Film and Politics

Extra Slackery News Tidbits (Plus Shameless Plug): July 17, 2013


It's a heavy Austin film news week, so here are some other news tidbits, courtesy of Mike and Jette.

  • Right on the heels of Jette's Cinematic Guide to Texas Politics, news hit yesterday that the producers of the Austin-shot film Machete (Jette's review) have filed suit in Travis County District Court against the Texas Film Commission. After being awarded $8 million in incentives to produce the film in Texas, the budget of Robert Rodriguez's film was increased, but the funds were pulled after the commission determined that "inappropriate" content of the film disqualified it from the grant. A sequel to the film, Machete Kills, also filmed in Texas, is opening Fantastic Fest this year. [MS]
  • Drafthouse Films announced its acquisition of the North American rights to the Danish hit comedy series Klown. The complete 60-episode TV series, which ran from 2005-2009, is now available on Hulu and Hulu Plus, and will be downloadable from starting Tuesday, July 23. Drafthouse Films also has distribution rights to the film Klown (J.C.'s review), based on the series, which premiered at Fantastic Fest in 2011. Warner Brothers is  planning an English-language remake. [MS]
  • Violet Crown Cinema will host a benefit screening of Prince Avalanche (Elizabeth's SXSW review), David Gordon Green's film shot in Central Texas. The event will take place on Thursday, July 25 and will include a cocktail party and post-film Q&A with Green and local composer David Wingo. Fittingly, the proceeds will go to the Heart of Pines Volunteer Fire Association, which still needs help after the Bastrop wildfires in 2011. Tickets are available through Violet Crown. [JK]
  • On Thursday night, Austin short filmmakers Umar Riaz, Brian Scofield and Tomas Vengris will screen several of their short films at Alamo Drafthouse Village. The lineup includes two Student Academy Award finalist films, Last Remarks and Kalifornija. You can buy tickets through Tugg. [JK]

Finally, a reminder from Jette: The Austin Chronicle 2013 "Best of Austin" poll is open for you to vote through Monday, July 22. Please do vote, and remember Slackerwood when you are considering the categories of Film Critic, Local Non-Chronicle Publication, News Website and Local Blog. (Or any other category where you think we might fit.)

A Cinematic Guide to Texas Politics


Along Came Kinky

Over the past few weeks, many people in Texas and out are being exposed to Lone Star political and legislative processes and quirks for the first time. It can be puzzling, rage-inducing and sometimes hilarious. (Occasionally, all three.)

Fortunately, many filmmakers have documented both the broad -- often as in comically broad -- and fine points of Texas politics over the years. So if you want to figure out what's been going on over there in the Capitol, perhaps some of the movies on this list might help you out. Or they'll give you a good laugh to help distract you from what's going on. Or you can treat them like old-fashioned melodramas and boo and hiss some of the villains. (This really has happened during some screenings of political movies I've attended.)

I'm sorry these all aren't available through streaming -- you might have to buy a DVD through the movie's website. Local filmmakers, please follow the lead of David Hartstein, who was motivated when I told him about this article to put Along Came Kinky (pictured at top) on Vimeo video-on-demand.

Incendiary: The Willingham Case (Don's review) -- The SXSW 2011 screening I attended was one with a lot of booing, mostly of Gov. Rick Perry. It's about the battle of science versus folklore -- with a strong assist from politics. Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 after being convicted for the 1991 deaths of his two children in a fire. Perry declined to issue a stay of execution despite evidence that showed the arson theory, which was the basis of the conviction, was faulty. (Available on DVD, iTunes, and through Tugg.)

Why Slackerwood is Joining the SOPA Strike


screenshot of Slackerwood "Takedown" SOPA Protest pageToday, January 18, Slackerwood is joining the national protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Incoming visitors will see a splash page erected for the event.

SOPA has been introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar Smith of Texas (including a small gerrymandered chunk of Austin). The legislation makes pirating movies and other content on the Internet, which is already illegal, double super-secret illegal.

It also mandates, for the first time, that a censorship infrastructure be built so pirated content can be blocked. This blocking could be done not by a court, but by order of a government agency. This is the sort of censorship regime that brought the Egyptians to overthrowing their government. And now it's happening right here, in the good old U.S. Magnited States of America.

The following video explains the Protect IP Act (PIPA), the version of anti-piracy legislation that has been moving through the U.S. Senate.

Texas Film Commission Hacks Away at 'Machete' Incentives


Film Incentive Bill Signing

I was stunned yesterday to hear the news from the Austin American-Statesman that the Texas Film Commission had denied film incentives to Machete, the latest feature from Robert Rodriguez and his local production company Troublemaker Studios. The commission cited the proviso in Texas law that can deny such benefits to movies that portray the state of Texas in a negative light. Unfortunately, this means a lot of Hollywood productions are going to view Texas in a negative light for future location shooting possibilities.

For the most part, the Texas film incentives program, revised in 2009, is similar to programs in other states. Movies, TV and videogame productions over a certain budget amount can apply for tax rebates up to a certain percentage of their budget. Productions apply for these rebates after the film is completed, and usually after it is released in theaters. Machete opened in theaters in September.

One proviso in the state law is causing the problems here: The Texas Government Code, section 485.022(e), states that the Texas Film Commission "is not required to act on any grant application and may deny an application because of inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion, as determined by the office, in a moving image project. In determining whether to act on or deny a grant application, the office shall consider general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the citizens of Texas." (Thanks to Rodney Perkins for pointing me at the right section.)

Interview: Eric Byler, '9500 Liberty'


9500 Liberty Filmmaker Eric Byler

As I noted last week, filmmaker Eric Byler was in Austin to promote 9500 Liberty, currently playing at the Dobie (Don's review). The documentary depicts the battleground in Virginia and on the Internet over an anti-immigration policy, the "Immigration Resolution," that the Prince William County board of supervisors adopted in 2008. To counteract the racial divisions that occurred in their community, county residents formed a resistance using YouTube videos and virtual town halls. The inflammatory showdown between the groups had profound and devastating social and economic impacts in their community.

Byler and Annabel Park not only co-directed 9500 Liberty, but co-founded the political action group Coffee Party USA in response to the politics that enabled the Virginia anti-immigration law to pass. Byler is the YouTube/Online Media Coordinator for the group, and has created a number of videos about political issues.

As he mentions in his interview, Byler screened two of his feature narrative films at SXSW: Charlotte Sometimes in 2002, which won an audience award; and Americanese in 2006, which won the Best Narrative Feature award and a special jury prize for Outstanding Ensemble Cast. I caught up with Byler before last week's 9500 Liberty special screening at the Texas History Museum and asked him a few questions.

Whole Foods Launches 'Let's Retake Our Plates' Film Series


I started poking around the web this week to see if details on any summer film series were up yet, and look what I came across ... the Whole Foods Let's Retake Our Plates Film Series

Apparently this isn't just a local event; Whole Foods is sponsoring screenings around the country. But unlike in the other cities, the movies in Austin are free. This is a perfect time to put thought into what you put on your plate, with the warmer weather making people crave fresher food.

The local schedule features three nights of provocative documentaries: 

Slackery News Tidbits and Treats

Austin Studios Open House, by leiabox on FlickrThe Austin film community news this week is dominated by the Austin Studios/Soundcheck Austin issue (see below), but a few other interesting bits of news are out there as well. If I missed anything, feel free to post news in the comments.

  • KXAN has a story about the Austin Studios lease for Soundcheck Austin, which is going before the Austin City Council on Thursday. Michael Corcoran also has a good thorough article in the Statesman. In addition, Austin Film Society has posted a Soundcheck Austin sublease fact sheet. The City Council meeting on Thursday should be interesting.
  • Check out Victor Diaz's story for News 8 Austin about the Texas Filmmaker Production Fund awards, which includes an interview with local filmmaker David Modigliani about his upcoming documentary, 61 Bullets.
  • The first official stills from Austin-shot horror film Red, White and Blue are now available on Fangoria. Debbie, were any of those pictures set in your house?
  • The South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery is now showing movies outdoors on selected evenings at 8:30 pm. Their schedule of upcoming movies includes a time-travel series: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (Thurs. 8/27), the Back to the Future trilogy (8/28-30), 12 Monkeys (8/31), Time Bandits (9/1) and Groundhog Day (9/2). [via Austin360]

TXMPA Board Gains Four Austin-Area Board Members


On Saturday, many Texas Motion Picture Association (TXMPA) members braved the heat to network and do some committee brainstorming after local caucuses voted for new local representatives earlier this month. The Central Region, which includes Austin, voted for Paul Alvarado-Dykstra as the regional board representative and Shelley Schriber as the alternate. Alvarado-Dykstra is a film producer, vice-president of Villa Muse, and a co-founder of Fantastic Fest.

TXMPA initiated an online election system for last week to allow all members in good standing to vote for At-Large board members, regardless of whether they would attend the meeting in San Marcos on Saturday. In previous years, members had to be present at the annual meeting to vote, which took up most of the general member meeting time.

Bowling for Slackery News Tidbits

Austin StudiosIt's Monday morning and we've got your hot exciting local film-related news for you! It's also too damn early for exclamation points and excitement. But, you know, some of this news is almost as energizing as coffee.

  • Austin Chronicle writer Marc Savlov asked Tim League exactly what in the world is going on with Alamo Drafthouse these days, and got some happy news. The Leagues are turning the old Salvation Army space near Alamo South into a bowling alley/private karaoke/fun space where you can wait to see a movie at Alamo or chat about one afterwards. I admit I got a little misty when I read that the bowling lanes are from the old Rock'n'Bowl in New Orleans. I assume this space will be ready in time for Fantastic Fest. Yay!
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