Debbie Cerda's blog

Quick Snaps and News about Phil Mucci and 'The Listening Dead'


Phil Mucci and Tim League

I receive updates every few months from photographer and filmmaker Phil Mucci, whom I met in 2006. Phil's short horror film The Listening Dead took the Best of Show award for short films at Fantastic Fest that year. Four years after its initial release, this short film has been translated into eight different languages. Phil has just announced that a "behind the scenes" short film on The Listening Dead is now available and can be viewed on his website. You can also watch his videos and short films, including Far Out, which screened at Fantastic Fest 2007.

That's Phil on the left with Alamo Drafthouse impresario Tim League at a filmmakers brunch during Fantastic Fest 2007. Note that Phil is sporting my "Last Night at the Alamo" hard hat that was given out to the audience for the special screening of Earthquake in Sensurround.

[Photo Credit: Phil Mucci and Tim League of the Alamo Drafthouse, courtesy of Debbie Cerda]

Registration Open for VideoCamp Austin


Camera operator setting up the video camera on Flickr Next month's VideoCamp Austin event is a free one-day ad-hoc gathering of video, public relations, new media and marketing professionals born from the desire for people to learn about best practices in online video production and distribution in an open environment. David Neff of Lights. Camera. Help. and the American Cancer Society, Talmadge Boyd and Weston Norton are coordinating this collaborative event that includes discussions, demos and interaction from participants who are the main actors of the event. Not surprising, as I'd first met Dave at BarCamp Austin 3 in 2008. Although he shared information about his project, the real take-home message I got that day was that non-profit organizations should use online video and documentary filmmaking as a way to convey their messages. With VideoCamp Austin, Dave is taking this mission even further.

VideoCamp Austin will be held on February 27 from 10 am to 4 pm on the University of Texas campus at CMB Building UT Campus, Studio 4B. The event is being organized in a "barcamp" style, that is, it is an ad-hoc rather than pre-determined schedule. Barcamps are an international network of user generated conferences -- open, participatory workshop-events, with content is provided by participants. The first Barcamps focused on early-stage web applications and related open-source technologies, but the format is now widely applied to a variety of other topics, including social media tools and now video and filmmaking.

SXSW Volunteer Call: Film-Related Opportunities


2009SXSW I Love You Man Premiere by William Dunn

I've volunteered for SXSW Conferences and Festivals since 2000, including eight years as a crew chief for different crews. The most challenging position I've held has been with Special Venues, as our crew was responsible for line management and crowd control at major events including movie premieres (pictured above). We coordinated not only with the tireless SXSW Film staff and volunteers including theater managers and VIP wranglers, but also press and hired security. More than 1,700 volunteers contribute time each year to support SXSW.

They are the faces of SXSW, working in the Austin Convention Center or the film and music venues, and often the first ones to greet out-of-town registrants. Hours are applied towards earning perks, whether it's a film pass or one of the badge levels. If you are interested in volunteering for SXSW this year, then you won't want to miss the upcoming volunteer calls.

New Film Series Focuses on Local Community Issues


Rich Vacquez, Mando Rayo, and Dave Shaw

Like most people, I've been vaguely familiar with the national non-profit organization United Way all my life. Several years ago I was fortunate to meet and get to know Mando Rayo (in the center of the above photo), Director of United Way Capital Area volunteer match program Hands On Central Texas. In response to a Facebook message from Mando, I volunteered for the 2-1-1 Texas phone bank during Hurricane Ike -- one of the most humbling and memorable experiences in my life. That's just one of the many innovative ways that the United Way Capital Area is using social media and other forums to bring folks together to address critical social issues in our community.

This spring, United Way Capital Area will introduce their Live United film series in Austin. This series, co-hosted by Austin PBS affiliate KLRU-TV, provides Central Texans an opportunity to explore critical community issues such as education and financial stability through film and dialogue. Each film will include a panel discussion with community leaders and issue experts in the field. In addition to enjoying film and meaningful conversation, audience members will receive a list of resources and opportunities about the issues being addressed and ways to promote change in our community.

Locally Shot 'Red White and Blue' Will Premiere in Rotterdam


Red White and Blue Cast with Simon Rumley

It's hard to believe it's been almost six months since the slacker revenge film Red White and Blue wrapped shooting in Austin. An update in August from writer/director Simon Rumley revealed that he was hard at work editing the film. Simon and co-producer Bob Portal have now completed work with the last stages of post-production with their sound editors and Post house Prime Focus. The film is now fully color timed/graded and sound mixing is completed, ready for Hi Def delivery.

Great news, as it has been officially announced that Red White and Blue is having its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival in the Netherlands on January 29. Rotterdam is the festival where Simon first premiered his previous film The Living and the Dead, which had its American premiere at Fantastic Fest in 2008.  

Review: The Book of Eli


The Book of Eli

My favorite subgenre of science fiction is dystopian tales, including Children of Men, Fahrenheit 451, and Mad Max. Therefore I was intrigued by The Book of Eli, a post-apocalyptic tale of a lone traveler making his way across the wasteland of America. This man carries with him a sacred book that has the power to change the world -- but will that power be used for good or not?

The future painted in The Book of Eli by the Hughes brothers is a sepia-toned brutal one, hot and dusty with little protection from the elements and murderous hijackers and marauders. Eli (Denzel Washington) has been traveling for 30 years, and remembers the time before "The Big Flash" and the war, when people threw away items that are now killed for. He can't remember how old he is but can read, while younger generations are illiterate and desperate. Food and water are scarce, and many survivors have resorted to cannibalism. Eli is well-armed and extremely skilled with his weapons, but his senses are his real survival tools.

Off-Centered Film Fest Wants Your Shorts



If you've seen Beer Wars then you'll know who Sam Calagione is and maybe even why international beer writer Michael Jackson called Dogfish Head, which Calagione founded, "America's most interesting and adventurous small brewery." Known for being off-centered, the brewery has worked with an archaelogist to recreate ancient brews including an ancient Turkish recipe using the original ingredients from the 2700-year-old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of King Midas. So what does a Delaware brewery have to do with Austin film?

Calagione himself brings this off-centeredness to Austin by hosting the Off-Centered Film Fest, part of a two-night event at the Alamo Lake Creek. The annual event includes a beer and food pairing as well as a short film competition. Submissions are currently being accepted until March 1, 2010.

New AFS Series Focuses on Middle Eastern Films


Laila's BirthdayThere is so much I love about being a member of Austin Film Society, but high on my list is the Essential Cinema film series, which often features films that haven't been made widely available in the United States. The latest series, "Children of Abraham/Ibrahim 4: Films of the Middle East and Beyond" provides insights into Middle Eastern history and culture. From Chale Nafus, AFS Director of Programming:

"Our fourth annual series will continue looking at films from the Middle East and beyond -- an area rich in tumultuous history, wonderful art and literature, but often mired in war and misunderstanding among the three religions which all trace their roots back to Abraham/Ibrahim. This is our local attempt to bring human faces and individual stories to the statistics and overwhelming images seen on TV and computer screens daily throughout the world.

"Our four contemporary films and two classics will take us to Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, and Pakistan. We will see unrequited love in a train station, struggles over ownership of land, the troubles a father has just getting home to a birthday party, a son struggling with his father over education, the ethnic and religious divisions within an Israeli neighborhood, and the lengths to which a politician will go to avoid responsibility for his actions."

The series starts tonight and runs through February 16, and screenings for this month include:

Review: Crazy Heart


Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal

Writer/director Scott Cooper brings Thomas Cobb's minimalistic novel about an alcoholic country singer to the screen in Crazy Heart. Jeff Bridges unabashedly takes on the role of Bad Blake, a washed-up, hard-living country musician who's had more wives than he can remember ... plus even more one-night stands and an endless amount of whiskey and cigarettes to punish his body.

To make matters worse, his protege Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) is at the top of his career, playing tunes written for him by Blake. It isn't until Bad meets journalist Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) that he begins to turn his life around. Unfortunately it's too little too late, after his hard boozin' wreaks havoc on his relationship with Jean and her four-year-old son. Is there redemption for Bad?

Review: Daybreakers



If the last mainstream vampire film in the theaters seemed to lack much bite, then perhaps vampire sci-fi film Daybreakers might fulfill horror fans' appetites. It is the year 2019 and a plague has transformed most every human into vampires. Many humans were "turned" against their will by others, and feed off  pig blood. Vampires have regular jobs, but they work reverse hours, live in protected homes and drive UV-protected vehicles. The remaining humans are hunted down so that a constant supply of fresh blood is available for the ruling population of vampires. However, the blood supply is dwindling, as humans are becoming extinct, and so the dominant vampire species are concerned with their survival.

Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a hemotologist vampire who is working on a synthetic blood that will substitute for human blood. Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) is the bloodthirsty capitalist vampire who plans to sell the synthetic juice at a premium price to wealthy vampire connoisseurs. Only trouble is that the synthetic blood doesn't work out too well in clinical trials, with some gory effects. Meanwhile, resistance groups of humans are attempting to find and gather survivors. Edward encounters a covert group of human resistance fighters that will bring him closer to the real solution of the vampires' dilemma -- finding a cure for the immortality that relies on human blood.

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