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Enter AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest!

You’ve seen all the films, you’ve picked your favorites, and now you’re ready to make your predictions. Try your luck at predicting the 88th Annual Academy Award® winners with AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest!  The entrant who most closely predicts the winners of the categories below will win our soon-to-be-named new badge to the 2016 Austin Film Festival and Conference.  The contest will close at the …

Photo Courtesy of Brian Helgeland

You’ve seen all the films, you’ve picked your favorites, and now you’re ready to make your predictions.

Try your luck at predicting the 88th Annual Academy Award® winners with AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest!  The entrant who most closely predicts the winners of the categories below will win our soon-to-be-named new badge to the 2016 Austin Film Festival and Conference.  The contest will close at the start of the Academy Awards® telecast on February 28th. Ballots are limited to one entry per person.

Enter Below:

 

No purchase necessary to enter or win AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest. Entry into this Contest constitutes your acceptance of these Official Rules:

Contest is open worldwide to anyone with a valid email address. When entering the Contest, an opportunity to sign up to receive follow-up information from Austin Film Festival may be available. Entrants subject to all notices posted online including but not limited to Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Employees or those living in the same household of Austin Film Festival and their respective parents, affiliates, prize suppliers, and advertising and promotion agencies are not eligible to enter or win. Entrants may need to provide further contact information upon request.

Austin Film Festival reserves the right to disqualify any Entry for any reason, in its sole and absolute discretion.

Only one entry per person, duplicate entries will not be counted. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen based on timing of entry.

Winners will be determined after the Contest’s end date and will be notified by email. Winners will be required to provide mailing address which will be used to fulfill the prize. At the discretion of the Austin Film Festival, Winner may be disqualified for any of the following reasons: not eligible based on the eligibility requirements set forth above. In the event it is determined within the specified time period, has made false statements or a prize notification is returned as undeliverable, then the Winner will be disqualified at Austin Film Festival’s sole discretion, the Entry with the next highest score may then be declared the alternate Winner.

Winner is solely responsible for all expenses, costs or fees associated with transportation and acceptance and/or use of the prize not specified herein as being awarded, including without limitation, and and all taxes (if any). Winner is not a recipient of a prize until they have been verified as the Winner by the Austin Film Festival. Upon fulfilling prize, Austin Film Festival will be deemed to have awarded the prize to the Winners and such Winners assume full responsibility for the prize. All prize details are at Austin Film Festival’s discretion.

Winning constitutes permission (except where prohibited by law) to use Winner’s name, images, hometown, likeness, prize won, and photograph (all at Austin Film Festival’s discretion) for future advertising, publicity in any and all media now or hereafter devised throughout the world in perpetuity, without additional compensation notification or permission. Contest Parties and their respective officers, directors, agents, representatives, and employees (collectively, “Released Parties”) are not responsible for lost, late, misdirected, damaged, stolen, altered, garbled, incorrect, incomplete or delayed Entries; all of which will be void. Released Parties are also not responsible for for problems related to technical malfunctions of electronic equipment, computer online systems, servers, or providers, computer hardware or software failures, phone lines, failure of any Entry to be received by Sponsor on account of technical problems, traffic, congestion on the internet or the website, or for any other technical problems including telecommunication, miscommunication or failure, and failed, lost, delayed, incomplete, garbled, or misdirected communications which may limit a contestant’s ability to participate in this Contest. Released Parties are not responsible for any other errors or malfunctions of any kind, whether network, printing, typographical, human or otherwise relating to or in connection with the Contest, including, without limitation, errors or malfunctions with may occur in connection with the administration of the Contest, the processing or judging of Entries, the announcement of the prize or in any Contest-related materials. Mass entries generated by a script, macro or use of automated devices will be disqualified. Austin Film Festival reserves the right to modify, suspend or terminate the Contest in the event it becomes infected by a computer virus or is otherwise technically impaired, and to cancel or suspend the Contest in its entirety should tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures or other causes corrupt the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper play of the Contest and, if terminated, at Austin Film Festival’s discretion, determine the Winner using all non-suspect, eligible entries received up to time of cancellation using the judging procedure outlined above. In the event of a dispute regarding entries received from multiple users having the same email account, the authorized subscriber of the email account at the time of Entry will be deemed to be the contestant and must comply with these Official Rules. Authorized subscriber is the natural person who is assigned the email address by the Internet Service Provider (ISP), online service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning email addresses. Austin Film Festival reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual (and void his/her Entries)) it finds to be tampering with the Entry process or the operation of this Contest or website, intending to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other contestant, Sponsor, or any of its representatives or to otherwise be acting in violation of these Official Rules. CAUTION: Any attempt by a contestant to deliberately damage any website or undermine the legitimate operations of the Contest is a violation of criminal and civil laws. Should such an attempt be made, the Austin Film Festival reserves the right to seek damages from any such contestant to the fullest extent permitted by the law and to disqualify such contestant from the Contest.

Failure to comply with these Official Rules may result in disqualification from the Contest. Austin Film Festival reserves the right to permanently disqualify any person it believes has intentionally violated these Official Rules. Contest subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited by law.

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Guest Blog: Jeb Stuart

In excitement and anticipation for the upcoming Die Hard screening with Jeb Stuart next week, Austin Film Festival asked him a few questions about the film. Don’t miss this holiday classic on Tuesday, December 15th at the historic Paramount Theatre. More details can be found here.     Austin Film Festival (AFF): How did the job of adapting Nothing Lasts Forever into the beloved Die …

jebstuartIn excitement and anticipation for the upcoming Die Hard screening with Jeb Stuart next week, Austin Film Festival asked him a few questions about the film. Don’t miss this holiday classic on Tuesday, December 15th at the historic Paramount Theatre. More details can be found here.

 

 

Austin Film Festival (AFF): How did the job of adapting Nothing Lasts Forever into the beloved Die Hard come about?
Jeb Stuart (JS): This is a long story. The abridged version is that I had a writing deal at Disney and my wife was pregnant with our second child and I needed money. My reading period was approaching–that 5-6 weeks period after I officially deliver my draft to Disney that I become non-exclusive–so my agent Jeremy Zimmer, made a two calls and was able to get me projects at Paramount and Fox, the only hitch was that I had to write them both at the same time and in that six week window. I think I mentioned that I was hungry…
Anyway. I really loved the Paramount concept but had some initial trouble with the producers so turned all my attention on Nothing Last Forever, the Rod Thorpe novel, which was essentially about a 60+ year old man who comes to LA to visit his adult daughter who is culpable in a bad business deal and accidentally drops her off the top of a building on Wilshire Blvd. I had no idea how to make it into a movie, but like I mentioned I was desperate. Anyway one night after a long day of writing I got into an argument with my wife at dinner, stormed out of the house, which I never do, and got in my car to head back to my office at the studio. About five seconds after I pulled out of the driveway, I regretted not saying I’m sorry (she was right, I was wrong) and while I was driving down the 134 freeway heading to Disney and debating my best way back into an apology a stake-bed truck, loaded with appliance boxes in front of me on the 134, hit something and a tall refrigerator box land upright in front of me. I didn’t have a time to switch lanes and went right through the box at 65 mph. Fortunately, the box was empty. I pulled over to the side of the road, caught my breath and then realized what the movie was. It wasn’t about a 60 year old man who drops his daughter off the top of a building. It was about a 30 year old guy who should have said, he’s sorry to his wife and then something bad happens…

AFF: What’s your favorite one-liner that you wrote in Die Hard?
JS: I have a few and none of them are from John McClane. I have always loved the line: “I guess we’re going to need more FBI guys.” when the helicopter with the two Johnsons goes down. And I have a soft spot for Holly’s relieved line when she sees the terrorists angry, “Only John could make someone that mad.”

AFF: Did you know from the get-go that Die Hard was going to be so lauded as a holiday film? What is your personal go-to holiday film?
JS: I didn’t know Die Hard would ever be lauded ever much less as a holiday film. I did want to do an LA film where you felt it should snow at the end.

I’m a It’s a Wonderful Life guy. No competition.

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STAFF PICK: BOOGER RED

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!   While watching Booger Red for the first time, I felt like I was experiencing the throes of a hormone problem. My emotions dashed between pure joy and …

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

BOOGER RED

 

While watching Booger Red for the first time, I felt like I was experiencing the throes of a hormone problem. My emotions dashed between pure joy and utter disgust with such frequency that by the time the credits began to roll, I could do nothing but sit, firmly planted at the edge of my seat, and try to catch my breath. Even thinking about it now a week later, this film defies classification in my mind; the only thing I know for sure about Booger Red is that it is a masterpiece.

What is Booger Red? Good question. This part-documentary, part-narrative feature dances over the line between reality and fiction while grounding itself in the unfortunately true story of what has been called “the worst child-sex ring in Texas history.” The film follows Onur Tukel as he investigates this controversial case and finds himself uncovering a conspiracy which is perhaps even darker than what it originally appeared to be. The documentary-style interviews are juxtaposed with Onur’s personal memories of his family and repressed memories of abuse to provide insight into a horrific phenomenon both legal and personal. However bleak and reprehensible the subject matter, Booger Red manages to breath a healthy gust of humor into the film, mainly through the insanely likable character of Onur. His irreverence and self-deprecating jests managed to keep me laughing and upbeat in the face of a true-to-life child prostitution story. Whether this is for better or for worse, I don’t know. But it is for certain that it’s part of what makes Booger Red such a remarkable work of cinema.

-Jake Palmer, Film Department Intern

Want to add Booger Red to your schedule? Click here to add it on Sched.

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Guest Blog: MD Anderson’s Mel Klein

An Extraordinary Story of Strength and Courage At the heart of every successful film is a compelling story. In the case of Until 20, a documentary of the extraordinary life of James Ragan, producer-directors Jamila Paksima and Geraldine Moriba have just that: a story that needs to be told, to be shared and to be remembered long after its world premiere Friday night at the …

An Extraordinary Story of Strength and Courage

At the heart MNK2of every successful film is a compelling story. In the case of Until 20, a documentary of the extraordinary life of James Ragan, producer-directors Jamila Paksima and Geraldine Moriba have just that: a story that needs to be told, to be shared and to be remembered long after its world premiere Friday night at the Austin Film Festival.

James Ragan, of Corpus Christi, touched the hearts of countless people who had the privilege of knowing him during his 20 years on earth. Diagnosed at age 13 with a rare form of bone cancer, James lived his remaining years with courage, compassion and a sage wisdom far beyond his young age. He was an inspiration as an advocate for fellow pediatric cancer patients and as an avid fundraiser in support of research into new and better treatments — not only for pediatric osteosarcoma, the type of cancer that eventually took James’ life, but also for all “kid” cancers.

In 2012, my colleagues on the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors were proud to honor James as Special Ambassador to MD Anderson, an unprecedented honor that remains exclusively his. When he received this recognition in the office of MD Anderson President Dr. Ronald DePinho, James was, in his signature way, humble, articulate, poised, respectful and modest. Yet those who were present for the occasion say they were witness to a true legend, that rare human being who transcends the struggles of pain, disease and daily life to embrace positive change for the benefit of others.

My experiences as a co-founder of two independent film companies that backed Sophie’s Choice, Getting Away With Murder, A Bronx Tale, Shadowlands and other movies led me to a number of discussions with my first cousin by marriage and close friend Sidney J. Sheinberg, former president of MCA Inc. and Universal Studios, on the subject of what makes a great film. Reflecting on the value of the story element, Sid, who discovered Steven Spielberg and whose projects include Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List and Back to the Future, describes Until 20 as a film that “shines a light upon a brave young man who saw hope through the bleakness that was his fate.”

“One’s heart strains for an ending that is unfortunately not meant to be,” says Sid.

Indeed, all were deeply saddened by James’ death last year. He was only 20 years old, but he had taught all of us — his elders, his peers and fellow patients, his family, friends and teammates — how to live. His legacy is his unforgettable courage and strength in the face of cancer, and his deep concern and advocacy for other patients. His example will forever change the way one thinks about life.

— Mel Klein
Mel Klein has been a member of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors for 25 years and is currently serving his second year as chair. An investment banker, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, attorney and philanthropist, he is the founder of Melvyn N. Klein Interests, chairman of the board of Par Pacific Holdings Inc., and a respected community leader in Corpus Christi, Texas, with business interests in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities in the U.S. and internationally.

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Staff Pick: The Sex Temple

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!     Foreign, fascinating, and awesome. This documentary is funny, thought provoking, and honest. It has great comedic timing – kept reminding me of Arrested Development, – …

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

sextemple

 

 

Foreign, fascinating, and awesome. This documentary is funny, thought provoking, and honest. It has great comedic timing – kept reminding me of Arrested Development, – it is hilarious and a must see for sure. We follow a torn owner of a burned down swingers club in Sweden and a broke theater owner in need of cash. This binds two liberal businessmen together and it all unwinds in the middle of a Christian conservative neighborhood that want nothing to do with sex. This film’s not about sex, it’s about the rebuilding of a respectful establishment, a place for people all over the region to have fun, party, and be free. It is set in a Moulin-Rouge-style, LGBT Burlesque show/sex club, and despite it’s unusualness, it’s a colorful documentary that will keep you smiling and hopefully laughing, like I did. Enjoy!

 

-Pato Elizondo, Transportation Coordinator

Want to add The Sex Temple to your schedule? Click here to add it on Sched.

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Staff Pick: Tear Me Apart

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!   Brace yourself for the opening scene! In this post-apocalyptic England, humans resort to eating human flesh to either stay alive or satisfy carnal urges. It’s pretty …

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

images.weserv.nl

 

Brace yourself for the opening scene! In this post-apocalyptic England, humans resort to eating human flesh to either stay alive or satisfy carnal urges. It’s pretty clear what’s on the menu and it’s not a vegan dish. What first appears to be just another post-apocalyptic scenario develops into a deeper conflict of what it truly means to be human. While the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road explored similar themes, Tear Me Apart delves into a different perspective involving two brothers conflicted by their hunger and desire when they encounter possibly the last living girl. This teenage wasteland is vividly brought to life through gorgeous, sweeping shots of the English coast and a surprisingly effective song that plays frequently throughout the film. Tear Me Apart is a refreshing take on the genre and will satisfy your festival-viewing experience (especially on Halloween) but maybe not your appetite. 

-Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director

Want to add Tear Me Apart to your schedule? Click here to add it on Sched.

 

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Staff Pick: Headfirst

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!   Family is a strange concept. You’re born to a pair of parents, you maybe have some siblings and then there are some more distant relatives like …

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

headfirst

 

Family is a strange concept. You’re born to a pair of parents, you maybe have some siblings and then there are some more distant relatives like uncles and cousins and in-laws… all of whom you’re supposed to love. But what if you don’t?

Headfirst takes a darkly hilarious look at these forced familial relationships and skewers them on the kabob of dysfunction to form a deliciously enjoyable treat. The film follows a mother as she tries to protect her rebellious daughter, Takku, from state custody with the help of a strained alliance of shady characters: a drug-dealing teacher and an alcoholic older man, who just might be Takku’s grandfather.

Headfirst dissects the absurdity of teen angst with the compassion of a concerned parent, but it has by no means a warm and fuzzy atmosphere; in fact the film’s cold color palette indicate the opposite. Takku and her mother are defined by their loss and want. They’re poor, neither of them knew their fathers and they never seem to be in control. If this film didn’t have such strong comedy elements, it might have been too hard to watch.

This film is Finnish, dark, funny, touching and incredibly well-crafted. If you’re looking to jump into the deep end of familial turmoil but not without the life preserver of irreverent comedy, Headfirst was made just for you.

– Jake Palmer, Film Department Intern

Want to add Headfirst to your schedule? Click here to add it on Sched.

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Staff Pick: Memoria

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!     Excluding my grandparents, I would recommend Memoria to just about everyone I know. However, I would never take a first date to see it. The …

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

memoria

 

 

Excluding my grandparents, I would recommend Memoria to just about everyone I know. However, I would never take a first date to see it. The night would end with a silent car ride and a “Yup, ‘night,” as she shuts the car door and decides not to talk to me again, or date anyone ever because life is pointless and no one loves you.

Yes, Memoria is depressing, but it’s rare that a movie can successfully navigate the melodrama of adolescence without coming off as a patronizing cheese-ball suffocated in plastic-wrapped acting. It is a seriously dark movie, and it will remind you of how unforgiving and uncaring the world can be. Yet, the bleakness of the film is so well crafted that it never feels overdone—the central character, Ivan, isn’t bringing you down; the world is bringing you down with him.

I often get the feeling that dramas about teenagers don’t invest enough time to make their characters compelling because there is an expectation for the seats to be filled with high school kids so excited to see Kristen Stewart kiss some pale-faced goon that any character building would be time stolen from laughably dreamy stares. I suppose that’s what makes Memoria so relatable even if you’re not a teenager anymore. This movie is about its characters, not pretty faces cleaning up at the box-office. Ivan’s pain is so much deeper than simple teenage angst; it’s an utter isolation that many of us thankfully never experience—but it is a suffering you will certainly feel.

-Richard Sharp, Film Department

Want to add Memoria to your schedule? Click here to add it on Sched.

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Staff Pick: Of Dogs and Men

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!   This was a heart-wrenching film to watch. The topic of police shooting family pets is a difficult one, and it’s handled thoughtfully and in a balanced …

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

ofdogsandmen

 

This was a heart-wrenching film to watch. The topic of police shooting family pets is a difficult one, and it’s handled thoughtfully and in a balanced way by the filmmakers. The film shows the conflicted feelings of the police officers’ who could be confronted with the same situation. Being a strong animal rights advocate, I applaud the filmmakers for the depth of examination they put forth, and for creating such a compelling story.

-Cam Ray, Volunteer Coordinator

 

Want to add Of Dogs and Men to your schedule? Click here to add it on Sched.

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Staff Pick: Sunny Side Up

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!   This eerie, Dutch drama about a couple on holiday starts off pleasant enough but slowly begins to take a turn for the worse as the pair learns …

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

sunnysideup

 

This eerie, Dutch drama about a couple on holiday starts off pleasant enough but slowly begins to take a turn for the worse as the pair learns about an old tradition the island they are on maintains. Right from the start this film lets you know that everything is not alright and it keeps its promise as it lets you sit with the characters in a state of cabin fever, or, as our lead states, “like chickens bred to sit on top of each other of their own free will”. Nothing is what it seems in this slow-burn thriller as the plot leads you through its own share of twists and turns as it explores the darkness that is inside all of us. Anything can happen in the middle of nowhere away from civilization where “there’s no one to bother”.

-Eric Larner, Young Filmmakers Program Director

 

Want to add Sunny Side Up to your schedule? Click here to add it on Sched.

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Staff Pick: No Más Bebés

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!       “They came to have their babies. They went home sterilized.” In two short sentences, No Más Bebés’ logline draws you in to a heartbreaking and …

Welcome to our 2015 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2015 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

 

nomasbebes

 

 

“They came to have their babies. They went home sterilized.” In two short sentences, No Más Bebés’ logline draws you in to a heartbreaking and eye-opening story about forced sterilization taking place in Los Angeles in the 1970’s.

No Más Bebés is a powerful documentary that plays out like a thrilling courtroom drama. The film follows the 1975 legal battle against the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where several Latina women were coerced into signing paperwork to perform sterilizations when they arrived for childbirth.

Director Renee Tajima-Peña accomplished the difficult feat of gathering interviews from five of the original complainants, their lawyer, Antonia Hernandez, and the then medical student Dr. Bernard Rosenfeld, who was the whistle-blower of the operation.

The incredible story, heart-wrenching interviews, captivating archival footage, and the constant struggle for women’s reproductive rights that’s still happening today make this documentary a must-see.

-Fernando Martinez, Marketing Director

 

 

Want to add No Más Bebés  (with director Renee Tajima-Peña in attendance) to your schedule? Click here to add it on Sched.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: His Traces of My Brother

His Traces of my Brother What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? The film is inspired by a true story of a friend of my family who should have gone to World War 2. It was towards the end of WW2 and our Friend was still a young boy. But he was old enough to be invited to a physical …

His Traces of my Brother

tracesWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

The film is inspired by a true story of a friend of my family who should have gone to World War 2. It was towards the end of WW2 and our Friend was still a young boy.
But he was old enough to be invited to a physical examination that would make him a soldier. He needed to walk a long way to the next city in order to get his physical tests. As he suffered an injury shortly before his departure his foot got so hurt that he didn’t have to go to war and could return to his family.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

For me it was a very important story to tell as families are always torn apart during conflicts like war. I’m very lucky to be born in a time of peace and with loving parents.
I also have a big brother and he is a very important person for me. I need to relate to the needs and wishes of the characters I’m showing in order to make them believable and inspired.

Reflecting the violent conflicts that are happening in so many places I found it a responsibility for me as a filmmaker to tell a story about hope.
Children are the first victims but they are also the hope for a more peaceful future.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

The basic story served as an inspiration and inception of the film. But I realized that an event in real life can be terrifying but might not communicate so well in a film.
So I created references and a society for the protagonist in order to show him interact and give him responses to the outer influences. It’s all about relations and action.
The bigger brother and his little sister are the most important changes that were implemented into the story. Max (The Protagonist) has to realize that he’s the caregiver to his little sister as his bigger brother was towards him.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

I got inspired by the beauty of the bavarian forest, the place where my family is from and where our Friend lived. My grandfather was a teacher and painter. He had to go to war as an old man but kept his art to find back to his life. His paintings are wonderful and have an impressionistic approach.

I wanted to create non-photo-real visuals that combined painting with 3d-computeranimation.

Together with production designer Josef Brandl we also looked for other references that would put in contrast the two worlds – countryside and city. For the countryside we studied old photographs and landscape paintings. For the city we used references from stalinistic statues to Nazi-architecture that would reflect the cold and strict nature of a totalitarian state.

As a mood-reference we also looked at abstract paintings of Ludwig Meidner whose paintings and graphics capture a drastic mood of war.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

Regarding the scope of the film it had a small budget – everybody involved dedicated a lot of valuable time into the production of the film. I’m so happy for their support and dedication!

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

After nearly 18 months of financing we faced the situation of having only 70 percent of the films budget. The funding bodies were already rushing us to finish the film – even though we didn’t start yet. Ultimately we decided to make the film for a lot less money than we were expecting. Within 5 Months we created most of the film – from storyboard to rendering in order to get a first cut ready. Later we were able to spend another 3 months on necessary enhancements and polishing. Regarding the scope of film – with 10 Characters and a dozend sets – and it’s limited budget I learned a lot about financing, efficient planning and production of an animated film.

 

What risks does your story take?

Facing comments like it’s “another flim about World War 2″ I want to stress that Traces of my Brother is not a film about war. It’s a film about children and families. I think it can’t be more important to show what conflicts do to children. Wars don’t only threaten lifes right now but also behavior and therefore everyones future.

Max’ injury may be a lucky event for some people – but for me it’s a result of his anger that turns into his luck. He is a kid and should be allowed to make mistakes. Only through these he can learn what’s really important.

I’m happy that I can tell “what if” stories.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

Filmmakers need experience and need to apply their vision of storytelling! So I’d encourage everyone who wants to make films to do one and keep on doing them. Small films – big films – but keep on doing. Learn from the mistakes, check the audience and question your artistic decisions without being too negative on yourself. Many people are waiting for the opportunity to do a film – but you as a filmmaker has to work yourself towards the opportunity by staying stubborn! Nevertheless if your budget gets cut, your favorite festival rejects your new film – keep on filming and creating!

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: Traficant

Traficant What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? My first memories of Jim Traficant take place at my grandmother’s house. Snippets of the “adult” conversations often included mentions of Jesus Christ, JFK, and Jim Traficant – and not necessarily in that order. He was the football star, turned Walking Tall sheriff, and finally our Congressman. I was told he …

Traficant

trafficantWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

My first memories of Jim Traficant take place at my grandmother’s house. Snippets of the “adult” conversations often included mentions of Jesus Christ, JFK, and Jim Traficant – and not necessarily in that order. He was the football star, turned Walking Tall sheriff, and finally our Congressman. I was told he stood up for the “little guy!”

Even at a young age, especially at a young age, the guy’s entire act really amused me; the polyester suits, the dead animal hair, the vulgar language, and adolescent humor. I didn’t know or really even care about politics, but this guy was a fantastic. He cracked me up. On Sundays, I vividly remember laying belly down on my grandmother’s green shag carpet just a few feet from the wooden box television, watching Traficant yell directly into the camera. It was like he was looking me in the eyes. He was oddly magnetic.
When I realized that I had to be a filmmaker, I knew this was my story to tell.
 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

Jim Traficant is from my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio — we were a one industry town. A steel town, once the second largest producer of steel in the world. And, in a six month period is all collapsed. Everyone, including every man in family lost everything, overnight.
Jim Traficant came to represent everything about our town. The anger, the frustration, the “chip-on-our-shoulder” populism.

It making the film, it was my goal to render a portrait of a real person – the good, the bad, and the utterly inexplicable. I poured through every court document, devoured every C-Span clip, and coveted anything that could help me understand Traficant and his relationship to the Mahoning Valley. My opinion swayed almost daily – how could the same person be so devastingly brilliant and so bat-shit crazy? I kept asking myself: was Traficant a transcendent hero who spoke truth to power or Youngstown’s cautionary tale of greed, corruption, and ego. No matter how strongly galvanized my opinions became over the years – I removed myself from the film to present a complicated portrait of a man and let the audience form their own conclusions.

It’s my hope the documentary captures the larger-than-life persona of Jim Traficant and illustrates one of the most turbulent times and unique places in American history. Much like the blast furnaces that dominated the landscape and psyche for generations – Traficant was vibrant and powerful, and now he’s a relic of a bygone era. A fading symbol of all things good — and bad.

My childhood fascination with an enigmatic hero turned into a filmmaking odyssey where memories and emotions are confronted with facts and truths.
 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

It took us over 6 years to make the film, so many many things changed. But, most dramatically Jim Traficant passed away just as we were finishing the film — so it changed the ending, the tone and put a greater responsibility on us and our film. We would be, in a way, casting the images of his final legacy.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

Our doc is really a vast tapestry of archives. We’ve worked hand-in-glove with our local historical society. So, we wanted to use as many of the old news clips, photos, campaign materials, etc.

Jim Traficant was larger than life, and extremely well covered by our local press.
 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

To start making the film. Being born and raised in Youngstown we all knew the magnitude of the project — and how emotionally invested everyone in Youngstown is regarding Traficant, the mob and the mills.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

Being threaten by “retired” gangsters to not make the film!
I didn’t not embrace that in any way — haha!
I did just ignore and keep plowing forward.

 

What risks does your story take?

I think its a great risk to allow the archives to dictate the story.
I knew from the beginning I would not use a narrator, nor would I write soundbites for interviewees, or try to orchestrate the documentary in any way.
I choose to interview the people that lived during this incredibly volatile time period and only use first hand accounts to illustrate our story.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

I think it’s simple. Get started. It’s going to change a million times. So, just get started. Really great things will reveal themselves the deeper you get into the process.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: El Jeremais

El Jeremías What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? Ana Sofia Clerici wrote the story, it was her idea, she pitched it to me in 2006 (the same year as our lead actor was born) and I loved the idea. It took 8 years to finance our project, which gave Ana Sofia the opportunity to write 16 drafts. She’s not …

El Jeremías

eljeremaisWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

Ana Sofia Clerici wrote the story, it was her idea, she pitched it to me in 2006 (the same year as our lead actor was born) and I loved the idea. It took 8 years to finance our project, which gave Ana Sofia the opportunity to write 16 drafts. She’s not just my creative partner, she’s my partner in life and knows me better than anybody. So she “tailor made” the script for me to direct, in the way I wanted to tell the story. She had the patience and stamina to satisfy my needs as a storyteller without sacrificing hers.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

They’re like family to me, I love them despite their flaws, I try to understand them, the way they think. Their choices, good or bad, need to make sense to me.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

Once we had the a final draft, very little changed during production. It was a very controlled and designed film. But once I got to the editing room I felt there was a lot going on in the second act, so we had to trim the film a little bit to speed up the story and get to the climax earlier.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

Wes Anderson is a personal hero of mine. His movies, especially his visual style, were a great influence on El Jeremías. In a smaller way, so did the work of the Coen brothers, Sydney Lumet, Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

Two weeks before shooting, I had a feeling that I made the wrong casting choice for Onesimo (Jeremy’s father) and I wasn’t satisfied with my rehearsals with the actor. It was one of the most difficult decisions I made but I knew I had to let him go. Then I called Paulo Galindo and offered him the part. I’m very proud of that last minute call, Paulo gave life to Onesimo like I always imagined him, even better.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

The greatest risk was working with an 8 year old boy, he´s in 99% of the film. He had to have the stamina and attitude of a professional actor, which he he did. I also worked with a great casting director, Natalia Beristain and a great acting coach, Paloma Arredondo, who´s specialized in working with kids. I’m very proud we found Martin Castro.

 

What risks does your story take?

It’s a mixed genre film, a dramatic comedy. The film is about tolerance and about the relation of happiness with acceptance. The risk was to approach strong dramatic issues, to criticize Mexican education, our society and make this film an “easy going” comedy as well.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

You need to find a story you love, set it in an environment you feel comfortable with so you can deal with it for a long period of time.
You need to believe in your film’s potential in order for it to happen.
Ready? Go for it!

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: Two Lunes

Two Lunes What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? In Buddhism, Yin and Yang were born from chaos when the universe was first created. The first human was created when Yin and Yan finally achieved balance in the cosmos. This made me believe that we, humans, used to all be one a very long, long time ago, and we …

Two Lunes

twolunesWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

In Buddhism, Yin and Yang were born from chaos when the universe was first created. The first human was created when Yin and Yan finally achieved balance in the cosmos. This made me believe that we, humans, used to all be one a very long, long time ago, and we all are equal from the perspective of a soul.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

The LA story is mostly drawn from my own experience in Vancouver before I entered graduate school. But, the Seoul part, where the main character is a Vietnamese, is fictional. It came from my own imagination of how the life of foreigners in Seoul would be. I think that they would have a hard time living in Korea as much as I do living in Los Angeles.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

The original script had more scenes where the two women seemed like they resonated with each other. But during the production, we decided not to put emphasis on them, just because we were short on budget and time. Also, there used to be more scenes of Lan texting and talking about herself. However, we took them out later in the edits, because we wanted to create more room for the audience to think or imagine about the characters.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

My cinematographer and I talked about films by Dardenne brothers, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, and So Yong Kim. Also, the street photography of Saul Leiter was one of our visual references during pre-production.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

There is a climax scene where the lead calls her boyfriend on a rainy day. The rain was an important element of the Mise-en-scene, but we couldn’t afford the facilities to make rain. All we could do was just pray that it would rain when we shoot the scene. But we were in LA, a desert city. On one of the shooting days, I got up at dawn, and saw showers of rain through the window. I immediately called my DP and asked him to shoot the scene that day. Even though it was risky to move the fixed schedule and to shoot without enough preparation, it was worth it because we successfully managed to capture the rainy atmosphere in the scene.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

In the Seoul shoot, we had a hard time casting a Vietnamese lead, but finally found the right one after a month of searching. Everything seemed to be going fine until she suddenly changed her mind. It was just ten days before we started shooting, and our cinematographer was supposed to fly over the next day. I called the Vietnamese actress and desperately persuaded her. Luckily, she changed her mind again. This was one of the most nervous moments during production.

 

What risks does your story take?

Perhaps the way my story is told takes risks not only in shooting but also in being understood by the viewer, because it is interwoven with two parts happening in two continents with two different groups of people. It also has three languages spoken in it: Korean, English, and Vietnamese, which might add more confusion in following the story, and could result in limited access to the main characters.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

I would say that writing with the heart is the most crucial, especially when we write our first draft. No matter how dirty and messy it is, I believe it always has the essential juice that can move our hearts, and it will then move the hearts of others.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: The Tender Dark

The Tender Dark What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? I knew in order to receive funding my next film had to be either heavily genre driven or topical. Same sex marriage is an important, politically relevant issue for me, so I naturally steered towards this topic. The inspiration for The Tender Dark came from trying to recollect my …

The Tender Dark

tenderdarkWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

I knew in order to receive funding my next film had to be either heavily genre driven or topical. Same sex marriage is an important, politically relevant issue for me, so I naturally steered towards this topic. The inspiration for The Tender Dark came from trying to recollect my first understanding of homosexuality. I wanted to relive that innocent, child-like reaction through screen.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

Our lead character in the film is a 15 year old girl, who is typically coming to terms with puberty and sexual exploration. Even though the film is set in the 1950s, I relate to her transition from child to woman as every female would.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

When I started to workshop the idea with our writer Akos Armont, we decided to step outside of the box. What if not only is Lucy (our lead) ok with same sex couples in a time where it is illegal and largely hidden, but in-fact she is aroused when exposed to her first sexual encounter? This new aspect definitely took our story to another level, and transcended us away from the typical coming of age story it may have otherwise been.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

It was very important to me that a day-dream like feeling resonated through the film. Almost as if Lucy was recollecting a memory of her childhood. Many of the reference photos I collected had sun flares and soft colours. Bill Henson, a famous Australian photographer, was a huge influence in the cinematography style. You can see his direct influence through the night time scenes in The Tender Dark, where our DOP Martin McGrath & Gaffer Stef Fidirikkos had fun recreating moon light.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

The day before shoot day one, our Production Designer, Kitty Taube, contracted shingles due to the amount of stress she was under, recreating the 1950s with a very limited budget! She decided to continue working through it, much to our dismay. We were incredibly grateful!

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

We took a huge risk embarking on this film considering the tight budget. Finding convincing props, costumes and locations with very little money proved incredibly difficult and hugely stressful. Fortunately we think we managed to pull off a pretty convincing 1950s.

 

What risks does your story take?

The Tender Dark has very little dialogue, which was a conscious decision we made during the development stage. This meant that the storyline was largely left to be carried by the performances and editing. It also meant that the audience were able to draw their own conclusions, which was a potential risk considering the sensitive subjects explored in the story.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

Collaborate and read as much as possible! Share your idea with others you trust, and ask for feedback from as many people as possible. By opening yourself to collaboration, you have more opportunity to create an individual standalone story, one that is layered and intricate.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: Newcomer

Newcomer What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? A few years ago I read that seventy percent of the U.S. intelligence budget is spent on independent contractors. Immediately a world began to form in my head that was far from the James Bond and Jason Bourne spy worlds we’re used to seeing on film. There was an intimate world …

Newcomer

newcomerWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

A few years ago I read that seventy percent of the U.S. intelligence budget is spent on independent contractors. Immediately a world began to form in my head that was far from the James Bond and Jason Bourne spy worlds we’re used to seeing on film. There was an intimate world there. One full of deception and confusion. One that played on emotional strengths and weaknesses rather than physical. Once Alex’s character came to me I was off and running.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

It’s absolutely necessary to relate to your characters on the most intimate of levels. If you’re not putting a bit of yourself into the film you’re not sharing enough with the audience. Alex and I shared a strong, naive, belief in the system. Alex wants to do the right thing and he believes that if he does what he’s told and dots the I’s and crosses the T’s the world will welcome him with open arms. Then he learns the hard way that the world doesn’t quite work that way. Finding your own way of taking action independent from those around you is important in any coming of age story. I think this learning is where Alex and I most closely relate.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

Simplify. Simplify. Through each draft and then continuing in production and post the story moved closer and closer to the main character. The more complications and dialog we stripped away the more the audience could sit with him and experience the story as he did. We found that that was the way to the heart of this film. It’s all about the character of Alex and his experience of the events around him.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

I wanted the film to feel foreign and familiar at the same time. I used the classic story structure to give the film a Western feel and was then able to take the visuals in less familiar directions. The choice to shoot in Belgrade was probably the largest influence on the visual style. The entire crew was local so the production design and photography decisions all fed into the local aesthetic of the film.

Erol Zubcevic, the DP, and I studied the photography of classic moody French crime films like Army of Shadows and Le Samurai. These films make a great use of black and aren’t afraid to hold a frame and leave you with a bit of confusion.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

I think the most courageous decisions was one of the first we made. In hindsight choosing to make a film with a first time director and a first time producer in a foreign country halfway around the world might have been a little crazy. But the reality was the production went surprisingly smoothly. We found an incredible team in Belgrade. Quite quickly they became almost like a family. I’ve had that experience on independent film sets in the US but was surprised and overjoyed to find it in a completely foreign country.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

In the original script the third act all took place in the snow. We chose our locations for snow. We scheduled for the middle of February, even when the 1st AD told us it would be too cold to work, just to make sure we would have snow. And then there was no snow. The entire winter there less than an inch. During production every morning I would go to the window hoping for snow and the ground would be dry. Then I would sit down and write out the snow from the day’s scenes and we go shoot what you see in the film.

In the end it was probably better for the film both from a production and story standpoint. I changed whole sequences to adjust to the weather and it forced me to focus more on the characters than on the visuals. I think that gave us a better story. So I’m thankful that we had no snow, even if I still think about how cool it would have looked.

 

What risks does your story take?

Newcomer takes risks in how it’s told. It’s a familiar genre but I wanted to put the audience right with the main character. I wanted them to experience the story as he experiences the story. We only know as much as he does at any given time. This was risky because it forced us to really trust the audience. We couldn’t have scenes that explained every plot point. We just dropped the viewer into the story and hoped they would begin to figure out what was happening. This put particular pressure on the structure and editing of the film. Exactly how long do we need to hold a shot? What communicates and what doesn’t? Placing important information on screen for one second and then trusting that the audience will remember it in half an hour is risky but very fulfilling when it pays off.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

The best advice I ever received was to just do it. Just write. Just shoot. Just make films. It’s the only way to learn. I spent a lot of time trying to please other people and make something they would like. That road is a dead end. Make something you think is great, or has the possibility of being great, and then inspire the people around you to make it even better. Just keep making and making mistakes. It’s the only way to learn the craft.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: 20 Somethings

20 Somethings What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? Michael B. Allen: We were really inspired by films like Slacker, American Graffiti, or Elephant that so realistically capture a specific time and place. We wanted to do that for Austin, twenty-something social culture in 2015. Will Bakke: This film is a time-capsule, in a sense. We wanted to create …

20 Somethings

20somethingsWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

Michael B. Allen: We were really inspired by films like Slacker, American Graffiti, or Elephant that so realistically capture a specific time and place. We wanted to do that for Austin, twenty-something social culture in 2015.

Will Bakke: This film is a time-capsule, in a sense. We wanted to create something very simple, that rang true with millennials who felt directionless.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

Michael B. Allen: If there’s one emotion we tried to capture it’s that feeling of being alone at a party. You don’t want to be there, but you have to be out of some social obligation. As our main character wanders around in search of that one person he does want to talk to, he keeps getting caught in these pretentious conversations about things like podcasts, environmentalism, or dating apps. We’ve been on both sides of this, often sick of people trying to one-up each other in cool factor, sometimes being the ones trying desperately to impress people.

Will Bakke: I feel like we’ve all been to a party where deep down we think everyone else there is the WORST. You’re either bored, tired, or going through some existential crisis that the last thing you want to hear about is some stranger talking about our ecological footprints. This film is for the people that roll their eyes a lot.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

Michael B. Allen: We actually went into production without a script, believing that the concept would be best served by having the actors improvise. Our film is an unbroken 9 minute shot with a lot of complex blocking, so we figured we were saving the actors from having to remember both nine minutes of dialogue and movements. After the second night of rehearsals, we decided to stay up all night and write a script. We’d learned that asking the actors to think on their feet and improv lines was even more mentally exhausting than just memorizing them. In the end, we were so happy it came together like it did because we got the best of both worlds, having the opportunity to write the original intent of our story while adding in our favorite improvisations that happened in rehearsals. The finished product really does carry the hyper-realistic acting style we’d hoped for.

Will Bakke: We rehearsed the film one night and shot the whole thing the next night. Problem was, as soon as we were camera-ready on the second night, a massive storm came through and flooded half of our set. We spent the next three hours pushing water out with brooms and digging trenches in the backyard to guide the rain water out. By the time we were ready to shoot, we only had about an hour and half until the sun came up. We got the final shot that is used in the film just before 5a.m.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

The obvious comparison is Birdman since it’s a long tracking shot, but we’ve wanted to carry out this challenge for a long time. We love the look of David Fincher films, and it’s become a big part of our style to shoot comedy with a style usually reserved for drama. Many of the shots and production design carry a certain nostalgia similar to a John Hughes film. We love coming of age films and see 20 Somethings as a unique take on the coming of age story.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

We’d planned to do the whole thing with improv. We pitched, casted, and rehearsed it that way, assuming that would allow for most natural performances and better memory of the complex blocking required in the piece. Then, after the first night of shooting, we ditched the improv and stayed up all night writing a script. Even after we changed the whole approach, the actors nailed it, and we think it saved the film.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

We shot during some of the stormiest nights in the past several years. It was hailing during part of our shoot, and we have long, complex outdoor sequences. At one point, several of the cast and crew were digging trenches in the backyard to sweep excess water into to prevent the set and equipment from being ruined. It was awesome.

 

What risks does your story take?

For one, we never cut, so there was nothing we could in post to save the story in post if it wasn’t working.

Another risk was that nearly the whole A story happens through subtext. This guy is following the girl around the party to try to talk to her, but he never talks about it. All the dialogue is about podcasts, birthdays, environmentalism, dating apps, and needing to make a beer run, but the story’s really about the guy pursuing a girl. It’s a storytelling approach that only works well in cinema, and I think it works in our film.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

“Write what you know” is an old piece of advice, but it’s worked for us. It’s important to keep in mind that only you know what you know. There’s always something interesting about your perspective, and having the courage to write a script forces you to find it.

We also have learned to operate under a “nothing is precious” mindset. Nothing you write is genius, groundbreaking, or perfect. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s always room for improvement. When you’re willing to scrap everything and rewrite from scratch, the next version will almost always be better. When you embrace this approach, the only thing that makes something “finished” is a deadline, which is the last piece of advice.

Everyone starts something, but few finish. Put some things in place that will force you to finish your project. Just by completing something, you put yourself into a rare class of creatives.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: 3rd Street Blackout

3rd Street Blackout What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? Nearly everyone on the 3rd Street Blackout team had a Hurricane Sandy story. Both directors, Negin Farsad & Jeremy Redleaf, were in the blackout zone following the hurricane. That bizarre stretch of Manhattan without power or cell towers created a New York fantasia lit by flashlights and sky. Sure …

3rd Street Blackout

thirdstreetWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

Nearly everyone on the 3rd Street Blackout team had a Hurricane Sandy story. Both directors, Negin Farsad & Jeremy Redleaf, were in the blackout zone following the hurricane. That bizarre stretch of Manhattan without power or cell towers created a New York fantasia lit by flashlights and sky. Sure it was annoying to take cold showers or miss out on Instagram, but suddenly we had neighbors, people we had never spoken to before, and suddenly everyone checked in, cared, and actually made eye contact. Negin’s 3rd Street neighbors (she actually lives on 3rd Street) seemed to come alive with impromptu acoustic song sessions or offerings of ice cream that was on the melt. Jeremy saw people walking up to the power border so they could get a little juice for their phones or just call their moms. It was a time when people left notes on random buildings, where communication was precious and tangible. Some people still had battery-powered boom boxes, who knew! We wanted to capture the strange and wondrous New York that emerged from an otherwise destructive Hurricane.
 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

Negin plays a TEDFellow in the film and is one in real life – though in the film she’s a neuroscientist, and in real life she’s more of a dirtbag comedian. She was, in fact, in the midst of romantic shenanigans during the Hurricane, shenanigans which informed part of the story. Jeremy is also no stranger to romantic tomfoolery and actually does have a techy background like his character in the film. Add some flaws and strange habits and voila, you have the main characters Mina & Rudy AKA sideways Negin & Jeremy. There were a few characters based on real neighborhood fixtures. For example, we meet a character called The Chillmaster who is based on the 3rd Street’s own actual Chillmaster, so named by the neighborhood because he pumps sweet jams out his window… and chills. Other characters in the movie are composites of people we see in real life, Janeane Garofalo as the high powered connector or John Hodgman as the batt-shit hackathon judge. These people exist, and they’re just as nuts as they’re portrayed in the film.
 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

There’s all the small ways in which an independent movie changes during production – you’ll find yourself saying, “let’s pretend like one location is two different locations to save money! No wait, let’s make it three locations! Yeah, great idea!” That stuff happens constantly and it might have a small effect on the look of the film but what we found really shocking was actually seeing the actors play their part. Ed Weeks, for example, plays the “other man” in the story. We had seen him in umpteen episodes of The Mindy Show playing the heart throb/self-involved doctor so we knew that he would be funny. But he brought so much dimension and charm to the part that we ended up wanting to devise ways to use him more and more and more. Seeing an actor knock the pants off a character, that can change any script.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

The East Village of New York City is a colorful, graffiti-ful, mural-laden neighborhood and that influenced how we shot the film and the general color pallet. East Village weirdos have spent decades painting buildings and affixing mosaics everywhere – you’re basically living in art and we wanted the movie to reflect that through production design and more importantly through the animation we use throughout.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

We filmed in a couple of locations where we… weren’t supposed to be filming. Did the fear of shooting in these conditions make us pee our pants? Yes. Was it necessary in order to stay on budget and on time? Also yes. But beyond that, I think the most courageous decision came when we said “so let’s shoot this thing.” Writing a script isn’t courageous but spending all that money on production? That’s either courageous, totally reckless, or completely narcissistic (or all three!).
          

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

You can get all the permits and locations agreements you want and then all of a sudden, you’re like “can I operate a drone off this rooftop?” Probably not. But you take many small risks like that making any movie and we did it in spades. There were a couple of roof and bridge shots that were… dangerous. We embraced them by saying “You have Obamacare, right?”
 

What risks does your story take?

The biggest risk our story takes is putting an Iranian-American Muslim female in the lead role. It shouldn’t be so risky in 2015 but it is. How many films with ethnic leads do well? How many ever even get made?          

 

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

If you have a story bursting at the seams – a story that keeps nudging you in your brain – write an outline. Just take the first step. The story might die there. But if it still gives you an itch, if it won’t leave you alone, then take the next step: write a beat sheet off the outline. See how you feel. If the story is like a bunion that keeps aching (bunions ache, right?) then, bust out a scriptwriting software and write the dialogue off the beat sheet. Basically, take it step by step. If the story is important enough to you, you’ll know because it’ll take up space on the inside of your head and drive you nuts till you actually get it out.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: Promise Me

Promise Me What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? When I transferred to the University of Texas, I was in a class about Ethics in healthcare, covering end-of-life issues. I remembered years before having known someone whose dying mother chose to end her life on her own terms before the disease process caused more suffering than she was willing …

Promise Me

promiseWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

When I transferred to the University of Texas, I was in a class about Ethics in healthcare, covering end-of-life issues. I remembered years before having known someone whose dying mother chose to end her life on her own terms before the disease process caused more suffering than she was willing to tolerate.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

I went out of my way to make it as real as possible. There were many changes along the way, but what remained constant was the simplicity and sense of “Let’s keep things as normal as possible in this really abnormal situation.” I did not want anything melodramatic or over the top, because of the subject matter.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

When I originally outlined the story, it was enough material to be a feature. I knew I had to really narrow the focus in order to be able to tell the part of the story that I felt was most important.Early on in the writing process, Lizzie (The young girl) knew what was going on, but the more I considered it, I realized that no ten year old would ever be able to keep a secret that big.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

I’ve probably seen 500 short films in the last couple of years. I knew the cinematography had to be sophisticated, but not overly dramatic. I met with my DP more than I met with anyone else throughout pre production so that we could figure out exactly how to achieve the look I wanted. We ended up going with Cinemascope, and it turned out great.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

Everyone who was asked to be part of this production had to legitimately be in support of the Death with Dignity movement. Some potential crew members passed because their personal beliefs were in conflict with the film’s message. I was very specific that I did not want anyone in the cast or crew to just be there for the money or for the exposure.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

There is always a risk when you make a film, and especially when you make a film about a controversial topic. As I mentioned before, I went out of my way to make sure that everyone was on board before they were hired or cast. If someone was on the fence or did not support the matter, they had no chance of working on the film.

 

What risks does your story take?

The film is about a terminally ill woman who lives in Longview, Texas. In Texas, physician aid in dying is illegal. Stella intends to take her own life with the guidance of an organization that provides information on how to end one’s life in a peaceful manner.
Making a film about any aspect of suicide is risky, but this is an important issue, and while it is entirely w work of fiction, it delves into something that occurs every day in the US.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

This could have many answers, depending on the type of film that is being made. If you’re wanting to make a realistic film, do your research. Write/Create based on truth and the reality of the topic rather than speculation or assumption. Have a good relationship with your cast and crew. Especially at the indie level, the people you are working with are the most important aspect of getting your film successfully made.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: The Immaculate Misconception

The Immaculate Misconception   What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? A questioning mischievous curiosity and a desire to believe in an omnipotent force for good. How do you relate to your characters or subjects? The characters in Immaculate Misconception were inspired by encounters in my childhood; skirmishes with abandonment, institutionalism, Catholicism, these incidents and accidents are woven into …

The Immaculate Misconception

 

misconception

What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

A questioning mischievous curiosity and a desire to believe in an omnipotent force for good.

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

The characters in Immaculate Misconception were inspired by encounters in my childhood; skirmishes with abandonment, institutionalism, Catholicism, these incidents and accidents are woven into the attitudes and psyches of our characters.

Sinead is pure, unconditional love, innocence, and divinity, the only true religion and the mother I never had. Bronagh is the unbending state, with an agenda it is politically bound to fulfill regardless of the consequences, never learning from its mistakes. The Church represents a psychological egotism motivated by self-interest, even in what seem to be acts of altruism.
Daniel, well he represents the fleeting moments of when I felt affection through the connection with a caring soul, my ray of hope.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

The biggest change took place in the scale of the narrative; particularly in the way the story grows from a desperate, clutching at straws notion to a global, world altering, news story. Unfortunately we had to come to terms with the financial reality and cut some of our cloth accordingly.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

There is a corolation between content (the script) and form (the visual style) and I wanted the narrative to drive this film. So it was important for the camera to be a passive voyeur in the space and simply document the unfolding events.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

Choosing a lead actress that had never been in front of a camera or on a film set before.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

Shooting without permits is always a risk, but we worked light and fast and let the world go about its business.
Driving all the gear from London to Belfast was a bit of a risk but we survived.
Finding a priest that would allow us to film in his Church was a bit of a risk but somehow I managed to persuad the local priest that our story had merits.

 

What risks does your story take?

It questions faith.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

This film started life as a scribble in a note pad, a thought that I remembered to write down and through the process it grew into The Immaculate Misconception. It is a remarkable thing to be able to make a stranger on the other side of the world, think about the meaning of your doodles or laugh out load or well up or if your really lucky all of the above.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: The Final Scene

The Final Scene   What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? For the last decade my father has been sending me Jerry Lewis DVDs. The Nutty Professor, Colgate Comedy Hour Anthologies, etc. He always stressed to me that my idols (Jim Carrey, Will Ferrel, etc.) all had one big influence in common… Jerry Lewis. This past November, he proposed …

The Final Scene

 

finalscene

What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

For the last decade my father has been sending me Jerry Lewis DVDs. The Nutty Professor, Colgate Comedy Hour Anthologies, etc. He always stressed to me that my idols (Jim Carrey, Will Ferrel, etc.) all had one big influence in common… Jerry Lewis. This past November, he proposed the task for me to conceive a film that showed Jerry Lewis at age 28. Neither of us having any knowledge, I turned to google quickly and the search led me to see that Martin and Lewis parted ways when Jerry was only 28. Immediately their heartbreak was front and center. This felt like the story that needed to be investigated. This felt as universal as any topic.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

A break up with a friend is a surprisingly tough experience. Because it feels like the parting of two lovers, and yet it’s different. But the spanning of the full spectrum of intimacy is identical. A paralleling (though not on the world’s stage) recent personal experience offered an emotional understanding that felt clear enough to engage with this story with a kind of empathy. The moment when you have to ask yourself “why does this hurt so much?” And the only answer that seems to arise instantaneously is “because it’s love.”

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

The stakes of the story seemed to ascend and accelerate quite quickly. Working on a sound stage with a whole crew working all day to create this film about a sound stage with a whole crew working to create something all of a sudden gave us a true understanding of what, in the moment, was exacerbating their already turbulent work/personal life. Also, when re-creating the game show sequences, we began to feel the weight of the performance responsibility. This is pre-social media, and pre-TMZ. And yet their personal lives were leaking into the public light. It took a lot for them to keep it strictly entertainment.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

The main goal of this film aesthetically was to find away to bore through the pristine sheen of the golden age of cinema, and show this world in a way that a contemporary audience would find very little gap between their world and the one on screen. The hand-held style immediately puts you in the room. The room that no one has ever seen when it comes to Martin and Lewis. The sadness, and stakes were going to be in the very pores of their skin, and slight turn of an eye. Whereas the game shows are shot as broadcasted. To establish the subject, and then press in and reveal the human condition.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

This film wasn’t about being exact and accurate. We didn’t really look like these people. The goal was not to rest heavily on the biography aspect of this film. Instead, it was about taking these archetypes and letting their universal nature tell the story. If no one knows Martin and Lewis… that is fine. But they will know what it feels like to love your best friend and collaborator. That was most important.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

There is very much a main character in this film. It is Jerry’s experience, but that doesn’t mean that Dean is then the bad guy. In fact, Dean’s perspective was most important. To find the moment when Jerry hears Dean’s truth, and he can’t deny it. When no one is wrong and no one is right. When the circumstances just… are… and everyone’s experience is valid and true. There is a silence in that moment. There is a surrender. That was what we were after. The risk, and the trap, would be to one sided about anything.

 

What risks does your story take?

The film sits in its moments. The main scene is in a dressing room. Part of the experience of that scene comes from its duration. The tension, discomfort, and sadness comes from the accrual of time and repetition. It is a long scene, and that required a kind of loose shooting style. Photography was encouraged to leave the person’s face and focus on their hand. How is their hand reacting to this moment? How does the twisting cigarette smoke convey the room? It left a lot to chance, and a lot to the editing room. But a locked off camera would only neglect information. The DP really went for it, and saw what the fly on the wall would see.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

The moment that always seem to reveal itself as the lesson of the project, is the vast space between what is on the page and what is on the stage. The whole film get’s reimagined with every step you take closer to manifesting it. Tone and essence were the things that navigated those spaces with great ease. So I would encourage an investigation of tone. What common thing is every character in the film after? Then you have style and drive.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: Standing8

Standing8   What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? The idea was inspired by writer/director Michael Molina Minard’s experience training and fighting as an amateur boxer in Philadelphia. A professional boxer training in the same gym killed an opponent in the ring. Minard couldn’t imagine the emotional impact on the boxer, a gentle but incredibly skilled pugilist, who killed …

Standing8

 

standing8

What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

The idea was inspired by writer/director Michael Molina Minard’s experience training and fighting as an amateur boxer in Philadelphia. A professional boxer training in the same gym killed an opponent in the ring.
Minard couldn’t imagine the emotional impact on the boxer, a gentle but incredibly skilled pugilist, who killed a man with his bare hands – publicly. He couldn’t help but think, ‘if this boxer’s opponent died in the ring, what kind of physical and emotional trauma did the survivor sustain.’
 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

I am my characters. I try not to write from a place that I know nothing about either the subject or character. As a former boxer and a filmmaker, I have little or nothing other than my craft. It is my livelihood. A livelihood that conspires to crush me physically and mentally every day

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

The story the changed most in the writing and production was the relationship arc between Abdul, the boxer and his trainer, Elijah. While a short leaves little room for subplots, I felt the film was left lifeless without some emphasis on this dramatic relationship.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

Visual styles were influence by the work of photographer Howard Schatz. His collection At The Fights smashed every trope of boxing imagery.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

The most courageous decision we made during production was committing to a “live fight” between Jon’s body-double Danny Mangual and actor/fighter Henry Deleon.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

We insisted on casting TV actor, Jon Michael Hill. Minard has seen him in a 2007 play in Chicago and was convince he was the only actor capable of handling the tremendous challenge of bring the character’s interior to the fore. As students, we had to overcome the industry and actor bias towards us to win his faith.

 

What risks does your story take?

Our story take a number of risks. First, we try to tell a very complicated story in a short amount of time, really pushing the envelope of the medium. Second, we don’t shy away from describing head trauma as a perilous result of boxing, but we don’t condemn the sport either.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

Find your passion, a great team and a no lose attitude.

 

 

 

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: Skin the Cat

Skin the Cat   What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? My old roommate was about to move in with his girlfriend, and she had a cat that was less than enthusiastic about the co-habitation situation and also not afraid to share her feelings on the subject. She would actively torment him – scratching, swiping, hissing – and …

Skin the Cat

 skin the cat-min

What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

My old roommate was about to move in with his girlfriend, and she had a cat that was less than enthusiastic about the co-habitation situation and also not afraid to share her feelings on the subject. She would actively torment him – scratching, swiping, hissing – and it didn’t help that she would also do everything to insert herself between him and his girlfriend on the couch, in bed, etc. And, of course, the girlfriend was crazy about her cat, so there was no way he could possibly suggest getting rid of it. We were chatting about it right before the big move, and I said, jokingly, that it was too bad that there wasn’t a pet hit man out there to take care of the problem. The wheels started turning from there. Fortunately they’re now married and he and the cat eventually became friends, so he never had to take my suggestion too seriously.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

Funnily, I can see everyone’s point of view in my short – and there are some wildly different points of view – but I appreciate all of their respective concerns and circumstances. I’m not going to say whose side I’m on in the end, but people can probably figure it out. Or not.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

I had actually been writing this concept as a feature for years but pared it down to a short when I decided that I wanted to just go ahead and make something on my own. Once I had the short script finished, though, we fine-tuned some of the dialogue with the actors – Hugh Scott, Andrew Burlinson, and Diana Gettinger – and clarified some motivations. The best part was finally seeing it come alive through them and not just be something that was living in my head. They all really elevated the material, and it was a ton of fun to collaborate with them. And some of the improvisations by the actors are the best part of the short.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

I’m a huge fan of private eye/detective fiction, and the world of the short is intended to be very film noir. Two movies I was thinking about a lot and envisioning stylistically were Polanski’s Chinatown and Altman’s The Long Goodbye. My DP Hal Long has been a buddy for over ten years and is super talented, and he knew exactly how to achieve the mood, light, and color that I was going for and that would serve the story best. I can’t say enough good things about him and everything he brought to the project, including his crew. Another huge boon for me was my production designer Lanie Overton, who turned an empty 12×15 white room into that creepy office with a very, very limited budget and captured what I wanted perfectly.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

I think the most courageous decision I made throughout the process was just deciding to make the movie. It was no small undertaking financially and involved a lot of moving parts before even getting on set, but it was all definitely worthwhile, at least from my perspective. As for my cast and crew, maybe deciding to get involved with a first time writer/director and work on a shoot that was paying them less than they normally make. I had a lot of friends do me a lot of favors on this, so I was very lucky and am very grateful.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

Fortunately everything went fairly smoothly during writing and production, and we didn’t encounter too many problems. Parking was a little tricky to figure out during the shoot, as we were filming up in Laurel Canyon and unable to park crew cars in the neighborhood without potentially incurring the wrath of the residents, but fortunately we found a stretch on Hollywood that worked. That’s not the most exciting answer, but it was a big save by my good friend Nick Garfinkle, who helped me produce.

 

What risks does your story take?

I think the concept of the short is something that a lot of people get turned off by right away – the idea of someone being a hit man for pets – which is certainly understandable. I’m an animal lover myself. It’s supposed to be a dark comedy, obviously, and it would be a bit of a challenge to explore this topic as a big studio film without upsetting a lot of animal rights folks, but I think we tackle the idea in a manner that ultimately a lot of animal rights people will appreciate – and maybe relate to. Conversely, there are tons of people I tell the concept to, and they say, “Oh my God, my friend so-and-so would love to hire a pet hit man.” I think everyone knows someone who has had an issue like Will does in the short. We approach the concept from a lot of angles, which was fun.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

I couldn’t have done this without a lot of help from my family and friends who were very generous with their time and their ideas – my brother in law Chris White was my editor and did this for free essentially at night. I would advise people to not be afraid to collaborate with people and listen to their suggestions, and that you should definitely surround yourself with the best people you can on set. I also think it’s important to stay true to the vision you have for your story. Also – and this is a tip I’ve read and heard other places for low budget shoots – make sure you feed your cast and crew well. A nice meal can definitely brighten your day when you’re stuck in a hot room for 12 hours.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: Po

Po   What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? I was first introduced to Hawaiian mythology as a sophomore at the University of Hawai’i, where I was studying geology and geophysics. I came to know the island of Oahu on various field trips to local geologic sites, such as the leina ka ‘uhane, the leaping place of soul. Ultimately, …

Po

 

po

What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

I was first introduced to Hawaiian mythology as a sophomore at the University of Hawai’i, where I was studying geology and geophysics. I came to know the island of Oahu on various field trips to local geologic sites, such as the leina ka ‘uhane, the leaping place of soul. Ultimately, I learned that I was more interested in the stories that people had to tell than in rocks, but the idea of a physical gateway to the afterlife stuck with me and the idea for this film took root.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

I think every character I develop represents a different aspect of my personality. It’s interesting to learn about yourself through these personas as they come to life. It’s a bit like going to therapy.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

The original concept for the film was much more supernatural, but those aspects were toned down due to production limitations. The final film is more interior and interpersonal, which makes it stronger. I think the universe was just reminding me to keep it real.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

We were influenced by vintage vacation photos, Luc Besson’s The Big Blue, and great classic films with child actors like E.T., Stand by Me, and The Goonies.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

First we decided to set the film in Hawai’i, some 4,000 miles away from our home base in Austin. Then we realized we had to film the entire two minute finale underwater…

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

We were filming very far away from home on a very limited schedule and budget, which meant that there was very little room for anything to go wrong, and it felt like almost everything went wrong. You learn to roll with the punches, and you learn to prioritize.

 

What risks does your story take?

It’s always a risk to tell a personal story about loss on such a grand scale. The challenge is to not minimize the tragedy or manipulate the audience.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

Ask others for help, and thank them profusely when they give it to you. Don’t let bad news get you down. Remember why you wanted to tell your story in the first place

 

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Hiscoxs Filmmaker Blog: Father’s Day

Father’s Day   What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? Father’s Day started after a particularly rough year between me and my father. Getting older and having some issues between my father and I’s relationship.   How do you relate to your characters or subjects? I very directly relate to my characters, as they are loosely based …

Father’s Day

 

father's day

What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

Father’s Day started after a particularly rough year between me and my father. Getting older and having some issues between my father and I’s relationship.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

I very directly relate to my characters, as they are loosely based on myself and my own life. Rosie is in a mode of avoidance. She has dismissed a real relationship with her father because of their past, but still goes through the theatrics of a good daughter with none of the emotions. “Dad” is based on my real father, but heightened for sure. My father and the father in the film are both very clever men. They are aware what is going on with the relationship, but don’t want to call it out directly. Humor and games are absolutely a way that both my real father and the father in the film deal with any real “issues” in our family and in our lives.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

The biggest change was tone. From the start I knew the tone of the script was unique and one that I had trouble explaining. I wrote and would direct the film and closer to production I decided to also act in the film. I would go back and forth with how subtle or dark to make the production design and direction for the other actors as well as my own performance. I had a very specific tone I wanted. A dark comedy, but a comedy for sure with a happy ending. It was only once we started looking at dailies that it was feeling too dark and sad and low energy. So I made a few changes in Rosie’s behavior and idiosyncrasies that made her lighter and more likable as well as the whole film – I hope!

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

There was this Lorde video I was obsessed with at the time, “Royals”. I thought the cinematography was lovely. The colors and the mood. I sent it to my DP, June Zandona. I think we did well. There was more sunshine than I would have liked on some of our shooting days, but we made it work.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

I could be boastful and say deciding to direct AND act in the film. But truly it was courageous. I was absolutely terrified and doubted myself a lot. I knew I could direct it and I could play Rosie, but the focus to do both at the same time was very hard. I am happy with the results, but I would say I would not do it again until I have “Affleck” money. Also, my producer Shannon was a brave soul parking a boat on the street in a Los Angeles neighborhood and placing a large important actor in it.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

I had a lot riding on this short film personally. I raised money via Kickstarter. Literally in my life, family, friends, co-workers, knew about the short film and donated to it. Everyone was waiting to see how it turned out. No one knew much about the story, they just blinded trusted me with a donation. I had people emailing and calling all the time wanting to know how it was going, and when they were going to get to see “their” film. It was also a very personal story about my relationship with my father that not a lot of people knew about. Far more personal than the all the comedy work I had done before. It was bearing my soul a little hoping that I could prove I could do more than just comedy and showcase an emotional story as well. Shannon Riggs, the producer of the film is also a close personal friend and was very encouraging. She really believed in me and that meant the world. I would turn to her and say, “Is this too corny? Is this too sad?” and she would say, “No! It’s real!” I worried that I would seem a “show off” acting AND directing and would question my skills and without fail Shannon would tell me, “You’re talented. Get over it.” She gave me confidence.

 

 

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: My Brother is a Zombie

My Brother is a Zombie What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? Zombies are everywhere! An image popped into my mind of a normal girl and a zombie brother sitting at a breakfast table with very different meals. It was a funny, bloody image, but as I thought more about a world in which the undead coexisted with …

My Brother is a Zombie

my brother is a zombie-min

What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

Zombies are everywhere! An image popped into my mind of a normal girl and a zombie brother sitting at a breakfast table with very different meals. It was a funny, bloody image, but as I thought more about a world in which the undead coexisted with the living, I started to see that this was fertile territory to explore growing up with a sibling who is different from other kids in any way.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

As the oldest of four siblings, I feel a strong connection to my lead character, Abigail, who faces responsibilities and challenges that I dealt with in my own way growing up. Like her, I also made mistakes as a child without realizing the consequences of my actions, and through those mistakes I learned about the importance of caring for others.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

The relationship between the siblings took a pleasant turn going into production. We were fortunate to cast incredibly sweet kids who imbued a closeness that I hadn’t necessarily anticipated. It would have been easy for Abigail to be played as completely disdainful of her brother, and Norman completely oblivious to his sister’s wishes, but our young actors brought wonderful subtleties to their roles that truly make the movie.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

My cinematographer and I largely took cues from Let the Right One In. We loved that film’s soft lighting and wrapping shadows that nodded to the horror genre while conveying a certain level of intimacy. Our film ended up striking a balance between that aesthetic and the more saturated palette of children’s comedy, much in the way our story strikes that balance.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

When I wrote My Brother Is A Zombie, I envisioned the film taking place in my hometown of Bethesda, Maryland. I never thought we would actually film there because our crew and I were mostly based in New York, but I decided it was worth bringing our whole team down the coast to capture the area where I was raised. We lost a ton of time due to transportation, yet we gained a unique, nostalgic backdrop that became invaluable to our story.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

One significant risk we faced was shooting a 17-scene script in two days with child actors. With so many locations to bounce between, we had to be extra efficient, and every take had to count. We managed to use our lack of time, however, to keep our scenes fresh and our kids engaged, and to inspire an all hands on deck mentality that bolstered a sense of community and teamwork among our crew.

 

What risks does your story take?

My Brother Is A Zombie deals with the sensitive issue of growing up with a sibling with special needs. Because it does so through genre filmmaking, it runs the risk of being taken too literally or having an audience miss the point altogether. Behind a façade of blood and guts, I believe our themes of responsibility, acceptance, and familial love shine through.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

To me the most important part of storytelling through film is exploration. No other medium forces so much collaboration and process-oriented creation. I think it’s important to enjoy and take advantage of the way your story can change and improve through this journey, while also staying true to your intentions.

 

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: Fulfilament

Fulfilament   What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? I wanted to tell a story about where I thought good ideas came from. I hoped the film would encourage the people watching it to believe in their own ideas. As an animator it seemed an obvious decision to personify an idea as a light bulb and have it go …

Fulfilament

 

fulfilamnet

What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

I wanted to tell a story about where I thought good ideas came from. I hoped the film would encourage the people watching it to believe in their own ideas. As an animator it seemed an obvious decision to personify an idea as a light bulb and have it go on an adventure to find a place where it could shine the brightest.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

I think it’s quite easy to relate to the main character in the film. He is someone who just wants to fit in somewhere and belong. In a wider sense, the theme of the film will always remind me what kind of stories I should tell in my future films.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

The film is set inside the human brain and for a long time there was a cross section of the head storyboarded so the audience would go outside the mind and see the location of the light bulbs. There was much back and forth about it but ultimately we decided to trust that the audience would understand the concept without having to be shown that image. That way we could stay with the character and build the relationship with the audience rather than showing the audience more that what the character knew.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

Once we knew the characters were light bulbs then we could build the world around them. They are electrical, solid and made from metal and glass. They wouldn’t fit in an organic world so by stripping away the idea of blood and tissue we were left with the electrical bits of the brain. To have it as a type of ideas factory seemed logical so we used power stations, submarines and circuit boards as inspiration.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

I think it was not revealing what the ideas were. We subtly show the type of idea the individual bulbs represent but we never show an actual idea. This was a decision I made early in the writing process. I wanted someone watching the film to imagine the ideas as their own and if we described what the ideas were then it would eliminate the ability to put your own ideas in the film.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

The biggest risk we ran was having an audience lose interest because they didn’t understand what they were watching. There were various ways to overcome this like narration, signs or descriptions and leaving the head to see it from an outside perspective. All of these things would work but I wanted to believe in the intelligence of the audience. I wanted them to work for the story not just sit back and let it be spoon fed. They were hard decisions to make but I had to listen to my own expectations of the film over what I imagined an audience would expect.

 

What risks does your story take?

Some of our story elements are very subtle and not very obvious. The types of ideas in the brain are represented by different shaped and coloured light bulbs which need some thought to understand. There are bulbs looking after secrets who are black light UV and bulbs responsible for logical ideas that all solve puzzles.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

I would suggest having a mission statement that you can always refer to. It becomes a set of instructions for the film that keeps your initial intentions true and stops the film becoming to muddied with ideas.

 

 

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: The Teller and the Truth

The Teller and the Truth What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? I was location scouting in Smithville, Texas, and came across a newspaper article posted on a wall about a 1974 bank robbery involving a beautiful young local girl. When I saw her picture, I had to know more and never looked back. The Teller and the …

The Teller and the Truth

tellerandthetruthWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

I was location scouting in Smithville, Texas, and came across a newspaper article posted on a wall about a 1974 bank robbery involving a beautiful young local girl. When I saw her picture, I had to know more and never looked back. The Teller and the Truth film is based on her story.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

They take huge risks regardless of the outcome.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

As we dug into the local Texas story, it soon evolved into being a global search for clues and answers. We never expected to be filming in places like France and India, but it happened.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life film and the rich colors of Pedro Almodovar’s films inspired me to push the colors of the film as far as possible. Most films are shot around 5500 kelvin (color temperature). We shot most of The Teller and the Truth at 10,000 kelvin.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

We decided to take the story about the bank robber escaping the scene by jumping on a fast moving freight train. Knowing that only big budget studio productions could hire a actual freight train, we decided to try to shoot the scene with the actor jumping on real trains, without telling anyone.

If we were to ask permission, it never would have happened.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

Our crew carefully awaited real freight trains to pass by and started filming on the spot. When you see the scene, you’ll realize just how brave the actor (Russell G. Ochoa) had to be to make it work.

Eventually, after several tries, we realized that both the actor and the camera operators had to be on the moving train so we all took the risk together.

Later in the production, with the assistance of the folks at Austin Steam Train Association, we were able to film his close-ups.

 

What risks does your story take?

Telling a story that starts out as a documentary and later evolves into a narrative is risky if it’s not balanced just right. Even more risky is making a film involving two main characters that do not speak.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

Feel free to break the rules.

In an age when there is so much content, you almost have to break the conventional rules in order to garner notice. It’s not always welcomed by the gatekeepers of the industry, but it’s worth the risk if you can create something new and exciting.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: Three Fingers

Three Fingers What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? Virginia Newcomb, the lead in the film, approached me about wanting to play an “aggressive female character”. For the script, I sort of worked backwards from there to seek what might cause a character to behave erratically in such a way. Once I decided to pursue a military theme, …

Three Fingers

threefingersWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

Virginia Newcomb, the lead in the film, approached me about wanting to play an “aggressive female character”. For the script, I sort of worked backwards from there to seek what might cause a character to behave erratically in such a way. Once I decided to pursue a military theme, specifically the issue of PTS, the story developed quickly. Upon further research on the matter we discovered how large an issue it really is. From there we knew it was worth pursuing for production and became fond of the idea of telling this story from the perspective of a female character.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

I’m gonna defer this one to our lead Virginia Newcomb who was really immersed in this character and she had this to say:

“My fears have always been a marker for my creativity. Jessie’s struggle resonates with a part of me that I’m afraid of. I think we all understand darkness and if we can embrace the darkness in ourselves we can bring light to others. It’s why I do this.”
 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

During writing, I suppose two things went through a pretty big change. From the first draft until the shooting draft I really worked with Virginia to pickup the details of a female soldier that deals with these types of challenges. She worked with some women that operated in FET (Female Engagement Team) and picked up a lot of behaviors that we were able to incorporate into the script. Second would be the bar scene. It originally contained two additional characters — Marine buddies of Jessie. That was paired down and cut as we received some feedback on the script in pre-production realizing that the story should never really deviate from Jessie’s POV.

In production, the kitchen/living room clean-up scene changed quite a bit from my original shot-list. This was due to the location and what that location gave us and did not give us. The entire wide 50/50 of both rooms was decided days before production after the scout. Oddly, that turned out to be one of the shots that gets the most response out of the audience.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

I really lean on allowing the camera to become a character in the film. Movement was important but I didn’t want to go the route of this frenetic hand-held motif as the tension is a methodical build in this story. I wanted fluid controlled movement with long takes and to avoid being to “cutty”. There are elements in the Jeff Nichols film Mud that would be a good example of this type of visual execution.

The color palette and grading was heavily influenced by David Fincher films such as Seven, Fight Club & his remake of Girl With a Dragon Tattoo. He’s very good at using “off-putting and uneasy” colors and lighting with tense films.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

During writing, I guess it has to be choosing to tell a story about a Marine and that Marine being a woman. Women still are not allowed in combat, theoretically, but read a little about FET and you’ll see that is just not the case.

There are always moments in production where you have to make on-the-fly decisions, change shots, the actor has to make a choice etc. I’d say the most courageous moment has to go to Virginia giving her monologue on camera in front of actual veterans, many of which had physical and emotional wounds from combat. To her credit, they were all very moved as we shot that scene.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

I think there are risks with any storytelling that changes mediums. It is very risky to take a story that you’ve written, raise money to spend on re-telling that story on film, just to re-tell it once again editorially.

The risk is always, did we tell a moving and viable story here or did we not. You can have an idea of how it’s all turning out through various stages but you never know until the audience watches the film.

 

What risks does your story take?

The story is told 90% visually. There is little speaking — in fact not a word is spoken until 2/3 of the way though the piece. The challenge there is on all fronts. The actor has to embody the emotion you wish to come across just as the camera, art direction, editorial and sound must accentuate all of the elements to hit the viewer in a visceral way.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

With writing I think you just have to write often and when you find a story or idea worth telling spend a LOT of time sharpening that script before you ever hit production.

Regarding film producing — I’m not so sure anyone has fully figured that out yet. Ha! Find the angle that works for you and your current project, of which there are thousands.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: Traction

Traction What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? The death of Eric Garner. I wanted to comment and contribute to the conversation about race in America in 2015. I am deeply moved by the large racial divide I personally believe still exits in our country. Considering that I mostly work in the vein of comedy and that I …

Traction

tractionWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

The death of Eric Garner. I wanted to comment and contribute to the conversation about race in America in 2015. I am deeply moved by the large racial divide I personally believe still exits in our country. Considering that I mostly work in the vein of comedy and that I am a caucasian female, Traction is my contribution to the acknowledgement of white privilege, of racial biases, and to the different types of racism that I have personally encountered in my own life.
 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

I relate to my characters in the sense that I interact with people like this on a fairly regular basis. I know a lot of white people who either don’t realize or refuse to accept that white privilege exits. That said, I relate to the character of Andy in that I consider myself to be a pretty conscious and just individual, and yet, there are probably times when I am influenced by my own biases and my own privilege. In many ways, Andy represents the person I’m afraid of ever becoming.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

Nothing. 95% of the film is what was written on the page.

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

Randy Wedick, my DP, had a lot to do with the visual style of the film. He and I have wanted to work together for a while because I come from a very story-based background and he is extremely visual. The two of us wanted to see how we could balance out each others skill sets.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

I think talking about race is always risky because you never know if you’ll be met with empathy or vitriol. Like I said earlier, I am deeply moved by the large racial divide I personally believe still exits in our country, but there are plenty of people who do not feel the same way.

               

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

We shot during 106 degree weather in Los Angeles and by the end of the day I was suffering from heatstroke. As the director and lead actress, I had a lot of responsibility at a time when I felt like passing out. My fellow cast-members and my incredible crew really rallied to make sure we got our last three shots. There was a strong sense of teamwork with this short from production to post and I guess it’s safe to say that all of our risks were taken on as a team so nothing ever felt impossible or overwhelming.

 

What risks does your story take?

I feel like I’ve addressed this a bunch in previous questions… There’s a big turn in the short that I think is risky. Andy, our hero of sorts, ends a date because of racists jokes, only to reveal that she too has racial bias. I think a short where the message is ‘we’re all a little racist’ is risky because some people will disagree and some people won’t like that I’m a white female talking about race.

               

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

I would encourage other filmmakers to push themselves toward honesty and vulnerability, whatever that means to them. Embrace teamwork and be open to change and collaboration. Also, your story can always be shorter. Kill your darlings!

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: Feliz Cumpleaños

 Feliz Cumpleaños   What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? This question: How far can get the love of a mother?     How do you relate to your characters or subjects? I have a son and I understand the power of a father to a son, I can not imagine the power of a mother’s love.     What …

 Feliz Cumpleaños

 feliz

What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

This question: How far can get the love of a mother?

 

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

I have a son and I understand the power of a father to a son, I can not imagine the power of a mother’s

love.

 

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

Initially the issue of illegal migration of Mexicans to the United States was present in history. In the end I

found the story was something else.

 

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

I love music videos, and maybe that’s the most powerful visual influence in this film.

 

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

during production: shoot the film in one day (hahahaha).

 

 

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to

embrace them?

It was much work for one day of production, so the only way was to successfully complete was an

exhaustive planning. Shooting list, templates, storyboard.

 

 

What risks does your story take?

The message: the character of the mother makes a decision that may seem exaggerated at first glance

but I think we should think twice before considering so.

 

 

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen

writing or film producing?

Be honest with yourself. Seek the truth of history above all and never stop working, in the end every

project is part of a personal process.

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Hiscox Filmmaker Blog: We Are Happy

We Are Happy What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? I’ve realized that I’m very often influenced by the behavior of other people. If someone sitting next to me on the bus is eating a doughnut, I often think, ‘Hey, I’d like a doughnut too’. So I began to wonder how many of my life choices had been …

We Are Happy

wearehappyWhat inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?

I’ve realized that I’m very often influenced by the behavior of other people. If someone sitting next to me on the bus is eating a doughnut, I often think, ‘Hey, I’d like a doughnut too’.

So I began to wonder how many of my life choices had been made because I’d observed the choices of other people. And then I wondered, what it would be like if one had made the big decisions in one’s life – to get married, to have children, to get divorced – simply because your friends were doing it. And that’s how the idea for the film came about.

 

How do you relate to your characters or subjects?

My films are very personal – they are often inspired by something that’s happened to me or an aspect of my personality that I want to tease out or unpack. The heroes of We Are Happy are a couple who start questioning their marriage because they’re friends have done the same thing, so not only can I see myself in the main characters – my fear is that I am them.

 

What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?

No aspect of the story changed during the writing – only in the sense that myself and my writing partner, James Handel, had written an idea for a film and we decided we didn’t like it (well, to be honest, the feedback from actors we knew told us it just wasn’t that strong) so we dumped it, and came up with something else.

From that point the story didn’t change at all during the writing or production. I always shoot the script as it is – well I certainly try. I think if things are changing too much it’s usually because I haven’t spent enough time on the writing process in the first place. In my experience, you can fix some things in the edit; you can paint out a sign or darken down a corner, but you can’t change someone’s motivation or performance. The meaning, the thrust, the turning points of the story is set in the writing.

 

 

What influenced the visual style of your film?

My films are very conversational and I’m often aware of not wanting to be too ‘tricksy’ when it comes to camerawork. I don’t like anything that may get in the way of the performances. As a commercials director I’ve had plenty of opportunity to use every obscure lens, weird camera angle and piece of kit available – which is why in drama l like to keep things simple.

That said, the lighting was, for me, an opportunity to try and make things interesting and the cameraman and myself looked at a lot of Rembrandt paintings. In the film, we had a lot of people sitting around chatting and the chiaroscuro techniques he used, where he allows large portions of his canvass to go very dark, was something that we borrowed heavily from, particularly in the first scene of the film.

 

What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?

Easy – we dumped our old script. We had a script that wasn’t really working – actors weren’t responding and it wasn’t really reflecting the kind of social satire that myself and my co-writer were interested in making.

It was a story set a dinner party, but it had a thriller element to it, where a shocking back story was revealed. The idea was OK. It could have worked, but it wasn’t ‘us’. So rather than trying to fix it, we dumped it entirely and came up with a new script. It was the best decision we made. I don’t think that old script would have made it into this festival.

 

Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?

The most difficult part of the shoot was when we were filming in the Conran Shop, a very expensive London department store. The store is closed on a Sunday morning until 11am. We had access from 8am till 11am to get all of our shots. However, they assured us that no one arrives until 12pm so we planned on shooting till 12pm.

Obviously, this being a shoot, the public never got the memo and when the doors opened at 11, fifty people trooped in, all of whom seemed to be wearing clogs that clanked and boomed on the wooden floors. There was nothing much we could do about it, so we acquired a bunch of unwanted extras and noise during the final shots.

Luckily, since we were following traditional filming schedules, we’d shot all the wides and mid shots first, so I only needed a couple of close ups. The sound man was worried the noise wouldn’t match, but in post, the sound editor edited the dialogues so heavily that I don’t think you notice all the extra noise. Essentially our location changed from having eight extras in it to fifty. It was a pretty close shave. If we were behind schedule nothing would have cut.

 

What risks does your story take?

The story of We Are Happy is about urban professionals who struggle with what some would term ‘high class problems’. It’s a satirical comedy – you’re supposed to be laughing at the characters and with them at the same time.

The film is not particularly visual – it’s not supposed to be. I eschewed all opportunities to be clever with the camerawork. I don’t think that would have made the film any more filmic. I just tried to make the film as honestly as I could. It’s not to everyone’s taste and there’s a lot of dialogue in it.

I’m working with a producer on another project who doesn’t like it. He say it’s ‘too talky’. But if anything, that is the risk we took with the film – it is talky. It’s supposed to be. It’s a film that relies entirely on the writing and the performances. If you don’t like a lot of dialogue, you’re not going to like this film.

The one risk you have to always take is to be true to your material. Not everyone will like it. If you like exclusively action films you will think this film sucks. But some people will and if it’s to their taste and they like it, then you’ve done your job.

 

How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?

My answer to this carries on very much from the previous question. I think it’s important to recognize in the writing process that if something isn’t working, it needs to be fixed before the shoot. The writing, the characters, their motivations, as we all know, can’t be fixed in the editing room. Similarly, if a script isn’t working, and you’ve tried it every which way, it’s often quicker to dump it and start another script.

I also think it’s important to get feedback from other people, but I would caution about getting feedback from other writers and/or directors. Us writers are all very competitive and may not give the most encouraging or useful notes. Also, I think writers tend to have genres they like and excel in, and they may simply not ‘get’ what you’re trying to do. This also applies to directors. I showed a rough cut to a couple of director friends who told me the material just wasn’t funny. I knew they were wrong but I doubted myself. When a much larger consensus of people saw the film they were proved wrong.

Equally, comedy’s a funny thing. It’s a serious business and everyone has different taste. It is, like many things in life, entirely subjective. On the one hand you can get a consensus, a sense of whether what you’re doing is working or not, and on the other hand you often really have to stick to your guns. If you’re convinced about what you’re doing, forget about everyone else’s opinion.

And finally, I would just reiterate, it’s all down to the script. I always ask myself a question, especially with feature scripts, before I’m about to send them out to producers or financiers, ‘Would I invest a $1m of my own money in this script?’ If the answer is no, then I don’t send it out. It requires another draft.

If on the other hand I know beyond a shadow of doubt I would invest every last dime I own into this script and would rather own it all because I’m so confident of the material I don’t want to split my investment and recoupment with anybody else, then I know I’m onto something. This obviously happens (if at all) very rarely.

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Announcing Our First 2015 Short Film Selections (Part 4)

It’s September at Austin Film Festival, which means we’re only a few weeks away from announcing our full 2015 slate of films! Hold on to your seats, because it’s a going to be a great one (as you might be able to tell from our First Ten Sneak Peek). And to help you through these final few weeks of waiting, we’re carrying on our tradition …

It’s September at Austin Film Festival, which means we’re only a few weeks away from announcing our full 2015 slate of films! Hold on to your seats, because it’s a going to be a great one (as you might be able to tell from our First Ten Sneak Peek). And to help you through these final few weeks of waiting, we’re carrying on our tradition of announcing some of our standout short films early. That’s right, it’s time for #MovieMonday and #FilmFriday! Every Monday and Friday, we will be announcing these short films through our Twitter account (@austinfilmfest). Follow us to get the inside scoop before anyone else. And keep on checking back here for the most up-to-date list of announced shorts.

And if you’re excited about these shorts, and want to watch them in October, get yourself a Film Pass for 8 days of feature films, short films, red carpets, and Q&As.

Check out the list below!


Jersy Shore Love Story-min

Frieda and Eddie, A Jersey Shore Love Story

They dated briefly before World War II, and now, after nearly 70 years of living their own lives, Frieda and Eddie have rekindled their old spark to spend their final years together reminiscing and taking care of each other.


coffee break-min

Coffee Break

In a post-apocalyptic deserted city, a lonely woman faces difficult challenges in her desperate quest to prepare a perfect cup of coffee.


story of-min

The story of Percival Pilts

While playing on stilts, young Percival Pilts vows, “Never again shall my feet touch the ground!” Compelled ever higher, he builds his stilts so tall that he no longer fits into normal society.


this little light

This Little Light of Mine: The Legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer

A poor Mississippi sharecropper escapes debilitating abuse to become an indomitable force against the political elite and a voice for millions fighting for the right to vote in 1964.


hasta la vista PNG CONVERT-min

Hasta La Vista

After mistakenly offending someone at a party, a hopelessly awkward young man goes to desperate lengths to prove it was a simple misunderstanding.


delivery-min

Delivery

Stuck on a night from 16 years ago, an anxious shut-in has a plan to give herself a second chance with someone from her past.


anomie-min

Anomie

A woman is haunted by the memory of a heinous crime and the youthful face of its perpetrator.


kubo's crickets PNG CONVERT-min

Kubo’s Crickets

Obsessive visionary and inventor Kubo Dzamba believes he’s found a way to save humanity from worldwide famine: farming crickets for food.


chau beyond-min

Chau, Beyond the Lines

Chau, a 16-year-old boy living in a Vietnamese peace camp for kids disabled by Agent Orange, battles with the reality of his dream to one day become a professional clothing designer.


the last words

The Last Words

After years of silence, a deaf man struggles to say goodbye to his dying mother.


sleepless nights-min

Sleepless Nights

A young man finally moves in with his girlfriend, but he finds out a secret about her that could make this new living situation difficult for him.


Ruby Woo-min

Ruby Woo

Chrissa yearns for her boyfriend’s affection, but when greed shifts his attention to her little sister, Chrissa’s delusion of love sends her twisted world spiraling.


promise me-min

Promise Me

A man must say goodbye to his mother, who is now at the end of her life.


carry on-min

Carry On

An old and pragmatic farmer must navigate unexplored emotions after learning that his longtime donkey is nearing death.


the tender dark

The Tender Dark

A young girl’s first crush leads her into an uncharted world of hidden desires.


Central Texas Barbecue 4-min

Central Texas Barbecue

Pitmasters of central Texas barbecue joints offer perspective on a world that is uniquely American.


auction-min

Auction

In the small town of Gonzales, Texas, a cattle auction serves as the cultural focal point, bringing everyone together and carrying the community’s heritage.


restoration-min

Restoration

A struggling painter takes on a commission that promises fame but may cost him his soul.


last wishes-min

Last Wishes

Two young thugs target elderly couple Philipe and Emile, but a simple miscalculation could have fatal consequences.


ameture dictator-min

Amateur Dictator

Jorge Mendoza is a New York City building super who dreams of becoming a dictator.


sara dennis-min

Sara & Dennis

A young, interracial couple confronts their differences through a seemingly innocent game of “would you rather.”


TP

T.P.

A naive roll of toilet paper awakens in a disgusting gas station bathroom, and is horrified to discover what fate has in store for his kind.


the morrigan PNG CONVERT-min

The Morrigan

A young couple’s remote holiday cottage comes under attack from malevolent forces when they give refuge to a mysterious young girl.


coyote and the rock-min

Coyote and the Rock

Based on Native American folklore, two mischief-makers of the Great Plains get into trouble when they bid defiance to Iya, the sleeping magic rock.


happy hour-min

Happy Hour

After having to fire 15 people, Ed recalls an almost forgotten incident from his childhood, and in telling it reveals larger ideas of pain and loss that have shaped his entire life.


circles-min

Circles

After 9 months on a mission as a doctor in war-torn Central African Republic, Susanna returns to Sweden only to find that everything is … just the same.


Klan On Trial PNG CONVERT-min

Klan on Trial: How Dan Moody Broke the Back of the KKK in Texas

In 1923, at the height of the KKK’s power in Texas, one community chose to stand up to the KKK’s vigilante justice, convicting its members and sentencing them to prison for the first time in US history.


dinner prayer-min

Dinner Prayer

Jennifer is meeting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time and is about to have dinner at their house; they just need to bless the food first.


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Hiscox Filmmaker Blogs Coming Soon

It takes courage to tell a great story, because without risk, nothing great can happen. This is why Austin Film Festival and Hiscox Insurance are proud to present the inaugural Courage Award. The Hiscox Insurance Courage Award will be presented to the film that best showcases the most courageous story. Selected by the audience, the Hiscox Insurance Courage Award will be presented to the one …

It takes courage to tell a great story, because without risk, nothing great can happen. This is why Austin Film Festival and Hiscox Insurance are proud to present the inaugural Courage Award.

The Hiscox Insurance Courage Award will be presented to the film that best showcases the most courageous story.

Selected by the audience, the Hiscox Insurance Courage Award will be presented to the one film that best embodies the virtue of courage and to the filmmaker who best embraced the risk to share the story.

In addition, Hiscox Insurance is inviting Austin Film Festival’s 2015 filmmakers to write blog entries describing the trials and tribulations the filmmakers faced getting their films to this point.

Stay tuned!

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Juror Spotlight: Stephanie Bang

Next up on our Juror Spotlight series is Stephanie Bang. Stephanie is the Director of Original Movies at Nickelodeon, where she oversees the development and production of live-action and animated TV movies. She most recently worked on the live-action movie One Crazy Cruise and the upcoming original Liar, Liar, Vampire. Stephanie has been at Nickelodeon for eight years and previously worked in Original Programming & Events, where she was …

SBang-Headshot

Next up on our Juror Spotlight series is Stephanie Bang. Stephanie is the Director of Original Movies at Nickelodeon, where she oversees the development and production of live-action and animated TV movies. She most recently worked on the live-action movie One Crazy Cruise and the upcoming original Liar, Liar, Vampire.

Stephanie has been at Nickelodeon for eight years and previously worked in Original Programming & Events, where she was the TeenNick Executive in Charge and helped manage the Kids’ Choice Awards, the HALO Awards and Worldwide Day of Play.

She is an alumna of the Gallatin School at NYU, where she received her degree in Children’s Television, and currently resides in Los Angeles.

What is your background and what is your role at Nick Movies?

I graduated from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU with a concentration in Children’s Television. I fulfilled most of my major with seven internships in my specific field, one of which landed me a desk at Nickelodeon where I’ve been for eight years now. I’ve grown-up at Nick, having worked on live-action development and current series, live events, TeenNick programming, and currently, movies. As the director of the movies department, I have an Executive-in-Charge role on our productions and work closely with my team to take our projects from development to air. This involves finding new talent, taking pitches, steering and supporting writers, overseeing production on-set, and through all stages of post-production, along with communicating with other internal lines of business.

Can you please define, in your own words, what a true Nickelodeon film is?

To me, a Nickelodeon film is event-worthy, longer-format programming that tells our audience a special or big story while still encompassing all the qualities of the brand. Currently, these are animated or live action – starring familiar or new faces – but are always kid-centric stories that feel relatable to our kid audience.

What films have you produced that you are most proud/fond of?

After I joined the movie department in spring 2014, one of the first movies we produced was Splitting Adam, which is about a kid who finds a cloning machine.  It did a good job of balancing slapstick comedy, sci-fi and relatable heart. I’m also excited for our upcoming Halloween movie, Liar, Liar, Vampire, which is about a new kid who is mistaken for a vampire and goes along with the ruse to be popular for the first time in his life. The comedy is clever, and I think it’s spot-on for the young audience who is now very familiar with the genre and ready for a new take.

What do you look for specifically in a script? Specifically, what gets you excited when you read a script?

Smart and funny. It’s a simple and broad answer, but I get excited by laughing at a joke or idea I’ve never heard before. I love reading something and thinking, “this is hilarious, I can’t believe no one’s thought of it already.” In kids’ content, the jokes need to stand on their own and can’t rely on adult references. It makes originality particularly challenging for the writer and appreciated by the reader.

What’s the best advice you would provide a new writer wanting to break into this particular field?

There’s a lot to be said about simply being in the right place at the right time, but when opportunities arise, a new writer will want to have his/her best foot forward.

My advice to a new writer is that even when you don’t have work, keep working on your samples, familiarizing yourself with material you admire, and practicing your people and pitching skills. The writers we work with the most are equally skilled at working on a script in a room alone and pitching themselves or a movie in a conference room.

What are you looking forward to at this year’s AFF?

I’m looking forward to meeting new writers who may not necessarily be thinking of writing for the kids’ space, but would be excellent at it.

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Announcing Our First 2015 Short Film Selections (Part 2)

It’s September at Austin Film Festival, which means we’re only a few weeks away from announcing our full 2015 slate of films! Hold on to your seats, because it’s a going to be a great one (as you might be able to tell from our First Ten Sneak Peek). And to help you through these final few weeks of waiting, we’re carrying on our tradition …

It’s September at Austin Film Festival, which means we’re only a few weeks away from announcing our full 2015 slate of films! Hold on to your seats, because it’s a going to be a great one (as you might be able to tell from our First Ten Sneak Peek). And to help you through these final few weeks of waiting, we’re carrying on our tradition of announcing some of our standout short films early. That’s right, it’s time for #MovieMonday and #FilmFriday! Every Monday and Friday, we will be announcing these short films through our Twitter account (@austinfilmfest). Follow us to get the inside scoop before anyone else. And keep on checking back here for the most up-to-date list of announced shorts.

And if you’re excited about these shorts, and want to watch them in October, get yourself a Film Pass for 8 days of feature films, short films, red carpets, and Q&As.

Check out the list below!


Po

Basil searches for his mother’s soul after she drowns during a morning swim on Waikiki beach.


The Swim Instructor

When one of Lee’s swimming students is never collected by his mother, Lee is suddenly forced to assume the role of the boy’s guardian. Ethan must come to terms with his missing parent, while Lee finds his life outside of the swim lessons challenged by the unexpected circumstances. Despite and because of these obstacles, Lee and Ethan form a powerful, if temporary bond.


The Present

Jake spends most of his time playing video games indoors until his mom decides to give him a present.


Sin Matador

A couple’s long overdue, romantic dinner plans are foiled when they become entangled in an illegal, underground bullfight in the basement of their Manhattan luxury apartment building.


Kimi Kabuki

Madeline, a devoted house wife discovers her husband is attending an Adult Industry Expo behind her back. Resolving to confront him about his deceit, she follows him to the convention.


Traces of my Brother

‘Traces of my Brother’ tells the story of Max, a teenager, whose older brother dies in war and leaves his family in deep mourning. Incapable of dealing with the loss of his personal hero, Max declares war to a world which doesn’t understand his problems. Torn by his anger he leaves his family to become a soldier like his brother!
But Max must learn the hard way that in order to follow the footsteps of his brother he has to deal with his responsibility and get rid of his aggressions.


Blitz

A father and son agree to a ‘winner take all’ blitz chess game in order to settle a bet.


The Final Scene

The Final Scene experiences the breakup of legendary 50’s comedy duo Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.


The Dressmaker

Due to financial difficulties, Eric, a young dressmaker, is confronted with the decision to sell his business and give up on his dream. However, a charming mannequin who has been displayed in his shop comes to life and helps him design a dress.


The Favor

Ellen and Ralph have differing views on how to handle Ellen’s dying mother’s imminent passing. When Ellen asks Ralph, her husband of many years, to give her mother a last kiss, Ellen and Ralph are forced to examine not only their very different feelings about her mother’s death but also their commitment to each other.


Borrowed Time

A weathered Sheriff returns to the remains of an accident he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. With each step forward, the memories come flooding back. Faced with his mistake once again, he must find the strength to carry on. –WAB


Three Fingers

A young female Marine war veteran navigates her disintegrating life until there is nothing left but to make a choice.


TRACTION

Traction

An awkward comedy about first dates, race, and racism.


ARIA OF A COW

Aria for a Cow

Aria, a bovine diva, demands to be respected for more than just her dairy products.


Foos Your Daddy

On the day he’s leaving for college, Billy’s relationship with his overbearing father is put to the test when they play a heated game of foosball.


LIFE ON JUNIPER

Life on Juniper

Following reports of a mysterious crash, an aging farmer encounters a visitor determined on disrupting his quiet way of life.


Seahorse

Seahorse is the story of a first love, an unrequited love and a pregnant boy


Jack-in-the-Box

Jack in the Box

Jack, a procrastinating graduate student, finds the apartment he is house-sitting has turned into a box with no exit or escape. Inside Jack’s box is another, smaller box that contains another trapped procrastinator named Walter.


THE FUNDAMENTALS

The Fundamentals

As part of an initiative known as Restorative Justice, Kate prepares to meet the man who raped her, in the hope that she can start to move on with her life.


Guide

When John, a blind man, discovers that his guide dog and best friend, Jubilee, is dying, his world seems to crumble. Unwilling to apply for a new dog, but unable to live without one John struggles to find the strength to say goodbye and find a way to push on.


Her First Black Guy

Paul wants to meet a woman of substance and worldly experience. His blind date, Claire, is amazed by all the different people you see on a Los Angeles bus. That’s not quite what he had in mind.


IN HER PLACE_01

In her Place

In Her Place is a dramatic story about an Iranian-American man suffering from a mid-life crisis who visits his homeland of Iran to meet and wed a young Iranian woman.


THE TIE

The Tie

A small giraffe and a tall giraffe have a chance meeting. Despite their obvious difference in stature, they discover a kinship.


til jail do us part

Til jail do us part

Their love and deep religious belief drive Joseph and Liza, a criminal couple, to kidnap a priest to marry them before they are found and taken in by the police.


The Trials of Constance Baker Motley

With archival footage and narration in Motley’s own voice, The Trials of Constance Baker Motley tells the story of a civil rights leader who met prejudice and danger with elegance and humor.


The orchestra

The Orchestra

Imagine a world where a band of tiny musicians follow you around, playing a soundtrack for your life – communicating your emotions, fears and hopes through song. This is the world of The Orchestra.


Programme-Still

The Immaculate Misconception

Sinead is underage, pregnant, and a virgin who lives with her grandparents. Her grandmother, the matriarch of this dysfunctional family and a pious Catholic, will stop at nothing to get this birth proclaimed immaculate.


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Announcing Our First 2015 Short Film Selections (Part 3)

It’s September at Austin Film Festival, which means we’re only a few weeks away from announcing our full 2015 slate of films! Hold on to your seats, because it’s a going to be a great one (as you might be able to tell from our First Ten Sneak Peek). And to help you through these final few weeks of waiting, we’re carrying on our tradition …

It’s September at Austin Film Festival, which means we’re only a few weeks away from announcing our full 2015 slate of films! Hold on to your seats, because it’s a going to be a great one (as you might be able to tell from our First Ten Sneak Peek). And to help you through these final few weeks of waiting, we’re carrying on our tradition of announcing some of our standout short films early. That’s right, it’s time for #MovieMonday and #FilmFriday! Every Monday and Friday, we will be announcing these short films through our Twitter account (@austinfilmfest). Follow us to get the inside scoop before anyone else. And keep on checking back here for the most up-to-date list of announced shorts.

And if you’re excited about these shorts, and want to watch them in October, get yourself a Film Pass for 8 days of feature films, short films, red carpets, and Q&As.

Check out the list below!


Last Door South

Last Door South

A two-headed child who has been locked up in the family manor, tries to find the end of it.


 Digits

After losing the last two digits of a girl’s number, a socially awkward fish enthusiast tries every combination to seek her out.


The Meek

The Meek follows the story of a very small person trying to quit a very big bad habit.


fulfilament

Fulfilament

Travel around the brain with a little, lost thought and discover what it takes to make a great idea.


this one

Everybody Does It

A young woman takes her sexuality into her own hands–literally.


Black Card

In a culture requiring an ID card and commitment to the code, an African-American couple is about to find out just how far the boundaries can be pushed…


Feliz

Feliz Cumpleaños

At a party, Victor’s 18th birthday suddenly becomes a nightmare, and, out of panic, he has no choice but to face his mother with his careless actions.


missroboto-min

Miss Roboto

A dishwashing robot feels unfulfilled with her life. Despite her purpose, she tries to do something that she wasn’t programmed to do… TO GROOVE!


sophie-min

Sophie

Set in Kowloon, Hong Kong, 8-year-old, Sophie Cheung is abandoned by her mother, and forced to live and connect with her grandmother.


my brother is a zombie-min

My Brother Is A Zombie

Abigail’s younger brother, Norman, is the most annoying brother in the world – plus, he’s a zombie! When Abigail gets fed up with taking care of him, she makes a decision that could change their relationship forever.


Frog’s Legs

A dopey frog must escape from a crazy, one-eyed witch who wants to cut off his legs for a beauty potion.


runaway1-minRunaway

George’s girlfriend is in labor, but after being involved in an incident, he faces a moral dilemma.


nipplejesus-min

Nipplejesus

A bouncer finds out that guarding modern art is just as hazardous as controlling the ropes at a nightclub.


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Announcing Our First 2015 Short Film Selections (Part 1)

It’s September at Austin Film Festival, which means we’re only a few weeks away from announcing our full 2015 slate of films! Hold on to your seats, because it’s a going to be a great one (as you might be able to tell from our First Ten Sneak Peek). And to help you through these final few weeks of waiting, we’re carrying on our tradition …

It’s September at Austin Film Festival, which means we’re only a few weeks away from announcing our full 2015 slate of films! Hold on to your seats, because it’s a going to be a great one (as you might be able to tell from our First Ten Sneak Peek). And to help you through these final few weeks of waiting, we’re carrying on our tradition of announcing some of our standout short films early. That’s right, it’s time for #MovieMonday and #FilmFriday! Every Monday and Friday, we will be announcing these short films through our Twitter account (@austinfilmfest). Follow us to get the inside scoop before anyone else. And keep on checking back here for the most up-to-date list of announced shorts.

And if you’re excited about these shorts, and want to watch them in October, get yourself a Film Pass for 8 days of feature films, short films, red carpets, and Q&As.

Check out the list below!


sinecdoque

Sinecdoque. Una Historia De Amour Fou


harryjudy

Harry and Judy

The love story of two religious teens, whose innocent romance takes a sharp turn when Judy begins to stray from the faith. Deeply unsettled by his newlywed’s penchant for sin, Harry descends into madness – content to carry out the judgments of God upon those he deems impure.


humblepie

Humble Pie

An animated comedy short featuring a fly who learns a lesson about pride in a story of insects and violence.


The 100 Years Show

Carmen Herrera, a spunky and distinctive painter coming up on her 100th birthday, is finally achieving the recognition that eluded her for most of her career.


redrover

Red Rover

Two teenagers from a remote religious community travel to town in search of shelter after being told by their Evangelical parents that an asteroid will soon destroy the earth.


P.S. 432

P.S. 432 tells the story of a NYC public school teacher who must decide whether or not to cheat on behalf of his students on a high-stakes standardized test.


We Are Happy

Sarah and Paul’s best friends tell them the great news – they’re getting divorced. Unable to understand why their happily married friends are untying the knot, Sarah and Paul start to analyze their own marriage, with disastrous consequences.


millwood2

Best Wishes from Millwood

An unhappy housewife is visited by a bicycle-riding stranger with wish-making cookies.


20 Somethings

An antisocial twenty-something must escape hipster conversations in order to meet a beautiful girl before she leaves the party without him.


SOAR

A precocious young girl makes a new friend when a tiny boy pilot drops out of the sky on a broken flying machine. Now she must race against time to return him home, before her new friend becomes stranded on Earth forever.


Standing 8

Abdul is a bitter and burned-out journeyman boxer who was raised to fight and win with little success. But when he kills an opponent in the ring, his popularity soars. In the lead up to his next fight he must confront his greatest enemy – himself. Standing8 is a journey to discover how the center of Abdul’s universe – boxing – threatens to crush his sanity and destroy his livelihood.


Safe Space

Patrick and Sara live a love story, but they are also fighting together for refugee rights in Berlin. When a harmless advance turns into a sexual assault, the group is forced to rethink their aims and their private story grows to an unwanted public dimension.


18

Ingrid visits the therapist she’s been seeing her entire adolescence on her 18th birthday to announce that she’s done with therapy before heading out for a night on the town with her girlfriends.


Skin the Cat

A dark comedy about a feline-phobic guy who hires a pet hit man to take out his girlfriend’s cat.


Father’s Day

A dramedy about trying to patch foxholes with band-aids.


Anthem

Anthem captures the unlikely and perilous meeting of two truly unique people. Two people with a common passion and a common struggle. The film follows two devoted rock climbers (Jeremy Thomley and Marie Claude Mathieu) as they discover each other, themselves, and their mutual fight for breath and physical contact on a secluded mountaintop. At its core, Anthem is a human story of determination, dangerous curiosity, and acceptance.


The Romance Class

Julia has finally found the perfect ending to her romance novel, but her writing group has some ideas of their own.


INTO MEMORY

Into Memory

When a dying young man is released from the hospital for hospice, his closest friends and family surprise him with a small celebration of his life and create one last memory for him.


BLURRY

Blurry

A woman with an over-active imagination sees the world unlike anyone else. That’s not always a good thing. When her imagination becomes too distracting, she decides to get a chip implant that removes her imagination. After the procedure, her entire perspective on life and herself changes… but for the better?


Motherland

Jen spends one last night with his mother before she leaves for Bangkok, Thailand. With limited time and an indefinite separation ahead of them, the two are prompted to find solace within a torn family.


LUNCH BREAK

Lunch Break

A flirtatious encounter in a drugstore parking lot turns into a complicated game that takes Rosie and Lewis to a new level of intimacy.


DAKOTA

Dakota

During a routine investigation of an abandoned truck, a Border Patrol Agent uncovers something that will cause him to question the very nature of his job.


Vainilla1

Vainilla

Irene is the last one in her grief support group to share her loved one’s last words, but it’s a question she’s not quite ready to answer.


THE SISTER I LIVE WITH

The Sister I Live With

A young girl struggles with her older sister’s impending departure for college and a deepening crush on her piano teacher.


Marta Rosa

Immediately following the death of her young child, Marta Rosa, a rural Mexican woman, must struggle to persevere through both her own internal grief and the harsh realities of the external world around her.


night shift

Night Shift

Members of the night shift custodial team in the Moody College of Communications building at UT Austin come from all over the world and have built a tight-knit work family here in the halls where we work and study. The film chronicles their life stories and situates these memories within the team’s present-day work environment.

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This Week in Screenwriting: August 19, 2015

2014 AFF Screenplay winner for the AMC One-Hour Pilot category, Wes Brown, hired as staff writer on new AMC show, Goliath 2015 Panelist Andrea Berloff on writing Straight Outta Compton 2015 Film Juror Hannah Fidell on Six Years, and bringing A Teacher to HBO Bones and Sleepy Hollow crossover event to air October 29 2015 Panelist Stu Zicherman’s Casanova pilot review 2015 Panelist Shane Black’s …

2014 AFF Screenplay winner for the AMC One-Hour Pilot category, Wes Brown, hired as staff writer on new AMC show, Goliath

2015 Panelist Andrea Berloff on writing Straight Outta Compton

2015 Film Juror Hannah Fidell on Six Years, and bringing A Teacher to HBO

Bones and Sleepy Hollow crossover event to air October 29

2015 Panelist Stu Zicherman’s Casanova pilot review

2015 Panelist Shane Black’s Predator will reportedly reinvent the franchise

2015 Panelist Jonathan Nolan on how Blade Runner inspired his upcoming Westworld  

 

AFF First 10 Films Coverage:

Hollywood Reporter

The Wrap

Indiewire

Austin Chronicle

Austin360

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THIS WEEK IN SCREENWRITING: AUGUST 12, 2015

12 Screenwriters Announced for Meryl Streep’s Women Over 40 Lab, including AFF Alumni and Austinite Sarah Bird Rejection and Development: A Screenwriter Describes his First Two Years in the Business Happy Birthday, Norman Lear, 2015 AFF Outstanding Television Writer! First HBO Westworld teaser from 2015 Panelist Jonathan Nolan Issa Rae Productions Partners with FINC Entertainment Group & Dormtainment to Release Killing Lazaurs 2015 Panelists Scott …

12 Screenwriters Announced for Meryl Streep’s Women Over 40 Lab, including AFF Alumni and Austinite Sarah Bird

Rejection and Development: A Screenwriter Describes his First Two Years in the Business

Happy Birthday, Norman Lear, 2015 AFF Outstanding Television Writer!

First HBO Westworld teaser from 2015 Panelist Jonathan Nolan

Issa Rae Productions Partners with FINC Entertainment Group & Dormtainment to Release Killing Lazaurs

2015 Panelists Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber discuss Paper Towns and their adaption process

Austin Film Commission Makes Its Mark on the Indie Film Scene

2015 Panelist and Fargo creator Noah Hawley on ‘How to Avoid the Sophomore Slump’

How the CineVegas Film Festival Came Back from the Dead

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Juror Spotlight: Samantha Scupp

Participating in our Comedy Vanguard jury is Samantha Scupp, Head of Content at the distribution company FilmBuff. FilmBuff has been a great friend of AFF for many years and has picked up a variety of AFF’s films for distribution. They have a keen eye for quality films of all genres, and are especially successful at finding and celebrating feature comedies. Samantha has been instrumental in …

SS headshot

Participating in our Comedy Vanguard jury is Samantha Scupp, Head of Content at the distribution company FilmBuff. FilmBuff has been a great friend of AFF for many years and has picked up a variety of AFF’s films for distribution. They have a keen eye for quality films of all genres, and are especially successful at finding and celebrating feature comedies. Samantha has been instrumental in identifying, picking up, and championing many of FilmBuff’s films over the years.  We can’t wait to take advantage of her expertise as part of our jury this year. Read more about Samantha below and check out all of our confirmed jurors here.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Lots of meetings, phone calls, emails and trying to watch as many films as possible on my second screen at the same time.

What’s the best part of your job?

I get paid to watch movies and talk to the people who made them. What could be better?

What’s your favorite movie and why?

The Breakfast Club, because I can identify with every character and it remains timeless.

Who’s your favorite writer and why?

Milan Kundera, because I flew through his oeuvre while I was living in Prague and absolutely fell in love.

What’s your favorite part about Austin Film Festival?

Admittedly, I’ve never been, but Austin is one of my favorite cities! The people, the vibe, the breakfast tacos…

What was your first job or worst job?

I skewered fruit for 9 hours/day when Edible Arrangements first opened and I was still in school.

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Guest Blog: #ChicagoGirl’s Joe Piscatella

PLANNING FOR THE UNPLANNED How Talking Dogs Movies Did Not Prepare Me for Documentary Film   Most of my career has been spent writing or doing production rewrites on studio family comedies (my last credit was Disney’s Underdog). In this world, every story has a tidy three-act structure, the marketing plan is in place often long before I am hired, and I know my audience …

PLANNING FOR THE UNPLANNED

How Talking Dogs Movies Did Not Prepare Me for Documentary Film

 

Most of my career has been spent writing or doing production rewrites on studio family comedies (my last credit was Disney’s Underdog). In this world, every story has a tidy three-act structure, the marketing plan is in place often long before I am hired, and I know my audience before I type “Fade in” (hint: they like poop jokes). So when I decided to make the documentary film #ChicagoGirl, about an American teenager in Chicago who uses social media to coordinate the Syrian revolution, I knew I had wandered out of my comfort zone, both in genre and subject matter. In our first production meeting, my seasoned documentary producer Mark Rinehart gave me some sage advice: plan for the unplanned.

JoePiscatella

Documentary film by its very nature is building without a blueprint, and during production, “plan for the unplanned” became our team’s mantra. The film’s main subject needs to push a shooting day because she has finals? Sure, we can adjust. Our final hard drive of footage is stuck on the ground in Syria? Sure (gulp), we will find a way to smuggle it out.

While #ChicagoGirl was my passion project, I knew that once we locked picture it was still a widget that had to be sold, and my goal was to reach as wide an audience as possible. Together with my sales agents, the team and I put together a detailed sales and marketing plan.

Because of #ChicagoGirl’s strong message and heroic protagonist, we wanted a world premiere at Sundance or Tribeca to help create buzz. Syria is a sticky topic for many Americans, so our potential buyer list was filled with buyers that attract politically minded viewers who care about human rights, like CNN Films or HBO.

The first hiccup in our master plan came when #ChicagoGirl was offered a premiere slot at IDFA in Amsterdam. IDFA is one of Europe’s most prestigious documentary festivals and one of the biggest doc marketplaces in the world. There was one problem: we would have to commit to IDFA before hearing from Sundance. After a flurry of late-night phone calls, I decided that because Syria was a hot topic now (and if we didn’t get into Sundance, would it still be a hot topic by the time Tribeca rolled around six months later, or the Austin Film Festival five months after that?), we would premiere at IDFA.

#ChicagoGirl had a great premiere at IDFA, winning their Doc U Award, finishing in the top 10 in audience voting out of more than 200 films and earning an invitation to screen in The Hague in front of an audience of politically minded heavyweights in the human rights community. For a target audience, it was a bull’s-eye.

At the Q&A afterwards, the first question came from a distinguished gentleman in his fifties who said, “I think it is very naïve to think that this American girl in the film has made a difference in the grand scheme of the Syrian revolution.”

chicagogirl_resized

Um, what…? This was not supposed to be the response from our target audience. But before I could respond, two sixteen-year-old girls in the back of the theater stood up and said, “Sir, she’s already made a difference, she’s using social media tools that you think are still a novelty, and if you cannot see that she is influencing the lives of those she is connected with, you can no longer be a part of tonight’s discussion on how we can help Syria.”

With that single statement I realized that the entire plan was wrong. I hadn’t made a film about Syria for foreign policy wonks; I’d made an empowerment story for millennials about making a difference in the world.

Quickly, we shifted our strategy to target festivals that had strong youth and educational outreach programs through which we could take the film into high schools and colleges. We looked to buyers who target millennials (many of them weren’t even on our original list of potential buyers). It paid off.

To date, #ChicagoGirl has played more than fifty festivals across five continents where it won numerous awards. It’s played for people from Amnesty International, the U.N. and the International Criminal Court. It played on an IMAX screen at the Austin Film Festival (seeing my film on the Bob Bullock IMAX screen was my biggest highlight of the festival circuit). Because of the festival buzz, our foreign sales caught fire first with broadcast partners like Al Jazeera. The film has now aired in nearly forty countries, which helped pave the way for our U.S. sale to the Fusion Network (a joint venture between ABC/Disney and Univision that caters to millennials) and our streaming deals.

Planning for the unplanned became more than just a mantra for production. It was also our sales plan. Because of it, #ChicagoGirl is reaching a bigger audience around the world than I had ever imagined.

 

Joe Piscatella tries to make the world a better place through documentary films and talking dog movies. You can find him on Twitter @jpiscatella. #ChicagoGirl is now available on Netflix.

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This Week in Screenwriting – June 3rd, 2015

AFF 2015 Outstanding Television Writer honoree, Norman Lear, set for American Masters documentary AFF Alum, Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club), writing sci-fi action film Inherit the Earth Everything we need to know about 2015 Confirmed Panelist David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer series Amy Schumer to write/star in untitled mother-daughter comedy with AFF alum Paul Feig attached to produce AFF Alumni Robert Rodriguez and confirmed …

AFF 2015 Outstanding Television Writer honoree, Norman Lear, set for American Masters documentary

AFF Alum, Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club), writing sci-fi action film Inherit the Earth

Everything we need to know about 2015 Confirmed Panelist David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer series

Amy Schumer to write/star in untitled mother-daughter comedy with AFF alum Paul Feig attached to produce

AFF Alumni Robert Rodriguez and confirmed panelist Terry Rossio to team on new Johnny Quest feature

AFF Alum Jason Reitman to adapt children’s book for Dreamworks Animation

NBC orders drama from Imitation Game Oscar winning writer Graham Moore straight to series

The photographs that helped Breathless start a revolution

Austinite Andrew Bujalski’s Results called this year’s best American pure comedy

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This Week in Screenwriting: May 13th, 2015

Cannes report: Day 1 A.C.L.U takes on bias against women in Hollywood Roadside Attactions buys AFF alum/writer Chris Sparling’s Sea of Trees, directed by Gus Van Sant AFF 2012 Outstanding Television Writer Chris Carter’s The X-Files series gets 2016 release date TNT adds Cary Fukunaga’s Alienist series with Eric Roth and Hossein Amini executive producing; TBS orders Greg Daniels-Conan O’Brian comedy Lee Daniels, Beau Willimon, …

Cannes report: Day 1

A.C.L.U takes on bias against women in Hollywood

Roadside Attactions buys AFF alum/writer Chris Sparling’s Sea of Trees, directed by Gus Van Sant

AFF 2012 Outstanding Television Writer Chris Carter’s The X-Files series gets 2016 release date

TNT adds Cary Fukunaga’s Alienist series with Eric Roth and Hossein Amini executive producing; TBS orders Greg Daniels-Conan O’Brian comedy

Lee Daniels, Beau Willimon, Damon Lindelof, Michelle King, Alex Gansa, and Michelle King discuss the pressures and rewards of showrunning

New series, renewals, and cancellations for 2015-2016 network season

Marvel courting Ava Duvernay to direct diverse superhero movie

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Guest Blog: Jared Frieder

With the final deadline for the Screenplay Competition coming up on May 20, we’re featuring a guest blog post from one of last year’s winners to share his thoughts on why you should submit your screenplay to AFF. Jared Frieder won the 2014 Comedy Screenplay Award for his script Three Months which is currently being developed with Oren Uziel (22 Jump Street), one the AFF …

With the final deadline for the Screenplay Competition coming up on May 20, we’re featuring a guest blog post from one of last year’s winners to share his thoughts on why you should submit your screenplay to AFF. Jared Frieder won the 2014 Comedy Screenplay Award for his script Three Months which is currently being developed with Oren Uziel (22 Jump Street), one the AFF judges who reviewed his script and a previous AFF winner. Who knows? You could have a similar experience if you enter your script by the May 20 deadline. For more information and to enter your script, CLICK HERE.

 

I submitted my screenplay Three Months to the Austin Film Festival a year ago for two reasons: 1) I read on one of those STOP CRYING THIS IS HOW YOU MAKE IT IN HOLLYWOOD blogs that it was one of the top screenwriting competitions in the industry and 2) I have a toxic relationship with Austin’s barbecue sausages. And while the competition is prestigious and the sausages irresistible, the power of the Austin Film Festival and its screenplay competitions derives from the fact that they reward, explore, and support good storytelling.

I never imagined that Three Months would win Austin. I had entered other screenwriting competitions with varying levels of success. A lot of the time, the judge’s feedback was along the lines of, “This is nice. But what about a hot girl! A car chase! A flash mob!” And while a hot girl car chase flash mob might have totally jived with my AIDS dramedy, it didn’t quite get to the heart of the story I wanted to tell: a story about a gay teenager’s resilience when he’s exposed to HIV the weekend of his high school graduation. I was afraid that I had gone too far down the indie rabbit hole to be recognized by industry screenwriting competitions. So when Competition Director Matt Dy called my name at the Austin awards ceremony for best comedy feature screenplay, I wasn’t prepared. “Uh…this is bananas,” was basically the thesis of my acceptance speech. I made the mistake of listening to Big Hollywood when they told me that only a certain kind of screenplay would find success in the film industry. I made the mistake of underestimating the Austin Film Festival: a place where they simply reward great stories.

After I got off stage, Oren Uziel (one of the competition judges, a former Austin winner, and the wildly hilarious screenwriter of 22 Jump Street) told me that he wanted to help me take Three Months from script to screen. And now, that’s just what we’re doing. I know it sounds like one of those super lucky and incredibly annoying success stories you hear people talk about at networking events, but that’s what Austin does: it gives you the platform to be your own super lucky and incredibly annoying success story.

But at AFF, the competition portion itself is merely the gravy on a very decadent Salt Lick brisket sandwich. The conference component of the festival gathers the finest storytellers working in film and television for master class sessions on story and writing for the industry at large. I learned just as much from that week as I did in a semester of my MFA program. (Where else can you share a beer and sweet potato fries with Daniel Petrie Jr. while he dishes out genius writing advice?) In an industry that places so much emphasis on the market, the director, and the actor, the Austin Film Festival centers itself around the screenwriter. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

So sure, submit to Austin so you can stop crying and yes, submit to Austin for the BBQ sausages. But do yourself a favor and submit to Austin because you have a story to tell. Submit to Austin because you want to make your screenplay into a movie. And who knows? Maybe you’ll leave with more than a trophy and a Salt Lick sandwich.

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This Week in Screenwriting: May 6, 2015

Writer/director and AFF Alum Brian Helgeland’s upcoming Legend releases trailer Shonda Rhimes and Pariah writer/director Dee Rees team up for FX Drama based on The Warmth of Other Suns AFF Alum and Blade Runner 2 writer Michael Green to pen Wolverine for 20th Century Fox, with Denis Villeneuve to direct AFF Alum and 2015 Confirmed Panelist Nicole Perlman to write Marvel’s Captain Marvel Les Bohem, …

Writer/director and AFF Alum Brian Helgeland’s upcoming Legend releases trailer

Shonda Rhimes and Pariah writer/director Dee Rees team up for FX Drama based on The Warmth of Other Suns

AFF Alum and Blade Runner 2 writer Michael Green to pen Wolverine for 20th Century Fox, with Denis Villeneuve to direct

AFF Alum and 2015 Confirmed Panelist Nicole Perlman to write Marvel’s Captain Marvel

Les Bohem, creator of the Emmy-winning miniseries Taken, to adapt Brave New World for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television

From Written By: “William Goldman and the Screenwriting Kids”

AFF Alum Eric Heisserer to adapt comics Bloodshot and Harbinger for big screen

The Simpsons renewed for two more seasons

The Writers Guild East open letter to the Nonfiction Producers Association

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Alumni Update: Phantom Halo Acquired by ARC Entertainment

Congratulations to official AFF 2014 selection, Phantom Halo, for being acquired by ARC Entertainment. The debut film from Antonia Bogdanovich, and co-writer Anne Heffron, stars Thomas Brodie-Sangster (The Maze Runner), Rebecca Romijn (X-Men), Luke Kleintank (Dark House), Sebastian Roché (A Walk Among the Tombsones), Tobin Bell (Saw II), and Clare Grant (Walk the Line). Phantom Halo follows brothers Samuel (Brodie-Sangster) and Beckett (Kleintank), who struggle to survive while …

Congratulations to official AFF 2014 selection, Phantom Halo, for being acquired by ARC Entertainment. The debut film from Antonia Bogdanovich, and co-writer Anne Heffron, stars Thomas Brodie-Sangster (The Maze Runner), Rebecca Romijn (X-Men), Luke Kleintank (Dark House), Sebastian Roché (A Walk Among the Tombsones), Tobin Bell (Saw II), and Clare Grant (Walk the Line).

Phantom Halo follows brothers Samuel (Brodie-Sangster) and Beckett (Kleintank), who struggle to survive while their father gambles and drinks. They find reprieve in comic books and Shakespeare — but when Beckett tries to make some money to pay off his father’s debts by counterfeiting, things take a turn for the worse.

ARC Entertainment will be releasing the film on VOD and in theaters on June 19.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHRFzHJiEsw

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This Week in Screenwriting: April 14, 2015

Norman Lear is coming to AFF! The Leftovers relocating to Austin for its second season, created by AFF alum Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow and Short Film in the YouTube Era AFF alumni Peter Craig adapting The Odyssey for Lionsgate; Francis Lawrence to direct AFF board member, Maya Perez, on her experience at the 2015 Sundance Screenwriters Intensive Vince Gilligan, …

Norman Lear is coming to AFF!

The Leftovers relocating to Austin for its second season, created by AFF alum Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta

Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow and Short Film in the YouTube Era

AFF alumni Peter Craig adapting The Odyssey for Lionsgate; Francis Lawrence to direct

AFF board member, Maya Perez, on her experience at the 2015 Sundance Screenwriters Intensive

Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, and Bob Odenkirk reflect on first season of Better Call Saul

AFF alumni Peter Hedges penning live-action Pinocchio for Disney

AFF alumni Ric Roman Waugh writing-directing crime thriller Shot Caller for Bold Films (Nightcrawler, Whiplash)

Interview with showrunner of Marvel’s Daredevil, Steven S. DeKnight

Armando Iannucci to leave Veep after Season 4

AFF alum Cary Fukunaga to direct the resurrection of 1994 thriller The Alienist, written and produced by Hossein Amini and AFF awardee Eric Roth

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Panelist Spotlight: Nicole Perlman

Nicole Perlman received her Film and Dramatic Writing degree from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2003. Since then she has gone on to win the Tribeca Film Festival’s Sloan Grant for Science in Film for her screenplay Challenger, which also placed on the 2006 Black List. The same year she was named one of Variety Magazine‘s Top Ten Writers to Watch, and more recently …

Nicole Perlman received her Film and Dramatic Writing degree from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2003. Since then she has gone on to win the Tribeca Film Festival’s Sloan Grant for Science in Film for her screenplay Challenger, which also placed on the 2006 Black List. The same year she was named one of Variety Magazine‘s Top Ten Writers to Watch, and more recently was listed in The Playlist‘s Ten Screenwriters on the Rise in 2013. Nicole has written for Fox 2000, Universal Studios, National Geographic Films, Disney Studios, Cirque Du Soleil Films, and 20th Century Fox. She was a member of the Marvel Writers Program from 2009 to 2011 where she first began developing Guardians of the Galaxy. She is currently adapting the upcoming YA novel The Fire Sermon for Dreamworks, as well as developing the Matthew Swift fantasy book series for Skydance Television.

What was your last job before becoming a full-time screenwriter?

Up until 2006 I ran a non-profit program in Brooklyn called The Bead Project. It was a hot-glass workshop series held at Urban Glass, wherein economically-disadvantaged women learned how to use torches to do flamework bead-making, silversmithing, and small-business development — all free of charge. I really enjoyed teaching and working with my hands within a small community of artists. I was working on screenplays in my spare time, and having a day job at Urban Glass made it much easier to get out of my own head. (Plus working with a 2500 degree torch also gave me a comforting illusion of power, even if I couldn’t crack my third act.)

What is (one of your) your favorite films? 

Contact is definitely a personal favorite — both for the subject matter explored as well as the multi-faceted portrayal of a female scientist.

Favorite television show? 

Twin Peaks rocked my world, as did the X-Files. So this year has been filled with exciting news. (That said, I can’t imagine Twin Peaks sans Lynch — I pray Showtime showers him with cash until he comes back.)

What is the most unique thing about your writing process?

I’d say the most unique part of my process is my tendency to color-code producer notes. I code them by most difficult to execute (red) to mildly challenging (yellow) to easy fixes (green.) Then I assign a certain number of notes per day to myself — maybe just two reds a day, versus ten to fifteen greens a day. It really helps me manage the workload.

Best memory from last year’s AFF?

Sitting on a panel with Bill Broyles and Jim Hart (the writers of two of my favorite films: Apollo 13 and Contact) was a bit of a dream come true. I’ve never learned so much from a panel where I was one of the speakers!

Favorite thing about Austin, Texas?

Everyone I met was exceptionally friendly and truly interested in taking the time to talk and form a genuine connection.

What would be your dream screenwriting panel to attend?

I would love to attend a panel that consisted of established comic book writers who are also accomplished television writers/screenwriters —  Brian Vaughn, J. Michael Straczynski, etc. I would enjoy hearing them discuss how their dual crafts cross-pollinate and/or clash with the other.

 

Join Nicole Perlman and numerous other great panelists at the 22nd Annual Austin Film Festival and Conference. Purchase badges here.

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Guest Blog: Efficiency’s Steven Molony

In the case of Efficiency, this story was very personal to me, and I felt that the subject matter would resonate with those who had gone through a similar experience.

 

The journey of creating each individual story begins with a reason for telling it. For some
people, it might be to shed light on a seldom-spoken-of topic that affects society, or to tell of a life
lived by an inspiring individual who greatly impacted his/her fellow man. It might be something
that’s just flat out cool, or funny, or entertaining. No matter what it is, though, it always comes
from a “why.”

In the case of Efficiency, this story was very personal to me, and I felt that the subject matter
would resonate with those who had gone through a similar experience. When I was in high school,
a couple close to me suffered the tragedy of a miscarriage. I saw how deeply it affected them, as
well as how isolated it made them feel. There was so much guilt, anger, sadness, fear, grief, and
the kind of confusion that leads one to ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It had a
profound impact on me, and it left me feeling hopeless as someone who very much wanted to help
in some way, but couldn’t. In many ways, those feelings were the early beginnings of what would
become the same struggles that Patrick’s character faces in the film.

Not knowing how else to talk about this, I turned to art, as I often do, as a means of giving a
tactile meaning to what I was feeling. I wondered how something as common as miscarriages
could be so isolating; how so many people seemed incapable of understanding why such a thing
was so hard for the parents. I first tried to write Efficiency as a play, but over time, I realized that
film was the best medium for the piece.

The more I thought about it, the more I became aware of just how frequently people allow
adversity to dictate their lives. I had seen it happen to people I love, and I too had fallen into that
manner of thinking on several occasions – those periods of darkness when all you really want to do
is lie down and give up. I wanted to tell a story about someone rising above their circumstance. I
came to the personal realization that it’s not what happens to you, but what you do with it that
makes you who you are; bad things happen to good people because that’s the only way we can
know who we really are. We can’t help what happens to us, and we are, of course, shaped by
external forces, but we are ultimately responsible for how we deal with that. We have a say in who
we get to be. Life will always find a way to kick our asses at some point or another, but it also
provides us with a way to build ourselves back up – to arise stronger and better than ever before.
To me, that’s the essence at the core of Efficiency. Sometimes, we’re afraid to grow up, and we
aren’t ready to accept certain responsibilities, but, whether we like it or not, those responsibilities
have a way of popping up and smacking us in the face – sometimes when we least expect it. It was
decided, then; I was going to go make a movie.

Behind every film is an army of people who made it possible: a stalwart band of artists who
want to see a labor of love through to its completion. I approached Kate Enge with the fat mess of
a first draft that was Efficiency at that time, and I spoke to her about what I wanted out of the
project. I think several of its themes struck a chord with her as well. She agreed to climb aboard
my raggedy ship to direct. Kate and I had worked together in the past on a pet project of hers called
{the moment after}, which was a series of improvised short films that spanned a wide variety of
genres and themes. It was because of the organic nature that she worked with us as actors, as well
as her penchant for exploring truth within film that I felt her style was going to work very well for
Efficiency. It was her idea to make Derrick and Patrick identical twins. Originally, I had thought it
too difficult to pull off identical twins on a technical level, but Kate was confident we’d be able to
pull it off. I thought, “Great! Not my headache.”

Together, we built a team of exceptional artists who were equally enthusiastic about bringing
this film to fruition. We went through the trenches together. It was a wild two weeks, split between
(mostly) two cities across the country from each other. We pulled all the favors we could, stole
shots in subways, scraped some money together through IndieGoGo, and scrambled to find a new
location for the efficiency apartment a day before principal photography began, because the place
we’d had set up was on the top floor of an apartment complex where it was 110° and bereft of an
air conditioner. (That was without cramming up to ten bodies and light kits inside of it.)

Through the whole ordeal, I found myself facing some turbulence in my relationships outside
of filming. That whole life-sneaks-up-on-you-to-kick-you-in-the-ass thing. A lot happened in
those couple of weeks. It was a ton of pressure, but dammit, you keep showing up every day and,
eventually, you have a movie sitting in a few hard drives. I’ll never forget the chaos of it. I don’t
think I could ever forget any film I work on. Each one is insane in its own new way, but anything
worth loving is worth bleeding for. Each film just bleeds you differently than the last. It’s a
bloodletting that’s equally as rejuvenating as it is draining. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Post production was a long and tedious process. We didn’t have any money for the initial
edits, but once we’d secured a picture locked cut of the film, I approached Asko Akopyan to help
us finish Efficiency’s remaining stages of post. He graciously agreed and it is because of him that
we have a finished film today. Janek Ambros brought together a killer team for our score (Corey
Wallace and Michael Kramer) and our sound (Zack Howard and Onnalee Blank). They really
brought the film to another level when they were done with it.

We had our premiere at Grauman’s Chinese 6 Theatre in Hollywood as part of the Dances
With Films festival last May, 2014. We were also honored to play at the Austin Film Festival later
that fall after wrapping a new film, Oxenfree, in which I played a man struggling with cystic
fibrosis. Austin is a great city, and AFF is one of those festivals where it’s apparent that the people
running it really care about what they’re doing. They make their filmmakers feel right at home.
Shortly after Austin, Efficiency was picked up for distribution through FilmWorks, and will
be released on DVD on April 21st, 2015. It’s currently available for pre-order through Amazon,
Best Buy, and Barnes and Noble. Please check it out, as I would love to share it with you.
It’s been a wild ride and I couldn’t be more thankful for the journey that was Efficiency and to
all those who made it possible. I’ll spare the readers from the gigantic list of people for whom I
have an overwhelming amount of gratitude. You all know who you are – you are a wonder to me,
and I will love you to my last breath.

I wanted to make this film because of the love I have for whom it was made. I want it to be a
love letter to anyone who has lost a child through miscarriage. I also want it to bolster others who
have their own demons to fight. I wholeheartedly believe that we are stronger than our struggles.
Every single one of us has it within ourselves to overcome the obstacles that stand in our way – to
own our problems, rather than letting our problems own us. Hopefully, Efficiency can deliver that
message.

Efficiency will be released on DVD on April 21st. Pre-order here.

 

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This Week in Screenwriting: April 1, 2015

Alex Gibney’s Scientology documentary premiered on HBO this Sunday, garnering much response Netflix orders Bloodline Season 2 Why Trevor Noah’s Daily Show hiring is a big step for late night television The Americans renewed for Season 4 at FX  Gone Girl author/screenwriter Gillian Flynn to co-write heist thriller with Steve McQueen  Mass CAA agent exodus; Agents head to UTA AFF Alum Jim Uhls sells sci-fi …

Alex Gibney’s Scientology documentary premiered on HBO this Sunday, garnering much response

Netflix orders Bloodline Season 2

Why Trevor Noah’s Daily Show hiring is a big step for late night television

The Americans renewed for Season 4 at FX 

Gone Girl author/screenwriter Gillian Flynn to co-write heist thriller with Steve McQueen 

Mass CAA agent exodus; Agents head to UTA

AFF Alum Jim Uhls sells sci-fi spec script Leviathan to Fox

Jason Segal and Drew Pearce to pen new Lego Movie, The Billion Brick Race, for Warner Bros.

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An Interview With Rob Thomas

What was the biggest challenge and benefit of moving from LA to Austin six years ago? At the time of my move, I had a television project set up that would’ve shot in Austin. That was the dream. Live and work here. Raise my family here. But a regime change at STARZ made that project go away, and the predictable challenge of living here is …

What was the biggest challenge and benefit of moving from LA to Austin six years ago?

At the time of my move, I had a television project set up that would’ve shot in Austin. That was the dream. Live and work here. Raise my family here. But a regime change at STARZ made that project go away, and the predictable challenge of living here is that I’ve spent a ton of my time in Los Angeles and on airplanes rather than here with my family. It’s tough to convince a studio to shoot in Austin when Louisiana and New Mexico have such better tax breaks.

The biggest benefit of living in Austin is that I’m in a city I love. My kids go to a great public elementary a couple blocks from our house. I feel like I can make half the money and live as well as I did in Los Angeles which allows me to say no to projects that I’m not eager to do. That was one of my biggest goals when I left Los Angeles — never put myself in a position where I couldn’t walk away from the money.

Out of the projects you have been working on while living in Texas, what has been the most testing setback you’ve encountered?

I’d written a pilot for STARZ about an Austin rock band. I was going to track them from formation through stardom using SXSW as the season finale each season. I played in a band for nine years. I may have had a tough time writing the latter season “stardom” episodes, but I know a ton about band dynamics in a struggling band. I loved the script. I had great relationships with the executives at STARZ. We’d just done two seasons of Party Down, and they were incredibly hands off creatively, while simultaneously being very supportive. But as I’m closing the sale on my house in LA, the network president stepped down, a new regime came in, and they had incredible success with the swords and breasts recipe of Spartacus, and the whole network shifted in that direction. Not only did I lose the shot of doing my band show, they dropped Party Down which shocked all of us doing that show.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the pitch to pilot process?

It’s much easier to get the idea that they want to put on the air than trying to convince them that they can reinvent their network with your pet project. I’m not saying it’s not worth taking stabs at your dream project, but if they buy it with any hesitation, you will be pushing a boulder up a very long hill.

Recently, you’ve seen a great deal of success on multiple projects. How has that changed your perspective on the industry?

It’s really reinforced something I already knew. It’s easier to get things made when you’re getting things made. It’s a business of peaks and valleys, and when you’re riding high, it seems like you can get any project off the ground. I’ve had a couple deep and ugly troughs in my career, though, and that feeds on itself as well. They both become self-fulfilling prophecies. I’m trying very hard to learn lessons from my previous cycles and make some smarter choices than I have in the past when things opened up for me.

How did your work on the Veronica Mars show, movie, web series, and books inform iZombie, if at all?

By raising much of our own money for the Veronica Mars movie on Kickstarter, I got the leverage I needed to get be allowed to direct a feature film. And because the movie did well, I was allowed to direct the iZombie pilot. That was big for me. Also, when Warner Brothers brought me the iZombie comic book, what they said they wanted was the next great CW heroine. They said they wanted the next Buffy or Veronica. Joss Whedon seems pretty busy these days, so it was a short list of people to bring that Buffy/Veronica spirit to life.

Who is your screenwriting idol?

I’m a fan of a ton of screenwriters. I send fan mail to Vince Gilligan every year, and it pisses me off, because he’s a few years younger than me. But the writers who I feel influenced me the most would be James Brooks and Cameron Crowe. I think there’s a very similar rhythm to Broadcast News, Jerry McGuire, Almost Famous, As Good as it Gets. It’s a rhythm to which I aspire. They write great romantic comedy, but it’s barely about the romance. Say Anything is the teen movie I wish I’d written.

What is your favorite thing about Austin, Texas?

Everyone I knew and socialized with in Los Angeles was “in the business.” There’s nothing wrong with that. I didn’t leave LA because of the people, but Austin has an ideal blend of people in the arts and people in education and government and high tech, etc. It’s not quite so entertainment-centric. Plus I have family and friends here. And finally, I didn’t want my kids growing up wearing big designer sunglasses like the kids on Laguna Beach.

 

BE SURE TO CATCH OUR CONVERSATION WITH ROB THOMAS ON APRIL 12TH. FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO PURCHASE TICKETS CLICK HERE

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Announcing AFF’s New Column: This Week in Screenwriting

Stay tuned for weekly updates in the screenwriting world, gleaning popular industry stories and breaking news for a writers-week-in-review.  Plus! – click on the selected names for in-depth interviews with corresponding writers and filmmakers, hosted by AFF’s On Story Project.   2014 AFF Comedy Vanguard feature The Last Time You Had Fun got picked up by Gravitas Ventures Purchase film here   2012 Outstanding Television …

Stay tuned for weekly updates in the screenwriting world, gleaning popular industry stories and breaking news for a writers-week-in-review.  Plus! – click on the selected names for in-depth interviews with corresponding writers and filmmakers, hosted by AFF’s On Story Project.

 

2014 AFF Comedy Vanguard feature The Last Time You Had Fun got picked up by Gravitas Ventures

Purchase film here

 

2012 Outstanding Television Writer awardee Chris Carter to bring The X-Files back to television

Read story here

 

Brian Koppelman and David Levien to helm new Showtime drama Billions, starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti

Read story here

 

Sarah Polley to adapt and remake Little Women for Sony, with AFF Alum Robin Swicord to produce

Read story here
More casting developments in Jonathan Demme directed/Diablo Cody penned film, Ricky and the Flash

Read story here

 

Sony has their sights on Scott Frank for The Seven Five adaptation

Read story here

 

Michael Green to remake Sidney Lumet’s 1974 detective drama, Murder on the Orient Express

Read story here

 

Hollywood’s search for films about justice; new Marshall Herskovitz/Edward Zwick film in development

Read story here

 

Ava DuVernay’s moving keynote address at 2015 SXSW on YouTube

Watch here

 

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Guest Blog: Alvaro Rodriguez Interviews Tim Talbott

I met screenwriter Tim Talbott at the Austin Film Festival in 2010.  It was my first festival as a panelist; the movie I’d co-written, Machete, had opened that August, and Tim had been a writer on South Park and Medium and had also written a popular script that year entitled Balls Out with his partner-in-crime Malcolm Spellman under the pseudonym of The Robotard 8000. In January, in the middle of his third …

Talbott and Rodriguez at AFF 2011

I met screenwriter Tim Talbott at the Austin Film Festival in 2010.  It was my first festival as a panelist; the movie I’d co-written, Machete, had opened that August, and Tim had been a writer on South Park and Medium and had also written a popular script that year entitled Balls Out with his partner-in-crime Malcolm Spellman under the pseudonym of The Robotard 8000.

In January, in the middle of his third season writing on the hit TV series Chicago Fire, Tim won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for The Stanford Prison Experiment at Sundance, which subsequently was picked up for distribution by IFC. The film, directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez (Cog), also took home the prestigious Sloane Award in Park City and will reach theaters later this year.

The Stanford Prison Experiment chronicles the groundbreaking psychological study undertaken by Dr. Phillip Zimbardo in 1971 in which ordinary average young men were randomly assigned to be guards or prisoners in a mock prison in the basement of the psychology building at Stanford University. The experiment was supposed to run for two weeks but the situation devolved into chaos and the experiment was terminated after only six days.

AR: What was the genesis of this project?

TT: Basically, Maverick Films, Madonna’s company, got the rights to Phil Zimbardo’s life story and it was suggested that I might be a good fit for it. At first, I didn’t buy (the concept of the experiment). I thought, “There’s nothing you can do to me in five days to make me believe that a classroom is a prison.” Then I watched the short videos of the experiment and saw that there were so many components – dehumanization, sleep deprivation, humiliation – and I realized you actually could break someone this way. People had been trying to make a movie out of it for twenty years, but it was always a matter of trying to make the stakes higher – life or death. One draft I read had the main characters as two best friends, one who becomes a guard and the other a prisoner, and I thought, “This is not the way to do it.” In talking with Chris McQuarrie (ValkyrieThe Usual Suspects), who at one point was attached to direct the movie, we decided that the way the story actually unfolded was more than compelling in its own right.  We didn’t need to force anything else onto the story.

AR: So you wrote your draft after doing the research, reading the transcripts, watching hours of actual footage from the experiment.

TT: Yeah, and my first draft was something like 265 pages long.  I was certain I was going to be fired, but I handed it in to McQuarrie and said, “I don’t know what this is, but this is everything that happened.”  He read it and said, “This is the movie we’re going to make, but we can’t hand this in at this length.”  So over the course of the following week or so, we put our heads together and managed to cut more than 100 pages from the script.

AR: And that was several years ago, correct?

TT: Yeah, I finished that first draft in early 2005.  We came close to making the film a few times in 2006 and 2007. Then Maverick went out of business around 2008 and the script became entangled for many years. Multiple different chain-of-title items had to be cleared so we could make the movie and one of our producers, Brent Emery, who brought me in while he was an exec at Maverick, spent almost 6 years doing that.  At the same time, he started talking to director Kyle Alvarez, who is an exceptionally talented director who had a strong vision for the project. So in 2013, I did a polish for Kyle, in August 2014, we started shooting, wrapped in September, and premiered at Sundance in January 2015.

AR: In all those years in between, did you think the script would ever be made?

TT: After Maverick went under, I thought this project would never happen, not in a million years.  It’s amazing to me that something can be dead, stuck in a drawer or whatever,  and then years later, seemingly overnight, it’s suddenly in production and the next thing you know, it’s accepted into Sundance and you find yourself watching the finished film in a huge auditorium with 1400 people.  Nothing is ever truly impossible.

AR: How did you come about creating a structure for the screenplay?  Was it something that came about in the cutting down of the original script?

TT: That was one of the byproducts of cutting the script down to 128 pages – it revealed an interesting structure that wasn’t quite apparent in the longer draft.  While Zimbardo is a central character throughout,  he’s not really the lead character.  The lead character changes throughout the course of the film.  Without giving too much away,  the story is told through a shifting perspective that sort of constantly challenges the audience with the question of “Who am I supposed to care about?” until you realize that the so-called lead character eventually becomes the entire group of people stuck in this experiment.

AR: At one point in the process, Channing Tatum was attached to the film, but you were able to make it without any big stars.

TT: He was attached on the basis of the success of the first Step Up movie, and gave us a much higher budget.  But when the project fell through, that disappeared.  When we started up again, our producers and investors chose not to rely on foreign presales, so we were able to get the best actors for the roles versus one that would get us a bigger budget.  People have remarked that in ten years, Stanford will be looked at like The Outsiders, because there are so many great young actors – Ezra Miller, Tye Sheridan, Michael Angarano and so many others – who are all breaking out now.

AR: Was there anything that surprised you in the process of writing and rewriting this screenplay and seeing the finished product?

TT: I had never done a true story before, and I felt a heavy responsibility to the truth.  But I realized that in dialogue and in the script, you can take the truth and slightly bend it to fit the needs of a cinematic narrative. In telling someone’s life story, particularly the story of Dr. Zimbardo and his wife Christina, I was always conscious of the fact that we were making a record of their actual lives and there’s a strong sense of responsibility that comes with that. At the end of the day, they were the only audience I cared about, doing right by them, so I was really elated and happy that they both loved the film.  I also came to really appreciate the power of editing – how to take a whole lot of factual history and boil it down it down to two hours or 128 pages without losing the essence of the story. How to keep the soul alive while taking most of its guts out.

 

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Guest Blog: Flutter’s Eric Hueber

 Austin Film Festival is excited to present Audience Award winner in the Texas Independence category, Flutter! We’ve invited writer/director Eric Hueber to be a guest blogger and answer some questions: What are some advantages of shooting a film in a place like Austin or Texas in general? Wow. I could go in a hundred directions with this answer. First off, Texas is my home. I love it …

 Austin Film Festival is excited to present Audience Award winner in the Texas Independence category, Flutter! We’ve invited writer/director Eric Hueber to be a guest blogger and answer some questions:

What are some advantages of shooting a film in a place like Austin or Texas in general?

Wow. I could go in a hundred directions with this answer. First off, Texas is my home. I love it here, not because of some inherited tribal pride but because people here value the storytelling arts. I know it sounds trite to say but Texans love a tall tale and a little gossip. We appreciate stories about people big and small. As a kid and a teenager I felt stuck here, but now that I’m an adult and have the ability to leave, I couldn’t make myself go. After I finished my first feature, The Austin-American Statesman asked me during an interview where I was planning to move—New York or LA? The answer caught me off guard. For years I had been writing scripts about Texans that take place in Texas. I have no desire to go to a larger city and spend an exponentially greater amount of money to make films about people and places I don’t relate to.

What I love about Austin is that we have a film community. Community is a beautiful word. People here invest their time and talents to help others realize their ideas. Of course, there is commerce in that exchange, but there is also a great sense of devotion. We root for each other. We assist one another. We talk about ideas and here—story is god. We service the story, each other’s stories, and we do it with reverence. When I go to LA, people don’t talk about stories, they talk about “property.” There is no word in the film lexicon that I hate more than property. You can’t treat people’s dreams as if they are chattel, unless you have lots of money and a disenfranchised group of people desperate to get inside the cabal. It’s become an industry of bean counters trying to figure out how they can purchase someone else’s ideas, franchise them, give someone else the credit, and adulterate them until they are as commercially exploitable as possible. Fine, we all know the problem. “Community” and the democratization of the filmmaking process is the solution, and Austin thrives because of it. That’s why we consistently get voted as the “film friendliest” city in America. Here…your film matters.

In building your crew, how much did you pull from the local film community?

My entire crew was from Austin, except for a couple freelancers (hired by our producers) that came over from Houston. We were leery of them at first but they became family in no time. Ha! Everyone in the crew was a good personal friend of mine, or a personal recommend from one. It really felt like a familial endeavor. Most of the crew had read the script and cared about the story. Because of that, they anticipated well and adapted easily to the circumstances we had and the issues that arose. We had flow. It was quite magical to share that experience with my friends.

Here in Austin there are talented crews hungry for work. People work best when they are appreciated. I have experienced this both above and below the line. I am a camera operator as well. I love helping other people realize their stories. It’s satisfying, especially when people treat you with respect and value your contribution. The crews here are generous. It’s not something to be taken advantage of, it’s something to foster with a spirit of inclusiveness and gratitude. Films are logistically a nightmare to execute. Herding a mass of people and getting them inspired to make that slow moving ship more efficient is an art. I find that crews here in Austin are often comprised of filmmakers themselves rather than just technicians. As such, they can sometimes better anticipate in the macro sense what needs to happen next on a production. They see their effort as part of a creative synthesis, not merely a job. This is invaluable.

How did you balance your vision with your budget? Did you write the film around resources you knew you had access to?   

This is an interesting question. I had two other films that started to look like they might get traction and become legitimate productions, but funding failed to materialize for different reasons. So, my goal when I started writing Flutter was to write a script with no more than five actors and five locations. I wanted to write a script that I didn’t have to ask anybody for permission to shoot. Even then, I had a hard time keeping it within those parameters, but I started with actors and places that I knew I had access to and I wrote it around them. I tried to dream within those limits. I’m a fan of fantasy so budget constraints are a tough reality, but they can be a blessing as well. I see a lot of writers that try to create fantasy instead of magic realism. Life is pretty damn absurd. It’s amazing how surreal the juxtaposition of banal objects and circumstances can be when they are taken out of their expected context.

What’s the most important lesson about low-budget independent filmmaking that you learned from making Flutter?

The hardest lesson to accept is that however cheap you think your film is, forget it, it will cost three times as much.

Also, I already knew this because I have done short films that will never see the light of day but I was reminded how true it is—90% of filmmaking is casting. I am so proud of my cast. A talented cast makes you look good and they make your job easy. At the end of the day they are your story, end of story.

What advice would you give to aspiring Texas filmmakers who are trying to take that next step forward?

 Don’t wait for things to be perfect. Perfect is the enemy of good. Learn to enjoy the process. Making a film is such a herculean effort spanning years from concept to completion and presentation that if you don’t become devoted to the process you will never get to enjoy the results. Besides, if you fantasize about how cool it will be to premiere your film to red carpet and accolades instead of what it means to be in a darkened room with fellow humans connecting via a common experience, then you are in it for the wrong reasons.

Whether you are a writer, a director, a producer or all three—be active and work on your craft. Workshop your ideas and let others critique you. Don’t insulate yourself. Listen when someone tells you what isn’t working. People are critical and when you send your babies out into the real world nobody cares about your production restraints and creative caveats. You won’t be able to give qualifiers. Your work has to stand on its own.

Be realistic about your resources and focus your creativity around it. You can make Avatar in your backyard with some blue face paint and a camcorder. Everything is relative. It’s just a matter of scale. That being said, you can’t make films in a vacuum so always seek out other filmmakers, technicians and talent so you can broaden that pool. More than anything, don’t be an ass. Network with a goal for finding real camaraderie, not just assets. Film is about people. We make films to touch people after all.

What part of Flutter are you most proud of?

It’s a general answer but I am most proud of the film’s integrity. Flutter is not perfect by any means, but it is sincere. Nobody will ever know the film that I had in my head. It’s not that film, but I am content with the film that is now collectively experienced. In some ways I even like the real version better. I can’t take credit for it but I am so proud of the performances by the actors. They made the material resonate. They were wonderful and I acknowledge them with absolute gratitude. Secondly, I have to applaud the crew whose work may be faceless but is ever-present. The cinematography, the art direction, the scoring and the soundtrack all work because they service the story in a way that I believe is honest. It was made with love and you can feel it.

Who do you look to for filmmaking inspiration?

A while back, I wrote down a list of the filmmakers that have inspired me and I realized that to some degree or another most are writer-directors. I’m a fan of the Coen Brothers, Rian Johnson, Christopher Nolan, Charlie Kaufman, Andrew Dominik, Nicolas Winding Refn, David Gordon Green, Jeff Nichols, PT Anderson, Jaco Van Dormael, Emir Kusturica, Iñárritu, Jodorowsky, Jarmusch, Lynch, Linklater, Malick, Carpenter, Cronenberg and Herzog, among many others. Interestingly, several of those filmmakers live here in Austin. What I think they all have in common is the ability to make films that are intensely personal, even indulgent, but that are so raw and emotionally available that they challenge an audience to accept them on their terms. I don’t watch films to confirm my biases and placate my assumptions. I like to be challenged and surprised by a film. To a degree, we watch films vicariously so I feel like it’s a duty to confront people’s behaviors and fears. Otherwise, we aren’t seeking a greater humanity, just another Roman Circus. However, I don’t have some illusion that I can make the world a better place as a filmmaker—just a little less lonely for someone. The films I like probably have more of a sense of spiritual absurdism. These filmmakers make films that make me excited about the human experience, films that show me how unique and beautiful and tragic and absurd it all is. Great cinema just makes me feel that I am not alone. And that’s why I want to be a filmmaker.

Tickets are still available for this screening. To purchase a ticket click here.

 

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Read the Oscar Nominated Screenplays

by Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director When the Oscars are handed out each year for the screenplay categories, I’ve always wondered how many voters actually read each nominated script.  For me, being so immersed in this crazy world of screenplay competitions, I can’t even fathom advancing a script without having read it.  For the Academy and other awards groups, reading a nominated script is …

by Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director

When the Oscars are handed out each year for the screenplay categories, I’ve always wondered how many voters actually read each nominated script.  For me, being so immersed in this crazy world of screenplay competitions, I can’t even fathom advancing a script without having read it.  For the Academy and other awards groups, reading a nominated script is less of a concern; strong dialogue performed by actors and the way the story unfolds through visuals are usually enough to assess the quality of a screenplay.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this but, when I hear the words “best screenplay”, I think of the actual written work.  The fact that a nominated script was ever read in the first place and then greenlit and produced is an achievement in and of itself for a writer.  However, I think for one to truly appreciate a screenplay, one must read it.  Which brings me to this…

Sure, you may have seen all of the nominated films but have you read all of them?  We’ve scoured the Internet to find all of the nominated screenplays and have them readily available for you to download here.  The only script that was a mystery to find (and I’m sure would be a mystery to read) is for Inherent Vice.  The following are all of the nominated scripts and my thoughts for what will win the Oscar.

Best Original Screenplay:
Boyhood: written by Richard Linklater
Birdman: written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, & Armando Bo
Foxcatcher: written by E. Max Frye & Dan Futterman
The Grand Budapest Hotel: written by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
Nightcrawler: written by Dan Gilroy

Prediction: This is a tight race between Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Birdman is certainly the most original of the nominees and would match the Academy’s preference for the unique and quirky as with previous winners like Her, Django Unchained, and Midnight In Paris. Also, since Birdman is now the likely Best Picture winner, that top award almost always includes a corresponding best screenplay win. While The Grand Budapest Hotel does have a lot of support, I think the film will be passed over for this award and will be honored instead for Wes Anderson’s signature style in the production categories. However, the script has one of the best lines of dialogue that is so relevant for writers:

Best Adapted Screenplay:
American Sniper: written by Jason Hall
The Imitation Game: written by Graham Moore
The Theory of Everything: written by Anthony McCarten
Whiplash: written by Damien Chazelle

Inherent Vice: written by Paul Thomas Anderson

Prediction: Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was sorely snubbed in this category and was presumed to be the early front-runner prior to the nominations announcement. Without it here, a case could be made for any of the nominees. Whiplash was oddly switched from an original screenplay to this category due to it being adapted from the short film it was based on. It could pull off an upset here but the likely winner is The Imitation Game. With the most nominations out of all the films in this category and Alan Turing’s life still a popular topic of discussion, it should pull off the win. Watch out for Whiplash though. One of the most memorable lines from that film seemed to have been cut down (correct me if I’m wrong) from a longer speech. It’s always interesting to see what was edited out of the script for the final cut. Here’s the whole speech:

 

 

If you think you have what it takes to correctly predict the Oscar winners, take a chance on our Oscars Prediction Contest. The top five entrants who most closely predict the winners in each category will each win one Lone Star Badge to the 2015 Austin Film Festival and Conference. For more information and to submit your predictions, click here.

Need some help predicting? I don’t even think a crystal ball will help with this very unpredictable year but, here are my predictions in all categories:

Best Picture: Birdman
Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman
Best Adapted Screenplay: Graham Moore – The Imitation Game
Best Original Screenplay: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, & Armando Bo – Birdman
Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
Best Actress: Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Best Cinematography: Birdman
Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Hair & Makeup: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Visual Effects: Interstellar
Best Editing: Boyhood
Best Sound Mixing: American Sniper
Best Sound Editing: American Sniper
Best Original Score: The Theory of Everything
Best Original Song: “Glory” – Selma
Best Animated Feature: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Best Documentary Feature: Citizenfour
Best Foreign Language Film: Ida
Best Live Action Short: Aya
Best Animated Short: Feast
Best Documentary Short: Joanna

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Holiday Staff Picks: Home Alone with Sonia Onescu

If you’re between the age of 20-40, you more than likely remember experiencing Home Alone in either of these ways: watching as a kid or passing it onto your own kids to watch for the first time.

12.24.2014| Sonia Onescu

If you’re between the age of 20-40, you more than likely remember experiencing Home Alone in either of these ways: watching as a kid or passing it onto your own kids to watch for the first time. You see, Home Alone set the precedent for us just as our generation’s Christmas Story did before. It was the movie that consisted of four siblings versus one, young versus old and leaving the independent yet punky Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) to fend for himself against more ice cream then one kid can handle. Who doesn’t remember the gunfire scene with the memorable “keep the change, ya filthy animal” quote, which is basically our generation’s “you’ll shoot your eye out,” and who can forget Kevin’s face after experiencing the sting of aftershave or the dimwitted “Wet Bandit” burglars Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern)? Home Alone has humor, heart and is still as epic as it is timeless to this day thanks to the brilliant John Hughes. No one can truly say they’ve really experienced Christmas without this movie.

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Holiday Staff Picks: White Christmas with Michelle Randolph Faires

12.19.2014 | Michelle Randolph Faires Hands down, my staff pick is Paramount’s White Christmas. When I think of all the family traditions instilled in me through the years, the one most prominent is hearing Bing Crosby croon White Christmas and laughing at the comedic genius of Danny Kaye. It’s not just a one-time viewing in my home, rather, it’s kept queued up at all times …

12.19.2014 | Michelle Randolph Faires

Hands down, my staff pick is Paramount’s White Christmas. When I think of all the family traditions instilled in me through the years, the one most prominent is hearing Bing Crosby croon White Christmas and laughing at the comedic genius of Danny Kaye. It’s not just a one-time viewing in my home, rather, it’s kept queued up at all times to be played during my holiday baking and wrapping of presents.

I’ve watched my daughters and their cousins grow up re-enacting the ‘Sisters” number more times than I can probably count and at this point I believe they could all give Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen a serious run for the money. When the show stopper scene of ‘Mandy” is performed, I still sigh “…if ONLY I had Vera Ellen’s legs!”

At one point the foursome find themselves traveling in a train car and they sing a number called “Snow’. Instantly, it is Christmas Eve night and I am back in my great-grandmothers front yard, making snow angels with my sisters in the unexpected snow blanketing the grass.

The finale is a cliché happy ending where the guys get the girls, the inn is saved and of course, the skies open and the much anticipated snow comes falling down, snowflakes synchronized to Irving Berlin’s song.

And every single time I cry.

Sometimes, the magic of a film is not necessarily in the script, the production or even the skilled actors. Sometimes our most deeply rooted feelings are the ones we attach to a film and how we relate the story to our life and our own experiences. It’s how it nestles its place into our hearts forever.

Here’s wishing all of you a very merry and White Christmas.

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Holiday Staff Picks: Die Hard with Harrison Glaser

Sure, you can go traditional with your holiday movies. Who doesn’t love Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life? But for my money, the best Christmas movie of all time is the 1988 masterpiece Die Hard. It has all the makings of a classic yuletide tale: love, Christmas trees, terrorists, friendship, cute kids, f-words, and an important lesson about family. And if you want memorable lines, this movie has more witty catchphrases than you can shake a missile launcher at. I’ll see your “bah, humbug” and raise you a “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho” any day.

12.16.2014 | Harrison Glaser

Sure, you can go traditional with your holiday movies. Who doesn’t love Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life? But for my money, the best Christmas movie of all time is the 1988 masterpiece Die Hard. It has all the makings of a classic yuletide tale: love, Christmas trees, terrorists, friendship, cute kids, f-words, and an important lesson about family. And if you want memorable lines, this movie has more witty catchphrases than you can shake a missile launcher at. I’ll see your “bah, humbug” and raise you a “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho” any day.

“Now wait a second, Harrison” you might say, “Christmastime isn’t about dying at all, whether it be hard or not.” First off please don’t interrupt me. I’m in the middle of a blog. Second, you’re looking at this all wrong. Die Hard is more than an awesome action movie that happens to take place on the night of December 25th. It is in fact a movie imbued with the spirit of Christmas. Yes, there’s death in the movie. People are shot, choked, thrown off buildings, and done blowed up, but take a look at the forest  through the death trees. Die Hard is about the perils of greed and the healing power of friendship and family. Hans Gruber and his gang shoot people simply for a big payday. And—spoiler alert—it didn’t turn out too well for any of them. The news reporter jeopardizes the lives of the hostages just for a big scoop. And he got punched in the face. The FBI agents ignored  all common sense and were satisfied with killing hostages just for their next big get. And they didn’t last too long. The greed can even be found in John McClane’s own wife, Holly. She quite literally trades in family for greed—reclaiming her maiden name so she can work at a giant, extravagant multi-national corporation that’s shady at best. It’s not until the end of the movie that she sees the error of her ways and reassumes the McClane moniker. See? Underneath all that violence is an important lesson about  love and priorities in life. Die Hard is straight up A Christmas Carol, except with more C4.

Plus, I’m working on this theory that John McClane is actually Santa Clause. Stay with me. Just like Santa, John wears red. Though in John’s case, the red is mostly blood. And did you notice that John doesn’t wear socks for the movie? Well maybe that’s because he’s using them for stockings. And just like Santa, McClane is always squeezing through chutes and crevices to make his way down to those that are waiting for him. But instead of delivering toys, McClane brings the greatest gift of all: not dying. And then instead of reindeer, McClain has…I don’t know, bullets? Look the theory’s still a work-in-progress. Just watch the movie. It’s awesome.

Like this blog? Check out our other Staff Picks here.

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A Creative Balance: Checking in with AFF alum Jordan Jones

Jordan Jones | 12.04.2014 We asked AFF Alum Jordan Jones how he balances filmmaking with every day life. His new project is called FLUIDIC. Find more information about it on their kickstarter page. How do you manage your life in a way that allows you to create art and maintain your other responsibilities outside of work? Focus. You can get lost in the things …

Jordan Jones | 12.04.2014

We asked AFF Alum Jordan Jones how he balances filmmaking with every day life. His new project is called FLUIDIC. Find more information about it on their kickstarter page.

How do you manage your life in a way that allows you to create art and maintain your other responsibilities outside of work? Focus. You can get lost in the things that inspire you to be an artist, instead of actually working on your art. I can sit down to work and spend most of my time looking at other people’s work. The work that I was supposed to get done now requires more time, time that gets taken away from something else at home. No balance. You must stay focused on what you want to create. Try to limit checking your email. Don’t let social media take up your creative time. Stop googling. I constantly ask myself, “Do you want to watch movies or make movies?” If I can focus on my creative work, which allows me to fulfill my responsibilities at home, then I am able to focus on my creative work. Its a creative balance.

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AFF Interview: Co-Writer/Directors Annika Iltis & Timothy Kane of The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young

For this AFF Interview, our Film Department Apprentice, Henry Kittredge, posed a series of questions to Annika Iltis and Timothy Kane, the co-writer/directors of the AFF 2014 Film The Barkley Marathons. Don’t miss the screening of The Barkley Marathons Thursday, October 30th at 4:00PM at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Join AFF and Annika and Timothy for the screening!

Henry Kittredge | 10.24.2014

For this AFF Interview, our Film Department Apprentice, Henry Kittredge, posed a series of questions to Annika Iltis and Timothy Kane, the co-writer/directors of the AFF 2014 Film The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young. Don’t miss the screening of The Barkley Marathons Thursday, October 30th at 4:00PM at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Join AFF and Annika and Timothy for the screening!

Austin Film Festival: How did you first find out about The Barkley Marathons? Did you have a personal connection? Was it difficult to get Lazarus Lake and Raw Dog’s approval since it is so secret?

Annika and Timothy: We were just finishing work on Season 5 of Mad Men and happened to read the essay The Immortal Horizon, by Leslie Jamison, about The Barkley Marathons in The Believer magazine. It read like fiction; too difficult of a race, and characters too colorful to be real. We were surprised to learn that in 25 years, no one had made a documentary about it and immediately set out to get permission to begin the process. It took a bit of investigating to track down Laz and Raw Dog, and it was right on the edge of being too late if we hoped to film that year’s race. But we moved quickly and within a few weeks were in the middle of the Tennessee wilderness on a scouting trip, being led deeper into the forest and down the rabbit hole by none other than Lazarus Lake himself.

This is a cherished event that many hold dear and close to the vest. There was a little initial hesitation by some when we first came to the race, but after getting to know us and hearing what our goals were – showing the soul of Barkley while keeping its secrets intact  – there was acceptance. Getting to know so many fascinating individuals has been one of the biggest highlights of this process. Over the years Laz has had a few people say they were going to make a documentary, some have actually shot the race, but no one has followed through. That may be why we got permission, maybe he thought that we wouldn’t follow through. He was surprised when we actually showed up a month ahead of the race to meet and scout. From then it was a process of building trust with him and the runners.

AFF: What were your motives behind making a documentary about The Barkley?

A&T: After so many years of helping to bring other’s ideas to life, we were eager to rise to the challenge of creating a project that we were both very passionate about. We also wanted to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, and The Barkley definitely pushed us – – creatively, physically, and geographically. When we started prepping in 2012, the goal wasn’t just to make a film, but to dive headfirst into this unknown (to us) world, and grow through that immersive experience.

AFF: What surprised you the most during filmmaking?

A&T: It shouldn’t have necessarily surprised us, since working in film for 15 years will definitely keep you on your toes, but Murphy’s Law came down hard on us while making this film – if something could go wrong, it did.  Thankfully we can laugh about it now. For example, we were very upfront with the small crew we hired as to what they were getting into, but even so, one camera operator showed up the first day, stuck around for about an hour, left to make a “phone call” and never returned. The crew that remained was spread out over many miles and several mountain ranges, and communication was difficult. Most mobile phone services don’t work in the park so we had ordered walkie-talkies, but the vendor shipped them without antennas. That was a telling moment when we opened the box; this was not going to be easy. It probably has to do with being at The Barkley. Nothing comes easy there, you have to earn it.

AFF: How did you film the runners during the ultramarathon? Did you have people follow the runners or camp out at specific locations?

A&T: Shooting the race was logistically difficult and we always kept the most important thing in mind: The Barkley is for the runners. They worked hard to get there, so it would be tragic for us to rob them of the full experience. One of the joys of The Barkley is having the opportunity to be completely and utterly LOST in the wilderness. Most of the race is off trail on an unmarked course and it would ruin the adventure to be alone and lost, then suddenly see a camera person waiting for you. So when we scouted with Laz a month ahead of time, he specifically showed us certain areas where we would be allowed to shoot without influencing anyone’s navigation. Since The Barkley is about one person facing the challenge, if a camera person is running alongside you, that is no longer the case, so we kept the chasing to a minimum. And to be quite honest, if we did have access to the full course, the camera people, with all the gear, would have to be better trained to run The Barkley than the runners. In other words, it would be impossible.

We did have one camera operator camp out at the top of Rat Jaw throughout the night to shoot runners stopping at one of only two water drops on the course. He had to evacuate the second day due to an impending storm. Since we were shooting around the clock, there wasn’t much time for sleep. The rest of the crew (7 of us) took turns napping in tents at the small campground where The Barkley’s loops begin and end, and where a lot of the action takes place.

AFF: Have you stayed in touch with Lazarus Lake? Has he had a chance to see the final product?

A&T: Yes! We showed the film to Laz and he loved it! He is a truly fascinating individual and we jump at the chance to spend time with him whenever we can.  Sometimes all you need to put your day in perspective is to give Laz a call while he’s out walking his pitbull rescue, Big, who he brought back to health after finding him in the woods suffering from a gunshot wound. Besides being the Co-Founder of the hardest trail race in the world, Laz is also a dry stonemason, accountant, prolific writer, and a high school basketball coach.

The goal all along was to make a film that captured Barkley while maintaining its mystery, and it was really important to us that Laz approved of the final version before we did anything else.  Thankfully he did, and he especially liked how it builds on the fear that already exists for people who might think about attempting the race.  Of course, they still have to figure out how to get in first…

Don’t miss the Thursday October 30th screening of The Barkley Marathons, click here to add it to your sched!

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AFF Interview: Writer/Director Justin Paul Miller, The Sound and The Shadow

For this week’s AFF Interview, our Film Department Apprentice, Dylan Levy, posed a series of questions to Justin Paul Miller, the writer and director of the AFF 2013 Film The Sound and The Shadow! AFF is hosting a screening of The Sound and The Shadow Friday, October 24 and Wednesday, October 29 at the IMAX Theatre. Join AFF and The Sound and The Shadow Writer/Director Justin Paul Miller and other cast and crew for the screening!

Dylan Levy | 10.20.2014

For this week’s AFF Interview, our Film Department Apprentice, Dylan Levy, posed a series of questions to Justin Paul Miller, the writer and director of the AFF 2014 Film The Sound and The Shadow! AFF is hosting a screening of The Sound and The Shadow Friday, October 24 and Wednesday, October 29 at the IMAX Theatre. Join AFF and The Sound and The Shadow Writer/Director Justin Paul Miller and other cast and crew for the screening!

 

Dylan Levy: The film’s tone is very diverse, ranging from light and quirky to thrilling and even terrifying.  How was the process in finding the right tone for this film?  Did it differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

The Sound and The Shadow Writer/Director Justin Paul Miller: In writing the film, we really tried to take an active approach to  tone. Our characters are very quirky to begin with. But the contrast of using a somewhat lighter tone with a heavy subject matter is more meant to reflect Ally and Harold’s notion of their world rather than just highlight their comedic qualities. They are naïve in their approach to solving the missing girl case. And as they tumble into this adventure we use that shift in tone and genre to mirror the excitement and danger of being amateur gumshoes. In these roles they give themselves, there is a deterioration of innocence that the tone is trying to convey. So we aimed to have the tone evolve with them through the story. Sometimes that evolution was sudden. And we did want certain moments to feel like a punch in the gut from what the audience might feel the “rules” of the world were. But these moments still needed to be digestible. Music also plays a big role in our tone circus. (More on that later)

DL: Given the subject matter and plot, it’s difficult not to think of such other iconic “domestic spy” films such as Rear Window, The Conversation, and Blow-Up.  What films, books, or other creative works were particularly influential in the making of this film? 

JPM: Yes. Rear Window is my favorite Hitchcock film.  It really is THE domestic spy film. Hitchcock is genius in his ability to create suspense in the very technique and parameters of how the story is told. But Rear Window is also about the relationship of it’s characters (Stewart and Kelly) and the sacrifices they make for each other. For me, that is really where it differs from The Conversation and Blow-Up in the genre (though they are all great movies). So I see us following, attempting to at least, more in Hitchcock’s footsteps in that we are using one story to help tell another.

Also, I think Haruki Murakami’s work was influential. Some years back, Sam, the co-writer and producer, turned me on to him. We were both reading his books while writing the film and I think that some of his writing did leave a stamp on the film because we were constantly talking about how Murakami tells his stories. His mysteries unfold in these often fantastical and surrealistic ways. In his work, there is a sense of the world morphing and conspiring against the main characters that underline themes of alienation and invasion. The push and pull of those two thematic forces was really what we were getting at while writing the script for The Sound and the Shadow, so perhaps we have Haruki to thank for some inspiration.

DL: Given that sound recording itself is a central plot element, how did you approach the film’s score and overall sound design?  What did you want the soundtrack to contribute to the film? 

JPM: In Rear Window (segue!!), I love how James Stewart’s camera is not only a big narrative and plot device but also informs his character by letting us look through his lens so to speak. That is something we strived to do with Harold. The way he treats his microphones and sound recordings is almost motherly. And sound is his main tool of perception. In limiting Harold to make his judgments almost entirely through sound an inherent suspense is built. So the sound design itself is subjective – the sound design picks out specific sounds that he is picking out by highlighting them in the mix. We really aim to tell the story through his ears.

Also, the relationship of off-screen sound to space is integral in defining and understanding the neighborhood that the film takes place in. Eighty percent of the movie is told in Harold’s house. In the film we are constantly using sound to define relation to the surrounding neighbors and allude to clues of the characters’ whereabouts. Even in heavy dialogue scenes, the background sound design is meant to highlight a specific aspect of the neighborhood. Our sound designer, Kevin Rosen-Quan did some awesome work in creating a true sound map of the film’s setting.

Which brings us to the music! It was a wonder to watch Layla Minoui-Hall develop the score. While developing our themes and instrumentations, Layla and I studied the score that Nino Rota did for Fellini’s Casanova – another film with quite a wild tone ride. (Listen to that Nino Rota score, its great stuff) We wanted to be able to take a musical theme from whimsical to haunting over the course of the film – reflecting tone. So Layla experimented with altering instrumentations, reversing and inverting melodies, changing time and key signatures. So the score itself undergoes a transformation with the story and interacts with sound design to voice the world that is surrounding and conspiring with our characters.

Layla, Sam, myself, and other cast and crew will all be in attendance at the Friday 24th 9:30p Bullock IMAX screening and would love to talk to you. So come see (and hear) the film!

Want to add The Sound and The Shadow to your schedule? Click here to add it to your sched!

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AFF Interview: Writer/Director Ricky Kennedy, The History of Time Travel

For this week’s AFF Interview, our Film Department Apprentice, Dylan Levy, posed a series of questions to Ricky Kennedy, the writer and director of the AFF 2014 Film The History of Time Travel! AFF is hosting a screening of The History of Time Travel Saturday, October 25 and Wednesday, October 29 at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Join AFF and The History of Time Travel writer/director Ricky Kennedy for the screening!

Dylan Levy | 10.20.2014

For this week’s AFF Interview, our Film Department Apprentice, Dylan Levy, posed a series of questions to Ricky Kennedy, the writer and director of the AFF 2014 Film The History of Time Travel! AFF is hosting a screening of The History of Time Travel Saturday, October 25 and Wednesday, October 29 at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Join AFF and The History of Time Travel writer/director Ricky Kennedy for the screening!

Dylan Levy: What was the writing and planning process like for this film? How did you approach such a tricky concept as time travel, specifically in the context of a fictional documentary?

The History of Time Travel Writer/Director Ricky Kennedy: The writing process for The History of Time Travel took place over several phases from August 2010 to May of 2013. Before I even came up with a storyline I first developed the concept of a time travel documentary. I had wanted to do a high concept film, specifically in the science fiction genre, but couldn’t think of a way to do so economically.

After weeks of thinking about various ideas and concepts the thought occurred to me that doing a time travel movie in a documentary style could be a way to tell an interesting story.

I wouldn’t have to worry about elaborate sets or special effects because the bulk of principal photography could be devoted to interviews which we could film quickly and efficiently. The rest of the film could be photographs we stage and stock footage and photos from the public domain.

I quickly realized that if there was a documentary about time travelers they would inevitably change history at some point. However how would the people being interviewed know this? They wouldn’t. For everyone but the time travelers the changes would go completely unnoticed. Suddenly my film had hook. A documentary about time travel where the facts keep changing because of time travel.

Within a few minutes I had the title, the tagline “Would We Even Notice?, poster design, and film outline sketched out on a piece of notebook paper.

Now that I had a concept I needed to develop a story to fit within that concept. That took about four months, from August to December of 2010. I would write ideas and outlines and pitch them to Daniel and Dudley May (both would work on the film as an actor and as assistant director). Just working on the mechanics of how time travel would function and what the rules would be took months and months to figure out.

The first draft was about twenty four pages and consisted of wall to wall dialog without any cutaways, reenactments, or photographs mentioned. It was just the story as told by the interviewer characters. The first draft would later been adapted as a five minute proof of concept video I filmed as my first graduate film at Stephen F. Austin State University.

I put the script on the back burner for about a years and a half while I made two other short films. When it came time to make my thesis I pulled the script back out and started expanding it to feature length. For the most part the storyline did not change drastically it was just a matter of expanding and fleshing out the characters and events of the story.

DL: Because of the tricky and often paradoxical notion of time travel, many time-travel narratives simply accept the logical fallacies in favor of dramatic effect. Were there any paradoxes you tried to overcome? Were there any you accepted for the purpose of a more compelling narrative?

RK: During the development process I worked very hard to try and avoid paradoxes and plot holes but after you’ve twisted your brain for months and months you just have to stop and ask yourself “Is the story working?”

I read in an interview or article, I believe it was Rian Johnson discussing his film Looper, that time travel is messy and that no matter how hard you try there are going to be plot holes, loose threads or paradoxes.

Time travel by it’s very nature is not logical, it’s impossible to make something illogical into something logical. So the idea with a time travel story is to make is seem like its logical, at least for the duration of the film’s running time. If I’ve done my job well you will suspend disbelief and just accept the story.

However one of the great things about time travel movies is the pleasure I get in taking them apart and trying to make sense of their rules. I love Back to the Future but there’s a plot hole in the trilogy you can fly a delorean through. I won’t mention what it is but it doesn’t make the film any less enjoyable.

I’m looking forward to seeing my film get picked apart and analyzed by the sci-fi fans out there. If they enjoy the film I hope they’ll forgive me for the errors and mistakes I’m sure I’ve overlooked.

DL: It’s immediate to the audience that the film is fictional, even playfully exaggerated. Were you ever concerned that the “tongue-in-cheek” nature of the film would overshadow the film’s dramatic merits or would make it difficult for audiences to emotionally invest in the film?

RK: I always try to make a movie I would want to see and hope other people like it as well but I honestly had know idea how an audience was going to react to the film. I wasn’t sure if they would understand it or just be confused.

With The History of Time Travel I had a very complex story told in an unusually way but I still needed it to be accessible to audiences. Humor was one way to do that. Within the first two minutes I have the character of General Sanborn call time travel a bunch of bull. It get’s a big laugh with every audience I’ve seen it with and let’s them know immediately that this is going to be fun. I think an element of humor helps balance some of the darker aspects of the film because there are some very serious moments in the film.

With The History of Time Travel I had something I thought people might enjoy but depending on the crowd they could enjoy it for different aspects. Some might enjoy the sci-fi elements more, or find the alternate histories interesting, or appreciate the humor and the absurdity of the whole thing, but in the end I hoped everyone would enjoy the film as a whole and find it entertaining and engaging.

Want to add The History of Time Travel to your schedule? Click here to add it to your sched!

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Staff Pick: All Relative

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!
All Relative

Allison Kindred | 10.20.2014

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

 

 

 

All Relative

A scandalous twist on “Meet the Parents,” All Relative leaves you rooting for the guy who gets all the ladies and cringing with uncomfortable moments. However, while you’re cringing and rooting the story leaves you wanting to know what happens next, keeps your eyes glued to the screen and gives you a lesson in the end. The twists and turns through out the film happen quickly and you have to keep up so make sure to pay attention!

A wonderful film not only about the first meeting of the parents, but love and relationships whether they are just starting out, have been through 30+ years of marriage or as close as family members. It gives you a great reminder to talk through things and the best relationships are based on honesty. The audience will leave with the valuable lesson to take a look at those relationships in your life and think “we need to have an honest talk”- it might be scary, but it could be the best thing to keep going and revitalize the bond!

Do yourself a favor and schedule this film in your Sched to teach you a lesson, make you laugh, cry, worry and enjoy a great story!

-Allison Kindred, Development Director

Want to add All Relative to your schedule? Click here to add it to your sched!

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Staff Pick: Black Mountain Side

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!
Black Mountain Side

Jo Huang-Zollner | 10.13.2014

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

 Black Mountain Side

Everything about Black Mountain Side harkens back to my favorite childhood movie-The Thing. From the long, silent opening shot of the Canadian winter wilderness, to the band of isolated but fun-loving archeologists that slowly descends, throughout the film, into bewilderment, chaos and annihilation. Throw in a dash of mythical folklore, a sprinkle of science-fiction, a generous amount of delicious carnage, and you got yourself a beautifully shot psychological thriller that will send shivers up your spine and urge you to think twice about going on that solo walkabout trip up in Alaska.

Black Mountain Side is a slow burner that takes its time heating up. It’s one of those movies you want to go back and re-watch again and again because you think there might be something you missed, or an element that went over your head, despite knowing the ultimate outcome.

I would certainly recommend adding Black Mountain Side to your must-watch list if you’re looking for a film with beautiful cinematography, amazing performances from an eclectic group of characters, and some good-old-fashioned blood-spewing; think The Thing meets The Shining. Perfect date-night movie, wouldn’t you say?

-Jo Huang-Zollner, Production Manager

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Staff Picks: Morphine: Journey of Dreams

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!
Morphine: Journey of Dreams

Halie Davis | 10.13.2014

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

 

 

 

Morphine: Journey of Dreams

Morphine: Journey of Dreams will be shelved next to other classics of the music film collection, between Stop Making Sense and Joy Division. This documentary should be used as a guide for up and coming musicians to learn from and abide by. Bandmates, Mark Sandman, Dana Colley, Jerome Dupree and Billy Conway define what it’s like for artists to stay true to their music in the underground and commercialized scenes.

Morphine wasn’t just another 1990’s alternative band, riding the wave to fame. With a unique, distinctive sound, director, Mark Shuman does an excellent job in showing how the band paved their own way. Shuman doesn’t just focus on the mysterious front man, Sandman – but explores the entire group’s dynamic, along with their personal relationships and network connections.

Avid college radio listeners, indie rock fans and music documentary viewers will or have already listened to and deeply understand where their dark sound stemmed from. If you haven’t listened to Morphine, then do so. If you still aren’t addicted, after listening, then be sure to check out Morphine: Journey of Dreams – it’s guaranteed access into their solid fan base.

-Halie Davis, Travel Coordinator

“Journey of Dreams” from Mark Shuman on Vimeo.

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Staff Picks: The History of Time Travel

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!
The History of Time Travel

Annie Wells | 10.13.2014

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

The History of Time Travel

If locked in a time capsule, and later found by a generation disconnected from ours by some world changing event, The History of Time Travel might sway watchers to believe it was an actual part of the history of our people.

The characters or ‘scientific experts’ interviewed at the beginning of the film are believable. The story line is flawless. The character arch is intriguing. Using the classical scaffolding of the typical historical documentary, the film pulls you in, even makes you question, “Wait, is Time Travel, real?”

This movie is brave and refreshing. The History of Time Travel is about a family struggling to right the wrongs of the past, government conspiracies, Russian espionage, Atari game systems and all the awesomeness of the History Channel without commercials. This is science fiction turned science fact.

Drawing from historical events, referencing Hitler and Stalin, the writers weave a believable connection between the real and the imagined. One interviewee says, “If you think Hitler with an atomic bomb is bad, imagine Stalin with a Time Machine”

The story follows a young scientist and his family, detailing the process of his discovery and later execution of time travel. About half way through I’m thinking, “this is solid”.  When the characters begin experimenting with time travel, the interviews begin to slightly change. Subtle at first, small changes in the background of a scene, or the haircut of a man being interviewed, a change in the story line previously viewed. This is where the bravery sets in, the bravery of the writing team that is. I’ll save the details and let your mind explode while watching. Real talk, people, this is a MUST SEE film because there aren’t any films out there doing what this Stephen F Austin State University student team accomplished.

-Annie Wells, Transportation Coordinator

 Want to add The History of Time Travel to your schedule? Click here to add it to your sched!

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Staff Picks: Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!
Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero

Linzy Beltran | 10.13.2014

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

 

 

Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero
As a child of immigrants who often gets mistaken for being an Iranian-American, I feel like this film really spoke to me in a special way. Just kidding. You don’t have to be any type of person to guffaw at least thrice during my pick for this year’s Austin Film Festival, Jimmy Vestvood, Amerikan Hero.

Comedy Mazter Maz Jobrani plays Jimmy Vestwood, a lovable, ambitious dreamer who after winning a green card lottery, migrates to the U.S. from Iran with his mother, hoping to achieve his life-long dream of becoming a Private Investigator. Instead, what awaits him is a job as a security, or sekurity guard and an accidental involvement with the bad guys who try and paint him as a terrorist to start a world war. Jimmy Vestvood, personifies the narrative of the American dream, working hard to become a private investigator and taking us on a silly and surprisingly suspenseful ride, pausing a few times for gags that’ll make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.  Co-written by Amir Ohebsion and Mr. Jobrani himself, the film came into fruition with the help of crowd funding. And I think I can speak from our entire staff, we are so grateful to this outstanding team of writers along with director Jonathan Kesselman for bringing us a tale starring the first Iranian-Amerikan hero.

So do your duty to this great country (and to yourself) and add this one to your schedule.

-Linzy Beltran, Executive Director Assistant

Want to add Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero to your schedule? Click here to add it to your sched!

 

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Staff Picks: One Eyed Girl

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

Matt Dy | 10.08.2014

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

 

 

One Eyed Girl

Like many films in this year’s impressive line-up, One Eyed Girl presents a story that reaffirms AFF’s mission for championing STORY.  This Australian film, which is in the Dark Matters portion of the Film Competition, centers on a psychiatrist with demons of his own who is drawn into the machinations of a doomsday cult while being haunted by the death of a former patient. The film fits alongside other films that descend into dark territories like The Sound of My Voice and Martha Marcy May Marlene.  Screenwriters Craig Behenna and Nick Matthews have written a script that, on the page, would very likely read as multi-layered and thrilling as it is seen on the screen through the film’s rich, haunting cinematography.  One Eyed Girl is a film to approach with an open mind and watch with both eyes open.

-Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director

Want to add One Eyed Girl to your Schedule? Click here to add it to your Sched!

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Staff Picks: The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young

Victoria Costantino | 10.08.2014 Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week! The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young This inspiring film documents one of the world’s most challenging outdoor races, the Barkley …

Victoria Costantino | 10.08.2014

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young

This inspiring film documents one of the world’s most challenging outdoor races, the Barkley Marathons, which is located in Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park. The film’s tagline, “The Race That Eats Its Young”, alludes to the level of difficulty each contestant endures, as they trek across 100 miles of diverse, mountainous terrain. An unforgettable, eclectic running enthusiast, Lazarus Lake, created the race after learning that Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin, James Earl Ray, only ventured 8 miles during a time span of 55 hours in the mountains. Thinking he could “do at least 100 miles” in the same amount of time, Lazarus Lake designed the Barkley Marathons to feature an ambiguous route, unique checkpoints, and only 60 continuous hours to complete the grueling challenge by map navigation and physical endurance. Since its inception in 1986, the Barkley Marathons have only been completed by a small fraction of those who attempt it. This film offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to journey alongside Barkley participants, as they push their bodies to fatigue with the communal hope of accomplishing a feat that has only been attained by an admirable few.

Victoria Costantino, Theater Operations Coordinator

Want to add The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young to your Schedule? Click here to add it to your Sched!

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Staff Picks: Patong Girl

First of all I must say that I truly enjoyed this film. I was looking forward to watching the movie as soon as I found out that it took place in Thailand as I have a good friend who recently moved there and he has told me so many wonderful things about the culture.

Although he lived in Austin his entire life he had a rich appreciation for other cultures, which eventually led him to Thailand. The first time he came back to Austin to visit he told me all about Thailand, and focused on the people. He told me about the Kathoey and the performance aspect of that culture. This friend of mine is one that I made while performing in a children’s theatre group a few years ago so you can imagine his enthusiasm for relaying information about anything performance related is high. He painted a glamorous picture of the Kathoey to me and I must admit I was expecting to see some of this in Patong Girl.

Samantha Levine | 10.01.2014

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

 

 

Patong Girl

First of all I must say that I truly enjoyed this film. I was looking forward to watching the movie as soon as I found out that it took place in Thailand as I have a good friend who recently moved there and he has told me so many wonderful things about the culture.

Although he lived in Austin his entire life he had a rich appreciation for other cultures, which eventually led him to Thailand. The first time he came back to Austin to visit he told me all about Thailand, and focused on the people. He told me about the Kathoey and the performance aspect of that culture. This friend of mine is one that I made while performing in a children’s theatre group a few years ago so you can imagine his enthusiasm for relaying information about anything performance related is high. He painted a glamorous picture of the Kathoey to me and I must admit I was expecting to see some of this in Patong Girl.

When I turned on Patong Girl I was surprised by the story and taken into the world created by the filmmakers. This story shined light on the culture but focused on the characters. After watching the film there were a few questions that stuck in my mind for the filmmakers:

Sam Levine: What inspired you to write this story? There was such an emphasis on character and character relationships: did the story come out of past or present experience?

Patong Girl Director Susanna Solonen: A while back, I taught Scuba-diving in Phuket for a season and for a few months in Koh Samui. Holiday destinations are places where cultures mix: There is a local culture with local traditions, local mindset and a local way of doing things. And then, there are holiday-makers from all over the world. These people usually have paid a substantial amount of their disposable income to travel there, hoping for a dream-holiday, keen to experience something new and exciting, to get pampered back and front… whatever it is, their expectations are usually fairly high. When these high expectations meet the real world, that doesn’t necessarily end well.

SL: The relationship dynamic between the two main characters was very unique from my perspective but after watching the film and knowing a bit about the Kathoey I wonder if that dynamic is a common in Thailand?

SS: Have I ever fallen in love? No… I would never do that. Falling in love can be very hurtful and I’d absolutely advise anyone against it.

SL: What was the experience of filming in different parts of Thailand? Were people receptive to the story there?

SS: Honestly. I have no clue. I’m a first time feature film director and I was pretty busy trying to direct a film. No idea what the locals thought. They probably thought we were pretty weird.

I did talk to the Thai team about the film, though. Thai 2nd AD Jackey Mucha (kudos!) said that a lot of the foreign productions they work on are holiday-movies and they usually are full of Thailand-clichés: The elephant, the lanterns, the temple. Patong Girl was different in the sense that all the clichés were twisted. Yes, there is the elephant, but in the background we see half-finished condominium towers. That is how I perceive Thailand, it really is both: A kingdom deeply  rooted in ancient culture. And a very vibrant – though not always pretty –  modern country.

– Samantha Levine, AFF Office Manager

Want to add Patong Girl to your Schedule? Click here to add it to your schedule!

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Staff Picks: Hardy

Feeling extremely busy, exhausted, and emotionally spent from all the hard work we’ve been putting into the festival, all I wanted to do was hit the gym for a much needed stress relief session. Instead, I opted for a quiet night on the couch with my husband, watching and scoring films for the festival.

 

Allison Kindred | 09.28.2014
Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

 

 

 

Hardy

Feeling extremely busy, exhausted, and emotionally spent from all the hard work we’ve been putting into the festival, all I wanted to do was hit the gym for a much needed stress relief session. Instead, I opted for a quiet night on the couch with my husband, watching and scoring films for the festival.

Right from the start of Hardy, I felt a sense of empowerment and inspiration as Heather “The Heat” Hardy runs across the Brooklyn Bridge. I might be too busy to get myself to the gym but if anything was going to inspire me to push myself- it was this story!

A must see during the festival, you’ll find yourself constantly rooting for Hardy to win. The film left me inspired to walk into my next challenge with the same confidence and drive.  Fight is the overall theme to this story. Fight in the physical sense- she is an aspiring professional female boxer– but also the fight to push yourself. Fight for what you want in life and in your dreams. Fight to give your loved ones a better life then you. Fight for your relationships. Fight to be the first. The best. The only one. And the fight to keep going…

If you need any kind of push or confidence boost, Hardy should be on your schedule. A wonderfully told story about a girl who doesn’t stop or give up! I found myself punching my way through the film and ready to get in the ring!

– Allison Kindred, Development Director

Want to add Hardy to your Schedule? Click here to add to your schedule.

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Staff Picks: WildLike

In short….I loved this film. Let’s put aside for just a moment the stunning shots of Alaska’s majestic landscapes. Ignore the “zen-like” moments of hiking into the Alaskan wilderness, surrendering to moments of silence and solace. Forget that the filmmakers painted a mesmerizing picture of nature and humankind in complete harmony.

Michelle Randolph | 09.24.2014

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

 

 

 

 

WildLike

In short….I loved this film.  Let’s put aside for just a moment the stunning shots of Alaska’s majestic landscapes. Ignore the “zen-like” moments of hiking into the Alaskan wilderness, surrendering to moments of silence and solace. Forget that the filmmakers painted a mesmerizing picture of nature and humankind in complete harmony. Yes, I love this film for all those reasons, but let’s just forget all that for a minute. What the writer and director Frank Hall Green managed to do with this movie is take a subject that is far too common, to far too many people and reinforce the characteristics of enduring hope, healing  and reconnection in its highest forms. It doesn’t hurt that the audience gets to revel in the beauty of actress, Ella Purnell as the troubled lead character Mackenzie or in seasoned actor Bruce Greenwood as the loner backpacker turned unlikely father figure with scars of his own. For me, this film embodies the very essence of what  beautiful storytelling can do, which is impact  and impart a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves, the human condition.

-Michelle Randolph, Outreach Coordinator

Want to add WildLike to your Schedule? Click here to add it to your schedule!

 

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Staff Picks: The Suicide Theory

I believe in fate. Sometimes you don’t care for a particular genre of film, but then a co-worker suggests you check it out. Maybe they just chose it at random, or maybe you were meant to watch it. Either way, this is how I approached The Suicide Theory.

Marcie Mayhorn | 09.24.2014

Welcome to our 2014 Festival Staff Picks column! We’ll be posting some first looks at Festival Films to look out for on the 2014 Film Schedule. Check back to the AFF blog for new Staff Picks each week!

 

 

 

The Suicide Theory

I believe in fate.  Sometimes you don’t care for a particular genre of film, but then a co-worker suggests you check it out.  Maybe they just chose it at random, or maybe you were meant to watch it.  Either way, this is how I approached The Suicide Theory.

The title alone gave me the creeps  — I myself have no theories on suicide.  But upon hearing it was about a hit-man hired to kill a man who can’t commit suicide himself, I found my interest growing stronger.  What followed was 98 minutes of my expectations being surpassed, and ultimately, enjoying a film I wouldn’t have otherwise sought out.  This film is an incredibly well told story of how the choices we’ve made in the past touch the lives of others, and how fate is ultimately the bigger part of one’s future.  All of this, of course, told in a unique, raw way.

Consider adding this film to your schedule.  If anything, it will give you a new way to think about how lucky you are to be alive.  And who knows — maybe it will also make you believe in fate a little more.

– Marcie Mayhorn, Conference Coordinator

Want to add The Suicide Theory to your Schedule? Click here to add it to your schedule!

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AFF 2014 Short Film Announcements

Are you keeping up with our Short Film Announcements on twitter? If not, be sure to follow us @austinfilmfest every Friday and Monday leading up to the Festival where we’ll announce short films playing this year’s Festival using the hashtags #FilmFridays and #MovieMondays. Here’s a roundup of what we’ve announced so far:

09.02.2014

Are you keeping up with our Short Film Announcements on twitter? If not, be sure to follow us @austinfilmfest every Friday and Monday leading up to the Festival where we’ll announce short films playing this year’s Festival using the hashtags #FilmFridays and #MovieMondays. Here’s a roundup of what we’ve announced so far:

1946
Writer/Director: Robert Ford

A Day in Eden (@ADayInEden)
Writer/Director: Assal Ghawami (@AssalG)
Website: adayineden.com
Trailer: A Day in Eden

A Late Man
Writer/Director: Fidel Ruiz-Healy

Bunion
Writer: Avi Rothman
Director: Jessica Sanders (@jessicafilm)
Website: facebook.com/bunionfilm
Trailer: Bunion

dawn.
Writer/Director: Ya’Ke Smith

Detour
Writer/Director: Michael Kam
Website: facebook.com/detour.sg
Trailer: Detour

Dishes
Director: Billy Kirland & Peter Rosemeyer (@RoselandTrio)
Writer: Peter Rosemeyer

Door God
Writer/Director: Yulin Liu

Eleven
Director: Abigail Greenwood
Writer: Kate Prior

Entrain
Writer: Adrien Benson (@entrainthemovie)

Fitted
Writer/Director: Auriel Rudnick (@aurielrudnick)
Trailer: Fitted

Full-Windsor
Writer/Director: Faraday Okoro
Website: facebook.com/full.windsor.film
Trailer: Full-Windsor

Green Thumb
Writer/Director: Phil Lorin & Kiel Murray

How I Didn’t Become A Piano Player (@PianoPlayerFilm)
Writer/Director: Tommaso Pitta (@tommipitta)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pianoplayerfilm
Trailer: How I Didn’t Become A Piano Player

I Don’t Care
Writer/Director: Carolina Giammetta (@carolinagiammet)
Website: facebook.com/idcfilm
Trailer: I Don’t Care

In The Clouds
Writer/Director: Marcelo Mitnik

Juan Y La Nube
Director: Giovanni Maccelli (@madridencorto)
Writer: Susana Lopez Rubio

La Carnada
Writer/Director: Josh Soskin (@josh_soskin)
Website: facebook.com/LaCarnadaShortFilm
Trailer: La Carnada

Lightning In The Hand
Director: Joey Grossfield
Writer: Andrew Reuland & Joey Grossfield

LUKE
Writer/Director: Conor Hamill

Mend and Make Do
Writer/Director: Bexie Bush (@bexie_bush)
Website: mendandmakedo.co.uk/
Trailer: Mend and Make Do

NENA
Writer/Director: Aluda Ruiz de Azúa (@offecam) 

Once Again
Writer/Director: John Moore (@jumpupfilms)
Website: facebook.com/onceagaindoc

One Afternoon in Summer
Writer/Director: Lilli Tautfest

Please Hand Stamp
Director: Jeff Jenkins
Writer: Lauren Pence & Jeff Jenkins
Website: Please Hand Stamp

Redaction
Writer/Director: Tim Sanger
Trailer: Redaction

Ruslan
Writer/Director: Taisia Deeva

Seventh Grade
Writer/Director: Stefani Saintonge (@steffi_says)
Website: Seventh Grade

Simon Says
Director: Jamie Sterba
Writer: Steve Storm

Siren
Writer/Director: Alex Clark

SKUNK
Writer/Director: Annie Silverstein

THE CHICKEN
Writer/Director: Una Gunjak (thechicken_film)

The Last Night
Writer/Director: David Strong (@craftincfilm)

The Last Resort
Director: Stephanie Blakey (@manifestephanie)
Writer: Gillian Park (@MsGillianPark)
Website: facebook.com/TheLastResortFilm
Trailer: The Last Resort

The Next Part
Director: Erin Sanger

The Polterman
Writer/Director: Shane Ware (@ShaneW21)

The Way of Tea (Les frémissements du thé)
Writer/Director: Marc Fouchard

This Is Normal (@ThisIsNormalMOV)
Writer/Director: Ryan Welsh (@RyanWelsh25) & Justin Giddings (@justingiddings)
Website: This Is Normal
Trailer: This Is Normal

This Way Up
Writer/Director: Jeremy Cloe

Are you as pumped as we are for these amazing films yet?! Stay in the know every Monday and Friday to see what other Short Films will be shown during this year’s Austin Film Festival by following @austinfilmfest on twitter! Each week this list will be updated on the AFF website as well as here on the blog. Start checking out those