process to make a film takes time. Filmmaker Gabe Klinger will tell you that the idea for his SXSW premiere film, Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater, was an idea that had been with him for many years.

Double Play examines the friendship between filmmakers James Benning and Richard Linklater. Klinger teamed up with local production company The Bear Media as well as the Austin Film Society to help bring this film to life. Through scenes filmed at Linklater's Bastrop home as well as archival footage, we as the audience can quietly observe these artists discussing their lives, art, and what it means to be a filmmaker.

I got the chance to ask Klinger a few questions via email before the film's debut this weekend. See what he has to say about how he approached these two filmmakers, as well as what his influences were in the process.

Texas at SXSW 2014: Daniel Laabs, 'Easy'

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Still from Easy

Easy is a semi-autobiographical short about brothers from former Austinite/current Dallas resident Daniel Laabs. The director recently completed a successful crowdfunding campaign to cover post-production costs for the film, which will have its world premiere at SXSW. The short he co-directed with Julie Gould, 8, premiered at SXSW in 2011, where it won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Texas Short. 

Easy will be shown as part of the Texas Shorts program at this year's festival. Laabs answered some questions I had via email before SXSW Film.

What drew you to tell the story of the two brothers in Easy?

Daniel Laabs: I tend to write films that come from personal experience. The idea of showing what it is like to be both an older brother and a younger brother was very interesting (I'm a middle child).

On the Set of 'From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series'

Zane Holz and D.J. Cotrona as the Gecko Brothers

The Gecko Brothers are back, and attendees of the 2014 SXSW Film Festival can see them first at the world premiere of the pilot episode of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series on Saturday, March 8, 4:30 pm at the Vimeo Theater in the Austin Convention Center. The debut is part of the new Episodic screening category for this year's festival.

The Episodic category was inspired by previous SXSW featured content, including A&E's Bates Motel and the HBO series Girls. Other series featured at this year's fest will include the educational Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, the comedic series Deadbeat, and Austin writer/director Mike Judge's Silicon Valley. The television premiere of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series will be broadcast on Tuesday, March 11, 8 pm CST on El Rey Network.

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series is a re-imagined story based upon the original film but with the addition of new characters and storylines. This includes an intertwining of the Mesoamerican mythology that the main characters, bank robber Seth Gecko (D. J. Cotrona) and his volatile brother Richie Gecko (Zane Holtz), encounter while on the run from Texas Rangers Earl McGraw (Don Johnson) and Freddie Gonzalez (Jessie Garcia).

Lone Star Cinema: The Iron Giant

Still from The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant may not have been a box-office success upon its original 1999 release, but the animated film based in 1957 Maine has come to be loved and appreciated by many in the years since. The quirky, heartbreaking sci-fi tale pairs the beauty of its hand-drawn animation with a powerful message.

Hogarth (Eli Marienthal, American Pie) is a young boy in fictional coastal town Rockwell (presumably named after this Rockwell) who stumbles upon a ginormous alien machine one night. Hogarth befriends the giant, who has lost most of his memory, and attempts to pass knowledge on to the larger being. Harry Connick, Jr. figures into the voice cast as a hipster scrap metal collector/artist who supervises some of Hogarth and the giant's interactions.

Meanwhile, Hogarth's widowed mom Annie (Jennifer Aniston) rents out a room to government agent Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald, Thelma & Louise), sent to the town after reports of metal monsters and strange happenings make their way to Washington.  As Hogarth tries to teach the giant that he can choose to be what he wants (instead of what the machine may have been designed for), Mansley is determined to prove the dangerous existence of the imposing metal figure.

Submit Your Short to the AFS ShortCase at SXSW

SXSW Film 2014 LogoAustin Film Society (AFS) members who are filmmakers have the opportunity to submit their short films to screen during the SXSW Film Festival as part of ShortCase, this year's AFS Community Screening. ShortCase is a 70- to 90-minute special screening of locally connected short films.

To submit, you must be a current AFS Make-level member (or above) and either a producer, director or writer of the piece submitted -- one of the people most creatively responsible for the work. If you are not currently an AFS member at the Make level, you can join or upgrade here.

This will be my third year curating the ShortCase film series. This year's jury includes AFS Film Programmer Lars Nilsen and local AFS filmmaker Clay Liford, who produced the Sundance award-winning short Rat Pack Rat, which also screens in the SXSW regular programming.

We remind AFS filmmakers to take advantage of the wealth of member resources provided through AFS Artists Services, including the AFS Grant and Moviemaker Dialogues.

Highlights for this year's AFS ShortCase submission process:

  • Submit films using online screeners with private or password-protected links (either via Vimeo, Youtube or any other streaming service). If you set an expiration date for viewing, it should be available until at least March 15, 2014.
  • Your submission form must be submitted by Monday, February 17, at 6 pm CST -- be advised this is not a "postmark-by" date.
  • Short films must be no longer than 20 minutes, so we can open up the screening to more AFS filmmakers.
  • Entries are limited to one submission per membership, so send your best work -- no works-in-progress.

Sundance Review: Ping Pong Summer

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Ping Pong Summer Still Photo"Are you ready for the summer?" Those lyrics from the 1979 summer classic Meatballs sprung to mind when I watched Ping Pong Summer, a film written and directed by now-Austinite Michael Tully. Although Tully's comedy takes place later in 1985, his movie embodies the whimsical and quirky nature of both Meatballs and National Lampoon's Vacation.

Meet the Miracle family on their summer vacation to Ocean City, Maryland -- the quirky father effortlessly portrayed by John Hannah and Lea Thompson as the mother who innocently mistakes her 13-year-old son Rad (Marcello Conte) as engaging in pre-pubescent self-gratification. Rad's shyness isn't bolstered by his father's insistence of loading his state trooper vehicle down with all their luggage, or his mother's selection of a summer cottage next to the town's crazy lady Randi Jammer (Susan Sarandon), but that doesn't stop him from making a new best friend and crushing on the most desirable girl in Ocean City.

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