Emily Hagins

review grow up tony

Coming-of-age films are often centered around something big like death or sex, but most people grow up with hurdles built on somewhat lesser obstacles. Tony Phillips (Tony Vespe) is one such person. His high school years are winding down, his friends are moving on and his mother is reminding him that college life is right around the corner, but the challenge facing him right this minute is his absolute love for all things Halloween. Writer/director/wunderkind Emily Hagins is a twenty-year-old filmmaker who made her first feature at the age of 12 and scored a nationwide distribution deal with her last film, My Sucky Teen Romance. Her new movie, Grow Up, Tony Phillips, once again presents a casual, charming and youth-centric world, but she makes some important steps forward in her professional growth too. Unfortunately though it’s a bit of a “one step forward, one step back” situation.


Grow Up Tony Phillips Poster

In Grow Up, Tony Phillips, a young man (Tony Vespe) has to face a senior year of high school where everyone has moved on from the hobbies of the past while he’s still hopelessly in love with Halloween and all its trapping. His hip older cousin (A.J. Bowen) swings into town and takes Tony under his wing but the costume-making teen has to face his own changing world. This is the fourth film from Emily Hagins, the director who’s been making films since she was 12 years old. The production (who, full disclosure, I’m friends with) has now put together a trailer with the movie heading up to SXSW for its premiere on Tuesday. Check it out for yourself:


Grow Up, Tony Phillips

Long-time readers of our site will note that we’ve been following the career of director Emily Hagins (Pathogen, My Sucky Teen Romance) for years. She’s a local kid, based right here in Austin, who has made news for being one of the youngest faces on the independent film scene. But there’s more to it than that. Being a kid who made a movie is one thing. Being a kid with some serious talent and nothing but promise is another. Fitting snuggly into the latter category is Ms. Hagins, whose next film is currently in need of your crowd-funding assistance. It’s called Grow Up, Tony Phillips, and it’s about something to which I’m sure we can all relate.


Grow Up Tony Phillips

It’s not often that you get to see an exciting filmmaking talent growing and developing before your eyes, but one such example can be found in Emily Hagins. It’s impressive enough that she’s directing a film at the age of nineteen, but when you realize her latest will be her fourth feature? It’s enough to make a person wish for a time machine so they could go back in time to light a fire under their own ass. Hagins’ last movie, My Sucky Teen Romance, was a popular feature on the festival circuit and saw a DVD release last month from Dark Sky Films. Again, impressive for a film featuring no name talent to speak of. (Apologies to the two hundred and forty eight Austin bloggers who appeared throughout the film in various capacities.) She’s stepping up her game for her new film with both a more mature story and some recognizable talent in front of the camera. Genre and indie favorites Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) and AJ Bowen (The House of the Devil) have signed on to star in Grow Up, Tony Phillips which is scheduled to begin production in the next month or so. Even better, you can have a hand in the film’s production too. Check out the full press announcement below or go straight to the film’s Kickstarter page to help make Grow Up, Tony Phillips a reality (and score some pretty cool swag in the process).


Looper by Martin Ansin

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly news column that doesn’t always have something to say. But when it does, the geeks of the world listen. We begin this evening with some great DREDD concept art found by the folks at Comic Book Movie, picked up via Germain Lussier’s ever-excellent Superhero Bits column. The excitement I have for this, one of Fantastic Fest’s big name films, has gone through the roof as more reactions come in, including that of our own Nathan Adams at TIFF.


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!


Emily Hagins My Sucky Teen Romance

When it was announced that the newest film from eighteen-year-old director Emily Hagins, entitled My Sucky Teen Romance, was going to premiere at SxSW, I was ecstatic. Almost every member of our SXSW coverage team either lives or has previously lived in Austin and knows Emily personally. Hell, some of us even donated our time to assist in the movie’s completion. That made it slightly difficult to lend our voices to reviewing the film. So do we decline to review it? Do we expend no words on it at all? Yes…and no. There is a story here, and a damn good one at that, completely divorced from the film itself. Emily’s story. Hagins wrote her first feature-length film, Pathogen, at age 11.  The next year, she earned a grant from the Austin Film Society to produce Pathogen, effectively becoming the youngest recipient of that award. Her tireless dedication to making her first feature film, and the fact that she wasn’t even in high school yet, attracted the attention of a trio of documentary filmmakers who noticed Hagins’s casting call posted on a local website called Austinactors.net. They crafted their 2009 film Zombie Girl: The Movie around her efforts. Between 7th and 8th grade, when the biggest thing that happened to most of us was getting our first kiss at a skating party, she was hard at work on The Retelling, her second feature. And now, here at SXSW 2011, Hagins’s third film played to bright marquee lights and packed houses […]


This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we do what Hollywood finds impossible by creating a successful reboot. The show is getting an upgrade (which is why you can hear both drilling and confetti being tossed constantly in the background), and the new format promises to make everyone who listens to the show three inches taller and wildly, wildly wealthy. As in, so wealthy you’ll have to figure out how to buy off politicians. You can check out the show guide below, but the quick and dirt version involves two beloved Rejects battling it out in a game of wits, a teenage director seeing her first SXSW premiere, a visual effects artist arguing on behalf of post-conversion 3D, and 5 myths about production that ensure movies will be crappy. Loosen up your tie and stay a while. Listen Here: Download This Episode



The first trailer for My Sucky Teen Romance, the horror comedy from teen filmmaking sensation Emily Hagins (Pathogen, The Retelling) has hit the web after making its debut at this past weekend’s Wizard World Austin Comic-Con. And as you might not expect, it’s a movie that doesn’t feel like it was directed by someone who just turned 18. In fact, you wouldn’t have even noticed that it was directed by an 18-year old if I hadn’t just mentioned it. Twice. But now that you know, please don’t hesitate to be impressed by the quality of the production. Allowing yourself to be awed by the maturity Ms. Hagins shows (especially visually) isn’t a distraction, either. There’s real talent here — talent that can be seen in two and a half minute teaser. And that’s not something we can say of every filmmaker, despite their age.


My Sucky Teen Romance

Having seen both of Emily Hagins’s films – Pathogen and The Retelling – I can firmly say that while there is a spark of potential in both, the amateur nature of both is what shines through the most. Of course, both films come with the caveat of being made by a teenager, but it’s clear that the films are low-budget learning processes. That’s why I was taken aback by the first image that’s emerged from her new film, My Sucky Teen Romance. With a slightly bigger budget and some bigger names in the Austin film scene at her side, the look of the film has jumped from a young girl borrowing her mom’s camera to a young filmmaker making a mark.



Friends, Romans, Countrymen, there is a rare opportunity in this life to do the right thing. Whether it’s sheltering those kittens that were going to be euthanized or volunteering to be the one to tell that co-worker about their offensive body odor, the call to greatness doesn’t come around just every day. And when it does, you have to be ready for it.



You may remember the film Zombie Girl: The Movie from Adam Sweeney’s coverage of Fantastic Fest ’08. In his review he called it a “diamond in the rough,” placing it among the best docs he’d seen in all of 2008. We now have a trailer for the film, in anticipation of its Slamdance premiere.



Every film festival has a diamond in the rough. For Austin’s Fantastic Fest the honor belongs to Zombie Girl: The Movie, the story of local writer/director Emily Hagins who made a feature-length zombie movie… at the age of twelve.

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published: 01.30.2015
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