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Austin Film Scene: Where Pragmatism Meets Idealism

‘The New York Times’ floats a capital idea
Marjorie Baumgarten, 2:00pm, Sat. May. 18, 2013
photo by John Anderson
Richard Linklater

“This may be the year that Austin earns its place on the map as a movie capital,” concludes Melena Ryzik in a profile of our city’s film scene, which appears in this Sunday’s New York Times. “With a double-digit roster of films rooted here opening in theaters,” Ryzik presents the evidence.

In a piece titled “Locking Arms in a Shoestring Spirit,” Melena Ryzik allows Austin filmmakers to speak mostly in their own words, which are accompanied by photo portraits. “In Hollywood, entertainment is an industry; here, people say, it is a community, and it has grown substantially over the last decade,” observes Ryzik. “It includes filmmakers of every genre and scale.”

Richard Linklater, whose new film Before Midnight opens next Friday, is, of course, cited as the center of this filmmaking hub, due to his decision to remain in Austin after achieving significant industry success with Slacker and Dazed and Confused. Others, such as filmmakers Bob Byington, Bryan Poyser, and Terrence Malick are noted, along with producers Elizabeth Avellán and Sarah Green. Green, who has produced Malick’s last several films, as well as Jeff NicholsMud, which was released in April, and David Gordon Green’s Bastrop-filmed Prince Avalanche, which is due out in August, comments, “We were setting up the cutting room for New World, the first Malick film I did. I literally thought I’d be here a week, and I kinda never left.”

Speaking of the collaborative climate among Austin filmmakers, Andrew Bujalski, whose Computer Chess will be out in July, says: “Everybody drops everything to help you.” Fellow filmmakers Hannah Fidell (A Teacher, out in September), who now lives in Brooklyn, mentions that “Austin is an incredible incubator,” and Poyser (The Bounceback, forthcoming) notes that filmmakers “show each other our cuts all the time.” Byington, whose Somebody Up There Likes Me came out in March, comments: “I share a producer with Terrence Malick, Christos Konstantakopoulos. On the one hand, it’s thrilling and awesome, and on the other hand, it’s not that surprising.”

David and Nathan Zellner whose Kid-Thing is due in August, recollect “When Slacker came out, … you realized that people could make stuff here.” A.J. Edwards, who shoots and edits for Malick and is the director of the forthcoming The Green Blade Rises, notes Austin’s nonhierarchical filmmaking structure, while his producer Nicolas Gonda, who is also a founder of Tugg, says: “It’s a very action-based community. Let’s not talk about making this, let’s get out there and start making it and talk about how to make it better. There’s this interesting intersection of pragmatism and idealism.”

Sounds like a good slogan for a filmmaking capital: Austin – Where pragmatism and idealism meet.

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