Independent Films

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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Film buffs know the names Sundance, Tribeca, and Cannes. They know the New York Film Festival. But if you don’t know about the Long Island International Film Expo, you’re missing too many great films. This year, LIIFE celebrated its fifteenth season of showcasing independent films and giving a home to many filmmakers whose work is worthy of finding an audience. Screening over one hundred short films, features, and documentaries from July 12 to July 19, there was no shortage of choices in the three to four film blocks scheduled every day during the Expo. The Expo is held every July in Bellmore, Long Island, New York, in the last privately owned stand-alone movie theater. Henry and Anne Stampfel have made the Bellmore a home for quality movies, many that would be impossible to find outside of Manhattan. The Bellmore is a cherished haven from the now-ubiquitous multiplex. Independent films are often made by people who need to have a huge amount of dedication and perseverance to get their work funded and viewed. This is why an event like the Expo is important to so many filmmakers who dream not only of making their films but finding an audience to appreciate them. The Expo screens films from all over the world including Poland, Australia, England, and the United States. Directors, producers, actors, and writers work with budgets that give tight a new meaning. Some succeeded more than others, though all were clearly labors of devotion to the art of film. Here’s […]

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The Motion Picture Association of America must die. It’s a monopolistic behemoth that poisons creativity and commerce while hiding behind the failed task of educating parents about film content, and the time has come to call for its dissolution. The above logo is what we, as movie fans, are most familiar with when it comes to the MPAA because we see it on trailers and home video, but that symbol is really a trick of PR. The goal of the MPAA is not to rate movies, even if that’s the product we know and loathe best. The MPAA’s founding, fundamental aim is to maintain the corporate dominance of its members – the six largest studios. It does not serve fans. It does not serve families. It does not serve filmmakers.

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In October of 2011, Representative Lamar S. Smith (of the great state of Texas) introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act to Congress. The bill’s aim was to bolster copyright holders in fights against those that infringe upon them, and that’s an important task. Intellectual property theft can be incredibly injurious to the victim. In fact, FSR had to cut through red tape in the fall of last year to stop a Chinese-based website from stealing its content and republishing it wholesale. Plagiarism is despicable, and stealing the hard creative work of others is too. However, SOPA is tantamount to drinking drain cleaner because your nose itches. The bill is unduly generic – granting massive powers to the government and entities who would wield it like a plaything to shut down websites for spurious reasons and to keep them down throughout what would inevitably be a drawn-out legal process. In short, for an accusation with no meat on it, some of your favorite sites could be shut down on a whim, creating both temporary and possibly permanent damage. As you can see from our masthead today, we’re in full support of the protest against SOPA (and PIPA, it’s cousin in the Senate). While we don’t know how powerful the SOPA blackout might be, we genuinely wish we could go dark as well, but it’s just not feasible for a site like ours that operates on a smile and a shoestring. Losing a day of revenue is just too much of a […]

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Ron Perlman has been a force in television and film for three decades. He’s no stranger to fans, especially those he won as Hellboy and as Clay Morrow on Sons of Anarchy, and he’s appeared in a handful of movies every year since 1993 (with 1996 and 1999 being the only years he appeared in only one). You know him. You love him. Now, we’re ready to pronounce 2011 The Year of The Perlman because while he’s worked steadily in movies small and big alike for a long time, this was the year that he really ate his spinach and showed his face in an almost absurd amount of flicks. What’s more, his performances spanned the quality spectrum enough to earn him the Shyamalan Award For Bizarrely Up and Down Work. It’s important to note that his acting was rock steady throughout, but even with (and with the addition of his talents), he was in some terrible (and some amazing) movies. From prestige films, to independent action, to summer epics, to that one thing with Nic Cage, Ron Perlman was everywhere doing everything.

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Can an indie filmmaker upset the apple cart twice in a career? Evidence seems to point to Edward Burns doing just that, quietly dominating a niche audience without the aid of big budgets (or any budgets really) and without the hollow aid of buy-the-bank advertising campaigns. His first bow on the scene was in 1995 with Sundance favorite The Brothers McMullen, and now he’s capitalizing on the same social networking tool that protestors are using to overthrow dictators: Twitter. At a time when Hollywood is struggling, post-movie star, to figure out what works, Burns is exercising a formula that involves tiny bottom lines and an audience that already trusts and reveres his work. It’s almost certain that few filmmakers will be able to rise to prominence through Twitter, but since Burns is a known entity dedicated to finding his fans and engaging with him, he’s been able to make back money with ease and tell the stories he wants to tell. His latest is Newlyweds, a slice of life written/directed/produced and starring Burns as one-half of a newly married couple whose lives (much like an apple cart) are upset by a half-sister coming on the scene. As the thorough Christina Warrren over at Mashable explains, Burns shot the flick for $9k and raised massive awareness for it and for his process using the little blue bird of tweeting. He also found talent through it. Her full article deserves a read, and in a time where mature adult situations are nearly […]

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Somehow, in the age of the Internet and information overload, Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has managed to complete production on a film that nobody ever knew was even in development. Apparently writing and directing Marvel’s upcoming, massive superhero team-up movie The Avengers hasn’t been keeping the creative visionary busy enough, because in his downtime he has penned an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, cast it, and put it in front of cameras. Wow, that shouldn’t help to make the Cult of Whedon any less fervent. Much Ado About Nothing is one of those Shakespeare comedies that takes several romantic couples and mixes up the pairings in order to produce momentary drama. I’m not sure if that’s really a legitimate way to categorize a work, but there are at least a few of them, I remember that much from college. The cast includes Whedon veterans Amy Acker and Alexis Denisoff playing the male and female leads Beatrice and Benedick, Franz Kranz and Jillian Morgese playing the secondary couple Claudio and Hero, and supporting roles by people like The Avengers’ Clark Gregg and additional Whedon vets like Nathan Fillion and Sean Maher. Maher himself confirmed on his Twitter account that this project isn’t a hoax by saying, “I promise you it’s the real deal and we’re VERY excited about it!” With those sorts of names put together in one cast, I’m sort of excited about it, too.

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Early yesterday, the LA Times blog released quotes from Atlas Shrugged Part 1 writer/producer John Aglialoro which indicated that he was throwing in the towel on making Part 2 and Part 3. The reason, of course, was that the film just didn’t make its money back. Aglialoro spent a reported $10m of his own cash on the production, and a second week drop off hurt the independent flick considerably. The movie has currently only made $3.2m at the box office. It started with an impressive per screen average, but as with other films which zero in on an audience, everyone who wanted to see the movie saw it opening weekend. The numbers dropped, and an expansion was scrapped. Aglialoro very specifically blames critics and what he believes is a collective “fear of Ayn Rand” amongst them for the movie’s failings. So much for personal responsibility. However, it’s his ire and hatred of the critical response that has caused an about-face. Aglialoro now claims that, while he was once defeated, he now stands ready to proceed with making Atlas Shrugged Part 2 and Part 3. Like all misunderstood artists, he should.

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Nobody Walks is the next project from Lena Dunham, the writer/director/star of last year’s ultra-low budget indie film Tiny Furniture. It tells the story of a Los Angeles family that takes in an artist and has their lives changed by the experience, presumably because of her free wheeling quirkiness. Dunham is one of those young filmmakers whose voice is so specific and whose films are focused so intently on the struggle of modern youth that they get derided as naval gazing and narcissistic. Kind of like a proto-Sofia Coppola. Given that criticism of her work, warranted or not, she has at least picked three actors who are well experienced working in said hipster genre for her next feature. Rosemarie DeWitt has already been in one of the last decade’s big unlikable white people movies with Rachel Getting Married, John Krasinski worked with Sam Mendes when he took his stab at hipster ennui in Away We Go, and Olivia Thirlby is known for almost nothing but playing in movies about quirky, self obsessed youths, starting with Juno. If you are one of those people who rolls your eyes at movies about upper class, faux artsy white people, then be sure you don’t roll them right out of the sockets while you’re reading this. But if you’re a person that sometimes enjoys them, like myself, then this is already an interesting looking project. Source: Variety

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Mark Cuban owns a lot of things, websites, cable channels, sports teams, and even some movie related companies. Magnolia Pictures is a distribution company that focuses on distributing foreign and art films in the United States. Landmark Theaters is a theater chain that plays those foreign and art films, the biggest one in the U.S. actually. They are both part of Cuban’s holdings, but now he’s put them up for sale. As a movie fan, I find this news to be pretty scary.

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With recent events involving fresh piracy lawsuits, and people vehemently defending their right to steal, it’s important to check out what filmmakers think about piracy. In the case of Kiowa Winans and Rhett Reese, it’s not as black and white as you’d think.

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Matthew Vaughn Kick-Ass

With Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn wanted to go against the grain and against the studios, and it looks like he may have done just that.

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We don’t come to mourn Miramax, but to bury you in great films to add to your rental queue.

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Forget about all the blockbusters of summer, here are ten films that hit DVD shelves in 2007 that you should be discovering.

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Air Guitar Nation

As we begin our year in review, it is important to look back at some of the films that most people missed along the way.

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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
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