Jenn Brown's blog

Austin Filmmaker in Netflix ‘Find Your Voice’ Competition


Natural SelectionAn Austin-based filmmaker has made it to the semifinals of the Netflix Find Your Voice film competition sponsored by Netflix and Film Independent.

Robbie Pickering is eligible to win $350,000 to make his feature film Natural Selection. If he wins, Pickering is hoping to shoot the movie in Texas. The premise is that a barren housewife discovers her husband has been making deposits at a sperm bank for nearly 25 years. If that doesn't sound like an Austin sort of weird, I don't know what would.

For more information about Pickering and the competition, and to watch a clip from his film, go to the Netflix Find Your Voice website. You can vote for him there.

Growing Pains: Community Forum Will Address Planned Austin Studios Sub-Lease

Austin StudiosWith the recent funding of film incentives in Texas, and the re-opening of Austin Studios after much-needed infrastructure upgrades in January, a lot of attention has focused on bringing new film business to Austin.

Right now there is brewing concern within the local film community over a potential five-year sub-lease to Soundcheck Nashville, a music recording/rehearsal studio and equipment/instrument renter. That's not a film-specific organization, which has lead to fears that progress that's been made will be eroded by this five-year commitment that will take up 28,000 square feet of Austin Studios stage space.

After hearing feedback about the potential lease, Austin Studios/AFS had scheduled a community forum for this Thursday. The forum has been pushed back a week to Thursday, June 25, to avoid a time conflict with a City Council meeting that will include a vote on Austin Studios' own lease renewal. Austin Studios is run by Austin Film Society, but it is also a city project. The city lease vote is not related to the potential sub-lease, which will also have to be approved by the city.

Splash Party Movie Nights at Deep Eddy Start This Weekend


Deep Eddy by Portal and Friends on FlickrOn Saturday, the Splash Party Movie Nights return to Deep Eddy Pool, just in time to cool off from the triple-digit temps predicted for this week.

The series runs every Saturday excluding Independence Day through the first weekend in August, starting at dusk. You can chill in the spring-fed pool, picnic on the lawn, and buy snacks from the refreshment stand.

The lineup includes six family-friendly movies:

  • The Tale of Despereaux: June 20
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (the only PG-13 film): June 27
  • Madagascar 2: July 11
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3-D: July 18
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: July 25
  • Kung Fu Panda: August 1

You might note that some of these same titles are playing at other kid-friendly summer film series around town, and Willy Wonka is also featured at a special rooftop screening at Whole Foods on Friday. So you have options when it comes to venues. In this heat, having the water to cool off in while getting your film geek on seems like a good option.

The movie nights are covered under the regular pool entrance fee, which varies from $1-3 and does not include parking fees. Call 472-8546 for more information.

[Photo credit: "Deep Eddy" by Portal and Friends. Found on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.]

'Night of the Creeps' Night

Night of the Creeps at Alamo Ritz

Austin's horror fans were either at Alamo Ritz Saturday night, or lamenting how quickly the tickets sold out for a special screening of Night of the Creeps, celebrating its pending release on DVD on October 19. If you weren't there, you missed a great screening, worth even having to wade through crowds of motorcycle enthusiasts and hundreds of bikes revving loudly all night long.

Old-time Alamogoers would've easily noticed a welcome difference from the old location; no external sound bleed at all. Walking to the Alamo, I was nearly deafened by the sound on the streets. Even some of the motorcycle attendees themselves were covering their ears as they walked down Sixth Street. In the bigger theater at the Alamo Ritz, it was a different world.

Movies This Week: Travolta, Cary Grant, or Babe?


Philadelphia Story

This weekend, downtown Austin is home to a biker rally, and the roaring of motorcycles is already filling the city. Luckily, there's plenty of movie action to keep you off the streets.

Tony Scott's re-imagining of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 opens today, putting his Dramamine-inducing spin on the 1974 classic. Scott replaced transit cop Walter Matthau with demoted control man Denzel Washington, making for a filler movie. Normally I don't mind Scott's overly kinetic shooting style, but it was often unnecessary and the changes to the story that seem to exist because the filmmakers don't trust an audience to have the attention span or brain capacity to appreciate a slower, more deliberate film.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is not bad, but it's just not memorable. Supporting characters that made the original interesting, like Hector Elizondo as Mr. Grey, are marginalized and replaced with non-speaking characters who, in this post-9/11 world, are of apparent Middle Eastern descent. The decorum of Robert Shaw's Mr. Blue is trashed by John Travolta's tattooed and retro facial hair as the foul-mouthed Ryder. In fairness, Scott did not introduce swearing to the script; it was in the original, although uttered by different characters.

Tonight: TXMPA Central Region Caucus


TXMPA's Central Region Caucus is happening at Mother Egan's Patio starting at 6:30 pm tonight (June 8). Members will be electing a new central region representative and alternate for the Board of Directors prior to the annual meeting in San Marcos later this month.

If you work in the moving-image industries, or simply support them, you can join TXMPA. Membership information is available on the TXMPA website.

Movies This Week: Lemon Trees, Hangovers and Pride


Every Little Step

Six new movies open this week, and there's something for just about everyone. That's not including all 15 other special screenings (and that's not breaking down all the Paramount movies into separate events).

Arthouse-wise, Lemon Tree is opening at the Dobie. The film stars Hiam Abbass (The Visitor) as a Palestinian widow whose new neighbor, the Israeli Defense Minister, threatens to destroy her lemon grove. Directed and co-written by Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride), it's likely going to be funny and heartbreaking.

The Arbor has Every Little Step opening (pictured above), a documentary about auditions for a revival of the legendary musical A Chorus Line. Considering that it's about auditions for a musical, references to life imitating art imitating life must abound.

AICN, Alamo and Universal Head for 'Land of the Lost'


Marty Krofft in Austin, from Alyssa Saucedo

Austin is a popular town for sneak peeks, but usually they are simple affairs where audiences get a chance to view a film and are asked their opinion on the way out the door. Sometimes the event is sponsored, and perhaps there's a plug at the beginning, and maybe some door prizes. Depending on the venue, it may be anarchy, with kids running around and people talking during the film after spending a couple of hours in line.

When we're lucky, filmmakers and perhaps cast and crew are there to do a Q&A. But if we're really lucky, the sneak is a celebratory event. These often involve the Alamo Drafthouse, Fantastic Fest and/or Ain't It Cool News. The Alamo lends itself to these special sneaks because the theater serves food and because it has a strong relationship with AICN. Both AICN and Alamo have good relationships with the studios, enough to host events like the unofficial world-premiere screening of Star Trek earlier this spring.

Last night was no different, when an Austin sneak preview of Land of the Lost included special guests, swag and more. Since it was less of a cattle-call than the usual sneak peek, everyone had to sign in. For their patience in line, they received a free hat and a rather unsettling backpack resembling the current incarnation of Chaka, the monkey-like companion. On the way into the theater, you could get your picture taken in a special Land of the Lost setting as a keepsake.

DVD Review: Mississippi Chicken


Mississippi Chicken

John Fiege's documentary about the Latin immigrant experience, Mississippi Chicken, has recently been released on DVD. The 2007 documentary, which served as Fiege's MFA thesis film in Radio-Television-Film at UT Austin, was nominated for a "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You" Gotham Award. You may have seen it locally in 2007 at Austin Film Festival.

The Deep South is not a place most people associate with Latino workers, but apparently the poultry factories in Mississippi have been trying to entice immigrant workers for decades. In the 1990s, they even began to bus workers in from border towns. Mississippi Chicken evocatively puts real faces to the exploitations of South and Central American immigrants and the obstacles they face, whether they are legal residents or not. These are people who feel it's a step up to work for the money available at a poultry processing plant, and the plants want them because they'll work there at least for awhile.

(Free) Austin Student Digital Film Festival Saturday


Austin Student Digital Film FestivalWhen I first moved to Austin last millennium, I learned how deeply Austinites and Texans love film. People I worked with talked about going to high school football games because they liked playing "fantasy scout" and predicting which players would become star players in college, and potentially move on the the NFL. Film geeks get to do a variation on that theme with the Oscars, as well as the student filmmaker and shorts categories at film festivals, something that many of the Austin film festivals do.

Austin is a town proud to celebrate film, and Austinites are starting young. AISD is hosting the Austin Student Digital Film Festival, and this year it's on Saturday, May 30 (tomorrow!) at Reagan High School, from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. The showcased films by students from elementary, middle, and high schools around Austin include the following titles:

Lost, The Halls, The Facts on Paper, The Attack of Fire Breathing Lizard, Gone Fishin', Keeping It Real, Ha Ha, The Adventures of Traveling Allie, Brotherly Love, Cubical Cowboys, Frenemies, Rain, Playing Around the Soccer Field, Beauty is Bravery

You can find a map and directions to the theater on the Austin Student Digital Film Festival website. The screenings aren't expected to take longer than 90 minutes, and the event is free. Support Austin's youngest filmmakers, and start deciding which ones are going to the be the next Zombie Girl or Robert Rodriguez, and who is most likely to thank the Academy in the future.

Syndicate content