Meetings and Gatherings
Austin boasts a wide range of networking opportunities within the local film industry, and a few years ago I joined Reel Women at their First Monday Mix at Opal Divine's Penn Field from time to time. Sadly Reel Women is no more, but from its more active members a new group has grown -- Austin Film Meet. Austin Film Meet is presented by the Association for Independent filMedia (AIM), which is focused on "facilitating opportunities for independent film, video and media makers of all types and skill levels ... by bringing people together to support, network, learn and collaborate."
The primary coordinator for the Austin Film Meet is H. Cherdon Bedford, a local actress and filmmaker whom I met at the Austin Film Organizations panel held at the University of Texas at Austin's Women in Cinema April meeting. I was thoroughly impressed with Bedford's enthusiasm and creativity. I was especially pleased and excited to hear from Bedford about Austin Film Meet and multiple networking and workshop opportunities offered for the local film industry. Two events are planned so far for June.
For three years, Austin Film Society has been planning to expand Austin Studios to include the adjacent National Guard Armory. You may have seen our posts or heard us talk about how great it will be, because in addition to more filming space, we'll have scalable offices for producing, post-production, classrooms and anything else related to creative media production. It will be a beehive of artists supporting themselves and each other.
In 2006, AFS received $5 million in bond funds and it has paid off. Since we completed renovations in 2009, Austin Studios has brought $290 million into the local economy. You may have caught the news that ABC Family's The Lying Game has been renewed for a second season. That show alone will pour an amazing $16 million into Austin's economy over just a few months! The equation is simple: The more capital improvements we can make at the outset, the better the space will function and the cheaper the rent will be.
In 2009, AFS commissioned a detailed facilities assessment of the National Guard building, which revealed the need for the $6.1 million in repairs and improvements. In 2010, AFS held two Town Hall meetings for the film community and a videogame leaders roundtable. The purpose was to identify priorities for the space, which emerged as:
- Affordable, scalable space
- Privacy combined with easy access to communal space
Many people in Austin love to keep it weird through their love of the macabre and the strange. For instance, you can catch a tour of haunted locations in town seated in the back of a hearse with Haunted ATX or you can visit the Museum of the Weird. Austin is very fortunate in this regard to lay claim to Scare for a Cure. This volunteer organization not only puts on one of the largest haunted attractions in the country every year, it also raises thousands of dollars for local charities.
For the last several years, Scare for a Cute has operated on property owned by Richard Garriott (Ultima creator, founder of Origin Games). Unfortunately, environmental concerns have forced the organization to seek a new home. That new home has been found, and this weekend preparations began for the haunt that will take place in October. The new location is at the J Lorraine Ghost Town in Manor. This location will be familiar to many local film fans as the site of the Fantastic Fest 2010 closing-night party.
For those unfamiliar with the spot, I've posted a few photos after the jump. Scare for a Cure requires thousands of man-hours, and utilizes cinematic effects created by volunteers from local movie production companies. New volunteers are always welcome.
November 12-14 saw Austin's very first visit from Wizard World Comic Con. In addition to this being Austin's first Comic Con, it was my own initiation to the experience, so I had little idea what to expect when I came for the third and final day of the convention. I have been to a few professional conventions, all from the world of IT, so I wasn't a complete virgin to the convention hall. The two biggest differences I saw were the costumes and, of course, the celebrities.
The first sight to greet my eyes after I checked in and entered the hall at Austin Comic Con was the 1960s Batmobile, looking as glossy and sleek as when she first sped out of the batcave. Unfortunately, I had little time to linger as the first panel of the day was about to begin, and I had to make my way to the back of the hall where the auditorium was set up for a panel on Emily Hagins' movie My Sucky Teen Romance.
On Saturday, Jenn Brown and I headed out to the wilds of Round Rock -- or at least the former wilds -- to see local author Alison Macor discuss her new book, Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids. I noted on the drive out there that the La Frontera strip mall, where the Barnes and Noble was located, had been little more than woods back in the 1970s and is allegedly where part of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was shot. So if you think about it, it was an ideal location for the event.
Author and freelance film writer Joe O'Connell led a discussion with Macor about a wide range of local film-related topics. Appropriately, they started with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, then worked their way over to Slacker, The Whole Shootin' Match, the numerous interviews Macor held as part of her extensive research for the book, the publishing process with UT Press, and Austin movie theaters through the ages. Some of the other audience members have been living in Austin all their lives and had some great stories about downtown theaters, including one that was so old and unstable its ceiling collapsed during a film one day.
Like most people, I've been vaguely familiar with the national non-profit organization United Way all my life. Several years ago I was fortunate to meet and get to know Mando Rayo (in the center of the above photo), Director of United Way Capital Area volunteer match program Hands On Central Texas. In response to a Facebook message from Mando, I volunteered for the 2-1-1 Texas phone bank during Hurricane Ike -- one of the most humbling and memorable experiences in my life. That's just one of the many innovative ways that the United Way Capital Area is using social media and other forums to bring folks together to address critical social issues in our community.
This spring, United Way Capital Area will introduce their Live United film series in Austin. This series, co-hosted by Austin PBS affiliate KLRU-TV, provides Central Texans an opportunity to explore critical community issues such as education and financial stability through film and dialogue. Each film will include a panel discussion with community leaders and issue experts in the field. In addition to enjoying film and meaningful conversation, audience members will receive a list of resources and opportunities about the issues being addressed and ways to promote change in our community.
It's Monday morning, so let's see what's been in the news recently for Austin filmmaking and movie events.
- Austin filmmaker Kat Candler's short Love Bug just won the audience award at the Little Ripper Film Festival for short films, in Melbourne, Australia. The film has played a number of Texas film fests this fall, including Austin Film Festival, where it won the Narrative Short Audience Award.
- Save the date: Looks like Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek will be holding an Evil Dead trilogy movie marathon on March 26, 2010. Groovy. We'll post more info as it's available.
- Texas Archive of the Moving Image is holding an open house on Wednesday, December 9, at 501 Studios from 4:30 to 6:30 pm. I don't know much of anything about this organization so I'm hoping to stop by and find out more. They promise refreshments and some screenings of films from their collection.
Updated 10/28: This event has been postponed until December, and will be merged with the TXMPA holiday party. We'll update you with more info as we receive it.
This year's event will feature live performances by The Tiny Tin Hearts and Erik Larson & Peacekeeper. Food will be provided by Ciao Chow, and there will be a Tito’s Vodka/Sweet Leaf Tea Saloon, as well as Amy’s Ice Cream. A silent auction will be held, and special guests are expected.
Tickers are on sale at the TXMPA website, at $60 for the general public and $50 for TXMPA members. Last year's Spaghetti Western sold out with over 700 guests, including film, television, commercial and videogame makers, and others who support these creative efforts.
Founded in 2006, TXMPA is the all-volunteer, not-for-profit [501(c)(6)] statewide industry advocacy organization for film, television, commercial and videogame makers. Earlier this year, the group led the charge for new and improved Texas production incentives legislation (HB 873), which was successfully passed and funded, putting Texas back on a more level playing field with other states for jobs in the creative industries.
See, sometimes I go to events that aren't in movie theaters, or where movies aren't shown. Last Wednesday, stuntman/actor/filmmaker and now author Gary Kent had a book signing at BookPeople, where he read from his book Shadows & Light: Journeys with Outlaws in Revolutionary Hollywood.
Kent, who now lives in Austin, has appeared at Alamo Drafthouse events for films in which he's worked on -- The Girls from Thunder Strip and recently Psych-Out. Besides Psych-Out, he's done stunts for other Richard Rush films such as Hell's Angels on Wheels, The Savage Seven, and Freebie and the Bean. You may remember Anne Heller's 2007 article for Slackerwood about The Pyramid, which Kent wrote and directed. More recently, he was stunt coordinator for Bubba Ho-Tep.
On Saturday, many Texas Motion Picture Association (TXMPA) members braved the heat to network and do some committee brainstorming after local caucuses voted for new local representatives earlier this month. The Central Region, which includes Austin, voted for Paul Alvarado-Dykstra as the regional board representative and Shelley Schriber as the alternate. Alvarado-Dykstra is a film producer, vice-president of Villa Muse, and a co-founder of Fantastic Fest.
TXMPA initiated an online election system for last week to allow all members in good standing to vote for At-Large board members, regardless of whether they would attend the meeting in San Marcos on Saturday. In previous years, members had to be present at the annual meeting to vote, which took up most of the general member meeting time.