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Slackery News Tidbits, March 5


Here's the latest Austin film news.

  • Austin-based graphic designer and filmmaker Yen Tan (featured on a February cover of the Austin Chronicle) has been awarded a $40,000 grant from the Vilcek Foundation to fund the production of his third film Pit Stop. The movie tells the parallel stories of two gay men living in a small Texas town. Tan is scheduled to begin filming Pit Stop in Texas in May.
  • Have you had difficulty finding seating next to your friends and were unable to discuss an actor's hunkiness? If so, moviegoers, fret no more. The Alamo Drafthouse has been conducting a new theater seating test at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, which will run through March 6, in hopes of finding the "perfect mix of awesomness." The reservation and seating system will be familiar to attendees of Fantastic Fest -- tickets have numbers on them (like Southwest Airline passes) and eliminate the need for lines. A similar system is also being planned at the new Alamo Slaughter.
  • Austin 360 reports the Third Annual Hill Country Film Festival, which takes place April 26-29 in Fredericksburg, has announced its first three official selections. Actress Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights) stars in the Texas-filmed comedy, Searching for Sonny, about reunited friends whose lives begin to parallel a play they performed in high school (Mike's AFF review); the stop-motion animated short film, The Maker; and the short documentary Randy Parsons: American Luthier, about a Seattle-based guitarmaker. The festival's complete lineup and schedule will be released March 26.

Slackery News Tidbits, February 26


Here's the latest Austin film news, and a few upcoming events:

  • The 27th Annual Independent Spirit Awards took place night. Although no new awards for Austin or Texas films were announced, last month, Austin-based documentarian Heather Courtney won the Truer Than Fiction Award for her film Where Soldiers Come From. In addition, Sophia Lin received the Piaget Producers Award for the film Take Shelter, written and directed by Austin-based filmmaker Jeff Nichols.
  • The Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards has added one more honoree. Actress Angie Dickinson will accept the Star of Texas Award for the John Wayne film Rio Bravo at this year's ceremonies on March 8 at ACL Live at The Moody Theater.
  • El Rey is no longer just the name of Austin-based director Robert Rodriguez's hero in Planet Terror. Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider will distribute networks owned by Rodriguez, among others. Rodriguez and FactoryMade Ventures executives John Fogelman and Cristina Patwa have joined forces to create El Rey, an English-language general entertainment network aimed at Latino audiences. It is scheduled to launch by January 2014. (via Hollywood Reporter)
  • Production company FilmNation announced the logline for Texas filmmaker Terence Malick's new film Lawless. The logline for describes the plot as following "two intersecting love triangles. It is a story of sexual obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas." Pre-production for the Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale and Natalie Portman flick took place during last year's Austin City Limits Music Festival. (via The Playlist)

Slackery News Tidbits, February 20


Here's the latest Austin film news.

Experimental Filmmakers Go With The Flow in 'Yakona'



The experimental documentary Yakona will take viewers on a visual journey from prehistoric times through the present day from the perspective of the San Marcos River. San Marcos filmmakers Paul Collins, Anlo Sepulveda and Dean Brennan started collaborating on the movie 10 years ago because of their personal bonds with the river. Now they're working to finish the movie in time to screen it in early 2013.

Sepulveda, a digital video specialist at Texas State University- San Marcos, remembers tubing down the river as a child on annual family vacations from Corpus Christi. However, he said his bond with the San Marcos River really began when he started working for Texas State and moved into a house along the river, where for four years, he would swim every day.

"I really started to see what was under the surface there," said Sepulveda, whose film credits include the Austin-shot Otis Under Sky, which premiered at SXSW in 2011 (Jette's review). "It's such a dynamic environment."

Slackery News Tidbits, February 13


Here's the latest Austin film news.

  • Deadline New York reports that a sequel to the 2010 Robert Rodriguez exploitation film Machete is tentatively scheduled to begin production in April. Machete Kills will find Danny Trejo's title character working for the U.S. government. He is sent on a mission in Mexico to take down an insane drug cartel leader and an eccentric billionare, who have teamed up to create weapon of mass destruction in space. The Deadline article does not mention whether the film will be shot in Texas. (via Film School Rejects)
  • Beginning Feb. 17, Austin Cinematheque will screen experimental films and rare documentaries in their original formats, if available. A selection of French filmmaker and academic Rose Lowder movies will kick off the free series, now screening in Studio 4D in the CMB building at The University of Texas.
  • This week's Austin Chronicle cover story is about graphic designer and filmmaker Yen Tan, who plans to begin filming his next movie Pit Stop in May in Texas. Pit Stop was accepted into the 2009 Outfest Screenwriting Lab, a three-day mentor-led workshop in LA, and received a 2011 Texas Filmmakers Production Fund grant. The Malaysia native's movies Happy Birthday and Ciao have received accolades from the Philadelphia Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival and Dallas International Film Festival, and screened at the Venice International Film Festival. Tan has collaborated with other Texas independent filmmakers such as Bryan Poyser (Lovers of Hate) and Heather Courtney (Where Soldiers Come From) to design and create posters for their movies -- you can see examples in the Chronicle feature.

Snout Productions Plans 'Storybook' for May


Snout Productions

With a VHS camcorder, Caleb Straus and Dustin Johnson tried to change the world by remaking scenes from popular movies as children in Abilene. As adults, they are working to conquer it with The Storybook, the sequel to the apocalyptic thriller It's Over, through the Austin-based multimedia production company they've founded, Snout Productions.

"I don't know how many action figures we set on fire (as children)," Straus said.

Straus and Johnson plan a May release for The Storybook ... but that's only part of what Snout Productions is working on these days.

Snout Productions grew from a Snout Recordings label logo Johnson created, where he scanned his nose against a Xerox machine, for a Texas State Technical College class project. He received an associate's degree in graphic design from the college. He said the advice from Straus and the professional actors he has worked with through Snout Productions has replaced his need for a bachelor's degree.

Slackery News Tidbits, February 6


Here's the latest Austin film news, with a great short film at the end.

  • Production company Parts and Labor, founded by former Austinites Jay Van Hoy and Lars Knudsen, has signed an output and development deal with German-UK sales and production group K5. The agreement covers all current productions in development, such as Red Light Winter, set to star Kirsten Dunst, and The Womb. Parts and Labor produced the movie Beginners, for which Christopher Plummer has received a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination. (Before being known as Parts and Labor, Van Hoy and Knudsen also produced local films Gretchen and I'll Come Running.)
  • The Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, a Texas Film Commission production incentive, distributed $25 million in state funds to 177 film, television, commercial, and video game projects last year, such as Friday Night Lights and Predators, according to an Austin American-Statesman article. To qualify for incentives, production companies must submit documentation of spending and meet eligibility standards. The Texas Legislature approved $30 million to use toward the incentive program this year and next, down from $60 million in the previous session.
  • The local hip-hop musical feature Camp Kickitoo won the Best Comedy award at the recent San Diego Black Film Festival. Shot in Central Texas and starring an Austin-area cast and crew, the movie centers around Alvin, a young man who takes a job as a summer camp counselor when he can't find a job. No word yet on when the movie will screen in Austin; you might keep an eye on the film's official website.

'Where Soldiers Come From' Premieres at Texas State


Heather Courtney

Austin-based documentarian Heather Courtney chronicles four years in the lives of small-town childhood friends in the award-winning movie Where Soldiers Come From. The film begins with their decision to enlist in the U.S. National Guard after graduating high school, and continues through their deployment to Afghanistan and their adjustment back to civilian life. Jette reviewed the movie after its premiere at SXSW in 2011.

The Texas Independent Film Network, an Austin-based statewide coalition of film societies, universities and independent theaters, sponsored the San Marcos screening of Where Soldiers Come From on Jan. 25 in the Texas State University- San Marcos Theatre Center. Courtney attended the Texas State screening.

Setting out to make a documentary about rural America, Courtney said she changed her mind after reading an article in her hometown newspaper -- in Michigan's Upper Peninsula -- about the recent return of National Guard soldiers from Iraq. She said she didn't know there was a National Guard unit there until reading the article.

Hecho En Cine Productions Blends Argentina and Texas


Hecho en CineA murder mystery unravels in the middle of the Patagonian Steppe in the short film Sobre la Estepa, loosely translated from Spanish as These Wild Plains. Hecho en Cine, a production company based both in Texas and Patagonia, Argentina, produced the 12-minute movie, which will tentatively have its U.S. premiere in Austin this April at the 15th Annual Cine Las Americas International Film Festival.

Sobre la Estepa was funded through Kickstarter, and was shot in San Carlos de Bariloche, a city situated in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in the province of Rio Negro, Argentina.

Ty Roberts, Hecho en Cine co-founder and Sobre la Estepa writer and director, said the idea for the movie came to him after meeting "interesting" people on a location scout in Patagonia.

"They immediately caught my eye," Roberts said. "It was just a really odd and interesting combination of characters."

During his research for Sobre la Estepa, Roberts came across the 2008 short film Sikumi (On The Ice), which was shot entirely in the Inupiaq language, spoken by the people of Alaska's Northwest Arctic and North Slope. Sikumi, about an Inuit hunter who inadvertently  witnesses a murder, became Roberts's model for Sobre la Estepa, which was shot in Spanish and Mapuche, the language of the indigenous peoples of Southwestern Argentina.

Interview: What Kind of Person is Tom Copeland?


Tom CopelandIt takes a certain kind of person to be in the movie industry. Tom Copeland, former Texas Film Commission director, teaches Texas State University-San Marcos students what it takes to persevere in the industry. A lesson he teaches in his courses is what he refers to as "Scared Straight: What Kind of Person Are You?"

I had the opportunity to speak with Copeland to find out what kind of person he is. The Meadow High School graduate's interest in theater flourished while studying under legendary high-school drama coach Noyce Burleson, who set the state record for most consecutive UIL One-Act Play Contest appearances and wins.

As a high-school student, Copeland became active in Texas Tech University's theater program, where he met Fred March, former Texas State Department of Theatre and Dance chair. He enrolled at Texas State, back when it was Southwest Texas State University, in 1969.

During his time as a Texas State student, Copeland was involved in 25 theater productions, such as Waiting for Godot and Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and Measure for Measure.

"I lived and breathed in that department," Copeland said. "I didn't do a lot of social things in school because I didn't have a lot of time. It was all about the play or whatever we were working on."

As an undergraduate, Copeland was involved in summer repertory theater programs in Texas and Colorado. He did not graduate from Texas State. However, he continued to call the theater department home and stayed in touch with faculty and staff.

Copeland said he left Texas State to pursue his dream of acting professionally. He struggled to find an acting job and instead became involved in behind-the-scenes work on movies and television. For five seasons, Copeland was a crew member for the PBS television series Austin City Limits. He said the job "came out of the blue."

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