Local Indies

Review: Parkland

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Parkland

Some stories are just too big to tell in 90 minutes; one of them is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

This is the fundamental problem with Parkland, a well-intentioned attempt to take an intimate look at the Kennedy assassination from an unusual perspective. Parkland sets out to capture the chaos and emotional turmoil of November 22, 1963 and the three days thereafter, focusing on ordinary people -- Parkland Hospital staffers, FBI agents, and so on -- in extraordinary circumstances. But the film misses its target because the target is far too large.

Parkland wastes no time bringing us into the story. The movie opens only an hour or so before Kennedy is shot, and within minutes we're in a chaotic and bloody Parkland emergency room, where young surgical resident Jim Carrico (Zac Efron) frantically tries to save Kennedy. Assisting him is nurse Doris Nelson (Marcia Gay Harden). Carrico's efforts to revive the gravely injured president are futile, of course, but he works on Kennedy until the other attending physicians tell him to stop.

Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton), who was in the motorcade, tries to stay on top of many rapidly developing events. Sorrels meets with Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) and convinces the reluctant bystander to turn over his iconic home movie of the assassination to the authorities.

Fantastic Fest Interview: Clay Liford, 'Slash'

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Clay Liford

Local filmmaker Clay Liford's short film Slash (aka S/ash), which premiered at Dallas IFF in April, screens this week at Fantastic Fest. This wickedly funny short film portrays Sam (Arthur Dale), a 13-year-old boy who writes erotic fan fiction involving characters from the Harry Potter franchise. Not an unlikely premise when you think of Internet Rule #34: "If it exists, there's porn for it."

I met with Liford at a local coffeehouse where he frequently works on projects, and we spoke about Slash and its creation as well as other projects. Liford traveled this past week to New York for Independent Film Project (IFP) Film Week where the script for the feature-length version of Slash was included in a project. He describes his short film as "a very nerd movie about this subculture of fan fiction" and spoke of the challenge presented by references to copyrighted materials in an unintended light.

The selection of the name Slash contains a double meaning -- not only is "slash" a type of fan fiction that features homoerotic relationships (often male), but it's also a reference to Harry Potter's signature lightning-shaped scar.

Fantastic Fest Interview: Tyler Mager and Americo Siller, 'Witch'

Cast of Witch

The short film Witch is one of two Austin-shot shorts accepted for programming this year at Fantastic Fest 2013. It's screening as one of the Short Fuse selections. I spoke with local writer/directors Tyler Mager and Americo Siller about the production.

Slackerwood: Which of you had the idea for Witch? And what was the inspiration?

Tyler Mager: We came up with the idea together over numerous writing meetings. 

Americo Siller: It's a bar, a beer, a table, and a two-hour talk as Tyler scribbles everything down in a spiral notebook.

Mager: It started with an idea of classic supernatural monster mythology and how it would be looked at now. If a crazy psycho was going around eating the hearts of victims, most would automatically think it was, you know, some sort of serial killer. But what if it was a witch, an honest-to-goodness evil entity that lives through the life force of others. So we decided to maintain the realistic aspects of a potential serial killer while still staying true to classic witch mythology.

Fantastic Fest 2013: News Roundup, Austin Ties and a Cry for Help

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Fantastic Fest 2013 posterFantastic Fest is announcing all kinds of movies and events practically daily at this point. I leave my computer to get a sandwich and return to find out that Keanu Reeves is debating Tim League. Or that Errol Morris will be there, receiving an award and screening his latest film. Today I got a list of red-carpet events, giving me the chance to snap photos of celebrities from Danny Trejo to Elijah Wood.

First of all, the "whole" lineup of shorts and features has been announced, although I would not be surprised to see a few more announcements pop up in the next week. You might already have heard the news that Terry Gilliam's film The Zero Theorem will close the festival (please, let it be better than the other two Gilliam movies I've seen at Fantastic Fest), and that Metallica will be in Austin for the documentary Metallica Through the Never 3D, directed by Nimrod Antal, who also directed the Predators reboot Robert Rodriguez produced, and who appears in Machete (one of the bodyguards who shouldn't have tangled with the "gardener.")

I found a few Austin and Texas connections in the features and shorts, besides Machete Kills, the fest's opening-night film:

  • All the Boys Love Mandy Lane -- Actually this Central Texas-shot horror movie is available to buy for online streaming right now, but if you've been waiting six or so years to see it on a big screen (I was assigned to review it twice at Cinematical, and both times the release date fell through), Fantastic Fest has it for you.
  • We Gotta Get Out of This Place -- From the press release: "Three fun-seeking teenagers end up on the VERY wrong side of a bloodthirsty crew of rural crimelords." The feature was shot in Corpus Christi and Taft, Texas. Present and former Austinites involved include associate producers (and past Slackerwood contributors) Paul Gandersman and Nick Robinson, producer John Lang, first assistant camera Brian Nelligan and editor Luke Mullen. (Wondering if actor Jon Gries lives in Texas or if he just happens to pop up in a lot of Lone Star movies, including this one.)

AFS Grants 2013: All the Details We Could Find (Part Two)

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Pit Stop Still Photo

Continuing from Part One, here are detailed descriptions of AFS Grants winners this year -- not just the blurbs from the press release, but any other material I could unearth on the web.

Again, if you have info I don't, feel free to share it in the comments. Or drop us a line if you're involved with one of the films.

Pit Stop (narrative feature)

  • The grant: $3,000 for distribution
  • The blurb: Two men. A small town. A love that isn't quite out of reach.
  • The filmmaker: Yen Tan is a Dallas filmmaker (Ciao, Happy Birthday) who has also designed posters and title sequences for a number of local/indie films, including the short Hellion -- check out a gallery via The Austin Chronicle.

AFS Grants 2013: All the Details We Could Find (Part One)

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Above All Else

Last week, the Austin Film Society announced its 2013 AFS Grants for 2013 --formerly known as the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund (TFPF). Between the AFS Grants and Travel Grants, AFS is giving away $116,000 to Lone Star filmmakers ... including quite a few from Austin.

I love AFS Grant time. Of course, it's great to see local filmmakers getting needed funds and resources, and so on, but I like it because I get a sneak peek into upcoming Austin features and documentaries. Some of this year's recipients and projects should be very familiar to Slackerwood readers -- others are new to me.

In addition, it's a pleasure to look at the travel grants and realize that previous awardees completed their films, even if they haven't screened in Austin yet -- the grants allow filmmakers to bring Texas movies to film festivals around the world. For example. Russell Bush received grants to bring Vultures of Tibet to $500 to AFI Docs and Edinburgh International Film Festival, and Nathan Duncan was able to bring Ash to Full Frame Film Festival.

Ready, Set, Fund: Animation Love and Movie Geekiness

Is There Anyone Out There?

Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.

I've had a passion for animated films for as long as I can remember, having grown up with Disney classics such as Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty ... and as an adult, enjoying The Iron Giant. A short animated film project that's currently funding on Kickstarter through September 10 caught my interest -- Is There Anyone Out There?

Texas writer/director Jonathan Reynolds has brought together a talented creative team to support this family-friendly film, which addresses the universal question in a whimsical manner. 

The score for Is There Anyone Out There? has already been performed and recorded in Austin by British composer Andy Dollerson and Austin's own Tosca String Quartet. San Antonio-based voice actor Terry Anderson is providing the narration for the tale of two boys questioning their fathers whether there's life beyond their own planet.

Mike Blizzard Tracks Local History in 'Also Starring Austin'

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Bus station in Slacker

For those of us who get our kicks seeing how many locations in locally shot films we recognize (see my Miss Congeniality review), producer/political consultant Mike Blizzard (No No: A Dockumentary) is currently working on a project along those lines entitled Also Starring Austin

Still in the works, this documentary will include clips from feature films, TV shows, shorts or music videos filmed in town to show the changes in Austin through the years. Slackerwood has already reviewed some of the movies (Don's review of Roadie is another example), but some are a bit harder to find. Also Starring Austin will also include interviews with people from the Austin film community.

In an interview we conducted by email, Blizzard, a current member of the Austin Film Society Board of Directors, explained more about the project.

'Black Metal' Back On The Scene (and Online)

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It's always a great joy for us to bring you updates on our local filmmakers, so when we heard that Black Metal is back on the radar, we here at Slackerwood couldn't have been more thrilled. Director Kat Candler and the rest of her team announced  Monday that the film has been selected as a finalist in TheWrap's Short List Film Festival.

Now in its second year, TheWrap has brought together 12 awardwinning shorts, showcasing the best of the best of this year's top international festivals. The films are available to stream online and on your mobile device until next Thursday, August 29.  Viewers can then go and vote on which films they think should make it to the finalist round. This year's winning films will get a first-look deal, will be aired on an MTV network and will receive a package of camera equipment for their next short or feature.

AFF 2013 Announces First Wave of Film Programming

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sombras de azul

In addition to the short films already leaked via Twitter, the Austin Film Festival has now announced the first ten films of the 2013 lineup (including one from an Austin-based director) as well as a special retrospective series featuring an array of talented directors. Jonathan Demme will even screen scenes from a work in progress.

Standing out from the list are Alexander Payne's latest (Nebraska), a documentary about religious conflict within a family (Mom, Dad, I'm Muslim), and the world premiere of Sombras de Azul (production still above), based on the experiences of Austin director Kelly Daniela Norris, who traveled to Cuba in the hopes it would help her come to terms with her brother's suicide.

In an interview last year, Norris described the challenges of creating such a personal film and discussed how she was able to finish the project with the help of Kickstarter. Norris also drew from her experience working with award-winning television writer David Milch and calls Sombras de Azul "a diaristic manifestation of my need to heal." 

Austin Film Festival will run from Oct. 24 to 31 at venues around the city. This is the 20th anniversary of the screenwriter-focused festival, and we'll continue to keep you updated as more films (with hopefully many more Austin and Texas connections) are announced. Badges for AFF 2013 are available here.

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