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Slackery News Tidbits, July 11

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Here's the latest in Austin and Texas film news.

  • The Harry Ransom Center continues its free Biblical Film Series on Thursday at 7 pm with Cecil B. Demille's Samson and Delilah. The film, starring Hedy Lamarr and Victor Mature, tells the story of Samson, the strongest man in his tribe. After his fiance is murdered, he is seduced by her sister Delilah, who learns the secret of his strength and betrays him to the Philistines. The series relates to the center's exhibition "The King James Bible: Its History and Influence," which ends July 29. The final movie in the series, Solomon and Sheba, will screen July 26.
  • Central Texas-shot feature Bernie (Don's review) has earned more than $7 million, making the dark comedy the highest grossing film for distributor Millennium Entertainment, Indiewire reported. Richard Linklater's film is expected to surpass his 1993 cult hit Dazed and Confused in the next few weeks. Bernie, made with a reported budget of $6 million, is expected to become the Austin director's highest-grossing independently released film.
  • Indiewire's Criticwire recently announced the best indie movies of 2012. Local director Bob Byington's movie Somebody Up There Likes Me, which premiered at SXSW, was picked as one of the top English-language features of the year (Don's review). Runners-up include the Mark Duplass-starring dramedy Your Sister's Sister (Mike's review) and Bernie.

Brandon Keropian Olmos Finds a Filmmaking Career in San Antonio

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It was a straight shot down I-10, but ever since, it has been a winding journey for California-born filmmaker Brandon Keropian Olmos.

In 2008, Olmos came to San Antonio to produce an album for the former Sony Latin-signed duo Amor y Pasion. A chance encounter in a parking lot two years later led to a collaboration with Alamo City filmmaker Aaron Lee Lopez.

"I was just about to go back to California when I met Aaron, and I said we should make a bunch of movies together," Olmos said.

Through Lopez's production company, Mutt Productions, Olmos has been the sound mixer, supervising sound editor, composer, director, associate producer, cameraman and editor for a number of Texas-themed documentaries and feature-length films.

"I ended up staying in San Antonio because I fell in love with San Antonio and it was so much fun here," Olmos said.

Slackery News Tidbits, July 2

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Here's the latest in Austin and Texas film news.

  • Thanks in part to actress Jessica Alba's Twitter feed, the film website Collider has shared some set photos from Austin-based director Robert Rodriguez's latest movie Machete Kills, currently filming in the Austin area. The sequel to the 2010 action flick, Machete, about an ex-Federale hellbent on revenge, stars Austin native Amber Heard, Edward James Olmos, Mel Gibson and, as reported by Rodriguez himself on Twitter, Charlie Sheen as the U.S. President. Danny Trejo and Alba will reprise their roles.
  • Renaissance man Ron Deutsch announced that he will teach his 14th Chef du Cinema class from 6:30-9:30 pm Saturday, August 18. Students will learn to prepare a four-course menu inspired by the Oscar-winning film, Chinatown. The neo-noir will be screened -- and food will be eaten- -- after the demonstration, which includes orange-ginger Chinese broccoli and shrimp and watercress steamed wontons with orange soy dipping sauce. 
  • Want your voice heard at SXSW 2013? Now is your chance to submit SXSW Interactive, Music, Film and Education session ideas via the fest's PanelPicker. Through July 20, participants may complete the two-step online process for a chance to have their idea considered and voted in by the SXSW community.

Filmmaker Mike Akel Talks Teaching and Tennis

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Mike AkelOn an early summer afternoon, amid the sound of squeaky toys and his neighbor's Boxer barking, Houston-based filmmaker Mike Akel and I discussed his segue from teaching to film, his dramedy, An Ordinary Family (Slackerwood's AFF 2011 interview), and his latest foray into the world of tennis.

The co-writer/director of the 2006 award-winning mockumentary Chalk said he and his writing partner, co-film producer Matt Patterson, began working on An Ordinary Family in February 2010 (read Mike's review). The writing process took about four months to complete. After 18 days of filming on location in Austin and Lago Vista in June 2010 and editing in the fall, the film was accepted by the Los Angeles Film Festival and premiered in June 2011. An Ordinary Family went on to receive the Best Feature award at the New Orleans Film Festival and has been released on DVD, and is for rent or sale online through digital channels. 

An Ordinary Family screened across the state last spring through Texas Independent Film Network (TIFN), the Austin-based statewide coalition of film societies, universities and independent theaters. TIFN screens a different Texas independent film each month on tour. I originally became intrigued by the movie when it was scheduled to screen at my school, Texas State University - San Marcos. The screening was canceled, but I pursued Akel for an interview nonetheless. I am working toward an English secondary teaching certification and Akel's film Chalk may or may not have been the reason why I now hope to pursue a career teaching English as a second language in Spain, not in a U.S. public school. 

Akel, a Missouri State University alumnus, recently completed his third year teaching filmmaking at a private high school in Houston. He mentored Houston filmmakers Andrew Edison and Luke Loftin, and is credited as executive producer on their film Bindlestiffs, which played Slamdance this year. He is currently at work on a tennis-themed comedy, Glossy Pines

Slackery News Tidbits, June 25

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Here's the latest in Austin and Texas film news.

  • Austin was well represented in the awards at the Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival in Silver Springs, Maryland this week. The Sterling Award for best U.S. feature doc went to Only the Young, a film about teenagers in an economically troubled California suburb, co-directed by Jason Tippet and Austin native Elizabeth Mims. (Her dad, Steve Mims, clued us in on the award.) The film Ann Richards' Texas won the WGA Documentary Screenplay Award -- we don't have to tell you how that one ties into Austin, although filmmakers Jack Lofton and Keith Patterson are from Houston. And last night, the Silverdocs Audience Awards were announced, one of which went to Andrew Garrison's documentary Trash Dance, about a unique Austin event involving the Department of Solid Waste Services (SXSW interview, Mike's review).
  • Calling all activist filmmakers: The submission deadline for the Fourth Annual Lights. Camera. Help Nonprofit Film Festival is June 30. PSAs, short and feature-length films that support or raise awareness about a cause may be entered to screen at the festival September 12-14. Lights. Camera. Help is expected to donate $5,000 to the causes represented in the winning movies.
  • Speaking of Lights. Camera. Help, the fest recently announced that Austin-based filmmaker/actor/musician/writer Turk Pipkin will be this year's keynote speaker. Pipkin will discuss the nonprofit organization The Nobelity Project, which he co-founded with his wife Christy. The Nobelity Project's new short film, Let There Be Sight, will premiere during the festival. Let There Be Sight tells the story of the nonprofit's partnership with the Seva Foundation, an international health organization focused on the prevention of blindness and Native American health. An audience Q&A with Pipkin will follow the address.

Slackery News Tidbits, June 13

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Here's the latest in Austin film news.

  • Austin-based filmmaker Ericka Marsalis-LaManna's first feature-length film Generation Me has received invitations to screen in the 2012 San Francisco Black Film Festival and the San Antonio Film Festival, The Austin Chronicle reports. The comedy, about the dangers associated with forging relationships through Facebook and text messaging, stars local actresses Jamie Teer, Amber Prowl and Melanie Rene. The filmmakers are currently looking for festival sponsors for the movie, which is available on DVD.

Slackery News Tidbits, June 6

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Here's the latest in Austin and Texas film news.

  • A new local documentary about rollerderby will premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival later this month. Leave It on the Track, about two competing TXRD teams, is directed by Benjamin Pascoe and produced by filmmaker/Austin Film Society instructor/derby team manager Jonny Stranger. Check out the trailer at the end of this article, and read Elizabeth's interview with Stranger about his Slacker 2011 segment.
  • Houston-based filmmakers Keith Patterson's and Jack Lofton's documentary Ann Richards' Texas, about the life of the former Texas governor, will have its world premiere June 21 at the AFI Silverdocs festival in Washington, D.C. The movie includes interviews with Bill Clinton, Dolly Parton and Dan Rather.
  • The award-winning indie film Strings can now be purchased or rented exclusively on iTunes through a digital distribution deal with The Orchard, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The Austin-shot thriller, which screened at Austin Film Festival in 2011, was written/co-directed by recent UT alums Mark Dennis and producer/co-director Ben Foster. Strings is scheduled to expand its distribution platform to other online straming options over the next six months. Read Slackerwood's AFF interview with Foster for details about the movie.
  • The Intergalactic Nemesis unveils its latest episode, Book Two: Robot Planet Rising, at the Long Center this Friday, June 8. Tickets are still available, and you can get a $5 discount if you enter the code "Alphatron" when you buy them online. The first episode of the "live action comic book" was performed at Fantastic Fest 2010, and Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter helped perform an excerpt on Conan earlier this year.

Slackery News Tidbits, May 28

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Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • The Austin American-Statesman's Charles Ealy reported from Cannes about this weekend's premiere of Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols' feature Mud. Austin-based actor Matthew McConaughey stars with Reese Witherspoon and Michael Shannon in this story of an unlikely friendship between a fugitive and a 14-year-old boy who helps him escape off an island in Mississippi to reunite with the woman he loves. Ealy also chatted briefly with Nichols after the screening.
  • More on McConaughey -- IndieWire reported that he'll portray John F. Kennedy in Lee Daniels' (Precious) new film, The Butler. The movie, based on a Washington Post article, is about the late White House butler Eugene Allen. Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker will star as Allen, who served eight presidents during his tenure from 1952-1986. Production is scheduled to begin July 16.
  • Local filmmaker Richard Linklater will keep viewers Up to Speed on relatively unknown American monuments, such as the shoe garden in San Francisco, according to Austin Movie Blog. Linklater's original travel series, starring historian Timothy "Speed" Levitch, is scheduled to premiere on Hulu and Hulu Plus in August.
  • Austin Film Society continues its Best of the Fests series with a screening of San Antonio filmmaker Ya'Ke Smith's feature film Wolf (Mike's review), about a family trying to come to terms with the abuse their pastor has inflicted on their teenage son, at 7 pm on Wednesday, June 6 at Alamo Drafthouse Village. Proceeds from the screening will benefit the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund. Watch the trailer at IndieWire, and read Slackerwood's SXSW interview with Smith.

Slackery News Tidbits, May 23

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Here's the latest Austin film news.

  • Terrence Malick's new film, starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, has changed names, according to Joe M. O'Connell's blog. Formerly The Burial, the Bartlesville, Oklahoma-shot film about a love triangle is now called To the Wonder. The movie is still seeking U.S. distribution.
  • Robert Rodriguez's movies have been in the news a lot lately. The Machete Kills production is looking for extras for next month's shoot. Distribution rights for the Machete sequel in other countries have been selling well at Cannes. And you can see the first teaser posters for Machete Kills and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For over at Movies.com.
  • Austin-based writer/director Bob Byington's latest comedy Somebody Up There Likes Me (Don's review) will kick off the Cinema East summer film series on June 10, according to The Austin Chronicle. Byington's follow-up to his 2009 film Harmony and Me stars Keith Poulson and Nick Offerman as best friends who are aided through life by a magic suitcase (read Jette's interview with Byington and Offerman). Expect more SXSW 2012 favorites from the Cinema East film series, which will run every other Sunday until Aug. 19. Cinema East is holding its launch party for the series on Thursday, May 31 at 9 pm at Cheer Up Charlie's.

Twitchy Dolphin Flix Begins Production on Eighth Feature

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Twitchy Dolphin FlixThe name of James Christopher's and Chris Copple's production company couldn't sound pretentious. Christopher and Copple were halfway through production on their first feature-length film Littlefield when, after a night of beer drinking, the name Twitchy Dolphin Flix surfaced and was chosen.

Christopher is now the company's president and writer/director, and Copple the creative director and director of photography. From their first feature-length film Funny Books to the company's upcoming eighth film 3 References, their business partnership is going strong.

The unlikely duo met as radio-television-film students at The University of Texas at Austin. Christopher had enrolled at UT after spending seven years in the U.S. Army. He and Copple shared disinterest in their summer digital documentary class, which led to their collaboration on the short film Strike Team Archangel, an adaptation of Christopher's 26-page script. Over the 2.5 days of filming the short Strike Team Archangel, Christopher said he and Copple realized they worked well together.

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