Jenn Brown's blog

AFF 2011, Day One: Uncertain Freak Dance

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There's something inherently refreshing about sitting on the East balcony at the Driskill right before the first scheduled event of AFF. Despite the occasional smoker, and the incessant clanking of metal on metal in a nearby alley that's closed for construction, the cool breeze makes it a perfect Austin day. 

Checking out the other balcony to see if it had fewer smokers (it did), I happened upon the front-runner for best film marketing at a fest this year. The Upright Citizens Brigade had "protestors" out at Sixth and Brazos warning about the dangers of Freak Dancing. Freak Dance screens Friday night at ACC.

For the first time I actually made it to the Opening Remarks kickoff of Austin Film Festival. I was surprised to hear that the Polly Platt tribute and special screening of Bottle Rocket on Saturday was cancelled. Apparently it's been replaced by James Franco's Sal. And the last TBA slot has been announced; it's Post, written and directed by Texas native and True Blood regular Jim Parrack. However, Post is not yet showing on Festival Genius. 

AFF 2011 Interview: Steve Collins, 'You Hurt My Feelings'

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The 18th Austin Film Festival is almost here. To help celebrate all the locally connected movies at this year's fest, we've reached out to a number of filmmakers to find out about their Austin and Texas-tied films screening at AFF, and to hear about what they're looking forward to doing during the festival.

Former Austinite Steve Collins has written and directed You Hurt My Feelings, which had its world premiere at Los Angeles Film Festival this summer. You may have seen his last feature, Gretchen, which also starred Courtney Davis and John Merriman. Collins may be living in Connecticut these days but you can tell he sure misses Austin. And he has some ideas about the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue.

Slackerwood:  Describe your film for us, in a quick and dirty paragraph.

Steve Collins:  It's about a damaged guy who uses his job as a nanny to prove to an ex-girlfriend that he's grown up and ready to have a relationship. I never can describe it without it sounding like Mrs. Doubtfire. I wish I could say fans of Mrs. Doubtfire would like it -- maybe they would --but its really a love story about people who are so locked inside themselves they can't communicate. The film uses the beauty of children and the natural world as a beacon of light that draws the characters out of their shell towards love. And Robin Williams plays a man who is slowly turning into a tiny bearded robot.

AFF 2011 Interview: John Merriman, 'You Hurt My Feelings'

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Last year the Slackerwood gang declared it the Year of (Chris) Doubek, seeing the local actor everywhere in numerous films. This year it seems to be the Year of Merriman, even if several of the movies in which he appears won't hit screens until next year. 

If you played the six-degree game, you'd have plenty of degrees left over to connect to John Merriman in the Austin and indie film scene. He's acted in at least six feature films in the last year, including  You Hurt My Feelings and An Ordinary Family, which are playing Austin Film Festival this week. He's also in the cast of the upcoming Pictures of Superheroes, Cinema Six, The Man from Orlando and Loves Her Gun, all shot locally this year. Merriman has been in countless shorts including his own Sleep Study (co-written and co-directed by Kerri Lendo), which played AFF last year, and Scott Rice's (student) Oscar-nominated short Perils in Nude Modeling. I'm losing breath simply writing all that and it's just the highlights. 

Insider's Guide: Austin Film Festival 2011

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It's the last big film festival of the year in Austin, are you ready? Austin Film Festival has a distinctly different vibe from the other fests in town. It's chiller, for one thing, in part because it's winding down the festival season, if not actually cooler temps. Whether you're a local or visitor, if it's your first time at a film festival, check out our Festival Survival Tips for the basics (and then some).  But there are things to know specifically for AFF, and for this year.

Dressing for the Occasion. Austin is a very casual town, so unless you're going to the Film and Food Gala, no need to get decked out.  Just remember to layer and don't complain about any rain as we desperately need it.  Check Weather Underground for the latest forecasts. On a related note, if you're a smoker you better police your butts and don't even think of throwing one out of a car window, or on the ground during the barbecue on Friday (fire danger is a serious problem in Texas these days).

AFF 2011 Interview: Brian Hoffman, 'Deep In The Heart'

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The 18th Austin Film Festival is almost here. To help celebrate all the locally connected movies at this year's fest, we've reached out to a number of filmmakers to find out about their Austin and Texas-tied films screening at AFF, and to hear about what they're looking forward to doing during the festival.

Deep In The Heart, starring Jon Gries (Natural Selection, Real Genius) and Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), is premiering at AFF. Writer and producer Brian Hoffman (Corked) talks about the real-life story behind the script and his favorite spots in Austin. Hoffman is pictured above with director Christopher Cain on the set in Georgetown.

Slackerwood:  Describe your film for us, in a quick and dirty paragraph.   

Brian Hoffman:  It is the true story of a Texas man, Richard "Dick" Wallrath, whose personal demons caused him to hit rock bottom. After losing everything -- jobs, his family, hope -- Dick found faith, picked himself up and trudged on to eventually earn back the love of his children, build a successful window company and become the highest all-time individual donor to Texas 4-H and Future Farmers of America. Wallrath’s story proves hope is found Deep in the Heart.

AFF 2011 Interview: Brandon Dickerson, 'Sironia'

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The 18th Austin Film Festival is almost here. To help celebrate all the locally connected movies at this year's fest, we've reached out to a number of filmmakers to find out about their Austin and Texas-tied films screening at AFF, and to hear about what they're looking forward to doing during the festival.

Austin-based filmmaker Brandon Dickerson's feature film debut Sironia features music by Texas singer-songwriter Wes Cunningham, who also co-wrote the script with Dickerson and Thomas Ward. Dickerson, pictured above on the right with actress Amy Acker and Wes Cunningham, shares some very personal stories about how the story and the film began. Audiences may not recognize all the names of cast and crew, but may notice a lot of familiar faces onscreen. The cast includes Jeremy Sisto, Carrie Preston and Ryan Cartwright, not to mention Dallas-born actress Acker.

Slackerwood: Describe your film for us, in a quick and dirty paragraph.

Brandon Dickerson: I've had some folks describe Sironia as "Once meets Away We Go," which I'm cool with. Music plus love story. In simplest terms ... the film is inspired by the music of singer-songwriter Wes Cunningham.

AFF 2011 Interview: Kelvin Phillips and Carla Jackson, 'A Swingin' Trio'

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The 18th Austin Film Festival is almost here. To help celebrate all the locally connected movies at this year's fest, we've reached out to a number of filmmakers to find out about their Austin and Texas-tied films screening at AFF, and to hear about what they're looking forward to doing during the festival.

Writer-director Kelvin Phillips and producer/partner Carla Jackson made A Swingin' Trio here in Austin. A Swingin' Trio is their first feature film.

Slackerwood: Describe your film for us, in a quick and dirty paragraph.

Kelvin Phillips: It's a film about a married couple who find themselves at an impasse. The wife, Trude Garçon-Moore, is at the start of an exploding career as a film producer. She's "busy, busy" as her husband, Homer Garçon likes to remind her. Homer is a "househusband" of sorts; he's a smart and talented writer, but it hasn't happened for him yet, and now he's frustrated and suspicious about his wife's activities. The movie is about what could happen in a marriage when one partner's success eclipses the other. Or when someone feels trapped in a situation (marriage, job, whatever) and how they can subconsciously sabotage things to free themselves.

AFF 2011 Interview: Mike Akel, 'An Ordinary Family'

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The 18th Austin Film Festival is almost here. To help celebrate all the locally connected movies at this year's fest, we've reached out to a number of filmmakers to find out about their Austin and Texas-tied films screening at AFF, and to hear about what they're looking forward to doing during the festival.

A few years ago the (mostly) Austin-shot Chalk was the talk of Austin Film Festival. Now director Mike Akel is back in town with his latest film, An Ordinary Family. Akel is now based in Houston, but there are still some recognizable Texas locations in his feature, along with some familiar faces from Chalk.

Slackerwood: Describe your film for us, in a quick and dirty paragraph.

Mike Akel: An Ordinary Family is Modern Family meets Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

An Ordinary Family is a humorous drama about one family, two brothers and a really big problem. Thomas Biederman is blindsided when his estranged brother, Seth, shows up unannounced to the annual family vacation ... with his boyfriend.

AFF 2011: Planning Your Casual Celebrity Encounters

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As much as we all like to think we're above celebrity watching, it's part of the fun at film festivals. And this year's Austin Film Festival has an eclectic mix of celebrities, both local and national. Below are the big names in attendance, and by no means a complete list of all guests in attendance at AFF this year.

Local filmmaker Mike Judge will be at AFF to present a special preview screening of a new edition of Beavis and Butt-Head on Sunday; the screening is open to the public (although badges and passes get priority seating). There will also be an exclusive premiere party for Producers Badge holders after the screening. If you were paying attention to TBA slots in the AFF Program Guide, that takes up one of the three slots; one is still unnnnounced and The Artist, a previously announced film, is taking the Tuesday, October 25 at 7 pm Paramount slot.

James Franco (pictured above from a previous Austin visit) will be back in town, attending a special regional premiere for his new film Sal on October 23. With only two premieres of this movie before AFF (including Venice Film Festival), this is a highly anticipated event at this year’s festival.

AFF 2011 Interview: Andrew Disney, 'Searching for Sonny'

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The 18th Austin Film Festival is almost here. To help celebrate all the locally connected movies at this year's fest, we've reached out to a number of filmmakers to find out about their Austin and Texas-tied films screening at AFF, and to hear about what they're looking forward to doing during the festival.

Searching for Sonny was filmed in the Fort Worth area by first-time feature director Andrew Disney, with a very recognizable cast including Jason Dohring, perhaps best known from his role on Veronica Mars. Disney and Dohring who will be in attendance at the film's AFF screenings along with cast members Nick Kocher and Brian McElhaney. As Disney points out in the interview, Dohring isn't the only recognizable name or face in the cast.

Slackerwood: Describe your film for us, in a quick and dirty paragraph.

Andrew Disney: Searching for Sonny is an indie comedy mystery movie. It's a ride film that I hope feels like Big Lebowski and Rushmore had a baby. And that baby is on crack. We're a bunch of Texas filmmakers who tried to to create a big-looking Hollywood-feeling stylish flick with a very indie-sized crew on an incredibly indie-sized budget. Perfect film to watch with a beer and friends.

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