Debbie Cerda's blog

Fantastic Fest Welcomes Filmmakers, Texas Style


Fantastic Fest Filmmakers Shotgun Event

Every film festival welcomes filmmakers who attend in support of their projects, but Fantastic Fest offers an unique experience for visitors from the film industry. Tim League, founder of both the festival and Alamo Drafthouse, presents various events that reflect Texas, including a filmmakers luncheon prepared by Chef John Bullington and sponsored by the Texas Film Commission, BBQ runs to Smitty's and Muellers, and the popular annual shotgun event.

Filmmakers from as far as New Zealand and Japan participated in the event this year, which took place at the Capitol City Trap and Skeet Club. After donning safety protection and listening to a thorough safety orientation from experienced shooters, the guests took turns at a walk-through sporting clay course. Each shooting station simulates different hunting situations, and it was interesting to watch the different techniques. Even the novices had a great time on the course, and everyone was cheered on.

Registration Deadlines for Upcoming Film Festivals


Denia and family by antsnax, on FlickrIf you are planning on attending the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival next year, you can save money by registering before the first deadline, which is this Friday, September 25. A film badge includes admittance to 9 days of film-festival screenings and premieres, plus 5 days of panels, keynotes, and Q & A sessions. Other perks include entry to the film awards and parties. Currently a film badge costs $325, a savings of $155 from the walk-up rate, so act fast for the best value. You can register here.

Another deadline on the horizon is for early registration to Austin Film Festival and Conference, which starts October 22. Conference panels run through Oct. 25 and festival screenings continue until Oct. 29. You must purchase a badge by September 30, 2009 to receive the discounted rates. There are various badge and passes available that you can check out here.

Finally, keep in mind that VIP tickets for Fantastic Fest 2009 went on sale during the 2008 event, and sold out within 45 minutes. This could very likely happen again this year. We recommend you follow the Fantastic Fest blog and Twitter feed, and we will post an update to the Slackerwood Twitter feed when we hear the news!

[Photo credit: Denia and her family at the Q & A for The Least of These, a documentary on the detainee families at Hutto facility, by Debbie Cerda on Flickr.]

Review: The Horse Boy


Rupert Isaacson, Rowan and Ghoste in Mongolia by Justin Hennard Since I've not personally known anyone with autism, it's not an issue I could relate to until seeing Michel O. Scott's The Horse Boy, which is currently playing at Arbor Great Hills. You may also remember it under its working title, Over the Hills and Far Away. This film, which was partially funded by the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, was nominated in 2009 for a Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and received the Audience Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival. The compelling documentary portrays the challenges of dealing with a young child stricken with autism, and chronicles the family's attempt to improve their quality of life by exploring non-traditional healing in Mongolia.

Having met abroad in India, Rupert Isaacson and his wife Kristen Neff found themselves unable to travel effortlessly to the store after their son Rowan was diagnosed at 2 1/2 years of age with autism.  At the time The Horse Boy was filmed, 5-year-old Rowan was prone to autistic tantrums that could last for over four hours, and was incapable of using the toilet. It is surprising then that the family would endeavor to travel across the world to Mongolia, meeting with shamans and then ascending 12,000 feet near the Russian border to visit the shamam of the reindeer herders.

I was amazed by the unflinching optimism of the parents through such a laborous journey, but considering Isaacson's role as producer of the Horse Boy (with book option), it's understandable there's a reduction in objectivity. However, filmmaker Michel O. Scott successfully interlaces scenes from the family's "routine" life in Elgin, Texas and their expedition across Mongolia by van and horse with experts who offer insight into autism.

Austin Film Festival Posts Conference Schedule


Austin Film FestivalThe Austin Film Festival (AFF) has recently announced the panel schedule for the 16th annual film festival and conference to be held October 22-29. The lineup of over 80 panels and roundtable discussions includes an all-star cast of actors, screenwriters, producers, and many others who have contributed to films, television shows and new media including Lethal Weapon, Mad Men, Lost, Freaks and Geeks, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Watchmen.

Featured panelists include Damon Lindelof (Star Trek, Lost), Matthew Weiner (Mad Men, The Sopranos), Melissa Rosenberg (Twilight), Shane Black (Lethal Weapon), William Broyles Jr. (Cast Away, Apollo 13), Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks, The Office), Michael Green (Kings, Heroes), Peter Hedges (About a Boy, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), and many more.

The selection of panels features television, screenwriting and filmmaking panels, roundtables, meet-and-greets with conference speakers, roundtables, and more including the seventh annual AFF Pitch Competition. There are a few interesting running series with various speakers throughout the conference, including "Write What You Know," "Breaking into Business," "Script to Screen Series" and "Should Movies Reflect the Real World?"

Quick Snaps: Nacho Vigalondo Dances Through Fantastic Fest 2007


Fantastic Fest 2007: Tim and Nacho

In 2007, Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo brought home the Best Feature award at Fantastic Fest for Los Cronocrímenes (Timecrimes), which had its world premiere at the film fest. Shortly after the science-fiction thriller played Fantastic Fest, Timecrimes was picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures -- the first distribution deal linked to the Austin festival.

I had the honor of sitting next to Nacho during the second screening of Timecrimes, and he thanked me for all of my screaming and jumping during the film. Attendees at the Fantastic Fest Karaoke Party were later treated to Nacho's animated version of "I'm Too Sexy,"which he re-enacted with Tim League in the above photo.

Texas Actor/Dancer Patrick Swayze Loses Battle with Cancer


Patrick Swayze

It is with great sadness to report that after 20 months of battling pancreatic cancer, Texas-born actor/dancer Patrick Swayze passed away on Monday.

Patrick Swayze was born on August 18, 1952 in Houston, where his mother Patsy Swayze was well known for her dance school. I remember stories my Aunt Judy told me after Dirty Dancing came out about "Pat" when he was a pre-teen. She would go to Patsy's dance studio with her best friend, and recalls Patrick hanging around the dance studio and getting underfoot.  At the time he was about 13 years old and was not into dancing. Patrick later graduated from Waltrip High School in Houston and then "San Jack," as San Jacinto College is known.

He went on to follow in his mother's footsteps and became a professional dancer, performing with the Feld, Joffrey and Harkness Ballets and appearing on Broadway as Danny Zuko in Grease. He met his wife Lisa Niemi when she was a student of his mother's, and they married in 1975. After a series of injuries, Patrick turned his attention to acting in 1978. 

Although his first film was Skatetown, U.S.A., in 1979, Patrick Swayze's first memorable role was his portrayal as the fatherly older brother Darrel "Dary" Curtis in S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders (1983). The next year, Patrick was back again as a protective older sibling in the post-apocalyptic film Red Dawn, which featured an emotionally powerful scene between Patrick as Jed Eckert and Harry Dean Stanton as Mr. Eckert. His acting career has spanned numerous genres and unforgettable characters, from bad boy Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing to loving husband Sam Wheat in Ghost to the refined Vida Boheme in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Love Julie Newmar.

Quick Snaps: Chilean Martial Arts at Fantastic Fest 2007


Ernesto and Marko

Ernesto Diaz-Espinoza, director/writer, and Marko Zaror, martial artist/actor, visited Austin in 2007 for Fantastic Fest where they premiered Mirageman, along with screenings of their earlier project, the first Chilean martial-arts film Kiltro.

Espinoza and Zaror will be returning for Fantastic Fest 2009 for the world premiere of their latest film Mandrill. With the tagline "Cooler than Shaft, Hotter than Bond, Faster than Lee" about a young hitman exacting revenge on his mother's killer, expect more fast-paced action from Zaror. Producer Derek Rundell and actress Celine Raymond will also be in attendance. 

[Photo credit: Ernesto Espinoza and Marko Zaror Q&A at 2007 Fantastic Fest, by Debbie Cerda on Flickr.]

'Be Here to Love Me' Screening to Benefit Local Charity

Be Here to Love Me

Be Here to Love Me, by Austin-based filmmaker Margaret Brown, documents the life of Texas singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt through a series of interviews with family and friends along with his own home footage. This film screened at the 2005 SXSW Film Festival as part of the 24 Beats per Second Series. Several Texas musicians contributed to this film, including Guy Clark, Joe Ely, Willie Nelson, Kinky Friedman, and Lyle Lovett. I've not seen the film yet, but there's a great opportunity coming up to watch the movie and benefit a local organization.

The screening on September 10 at 7 pm at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is a benefit for Austin Bat Cave (ABC), a nonprofit organization that provides children and teenagers (ages 6–18) with opportunities to develop their creative and expository writing skills through their free programs. Their volunteers provide one-on-one afterschool tutoring and support local schools through programming.

This event includes a post-screening party and 'A Conversation with Filmmaker Margaret Brown' for attendees, so get your tickets online now before they are sold out.

Check out Joe O'Connell's review of Be Here to Love Me from the Austin Chronicle.

SXSW Film Panels: What Would You Like to See?


Scott Weinberg and Karina Longworth

There are only a few days left to vote in the SXSW 2010 PanelPicker mentioned in my previous post - you have until midnight CST on Friday, September 4 to participate in the community voting process.

I've taken a look at several dozen panel submissions, and voted for a few of my favorites. Here are the film panels I found interesting at first glance:

There's Gold in Those Archives: Long-Long-Tail Filmmaking (organizer: Center for Social Media) -- I had no idea what long-tail filmmaking was until I saw this panel submission, but it was intriguing enough to read the questions and comments. Licensing and distribution are critical aspects of the longterm results of making a film filmmaking. I would expect this panel to convey some valuable information to filmmakers and distributors.

Cinema Touching Disability Film Fest Seeks Student Shorts


The Eyes of MeWhile volunteering for the SCARE for a CURE haunt last year, I was intrigued and amazed by the visually impaired students who also volunteered for the event. The students had their own scene which focused around an audio studio. One student, Johnathan, was also filming the haunt experience. Although he could not see the activity going on around him, he thoroughly enjoyed the narrative and "boo scares" as much as our typical guests. Turns out that John is an aspiring filmmaker who won the high-school division award in the 2007 Cinema Touching Disability Short Film Competition.

The competition is part of the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival, which returns in its sixth year to continue its mission of raising awareness of disabilities. The film fest will be held November 6-7 at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar.

This year the festival will feature the documentary The Eyes of Me, an up-close look at four high-school teens who have lost their sight. The film premiered at SXSW earlier this year -- Filmmaker magazine published an interview with director Keith Maitland.

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