Debbie Cerda's blog

Ready, Set, Fund: Local Filmmakers Crowdfund Productions


Jayson demonstrates saturations for Kickstarter video prep

Welcome to "Ready, Set, Fund," a new feature we're publishing regularly about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects. Contact us if you've got a film fundraising project going on you'd like us to know about.

The most educational film panel I've seen in recent years was a SXSW session moderated by Bryan Poyser of the Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund (TFPF) on "Low to No Budget Filmmaking." One filmmaker panelist remarked that although it might be possible to make a first film on favors, eventually money has to be spent on cast, crew, production, and more. The alleged $7000 budget of El Mariachi (as reported by Robert Rodriguez in Winter 1993 Filmmaker Magazine) is a filmmaking rarity, especially with the significant increase in production costs.

Funding is often the biggest challenge that local independent filmmakers have to face -- after they've used up their favors, or when their grants aren't enough to fund a project, what other funding options are available?

Thanks to the Internet and social media, crowdfunding of film projects has skyrocketed since 2008. Crowdfunding essentially uses online communities and crowdfunding-specific websites to pool money to support a specific project. Unlike the well-known microfinance website Kiva, contributions are not loans, but donations -- although contributors can receive rewards at certain giving levels. It's similar to public-broadcasting pledge drives that offer incentives to donors.

Photo Essay: A Night of Sommelier Cinema


Wine and Cheese at Sommelier Cinema

I finally made it to the Alamo Drafthouse Sommelier Cinema last week to see The Seven Year Itch for the first time. Yes, I'm admitting that I'd failed until now to see the Billy Wilder film that inspired the most iconic image of Marilyn Monroe, standing with her dress being blown up by a subway grate. It was interesting to observe that the full-length image did not actually appear in the film. Despite the hype and humor of The Seven Year Itch, the film is my least favorite of Wilder's work. I found the lead character's habit of verbalizing his internal monologue to be rather annoying and unattractive. By far my favorite Wilder movie starring Marilyn Monroe is Some Like It Hot with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, a rip-roaring funny film that I never tire of watching.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for The Seven Year Itch, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience thanks to the great program put together by Alamo Drafthouse Sommelier Cinema host Daniel Metz. The guest sommelier was Eric Pelegrin of Travis Heights Beverage World, who paired the wines to the film. Pelegrin was joined by Kendall Antonelli of Antonelli's Cheese Shop, who matched tasty American cheeses to the wines. My favorite pairing of the evening was the Caves de Sancerre "Les Rochettes" 2009 with the Uplands Cheese Company Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese. The refreshingly light and modestly sweet Selbach Riesling Kabinett 2008 won me over, and I also enjoyed the Central Coast Creamery Seascape, a firm cow/goat cheese. Check out more photos from Sommelier Cinema after the jump.

Horror Film Writers Share Their Secrets at AFF Event


Tom Holland and Alvaro Rodriguez

One of the most frequent questions in panels at Austin film festivals I've attended is, "What is available here for writers?" My advice on where to find the best content at a local film festival is the Austin Film Festival (AFF). During the mentoring sessions, roundtables and panels, emerging writers and filmmakers interact with veterans of the television and film industry.

You don't have to wait until AFF in October to catch great writers and filmmakers talking about their craft. AFF hosts Conversations in Film throughout the year. Their most recent event, "Words That Go Bump in the Night: Writing Horror Films," brought together screenwriters Tom Holland (Fright Night, Cloak and Dagger) and Alvaro Rodriguez (From Dusk Til Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter, Machete) to talk about how they started in the film industry and the state of genre filmmaking. The conversation turned into more of an interview of Holland by Rodriguez, who seemed as enthused as the audience members to ask Holland questions. I would like to have heard more from Rodriguez, but his well-thought-out questions and style kept the conversation lively -- especially when it came to talking about Anthony Hopkins and favorite horror movies.

Holland was in town to screen a new 35mm print of the original 1985 version of Fright Night at the Alamo Drafthouse. With the Dreamworks remake of Fright Night starring Colin Farrell due in theaters later this month, there's a lot of buzz for the original movie as well. I'm especially excited to see that the remake special effects were handled by K.N.B. Effects Group -- Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger's SFX house that also handled the From Dusk Til Dawn series in addition to hundreds of television and film projects. Find out after the jump what Holland had to say about the state of Hollywood, how he got into film and insights into writing.

Young Filmmakers Remake Classic Film Scenes


Untitled by Michael McCauslin on Flickr

With temperatures hitting triple digits for a record number of days in a row, a great summer escape in Austin has always been the annual Paramount Theatre Summer Classics Film Series. The Paramount often features something special for the classic film series, whether manicures before Breakfast at Tiffany's or live camels at Lawrence of Arabia.

This year, local non-profit organization Austin School of Film has teamed up with the Paramount Theatre to introduce the Kids and Classic Films Competition. Youth nationwide are invited to remake scenes from classic movies such as Aliens, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Godzilla, Psycho, Red Dawn, Some Like it Hot and others screened during the Paramount Summer Classics Film Series. $500 in cash and prizes will be awarded and a screening of the young filmmakers' final remade scenes will be held at the Paramount Theatre on September 20. What better way for young filmmakers to experience classic cinema?

TFPF Announces 2011 Panelists


Katrina's SonEvery year, Austin Film Society awards grants to emerging film and video artists in the Lone Star State through the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund (TFPF). Since its inception in 1996, the AFS has awarded over 300 grants, totaling over $1 million in cash and over $100,000 in goods and services to almost 300 projects. In addition to grants for production, post-production and distribution, the TFPF has provided approximately $21,000 in stipends to Texas filmmakers traveling to prestigious film festivals.

Past TFPF grant recipients have screened their films at renowned festivals around the world including Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto as well as right here in Austin at SXSW. One such project is Katrina's Son (pictured right), which was awarded a TFPF grant in 2008, then premiered at AFF last year and at the Cannes International Festival's Short Film Corner this year. Several TFPF-funded movies have been released theatrically and in the cable and home video markets. 

This year AFS received 208 applications, and at least $90,000 will be awarded in cash, goods and services to emerging filmmakers in Texas. AFS invites three distinguishd filmmakers from outside of Texas to participate in grant applications review. Members of this year's panel were recently announced, and include Independent Spirit Award nominee Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy), Sundance Institute producer-in-residence Anne Lai, and Independent Spirit Award-winner Ian Olds (Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi). During the panelists' visit to Austin for the review process, special screenings will be presented by Austin Film Society. Find out more and watch one of the featured short films after the jump.

Sommelier Cinema: Wine Flights of Fancy at Alamo Drafthouse


Feast Bubbly

August 2, 2011 update: This event takes place at the Alamo Ritz location.

Although most folks know of my enthusiasm for craft beer from reading the Fantastic Fest 2010 Guide: How to Drink Like an Austinite and other beer-and-film writing, I also enjoy a good wine on occasion. During a recent vacation to Europe, my fiance and I visited the French wine regions of Champagne, Burgundy and the Loire River Valley (before hitting the breweries in Belgium and Germany). I learned quite a bit from local producers about grapes and the influence of "terroir" as well as the impact of climate conditions on wine.

You don't have to travel to Europe, though, to learn about Old World wine. Austin has several fabulous wine shops with staff willing to share their wine knowledge. In fact, my first taste of a lovely crisp white Sancerre was at a Loire Valley wine tasting at Vino Vino, and is why I added the region to our vacation plans.

If you are wondering why I'm mentioning wine on a film website, you need look no further than the Alamo Drafthouse Food and Film Event, Sommelier Cinema, which will feature a 35mm screening of The Seven Year Itch on Wednesday, August 3, at 7 pm at the Downtown Ritz location. The newest in the Drafthouse event series takes place every other month and pairs movies with fine wines selected by local wine experts who match the wine selection to the movie theme, characters or cast. The ticket price includes three or four wines along with the featured screening. Guest sommeliers give a short presentation about the wines and their history, as well as why they were chosen. The sommelier also provides a crash course in how to taste and drink wine, and what to look for in particular varietals, blends and regions. Find out which selections will be available this month after the jump.

A Peek at Round Rock's New Flix Brewhouse


Flix Brewhouse

Nothing pleases me more than passions for craft beer and film colliding, especially as part of an innovative project that places Austin on the map -- although technically I'm talking about a new establishment in Round Rock. Flix Brewhouse, the world's first movie theatre with a working microbrewery, opens this week in Skyridge Plaza. The facility is a joint venture between Los Angeles-based Galaxy Theatres (which also own Galaxy Highland in Austin) and a local investment group, Hospitality Investors, which also owns the neighboring Homefield Grill.

As a contributor for Beertown Austin, I was invited to a "sneak peek" at Flix Brewhouse this week along with other local craft beer writers. Although microbrewery production won't be running until mid-August, full drink service and concessions are available at the theater with over 40 draft beers and wines, and by July 15, full food service. Two of the six screens are fully functional now with a third screen becoming available this weekend.

Share Your Panel Ideas for SXSW 2012


SXSW 2012 Panel Picker

It may seem hard to believe that planning for the 2012 SXSW Festivals and Conferences has already started, but that's how SXSW is able to offer a staggering amount of programming every year. The PanelPicker entry process for SXSW 2012 opened this week, and SXSW welcomes ideas for their daytime programming from the community.

Proposals will be accepted now through the end of the day on Friday, July 15. Are you knowledgeable on a particular film, music, or interactive related subject, or can come up with a panel of experts? Enter a proposal for a solo presentation, workshop or panel via the PanelPicker and your idea could possibly be included in the 2012 SXSW Festivals and Conferences.

SXSW is particularly looking for daytime programming to include the future of new media, music and filmmaking. To learn more about this year's panel submission process, read the PanelPicker FAQ, which contains answers to just about any question you can think of.

Quick Snaps: 'Blood Simple' Rolling Roadshow


Rolling Roadshow: Blood Simple at Dessau Hall

The Alamo Drafthouse creative team and programmers have come up with some exciting and memorable Rolling Roadshow locations throughout the years. Whether watching Jaws on Lake Travis while floating on innertubes or enjoying Strange Brew with local microbreweries and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewing (my interview with Sam) -- audiences can count on a memorable experience. Through partnerships with local sponsors, the Alamo Drafthouse has offered free screenings every summer in locations such as Republic Park, Fiesta Gardens and Central Market's patio lawn. This summer the Alamo Drafthouse has been hosting the first all-Texas Rolling Roadshow in collaboration with Texas Monthly.

Alamo Drafthouse CEO/founder Tim League was one of five experts who debated the ten greatest Texas movies of all time for the Texas Monthly "No Country for Bad Movies" feature. After much debate, the panel came up with a list that fills the bill of the 2011 Rolling Roadshow to celebrate film in Texas. Austin was selected as one of the iconic locations to host the Rolling Roadshow screening for Joel and Ethan Coen's directorial debut, Blood Simple. Their "redneck noir" film was shot on location in Texas, including Houston, Austin, Hutto and Round Rock.

The landmark Austin music venue Dessau Hall was the set for Marty's bar in the movie and was the location of the Blood Simple screening in early June. Now known as El Gran Mexicano Club, the hall has hosted musical legends over its long history, including Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Hank Williams and a young Elvis Presley.

Despite hitting triple-digit degrees in early June, the Austin audience enjoyed a brief respite from the heat with cooler temperatures for the show. The screening also debuted the "Don't Talk" Alamo Drafthouse bumper, which has gone viral to the point of international recognition. An afterparty featuring the well-known local band The Derailers took place immediately following the screening. Were it not for the Mexicano banner on the stage wall, it was not hard to imagine Ernest Tubbs or Hank Williams onstage. See more photos from the event after the jump.

Review: Midnight in Paris


Mdnight in Paris

I've always disclaimed being a fan of Woody Allen -- not just because of his neurotic portrayals, but also his writing in Annie Hall and Manhattan. I couldn't relate and felt alienated from the New Yorker culture and mentality. In all fairness I'll admit I thoroughly enjoyed several of his period pieces including Radio Days, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Bullets Over Broadway.

With an impending long-awaited vacation to Europe looming at the end of the month, I was intrigued to get a preview via Allen of "The City of Light" in his latest movie, Midnight in Paris, which was the opening-night film at Cannes this year. Ironically, Allen's ability to capture a subculture that not everyone can relate to is what I adore about this film -- only instead the group is the "Lost Generation" of writers, painters and musicians who flocked to Paris in the 1920s for inspiration. Allen addresses his love letter to Paris with an extended opening sequence of Parisian monuments and locations including the River Seine, Cathedral of Notre Dame, Les Champs Elysees and the obligatory Eiffel Tower aglow at night.

Midnight in Paris centers around Gil (Owen Wilson), a successful Hollywood screenwriter who wants to move to Paris and write his great novel, inspired by his literary hero, Ernest Hemingway. Gil's over-privileged fiance, Inez (Rachel McAdams), has different plans that include a house in Malibu, not a relocation to France.  While on vacation in Paris with Inez's parents John (Kurt Fuller) and Helen (Mimi Kennedy), the couple bicker over Gil's romanticism. Inez's snobbish academic friend Paul (Michael Sheen) pontificates, "Nostalgia is a denial of a painful present."

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