Austin Cinematic Limits

Austin Cinematic Limits

As many of you probably know, I have been juggling an all-consuming day job with various writing gigs, essentially leaving no time for anything else (life, sleep); and, as the saying goes, all work and no play makes Don a dull boy. We have enough Jack Torrance’s in this world, and before I start running around abandoned hotels with an ax, I figured it was in my best interest to start hacking away at my current workload.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

A New Orleans native, writer-director Todd Berger moved to Austin to attend The University of Texas. After graduating from UT’s Radio-Television-Film program, Berger was quickly swept away to the always sunny shores of Los Angeles. With The Scenesters (2009) and It’s a Disaster (2012), Berger has become yet another success story to come out of UT’s film program; and even though he did not spend very much time in Austin, Berger has maintained very strong ties with the Austin film community. So, when we heard that Berger was coming to Austin for the regional premiere of his latest directorial effort, It’s a Disaster, at the 2012 Austin Film Festival we thought it would be fun to get his outsider perspective on the Austin…

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Eric Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse (1967) serves as a purposeful point of reference for writer-director Will James Moore’s Satellite of Love — not only does Moore cast the lead actor of La Collectionneuse (Patrick Bauchau) as an eccentric friend, but Moore even mimics the tranquil Mediterranean atmosphere of La Collectionneuse by setting Satellite of Love in the vineyards of the Texas Hill Country. Satellite of Love maintains the visually vibrancy of the French New Wave, particularly with its impeccably crafted mise-en-scène. Satellite of Love is absolutely gorgeous, from the oh-so-beautiful cast to Steve Acevedo’s masterful cinematography. Rohmer would probably be very proud that he inspired Moore’s film. Moore and I have been in correspondence ever since the film’s world premiere at the 2012 Dallas International Film Festival; but it was not until the 2012 Austin Film Festival that I finally had a chance to sit down with him and Jonathan Case (co-writer and music supervisor) to talk about Satellite of Love and making films in Central Texas.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Like an absurd psychological study of the multiple personalities of modern life in Austin, writer/director Don Swaynos’ Pictures of Superheroes cleverly juxtaposes a slackerish man-child with a self-absorbed entrepreneur. Joe (John Merriman) and Eric (Shannon McCormick) reside in the same house together but have grown so far apart that Eric no longer recognizes Joe’s existence. Literally, Eric is so busy that forgets that he has a roommate; all the while, Joe stays around the house all day, haunting Eric by perpetually messing up the house. On one fateful day, Eric discovers Marie (Kerri Lendo) hopelessly wandering down the street while donning the maid’s uniform in which she lives, sleeps and dreams. Eric hires Marie as his personal maid, thus dragging her into the absurd world in which he exists. Swaynos’ script is saturated with dry and subtle humor built upon the surreal situation of someone no longer realizing that they have a roommate. Pictures of Superheroes delves deeply into interpersonal relationships, specifically focusing on the disconnections and selfishness that seem to have become inherent in our oh-so-hectic modern society. In Swaynos’ unique cinematic place, there is a moral responsibility to obtain a work/life balance, to pay attention to one’s surroundings, and to exist. Despite the fact that Eric and Joe’s approaches to work and life are so drastically opposite, their choices have stuck them in the same exact place. Their house is in a bizarre limbo in which they must reexamine their life philosophies in order to escape. I sat […]

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Austin Cinematic Limits

University of Texas at Austin senior Irene Georghiades is the producer of two short films that have been selected to premiere at the 2012 Austin Film Festival (October 18-25). Andrew Tilley‘s Incident at Public School 173 and Zach Endres‘ The Teleported Man could not be more different from each other, but they share strong artistic visions and impeccable production values. Thinking back to the olden days when I was working on student films, I cannot believe that students are able to churn out such high quality work nowadays. It is really exciting to me that these films represent the future of the Austin film community. I chatted with Georghiades about working in the Austin film community, her role as a producer, and what she hopes to get out of her first film festival experience.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I have been attending the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) religiously for the last six years (and a bit more sporadically for the eight years prior to that). Sure, I do not consider myself to be lesbian, gay, bi or transgender, but I do have a soft spot for New Queer Cinema. I consider Todd Haynes, Gus Van Zant, Gregg Araki, Pedro Almodóvar, Jamie Babbit, Derek Jarman, James Cameron Mitchell, Céline Sciamma and Xavier Dolan to be some of the most adventurous and exciting filmmakers of the last couple of decades. Not only do they expand upon the traditional cinematic representations of sexuality and gender, but their films push the boundaries of the narrative form. That said, I feel like my choices have been kind of limited when it has come to aGLIFF’s programming; because, to be brutally honest, there is such a thing as “too queer” for my tastes. I was clearly not aGLIFF’s target demographic, and I totally understand that; but, despite being an outsider, I have consistently walked away from each aGLIFF with three to five stand-out films that have ended up on my year-end lists. This being its 25th year, aGLIFF opted for a major face lift. A clever new re-branding scheme changed the name of the festival to Polari, thus removing any gender-specific terminology (which seems to be in a constant state of flux anyway) in an attempt to make the festival open to everyone (not just gays and lesbians, as suggested […]

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Austin Cinematic Limits

As was also the case with the previous seven Fantastic Fests, I wish I had more time to see more films at Fantastic Fest 2012. That’s the bad part about having an all-consuming day job, it prohibits me from going totally hog wild at local film festivals. Sure, said job pays my mortgage, but I am really pissed off that it prohibited me from witnessing Joe Swanberg knocking out Devin Faraci at the Fantastic Debates. The previous night at the Chaos Reigns Karaoke Party, I did catch Swanberg perform Counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones” (which, I should note, is one of my least favorite songs of all time) which was followed closely by Swanberg’s boxing coach Ti West performance of The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” — though, I have got to say that the karaoke performance of the evening goes to Tim League‘s krautrock interpretation of Enya’s “Orinoco Flow.” Sadly, though, that is the only Fantastic Fest event that I was able to attend. Yes, I even had to miss the Red Dawn-themed closing night party! Of course my liver has been continuously thanking me for not destroying it, but my liver clearly does not understand that half the fun of Fantastic Fest is waking up each morning with a massive hangover. Just you wait until next year, liver! You will suffer the alcohol-fueled wrath of Fantastic Fest!

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I have been keeping a very close eye on The Quiet Girl’s Guide to Violence ever since its successful Kickstarter campaign this past spring. The film’s teaser looked awesome and so did the artwork, my only hesitation was that the finished product might be all style with no substance. But when the genre connoisseurs at Fantastic Fest announced that they would be hosting the world premiere of The Quiet Girl’s Guide to Violence, that gave me a lot of hope for this locally shot short film. Fantastic Fest has programmed very few local productions in its eight year lifespan, so it is not like they do local filmmakers any favors. After watching the finished product, it is no surprise that Fantastic Fest jumped at the opportunity to premiere Rafael Antonio Ruiz and Jennymarie Jemison’s short film. The Quiet Girl’s Guide to Violence is extremely stylish; yet it also features a break-out performance by Jemison as Holly, the titular quiet girl. This is not just violence for the sake of violence, there is actually some heart and soul associated with it. Holly has been bullied for far too long, she’s not going to take it anymore. We met up with Jemison and Ruiz at the Highball, during a brief interlude from Fantastic Fest activities, to discuss their approach to funding via Kickstarter as well as their masterful branding of The Quiet Girl’s Guide to Violence.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

For those of you who reside in the Big Apple and want to see one of Austin’s finest films of the last few years, Clay Liford‘s Wuss will be screening at the reRun Theater in Brooklyn on September 17 courtesy of Filmwax. Wuss is a masterful work of sound and vision, clearly exceeding the production values of most independent cinema. Liford’s uniquely desaturated, nearly monochromatic aesthetic visually binds this feature with his debut feature (Earthling), while clearly separating himself from most other filmmakers. If Wuss was produced in Hollywood, it would certainly include bright, cheery and over-saturated cinematography and a Billboard Top 40 soundtrack, but that is clearly not how Liford sees (or hears) the world. Lastly, Nate Rubin‘s lead performance as Mitch — a meek and measly twerp of a high school English teacher (technically, a substitute with a long-term assignment) who is otherwise known as “Little Bitch” — is nothing short of masterful. Speaking of Rubin, have you seen this Papa John’s commercial?

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Austin Cinematic Limits

  I was going to yell at most of you (yes, even you!) for not buying an advance ticket to Cinema East‘s Tugg screening of I Am Not a Hipster. Why? Because I really want to see that film, but not enough pre-sale tickets were sold so it was cancelled. But as I thought about it some more, I realized that my yelling would have probably come off as being condescending or patronizing. Besides, it is not my job to lecture the Austinites reading this column about their lack of support of independent film, now is it? It does sound like Cinema East is going to give us another chance to see I Am Not a Hipster in the near future, so stayed tuned…and please don’t let me down ever again. While on the subject of cancelled screenings… You know those high winds that came in with the “cold front” on Saturday? Well, those very same winds that brought our daytime temperatures down into the 80s (!!!) destroyed the screen at the Blue Starlite! For those of you who were disappointingly turned away from the sold out Saturday night screening of Grease, there will be a “wind check” (you know, like a rain check but without the rain) date on September 28 but you do need to send an email to them to confirm your slot. If you cannot make it that screening, you can use your “wind check” anytime before the end of the year; you just need email the Blue Starlite […]

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I have been anxiously awaiting Fantastic Fest 2012 (September 20-27) ever since the carnivalesque tomfoolery of the Fantastic Fest 2011 closing party. Year after year, Tim League and the Fantastic Fest programmers have totally blown me away with their impeccable curating of genre films. And the parties… Oh, the parties! If my liver could talk, the stories it would tell… If history serves, Fantastic Fest 2012 will continue to expand upon its awesomeness, so this year will probably be ten times more amazing than last year’s festival. The announcements that Fantastic Fest has made so far with the first wave and second wave of programming have already solidified the fact that this will be the best damn Fantastic Fest of them all. First off, Tim Burton will be in attendance at the world premiere of Frankenweenie on the opening night of Fantastic Fest 2012. Sure, I have not been a fan of most of his recent work, but that makes him no less of a cinematic genius in my mind. And, while on the subject of this year’s festival guests, I pretty much peed my pants with excitement when I heard that Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be coming to Fantastic Fest with their film Looper. Color me thrilled!

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I received ton of emails after my “What Works for Austin Filmmakers?” post last week, which provided me with motivation to continue on with part two this week. One thing is obvious, this is a very touchy and emotional subject. Several filmmakers contacted me with their personal insights, all of which will appear one way or another in this or subsequent posts. Some emails were critical of certain members of the local film community, but I will not mention anyone’s names. My goal is to do whatever I can to help foster a more supportive and successful film community, so I am not here to get in the middle of any personal grievances. I do think there is a certain level of validity in many of the claims, but I will keep the criticisms as general as possible. So, I ended my last post with my thoughts on micro-budget genre films and promised to discuss comedies next. Comedies have long been a part of micro-budget filmmaking (especially student films), but most of the time these comedies lack a strong script and passable production quality. Austin is extremely lucky in that it has a very talented go-to pool of comedic actors (I’m looking at you, Chris Doubek, John Merriman, Kerri Lendo, Ashley Spillers, Heather Kafka, Kelli Bland, Paul Gordon and everyone else whom I am forgetting at this particular juncture), but its the films with impressive writing and production values that have historically achieved a higher level of success. This is how […]

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Last Wednesday, Austin Film Society moderated a discussion at Austin Studios between Kelly Williams, Kat Candler, David Zellner and Clay Liford titled Short Filmmakers Bridging the Gap to Features. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend that event, but it’s existence did prompt me to begin pontificating about the various strategies that Austin filmmakers are employing in attempting to take their careers to the next level. Short films definitely seem to be the most obvious place to begin. Most of us who studied film in college understand some of the roles that short films can play in establishing one’s career. Shorts are like calling cards in the film industry. You can make shorts as an economic way to prove to others that you know how to write, direct, shoot, edit and/or act. Personally, I have always liked the idea of shooting a segment of a feature film and releasing that as a short in order to rally up interest and support for the feature. This gives potential funding sources the opportunity to see the vision of the filmmaker and gain a better understanding of the style and tone of the yet-to-be-made feature.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

P.J. Raval and Kelly Williams had barely unpacked from their trip to the Sundance Creative Producing Labs when IFP announced that Untitled Gay Retiree Documentary and Hellion were selected as part of its Project Forum for the 34th edition of Independent Film Week (September 16-20, 2012). Untitled Gay Retiree Documentary (directed by P.J. Raval, produced by Sara Giustini) was chosen in the Spotlight on Documentaries category which contains 49 other documentary features currently at an early financing stage to those nearing completion. Hellion (written and to be directed by Kat Candler, produced by Kelly Williams) will participate in the No Borders International Co-Production Market which includes 42 other narrative projects in development. Austin will be represented by a third film at IFP, Clay Liford‘s script-in-progress, Cutlet (written and to be directed by Clay Liford, produced by Angie Meyer and Brock Williams), which will participate in the Emerging Narrative section with 24 other feature scripts in development. The purpose of Independent Film Week is to provide opportunities for filmmakers to connect with financiers, executives, influencers and decision-makers who can help them complete their projects. A slate of 165 films were selected by IFP for this year’s Project Forum.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Have you ever really experienced Burning Love? I mean have you ever really hunkered down and made a two-hour marathon of it with 200 or so total strangers? It might sound like an overwhelming experience because there is just so much to take in, so I wholeheartedly recommend inviting “Macho Man” Ken Marino to join in the festivities, as he will surely make you feel at ease each and every time that he offers up his hose. In case you have not already guessed, I am talking about Marino’s Yahoo! Comedy series, Burning Love. Alamo Drafthouse programmer John Gross brought star/director/producer Ken Marino and writer/producer Erica Oyama to the Alamo South Lamar (Austin) this past weekend for a Burning Love Marathon (proceeds from the ticket sales went directly to the Austin Firefighters’ Relief & Outreach Fund). Admittedly, I had never succumbed to the temptation of Burning Love prior to this marathon event, mainly because I do not enjoy watching television shows online. Luckily, Marino is a frequent visitor to Austin so I knew an event like this one would probably come to fruition eventually. I had missed the sneak peaks of Burning Love at the Off-Centered Film Fest and the Ultimate Childrens Hospital Marathon, but now I am glad to have waited to experience all 14 episodes of the first season in one sitting. Because… Wow! It is a really great series to experience with a drunkenly enthusiastic audience.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I had no intentions of making this another “news” post (this was supposed to be a rambling soliloquy on micro-budget genre filmmaking in Austin), but shortly after I had published last week’s Austin Cinematic Limits column on The Latest Austin Movie Success Stories, I heard yet another fantastic Austin movie success story. Two of the eleven projects selected for the Sundance Creative Producing Labs this year are from Austin! Color me impressed…and incredibly proud. Kelly Williams (who was featured in Austin Cinematic Limits in February 2012) has been selected to participate in the Feature Film Creative Producing Lab, a five-day Lab where narrative feature film producers work with an accomplished group of Creative Advisors to develop their creative instincts, communication and problem-solving skills in all stages of film production. This year’s Creative Advisors include producers Anne Carey (The American, Adventureland), Karin Chien (Circumstance, Exploding Girl), Lynette Howell (Terri, Blue Valentine) and Paul Mezey (Beasts of the Southern Wild, Sugar). Williams was selected for his work on writer-director Kat Candler’s Hellion, which premiered at Sundance 2012 as a short film and is now in the early stages of being developed into a feature-length production.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Austin will be representin’ at the Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards. As if winning the Truer Than Fiction Award at the 2012 Independent Spirit Awards weren’t enough, Austin filmmaker Heather Courtney’s Where Soldiers Come From (which was broadcast on PBS’s POV series) just received an Emmy nomination in the “Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story – Long Form” category. The awards ceremony will take place Monday, October 1 at the Lincoln Center in New York City. If you have not seen Where Soldiers Come From, it will be rebroadcast in September. And, don’t worry, I will remind you again. Former Austinite Kyle Henry‘s Fourplay (which boasts an Austin-centric cast and crew including producer Jason Wehling, cinematographer PJ Raval and actor Paul Soileau) premiered at San Franciso’s Frameline36 in June and it just screened last night in Los Angeles at Outfest 2012. I can only assume that Fourplay will be screening at many more LGBT festivals in the coming year and the Austin premiere will probably take place at aGLIFF 2012 (October 3-7, 2012) but that’s merely an assumption. Austin filmmaker and graphic designer, Yen Tan (Ciao) wrapped principal photography on his newest feature Pit Stop last week. Pit Stop tells the parallel stories of two gay men living in a small Texas town. These two men are “country queers” who have opted to live someplace where their lifestyle is not tolerated. Being gay is part of their identity, but they are not “out”; instead, they find ways to blend […]

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Kyle Day’s first feature, Cherry Bomb, plays as an homage to the gritty and sexy grindhouse and sexplotation flicks of the early 1980s. The film’s protagonist, Cherry (Julin Jean), is an exotic dancer who is attacked by a group of men in the strip club where she works. When the hospitalized Cherry learns that her assailants have avoided arrest, she vows to kill them all and let god sort them out. Thanks to an impressive trailer that spread like wildfire throughout the blogosphere, Well Go USA Entertainment took notice and snagged the rights to release the Austin-filmed Cherry Bomb on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital. To celebrate the film’s official home video release on July 10, The Show! Austin is screening Cherry Bomb at the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane. There will be a Q&A after the screening with director Kyle Day, writer-producer Garrett Hargrove and actors Julin Jean and Denise Williamson. Of course, the screening sold out well in advance via Tugg; so if you do not already have a ticket, you will just have to read our interview with Kyle Day and then watch Cherry Bomb on Blu-ray, DVD or Digital (or vice versa).

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Austin Cinematic Limits

How many movie fans does it take to paddle down the Guadalupe River to a Drafthouse Films screening of Klown? Even after the Ultimate Klown Canoe Trip on Saturday, there’s still no answer for that. All I know is that film critics are much better at being witty and snarky than they are at canoeing. Nonetheless, the endless amounts of free beer definitely helped distract us from the fact that we were outside and exercising. The weather was even somewhat pleasant — low 90s and cloudy. Twitch’s Josh Hurtado and I did not know each other beforehand, but everyone else had already paired up and we were the odd men out. So, we grabbed our life jackets, paddles and canoe, hit the river and became fast friends. Right at the onset of our journey there was a massive pile up of canoes (and we had not even reached the “canoe-eating tree” yet!). Once we cleared ourselves of that mess, Josh and I opted to distance ourselves from the pack and never look back… We navigated the shallow river quite well — only having to get our feet wet a few times — and if it was a race, Josh and I won (just barely beating Tim and Karrie League who came out of nowhere in the closing quarter mile). Sure, we did not get to paddle in the pack of critics alongside Klown‘s Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam (though I did sit beside Hvam on the bus ride), but Josh […]

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Austin Cinematic Limits

Austin has a drive-in movie theater? Really? No way! Actually it makes total sense, since Austin is a city that really loves movies and really loves cars [and pickup trucks and SUVs]. Besides, it seems to never rain here, so the weather is perfect for outdoor movie screenings. Way back in 2010, native Austinite Josh Frank (author of “In Heaven Everything is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre” and “Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies”) took a cue from San Francisco’s mobile drive-in MobMov.org — he constructed a modestly sized outdoor screen, acquired some car-speaker posts from defunct drive-ins via eBay, and restored a vintage runabout to use as a concession stand. Frank’s Mini Urban Drive-in, The Blue Starlite, has existed in varying capacities and locations for the last two years. When he found out a few months ago that his lease at 1001 E 6th Street would not be renewed, the future of The Blue Starlite seemed uncertain. One of Austin’s best kept cinematic secrets was in jeopardy of disappearing forever. Along came a surprising announcement from the Austin Film Society — The Blue Starlite found a summer home at Austin Studios (1901 E 51st Street). They even built their first real drive-in movie screen to complement the new location.

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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.05.2014
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