The movement to replace traditional film stock with High Definition video is under way, and some notable local directors are leading the charge.
The story is local both because Austin is such a filmmaking center and because some of the crucial revolutionaries are here. Robert Rodriguez is one of the first major filmmakers to completely forsake film because video gives him both a visual he is happier with and more control over the total picture. Rodriguez is replacing traditional film stock with video, but the end result is still classic commercial Hollywood theatrical films.
On the other end of the scale, with Tape and Waking Life Richard Linklater demonstrated the enormous creative and financial flexibility inherent in video and in the ways it is different from film. Shot on film, Tape would have, almost by necessity, boasted a different style and texture than it does now. Waking Life is completely a creature of video. A new generation of video cameras will continue this revolution. The consequences of this cinematic evolution are far-reaching, affecting not just how films are made but how they look. What Linklater really brings home is that this is not just a profound technological change impacting the film industry. It is a new way of thinking about not only production, but content as well.
Filmmaking, once even at its most amateurish prohibitively expensive, is now easily affordable. This will result in a lot more bad films being made -- in fact it already has -- but it will also provide the boot-camp training that the industry is no longer interested in allowing young filmmakers. In past decades, after music videos, commercials, industrial films, and/or film school, filmmakers were given their first shot at making a feature with significant commercial consequences. The next few generations of filmmakers will have made features before they graduate from high school.
Twenty years ago, John Sayles was among those who led the charge when he made Return of the Secaucus Seven for about $70,000. In those days there might have been, at the outside, a dozen or so independent features that attracted even minimal attention in any given year. In Austin, between South by Southwest, the Gay and Lesbian, and the Austin Film festivals, over 1,500 indie features are considered and a few dozen showcased every year. The world of filmmaking isn't going to change; it is changing, and Marc Savlov's cover story not only lays out those changes but also details how this community is participating in it.
Congratulations to Chronicle Food Editor Virginia B. Wood on the success of the recent Southern Food Alliance Barbecue Field Trip to Central Texas. They came, they ate, they ate more, and then they ate still more. Dozens of food-istas, mostly from the South but also from around the country, came to Austin, where they were sauced, smoked, and dined, and sauced and smoked some more. Check last week's issue for more details on what and where they ate ("Barbecue Summer Camp!," June 14, austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2002-06-14/food_feature.html ). What I find most impressive is the quantity of food consumed. They began Friday with an evening barbecue feast at the Victory Grill, featuring in-town barbecue. The next morning featured an enormous breakfast offering a wide variety of choices. This was followed by a daylong field trip to at least five classic Central Texas barbecue shrines. Finally, Saturday evening, the group ended up at Threadgill's, where they still managed to eat most everything Eddie Wilson put in front of them (Virginia assures me it was mostly vegetable-related dishes after the day's cornucopia of beef and pork). An old friend of mine used to travel much the same route when visiting Austin in a rented car with several quarts of prune juice, to keep the body lubricated in between barbecue stops. I suspect Virginia's guests will not soon forget the wonders of Central Texas barbecue.
The "Best of Austin" issue of the Chronicle is one of those that people keep around all year, and it is one of the most commonly requested back issues. Although the Chronicle staff weighs in with critics' picks, a significant part of the content of that issue is decided by you. Decided by you if you vote, that is. So take advantage -- vote! This is a way of supporting the businesses you love and highlighting your favorite things about Austin. Instead of whining about our stupid choices and dumb perspectives, bring your smarts to the table. Pay special attention to the write-in section, where you can really make your voice heard.