Slacker 2011: Ben Steinbauer Can't Return to Les Amis Cafe

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Still by Ben Steinbauer

In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund. As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the Austinites participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project.

Today's interview is with Ben Steinbauer, director of the 2009 acclaimed documentary Winnebago Man (Don's review), which won the Austin Film Critics Association Award for Best Austin Film in 2010.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film are you reshooting?

Ben Steinbauer: I'm re-shooting the scene with the angry hitchhiker who gets interviewed by a young video crew outside Les Amis Cafe. The hitchhiker is bumming cigarettes off the people sitting on the patio and gets approached by a video crew who inadvertently give him the opportunity to rant directly into their camera.

Why are you looking forward to re-creating this particular scene?

I chose this scene because I am friends with Luke Savisky, who plays the cameraman in the original, and I thought it would be fun to cast him in the same scene 20 years later. In the original, the hitchhiker looks right into the camera lens and delivers a great diatribe, but the audience never sees the video footage. So I thought it would be fun to re-shoot that scene and show the camera’s POV. 

What do you think your challenges are/have been in re-visiting this scene?

The biggest challenge by far was the location. The original Les Amis is now a Starbucks -- without a porch railing off of the sidewalk, which is integral to the scene. Rather than try to make the Starbucks work, I chose a place that preserves some of Les Amis's original spirit (at least aesthetically), Dolce Vita, in Hyde Park. It was interesting shooting there because their clientele really reflects the changing face of Austin. 

Do you have any connections or memories related to the original Slacker?

I remember seeing the original Slacker as a sophomore in high school, living in a suburb of Oklahoma City. It was memorable because it was the first regional film, i.e. film that wasn’t produced in Hollywood, I had ever seen.  That was the first time it occurred to me that people could have a career making films in places besides LA or New York.

[Editor's Note: For more info on Les Amis Cafe, visit the website for the documentary Viva Les Amis.]

[Photo courtesy of Ben Steinbauer]