Classes and Seminars

Kat Candler Wants to Teach You Indie Filmmaking


Kat Candler Still PhotoLocal filmmaker Kat Candler is hosting a two-day indie filmmaking workshop May 2-3. As frequent Slackerwood readers surely know, Candler is an award-winning writer and director. Her films Hellion (both short and feature), Black Metal and Jumping Off Bridges screened at Sundance, SXSW Film Festival, and many other film festivals.

Candler's feature film Hellion, starring Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis, was a Sundance Creative Producing Lab participant and premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. I saw the movie at Sundance 2014 --- read my review and Don's review -- and interviewed Candler while I was there. Hellion was released in theaters last June through IFC Films.

Candler is also a 2014 Sundance Women’s Initiative Fellow, and was one of the panelists for the "Indie Filmmakers Share Their Secrets For Working With Actors" session at the SXSW Film Conference last month.

AFF's Conversations in Film Delves into 'Neverland' with David Magee


Finding Neverland poster

By Ciara Gee

Recently, screenwriter David Magee sat down with Barbara Morgan, co-founder and executive director of the Austin Film Festival, to discuss his first screenplay, Finding Neverland (2004). The event was part of AFF's ongoing Conversations in Film series. Magee's discussion about how he ventured into screenwriting hit several topics of interest to writers.

Getting started

In addition to adapting the play Finding Neverland, Magee has worked on two other adaptations: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008) and last year's Life of Pi. Magee started the discussion by sharing how he came to write screenplays.

"I took an unusual route," he told the Austin audience. He meant that he started as a theatre actor and then began doing voiceover work for abridged audiobooks. It was during this time that he encountered a rather difficult project.

"One night, after reading an awful abridgement of a novel, I said to the producer, 'I can do better than this.'" The producer called his bluff, suggesting that Magee try his luck at writing his own abridgement to the piece. He came through and, over the following five years, succeeded in abridging more than 80 audiobooks.

Chancing upon a project

During this time, Magee had the opportunity to become acquainted with a producer who introduced him to Allan Knee, a playwright who had adapted Little Women into a musical for the stage. Knee had recently written "The Man Who Was Peter Pan," a story about the life of playwright J. M. Barrie, which he expanded into a play of the same name. The producer, aware of Magee's knack for successfully abridging novels, encouraged him to adapt the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan for the screen. Always open to trying his hand at something new, Magee agreed.

2013 Guide to Austin Summer Film Camps


Summer @ Austin Studios Presented by H-E-B

Updated on 5/30 with RTF Summer Camp information

Kids aren't the only ones who look forward to summer. With sky-high temperatures and the last day of school approaching, Slackerwood brings you some suggestions of great summer film camps in the Austin area -- perfect for parents searching for fun summer activites for the kids.

A film or movie camp is a great tool for kids interested in the filmmaking or creative process. Many of the workshops start with the basics, taking your child through the pre-production, shooting, and post-production stages of a film set. Classes are also geared towards other crafts such as acting, editing, animation and writing for the screen. 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.

We've listed the camps below according to age, meaning the classes accepting the youngest students are listed from the top to bottom of the page. Many camp sessions begin in early June, so act quickly to sign up for classes. They typically run for one to two weeks at a time, although a few are longer. A few camps around town (such as the Austin Film Society's Summer Filmmaking Camp) already have sessions that are sold out, but do have waiting lists available.

Network and Sharpen Skills Through Austin Film Meet

Austin Film Meet

Austin boasts a wide range of networking opportunities within the local film industry, and a few years ago I joined Reel Women at their First Monday Mix at Opal Divine's Penn Field from time to time. Sadly Reel Women is no more, but from its more active members a new group has grown -- Austin Film Meet. Austin Film Meet is presented by the Association for Independent filMedia (AIM), which is focused on "facilitating opportunities for independent film, video and media makers of all types and skill levels ... by bringing people together to support, network, learn and collaborate."

The primary coordinator for the Austin Film Meet is H. Cherdon Bedford, a local actress and filmmaker whom I met at the Austin Film Organizations panel held at the University of Texas at Austin's Women in Cinema April meeting. I was thoroughly impressed with Bedford's enthusiasm and creativity. I was especially pleased and excited to hear from Bedford about Austin Film Meet and multiple networking and workshop opportunities offered for the local film industry. Two events are planned so far for June.

Actors Remember Houston Theatre Professor Cecil J. Pickett


An Afternoon With the ArtistsBy Viral Bhakta

On April 14, the University of Houston (UH) School of Theatre & Dance celebrated the career of professor Cecil J. Pickett through the eyes of his talented and well-known students Brett Cullen, Cindy Pickett, Dennis Quaid and Robert Wuhl.

The event "An Afternoon with the Artists," moderated by Houston PBS's Ernie Manouse, was a question-and-answer session that highlighted their time at UH and how their mentor, Cecil Pickett, influenced their lives and careers. The event benefitted the Cecil J. Pickett Scholarship Endowment Fund for students attending and aspiring to attend the School of Theatre & Dance.

Cecil J. Pickett was born in Ryan, Oklahoma and taught acting and directing at the University of Houston from 1970 to 1988. "Cecil's life was focused on training young artists for the profession. He touched hundreds of lives and produced many prolific actors," Manouse noted. During Pickett's time at UH, he directed a significant number of departmental productions and served as a director for the Houston Shakespeare Festival, a professional project established by the University of Houston. Pickett died in 1997.

For the four actors on the panel, one topic that helped stir up past memories was describing Pickett's experience as a teacher and director.

Robert Rodriguez Shares His 'El Rey' Network Ideas


In recent months, the news has included a constant stream of Robert Rodriguez stories, with his animation studios opening one week, winning an entrepreneurship award in another week, El Mariachi being inducted into the National Film Registry late last year, Machete Kills casting announcements almost daily in prep for shooting this summer, then Sin City 2 following that, then a Heavy Metal remake and the list doesn't end until early 2014 when his new television network, El Rey, will premiere on Comcast.

But amid his busy schedule, the Troublemaker Studios co-founder was able to set aside 90 minutes of his time to talk to the next generation of innovators, like he himself was back in the early 90s and still is today. The University of Texas at Austin hosted a conversation with Rodriguez and UT Radio-TV-Film Professor Charles Ramirez-Berg, "The Future of Latino Images in Film and Media," on May 2.

Chef du Cinema: Cinema Paradiso


Cinema Paradiso posterI don't remember when I first watched Cinema Paradiso but the memory of that loving embrace of a sentimental story propelled me to finally attend a Chef du Cinema class with Austin Film Society member and friend Ron Deutsch. The movie washed over me again just like the warm eggplant fritters served on a swirl of tangy marinara that kicked off the meal, along with a few sips of tempranillo from the Central Market Cooking School stash.

As Ron disclaimed before we walked in the door, the setting isn't a good one for anyone who values the darkened, silent theatrical experience but if you are willing to compromise for the addition of a cooking demonstration, you will be rewarded with a lovely meal while you enjoy the movie.

I had forgotten my favorite part of the film -- the movie reel of kisses and sexy bits. What an astonishingly wonderful detail of a time in movie history that was gone years before I was even born. It's amazing how our history is remembered by movies and food.

Ron's program notes are extensive on both the history of the film and the food. His travels to Italy had inspired the menu, and his meticulous research leaves me wondering how many hours of prep he spends on these monthly classes (he posts recipes so you can make your own "dinner and a movie" night).

I picked up some tips to use in the kitchen. I've been skeptical about the idea that citrus "cooks" seafood, a la ceviche, but I learned that it is indeed a good way to prep fresh fish. The citrus-marinated swordfish over arugula with orange slices (including a special knife technique for juicy segments) was my favorite course. I've been on a restricted diet all week so it matched my eating goals.

On the Film Scene in McAllen and Corpus Christi


With the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund application deadline swiftly approaching on June 1, the Austin Film Society is hitting the road in April and May with a series of workshops across the state. The idea behind these workshops is to spread the word about grant money AFS makes available to Texas filmmakers, while demystifying the application process.

The tour started in McAllen, followed by Corpus Christi, with future tour stops planned for Waco and Denton (4/19). Interim Artist Services Manager Austin Culp will be holding workshops in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston in the coming weeks.

The McAllen event on March 31 was co-sponsored by CineSol Film Festival and the McAllen/Mission Chamber of Commerce, with many thanks to Henry Serrato from CineSol for putting everything together. I met with a number of filmmakers interested in learning more about TFPF funding, and walked them through the application process step-by-step.

Henry took me for a tour of the historic Cine El Rey Theater in McAllen, home of the monthly Texas Independent Film Network screenings, which wrapped up the spring season with Mike Akel's An Ordinary Family. This being my first visit to the Rio Grande Valley, I was struck by the large population and sheer size of the area. It's very much a bustling hive of activity, reaching some 70 miles from Brownsville, through Harlingen, Edinburg, McAllen and Mission. Filmmakers from each of these cities attended the workshop.

Getting My Script Into Shape with The Screenplay Workshop


A couple of weeks ago I had the unique opportunity as a member of the Austin Film Society to attend a free screenwriting workshop taught by Jill Chamberlain of The Screenplay Workshop. This free two-hour class was an introduction for Chamberlain's five-week Fundamentals Class and ten-week Master Class.

When I arrived, the room was already full with 25 eager writers -- pens and paper at the ready. A second, unadvertised intro class had to be scheduled for people who were turned away after the first class filled up. Needless to say, there is a high demand for classes at The Screenplay Workshop for aspiring and professional writers alike.

I won't give away many of the details of Chamberlain's "Nutshell" technique, which was the main focus of the introductory class. You'll have to take my word for it and sign up for the class! I can say that as an aspiring writer, I've heard and read about countless structures, techniques, and gimmicks that claim to be the secret to the next great screenplay. The Nutshell is most certainly not a gimmick and has been one of the more thought-provoking ways to analyze the structure of a screenplay that I've seen.

Without sacrificing depth in plot or character, the Nutshell narrows down the screenplay to the fundamental elements of great storytelling, and allows the writer to define how these elements work together in the initial writing stages. Since the class, I have yet to watch a film that contradicts the Nutshell. The great harmony between freedom and rigidity is what I believe allows the Nutshell to stand the test of countless great movies.

Filmmakers: Maximize Your Fest Experience in Time for SXSW


Slacker 2011 red carpet

Jenn Brown and I often say we could write volumes on two topics: How to have the best film-festival experience, and how filmmakers can effectively promote their films. However, we're looking at these topics from the point of view of the press and people who like to watch movies. We're not filmmakers, so we can't speak from that point of view about film festivals.

Fortunately, Austin Film Society has a Moviemaker Dialogue next week just for filmmakers, in which a panel of experienced local writers/directors will offer their advice about how you can get the most out of a film festival, whether your film is screening at that fest or not. The "Maximizing Your Film Festival Experience" panel is moderated by me, and includes Kat Candler, Clay Liford, and Geoff Marslett. (That's Candler and Liford in the above photo.)

These filmmakers have taken their indie shorts and features around the country (and possibly out of the country; did you go to Sitges with Mars, Geoff?) to film festivals of all sizes. They've also all had films at SXSW, so they're certain to have advice specifically related to next month's film fest. They're a lively bunch and I think this is going to be an excellent session.

The panel takes place next Wednesday, February 29 at 7 pm at the Austin Studios screening room. If you have a Filmmaker-level AFS membership, admission is free, otherwise it's $5. You can get tickets online in advance -- it's not a huge space so I recommend buying (or reserving) now. Bring your best questions.

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