Contributors's blog

TFPF Workshops: An Insider's Perspective


By Mike Fleming

The deadline for Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund applications is rapidly approaching and it was with that in mind that I recently attended a TFPF Workshop with Austin Culp, Austin Film Society's Interim Artist Services Manager, at the AFS offices.

During the past few weeks Culp and Ryan Long, AFS Programs and Operations Manager, have been traveling all over the state to give workshops just like this one. The final result of these workshops will be something like two hundred separate applications, most of them arriving on the June 1 deadline date. In the past it has been quite a lot to sort through, which is why this year TFPF is switching to mostly online applications, a whole new wrinkle in the sorting process.

Since this is the first year that applications are entirely digital, the online application itself represents a respectable portion of the presentation, but it is by no means the meat and potatoes of the workshop.

One of the first things I learned about the TFPF program (because it was the first thing asked) is that there are no typical projects that are more likely to get funding than others. Many different types of films are accepted into the program, such as The Vulture Project, Zero Charisma and Far Marfa. According to Culp, the variation in the alumni roster can also be attributed to the varied group of TFPF reviewers.

Every year, candidates for funding go through three rounds of review by about 20 first-round reviewers. In the final rounds of review the applications are typically sent to three working filmmakers or film professionals who are not from Texas and have different backgrounds in filmmaking. This ensures that every year the films that apply for funding are scrutinized on different terms, which ultimately translates to a different crop of funded films every year. According to Culp, "Plenty of good films have applied for funding before and not gotten it. If a film doesn't get funding it doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad one."

The Intern's Lot: 'Caris' Peace' at AFS Doc Nights


By Josiane Amezcua

"Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength." -- Author Unknown

After coming across this quote a few years back, it stayed with me and immediately came to mind when I saw the trailer for Caris' Peace, a documentary about courage and overcoming struggles. The quote reflected to me what the documentary was going to be about, so I knew it would be meaningful and one worth seeing. With anticipation, I took the opportunity to attend a screening of the film at the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse as part of the Austin Film Society Doc Nights series. It was then that I was introduced to Caris Corfman, a talented stage and film actress.

From the mid 1970s to early 1990s, Corfman was a star and earned recognition in several Broadway and Off-Broadway productions. She also shared her talent onscreen, making notable appearances in television and film.

Actors Remember Houston Theatre Professor Cecil J. Pickett


An Afternoon With the ArtistsBy Viral Bhakta

On April 14, the University of Houston (UH) School of Theatre & Dance celebrated the career of professor Cecil J. Pickett through the eyes of his talented and well-known students Brett Cullen, Cindy Pickett, Dennis Quaid and Robert Wuhl.

The event "An Afternoon with the Artists," moderated by Houston PBS's Ernie Manouse, was a question-and-answer session that highlighted their time at UH and how their mentor, Cecil Pickett, influenced their lives and careers. The event benefitted the Cecil J. Pickett Scholarship Endowment Fund for students attending and aspiring to attend the School of Theatre & Dance.

Cecil J. Pickett was born in Ryan, Oklahoma and taught acting and directing at the University of Houston from 1970 to 1988. "Cecil's life was focused on training young artists for the profession. He touched hundreds of lives and produced many prolific actors," Manouse noted. During Pickett's time at UH, he directed a significant number of departmental productions and served as a director for the Houston Shakespeare Festival, a professional project established by the University of Houston. Pickett died in 1997.

For the four actors on the panel, one topic that helped stir up past memories was describing Pickett's experience as a teacher and director.

'Color Me Obsessed' Brings a Non-Musical Twist to Alamo's Music Mondays


Color Me Obsessed posterBy Virginia Yapp

Immediately after the sold-out screening of Gorman Bechard's documentary Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, the first questions asked of the film's director at the Q&A were about something many audience members may have had on their minds: "Why didn't you use any of The Replacements' songs in your documentary? Was the rock doc's lack of 'Mats tracks due to copyright issues? Wouldn't you have put music in the documentary if you had been able to get it?"

Fair enough. Color Me Obsessed may be just about the only movie shown as part of the Drafthouse's signature Music Mondays programming that had not a single note of music. Instead, the documentary -- true to its title -- examines the fervent fandom surrounding the iconic '80s rock band from Minneapolis, rather than presenting the band's greatest hits interspersed with archival footage and photos. You might consider this the anti-concert film.

Berchard, who has been touring the world with his film for about a year now, claims he made the conscious decision not to use music to tell the "potentially true story" of The Replacements. Instead, he filters the band's modest rise and major fall through the mouths of friends, journalists and fellow musicians that knew the band back in its heyday. Tom Arnold, Lori Barbero and Grant Hart are just a few of the talking heads who make an appearance, along with regular fans.

While Color Me Obsessed follows a fairly linear path -- sketching out general details of the band's raw, punkish beginnings in the early 1980s to its critical success in the mid- to late 1980s to its sad unraveling in the early 1990s -- it's clearly more interested in providing insights into the communal, comforting aspects of fandom than delving into messy, personal details about the "janitor, a kid and a drunk" who comprised the band (along with drummer Chris Mars, of course, whom the film's talking heads all count as the sanest of the four).

Experimental Response Cinema: 'Orbit! Films About our Solar System'


By Zach Endres

Why did we name the planets after Roman gods?

There's probably a simple explanation, but I have my own theory. Like the Roman gods, the planets are larger-than-life empyrean bodies, and like the Roman gods these planets have an intimate relation with the tiny Earthlings who observe them. We at least subconsciously saw in these celestial bodies the tenants of ancient gods, who held a power too vast to be contained on Earth, yet were somehow able to fiddle with our lives on a day-to-day basis. The planet Jupiter doesn't actually come down from its cosmic Mount Olympus to lay with its lovers, but it does flex its influence in more ways than you'd expect.

For example, when I was a child I purchased a book at one of those book fairs that were set up in our elementary-school library. We always looked forward to these rare occasions for the sole reason that we were let out of class early to explore. The book I found was hefty, its cover bordered by a bland beige, but within that border was a picture that depicted a series of orbs, overlapping slightly and placed in a ring-like manner around a massive ball of fire. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and yes, Pluto, all huddled around Mother Sun in a factually inaccurate but artistically forgivable composition.

After finding this book, I spent many nights gazing at the pictures inside, fantasizing about the wide, star-ridden blackness that hung over my head and all that it contained: the red eye of Jupiter, the receding icy hairline of Mars, the rings of Saturn, the tilt of Uranus ... Although I knew I'd never visit them, I found a means to relate to them via that book as I sprawled in bed with a flashlight. They seemed so far away, but that book brought them closer to me, and they truly became my neighbors. Distant gods found their way into my life, and they weren't so distant anymore.

Just as I found a personal tie to the planets, a handful of experimental filmmakers took those seemingly far-off spheres and connected with them in their own ways. A collection of 12 experimental short films commissioned by Cinemad and Rooftop Films screened under the banner of "Orbit!" at the Fusebox Festival on April 30. If you missed the shorts, many are available to watch online.

Austin filmmaker Marko Slavnic and 'All That Remains'


All That Remains

By Carrie Hoover

In last month's Ready, Set, Fund, Debbie Cerda gave a quick shout-out to a local project that's currently funding on Kickstarter. This week, the final countdown is on to contribute to All That Remains, a dramatic feature from Austin writer/director Marko Slavnic. If you aren't familiar with Kickstarter, the entire contribution goal must be met by the set deadline or the project receives none of the pledged funding. As I type, the filmmakers are probably busy handing out high-fives: All That Remains reached its fundraising goal on Monday morning with three days to spare,. However, future audience members can still contribute -- the final deadline is Thursday, May 10, at 12:59 am.

A successful short film director, two of Slavnic's shorts have screened at SXSW (Table 7 and Grey) and the grand prizewinner of the 2010 Nikon Film Festival (Chicken VS Penguin). His Nikon winnings cleared the path for him to shoot a large portion of All That Remains in Europe last fall. Armed with a two-man crew, two actors and no permits, he shot everything guerilla style (but that's a secret), which allowed him access to locations other indie directors can only salivate over. The Kickstarter cash will fund the remainder of principal photography, post-production, marketing and festival fees.

Texas Frightmare 2012: Meeting Barry Corbin


Barry Corbin at Texas Frightmare Weekend

By James Christopher and Terissa Kelton

[Editor's Note: James Christopher and Terissa Kelton of Twitchy Dolphin Flix spent the weekend at Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas, and are sending us dispatches, photos and other interesting material.]

On the first day of the blood-and-gore covered Texas Frightmare Weekend, we ran into a unlikely attendee of the Dallas genre fest -- iconic Texas actor Barry Corbin. Barry greeted us with the type of Texas welcome one might expect through the introductions we as an audience have had over a decades-long film career (War Games, Lonesome Dove). He welcomed us with a firm handshake and tip of his hat to Terissa.

He spoke about being honored by the Austin Film Society this year and how much it meant to him. Barry also let us in on what he's got going on now. He's still working, flying out to LA on a regular basis. He just wrapped ten episodes on the new Charlie Sheen show Anger Management. Barry chuckled when asked how Charlie was doing. Apparently, Charlie is still winning. So is Barry.

The Intern's Lot: A Conversation in Film with Rob Thomas


Rob Thomas and Party DownBy Mario Hernandez

I had the opportunity to join the Austin Film Festival at their sold-out event for "Conversations in Film with Rob Thomas" on Wednesday, April 18 at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. For those unfamiliar with Thomas, do not get him confused with the lead musician for the band Matchbox Twenty because this Rob Thomas writes screenplays. He's the creator of the critically acclaimed television show Veronica Mars, and on Wednesday, he spoke about creating a television series from inception to completion using his series Party Down as a case study.

I was the first person to show up to the event at 6:20 pm. The AFF staff was still prepping their setup, but once they were ready, I checked in and formed a line for the event. I met a wonderful couple from Arkansas named Raven and Nathan, and our conversations about Hitchcock, Wes Craven and the Austin Film Society allowed time to pass while more people showed up to the event. The conversations carried over into the theatre where we took seats front and center, a treat since Rob Thomas would later stage himself 5 feet away from me on the stage for the Q&A, with the perfect view of his polka-dotted black-and-gray socks that I found amusing.

Initially, Party Down was a passion project for Thomas that was highly inspired by the British version of The Office. Through that program, Thomas saw the future of comedy.

The backstory to the development of Party Down as told by Thomas goes back to 1995 in our happening town of Austin, Texas. While visiting an Irish pub (that no longer exists) on Sixth Street, Thomas met Paul Rudd (post-Clueless fame) and Rudd's buddy Adam Scott. The Clueless actor and his friend were visiting from Houston where Paul Rudd was filming Locusts. They were in town to experience Austin with Thomas' help.

Years later, Rudd and Thomas reconnected through friends Dan Etheridge and John Enbom for Veronica Mars. After various brainstorming sessions, the friends created an idea for a show about people who are chasing the dream for too long. The idea became the premise for Party Down, which is based on waiters in Los Angeles, an occupation populated heavily with aspiring actors, musicians, and the like.

The Intern's Lot: Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars


By David Chisholm

If you've never heard of it, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a 1973 concert documentary directed by D. A. Pennebaker, detailing David Bowie's very last performance in the role of Ziggy Stardust, his extraterrestrial alter ego. A little over a week ago, I had the enjoyable experience of seeing Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars at Austin's own Jo's Hot Coffee as part of the Austin Film Festival "Living Record" series.

The first time I ever saw David Bowie, he was spandex-clad, singing with puppeteered goblins and trying to steal a baby in Labyrinth. Now, as an adult, I have a slightly fuller view of the man. I appreciate the influence he had on Iggy Pop, and I love his acting choices over the years. I truly enjoy almost every period in his musical career (and there have been a lot), but my absolute favorite part of David Bowie and his creative genius is the Ziggy Stardust period. These are my most beloved albums, and this is his most fascinating character.

So, how had I never seen the singular performance from that period caught on video -- especially when it had been captured by the genius of D. A. Pennebaker? I truly don't know. I can be very lazy, and I'm guessing that had something to do with it. Thankfully, Austin Film Festival is here to provide me and anyone else who enjoys free movies the opportunity to correct that mistake.

Arriving just as the colorful credits began running across the projection screen on the back wall of Jo's, I whispered my food order to my wife and left her to snatch up the only remaining table, and began to enjoy the film I had been meaning to see for years.

Opening with backstage footage showing Bowie donning the first of the five elaborate costumes he would wear throughout the evening, and then smoothly moving into a rollicking performance of "Hang On to Yourself," Pennebaker seems to have easily captured the spirit of this phase of Bowie's career. Originally intending to only film a handful of songs, the director was inspired to shoot an entire film after seeing the first of two nights on the tour. What he ended up capturing with that quick decision is a brief glimpse at one of the most important moments in rock ‘n roll history.

Insider's Guide: Dallas IFF for Austinites


The Magnolia, Dallas

By Peter Martin

As a resident of Dallas for the past six years, and a longtime movie lover who's made semi-annual pilgrimages to attend SXSW and Fantastic Fest, I readily acknowledge the superiority of Austin as a specialty film town. Dallas is, however, more representative of mainstream film culture, a major metropolis that worships at the multiplex every weekend, the multitudes faithfully flocking to wide-release studio pictures, with smaller numbers seeking out independent and foreign-language movies.

Within that context, the Dallas International Film Festival (Dallas IFF) has established itself as a large yet refreshing event, one that invites the public to try something new -- and has largely succeeded. With far fewer badgeholders than SXSW, as well as a much smaller contingent of press, Dallas IFF attendees tend to be a wider variety of ordinary moviegoers than the usual festival crowd. They're happy to sample the program and/or turn out for films that appeal to their specific interests. For visitors, it tends to be easier to get into films, and, unlike downtown Austin, parking is almost always free!

That being said, there are a few caveats that first-time visitors will want to have in mind. The tips below are based on the likelihood that, as a visitor from Austin, you will have a vehicle at your disposal. It is possible to travel between venues without a car or truck, but it's tricky; Dallas is a much less pedestrian-friendly town than Austin.

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