Debbie Cerda's blog

Interview: Brandon Freeman, 'Skateland'


Brandon Freeman on the set of 'Skateland'

One of the independent films I enjoyed at SXSW 2010 was Skateland, set in small-town Texas during the 1980s. Starring Shiloh Fernandez (Deadgirl, Red Riding Hood) and Ashley Greene (The Twilight Saga, Radio Free Albemuth), Skateland was produced by Freeman Films, an Austin-based movie production company founded by Skateland writer/executive producer Brandon Freeman. As a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, Freeman enjoyed working within the local film community to bring his first feature film to the screen. Skateland opens in Austin this Friday -- check out my SXSW review and Don's review.

I spoke with Brandon Freeman by phone last week as he prepared for the L.A. premiere of Skateland. Find out what he had to say about working with Ashley Greene before her Twilight stardom, the portrayal of the feminist movement of the 80s in his movie and the impact of MTV on small-town Texas after the jump.

Quick Snaps: 'Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story' Filmmakers


Monopoly Filmmakers

Every year Austin Film Festival hosts the "Hair of the Dog" brunch, and at the 2010 event I met Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story co-producer Craig Bentley and director/co-producer Kevin Tostado, pictured above. The pair could be found passing out "money" during the fest or playing Monopoly in the Driskill Bar. Their engaging documentary appeals to both young and old with a nostalgic look at a cultural phenomenon enjoyed for almost a century and loved across the world -- read my review.

If you've yet to see Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story, don't miss your chance. The Alamo Drafthouse will be hosting a special screening at the Lake Creek theater on Monday, May 23 at 7 pm.  I'm disappointed I missed the Monopoly playing party along with Mr. Monopoly's appearance at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar earlier this week, but I can console myself with a friendly game at home -- after watching Under the Boardwalk last fall I was inspired to buy a game set for myself.

Quick Snaps: Flashback to 'True Legend' at Fantastic Fest


Fantastic Fest 2010: RZA at TRUE LEGEND

Watching True Legend for a second time last week brought back memories of my favorite red carpet event of 2010, when director Yuen Woo-ping was in Austin for the world premiere at Fantastic Fest. After the screening, Yuen was awarded a Fantastic Fest Lifetime Achievement Sword -- yes, a sword -- which was presented by artist RZA (pictured above).

Master Yuen and RZA worked together on the Kill Bill movies. RZA spoke about how Yuen's work influenced his music as well as his first venture into filmmaking directorial debut with The Man with the Iron Fist, co-produced by Eli Roth. See more photos of RZA with Yuen Woo-ping event after the jump.

Review: True Legend


True Legend

The name Woo-ping Yuen may not sound familiar to general filmgoers, but you don't have to be a martial-arts film fan to have witnessed Master Yuen's contribution to the action movie industry. Best known to the general populace for his contribution to The Matrix and Kill Bill series, Yuen is an international legend due in part to his action/fight choreography and martial arts direction. He's often credited with playing an integral part in action/martial arts star Jackie Chan's career by casting and directing him in the 1978 classic martial arts film Drunken Master.

One would think that with over 40 years of experience under his belt, the 65-year-old Yuen would be ready to rest on his laurels -- not so, as he returns to the director's chair for the first time in almost 15 years with True Legend, a Fantastic Fest 2010 selection that returns to Austin on Friday for a theatrical run at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar.

True Legend presents the "Chronicles of Wushu Masters: Beggar Su" in three parts. The short but remarkable intro shows how how Su Qi-Er (Man Cheuk Chiu), a renowned Qing dynasty general, saves a prince in a decisive battle. Su is offered the governship of a province, but he declines and turns over his troops to his foster brother, Yuan Lie (Andy On) instead. Su plans to retire from the military so he can start a family with his wife Yuan Ying (Xun Zhou) -- who is Yuan Lie's sister -- and open his own Wushu martial arts school.

2011 Guide to Austin Summer Film Camps


AFS Summer Camp

Summer is almost officially here, and there's still time to register for kids' summertime filmmaking camps and workshops in Austin. Some classes are full already, but children and teens still have plenty of camps and sessions to choose from, so sign up soon.

These affordable camps and workshops provide unique experiences for local youth in various aspects of filmmaking -- acting, screenwriting, editing and animation -- see some of the creative and funny claymation films after the jump. At the end of many of these camps, friends and family are invited to attend a screening of the movie(s) that campers helped make, or campers can bring home a DVD to hold their own private screening party.

Here's a list of all the summer movie-related camps and classes in the Austin area that we could find. Some of the descriptions are pretty much verbatim from press releases or websites. In addition to the kids-only offerings, there are opportunities for adults as well this summer -- you'll find a couple of options for grownups at the end of the list.

Review: Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen


Qi Shu and Donnie Yen of Legend of the Fist

Fantastic Fest 2010 selection Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (Jing wu feng yun: Chen Zhen) is back in Austin on Friday night at Alamo Drafthouse Village. The movie brings together history with amazing action sequences and stunning sets of Japanese-occupied Shanghai during the First World War to re-invent the tale of a cultural hero, played by action star Donnie Yen (Ip Man). Director Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs) attempts to serve up more than the usual martial arts action porn with a complex storyline featuring nationalism, brotherhood, espionage, romance and superheroes.

Yen portrays the legendary Chen Zhen, a character created by Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury and later portrayed by Jet Li in Gordon Chan's acclaimed 1994 remake Fist of Legend. Yen himself has played the character in a 1995 TV series. For Legend of the Fist, Yen teamed with writer/producer Gordon Chan and director Lau to continue the story of Chen Zhen as a World War I veteran, resistance fighter and masked superhero.

Zhen's heroism precedes the war, when as a member of the Jing Wu Athletic Association he defeated a formidable Japanese opponent at the Hongkou Dojo. In France in 1917, he and his fellow laborers carry ammunition to French soldiers in trenches, and during a climactic retreat, Zhen rescues both his fellow patriots and French soldiers as well. When a comrade is killed, he assumes his identity in order to gain anonymity.

Interview: Sam Calagione, Off-Centered Film Fest


Sam from Dogfish HeadIt may seem a bit off-topic to feature an interview with a craft brewer on Slackerwood, but Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewing is no stranger to the film and television industry. As the star and host of the Discovery Channel's Brewmasters, the secrets behind his off-centered brewing techniques have been revealed to the general public. Calagione also selected Austin and Alamo Drafthouse to help him host the Off-Centered Film Fest (OCFF), which features short films from aspiring filmmakers.

I spoke with Sam Calagione by phone before his arrival in Austin, and here's what he had to say about the OCFF as well as the overlap between film and brewing.

Slackerwood: You've been in Austin for the Off-Centered Film Fest (OCFF) for several years now?

Sam Calagione: This is the fifth anniversary. I've come personally to Austin for the film fest every year.

What inspired the expansion of the OCFF for this year?

Calagione: I think we've expanded the program as a result of expanded excitement in craft beer in general -- also the enthusiasm that we have for working with the Alamo Drafthouse, which we think is just the perfect off-centered collaborator for us.

SXSW 2011 Wrap-Up: Sensory Overload and Monsters


Attack The Block

We created a monster ... It's just sensory overload ... like the first day of school times twenty thousand people.

Prophetic words from Outside Industry: The Story of SXSW, Alan Berg's documentary about how four guys living on next to nothing created one of the largest benchmarks of alternative culture. Check out my interview with director Alan Berg for an insight of how it all began for South by Southwest.

Everything was bigger this year -- the number of attendees and campuses for SXSW Interactive, the crowds of people lining up at the Paramount Theatre for movie premieres, and the swell of music fans filling the streets of downtown and beyond for SXSW Music. Despite years of volunteering in "the belly of the beast" as I call downtown Austin during SXSW Music, I found it overwhelming. I joked that I'm no longer a SXSW veteran, I'm a SXSW old-timer as I no longer care about where the free food, drinks or parking are -- I just wanted to find a seat in a theater and a clean bathroom.

In an attempt to avoid the maddening fray, I went with a light schedule this year. I didn't have every moment planned as I've done in the past, which I found myself regretting only slightly. I didn't regret unplugging from the sensory overload of SXSW Interactive in an effort to balance Film and Interactive simply by cutting back on both.

In retrospect, I had some wonderful serendipitous moments that would never have happened had I stuck to a planned schedule. I also realize that it would have taken me several weeks of research and planning to filter through the hundreds of panels, films and events at SXSW this year, and then fit them into the scheduling tool du jour -- some worked, some didn't and some were often wrong. Here are my favorite aspects of SXSW Film 2011:

Off-Centered Film Fest Expands for 2011


Strange Brew

Anyone who has read my Fantastic Fest 2010 Guide "How to Drink Like an Austinite" will know I'm a craft beer enthusiast, but it goes beyond just drinking great brews -- I also homebrew and volunteer at local brewpubs and breweries. I was extremely excited when Dogfish Head Craft Brewery founder Sam Calagione came to Austin in 2008 to host the Off-Centered Film Fest along with a beer and cheese pairing at the Alamo Lake Creek, and have never missed his annual events. His passion for craft brewing and film is contagious, and his annual rap "East Coast versus West Coast Brews" can't be missed.

Calagione will be back in Austin to host this year's Off-Centered Film Fest starting Thursday, April 14 through Saturday, April 16. He's partnered with the Alamo Drafthouse to expand the beer-meets-film festival to multiple venues and events to please both craft beer and film fans alike. The special screening of Wet Hot American Summer with Joe Lo Troglio sold out quickly, but find out what events are still available after the jump:

Review: Born to Be Wild


Born to Be Wild

While growing up in the late Sixties to early Seventies, one of the favorite television shows in our house was Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom with host Marlin Perkins. We loved watching wild animals in their natural habitat along with the challenges faced by Perkins and his field correspondents Jim Fowler and Peter Gros. Similar in nature was the classic film Born Free (1966), which told the story of female lion cub Elsa raised to maturity by a Kenyan game warden. Elsa is re-educated so that she can be released back into the wild. Both Wild Kingdom and Born Free left out the violence experienced in the wild, a pattern followed by IMAX documentary Born to Be Wild.

Directed by David Lickley and narrated by Morgan Freeman, Born to Be Wild focuses on two inspirational women, primatologist Birute Galdikas and elephant expert Daphne Sheldrick, who both work with orphaned animals to re-educate and release them into the wild. Galdikas works with orangutans in the rainforests of Borneo who have been orphaned as a result of clear-cutting, while Sheldrick rescues young elephants in Kenya whose mothers are killed by poachers. In both situations, staff help to fill the maternal and family void that help the orphans survive. Their shared mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and return these animals safely back to the wild. The scenes of young orangutans playing and a young elephant sleeping with his keeper are heartwarming.

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