Film Flam: Neon, Blue Starlite, and Kiss
Movie news, Tim League, and Gene Simmons (not dueting, sadly)
By Richard Whittaker,
11:30AM, Fri. Jan. 20, 2017
Big events, big guests, big opportunities, and a new home for Austin's drive-in theatre: Time to roll with some local film-related news.
• Big news for Kiss fans: The Demon is coming to town. Wizard World announced this morning that Gene Simmons, the blood-spitting, tongue-waggling bassist with the epochal glam rockers will be at this year's Austin convention, running Nov. 17-19 at the Austin Convention Center (tickets at www.wizardworld.com).
Of course, Simmons is best known for his 42-year rock & roll career, and aside from a Q&A panel and photo opps, he'll be performing in a special concert during his Austin trip. However, he's also got quite the history in film (and we're not just talking about Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Children of the Eighties will remember his appearances in Runaway and Trick or Treat, and he's also moved into production, with two companies – Motion Pictures, and Erebus, a joint enterprise with WWE Studios.
Simmons' booking means Wizard World Austin is definitely happening, which is good news for fans since the future of the three-day gathering in Austin had seemed uncertain. Aside from widely reported financial problems with the parent company, the convention center's increasingly booked calendar meant a couple of years dropping down to two days, and then last year's event was right in the middle of massive storms. However, this year's date is confirmed, with Simmons to be joined by Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester, best known as the voices of Batman and Robin in the seminal and beloved Batman: The Animated Series.
• That's not the only event to mark on your calendar. Local online studio Rooster Teeth has the annual RTX Austin gathering lined up for July 7-9, also at the convention center. Single day and weekend tickets at www.rtxaustin.com.
• Looking much further ahead, Austin Film Festival (Oct. 26-Nov. 2) is re-enforcing its reputation as a writers' festival by adding two new prizes: one for playwriting, and one for fiction podcasts. Each winner will take home a $1,000 prize, plus up to $500 for travel and $500 for lodging to come to Austin to pick up their bronze typewriter award. Application details at www.austinfilmfestival.com.
• This comes after a shake-up at AFF: its Young Filmmakers Program Coordinator Colin Hyet has been promoted to festival director. He replaces Erin Hallagan, who leaves the position after five years, and is currently busy setting up interdisciplinary arts fusion venue Story Bar with former Poi Dog Pondering guitarist Adam Sultan.
• The Blue Starlite Mini-Urban Drive-In has hit its Kickstarter target for relocation. Founder Josh Frank confirmed that his crowdfunding push beat the $15,000 goal before the fundraising closed this week.
That means he's already picked out the fancy new toilets ("You know the wedding bathrooms that turn up on a trailer? It's those," he said) and is shopping for a 35mm projector. However, when it comes to the new location, he's made a few tweaks that will make some regular clients very happy.
The drive-in currently operates on the Austin Studios backlot, but has to move as the site is being re-configured. The original plan was to move just outside of Austin, to a converted camping site in Buda. However, after many regular customers in North Austin said they were worried about the drive, he's found a new site (location to be announced soon) within Austin city limits. Frank said, "It's such a better spot. It's still close to all our Buda and Kyle people, but still accessible to our central and north people."
Unfortunately, the campaign did not hit its initial stretch goal targeted specifically at opening a north satellite location. However, Frank said he's currently finalizing an occasional West Austin venue that should be easier for north and northwestern Austinite to reach. "It's awesome," he said. "It would be a smaller pop-up location that we would be doing once a week on top of our regular screenings." Moreover, because there was still a lot of support for a northern satellite, he wants to find a site for that before the end of the year.
• Speaking of ambitious cinema owners, looks like Alamo Drafthouse boss Tim League isn't satisfied with just having his Drafthouse Films distribution company. He's put up a new shingle, Neon, to release even more films.
It formalizes the relationship between League and former Radius head Tom Quinn: Last year, they worked together to release Michael Moore's Where to Invade Next, and now they have confirmed that they will be distributing the upcoming Colossal (directed by Nacho Vigalondo and starring Ann Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis) on April 7 under the new banner. With that film playing Sundance this week, expectation is high that Neon will be looking to acquire some titles to fill out its slate there.
• That's not League's only new project. He's reuniting with Ant Timpson (with whom he produced The ABCs of Death series and The Greasy Strangler) for a new anthology project, The Field Guide to Evil. The film will highlight the darker corners of global mythology and folklore. League and Timpson are looking to crowdfund the endeavor, but you'll get more than just some trinkets and a thank you. They're using First Democracy VC, the new collaboration between traditional crowdfunding experts Indiegogo and online equity investment innovators MicroVentures, meaning backers will actually become investors, rather than just donors.
The list of directors already signed up draws heavily on alumni from League's film festival, Fantastic Fest: from Austria, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (Goodnight Mommy); From Germany, Katrin Gebbe (Nothing Bad Can Happen); Greece's Yannis Veslemes (Norway); UK to Hungary transplant Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy); Poland's Agnieszka Smoczynska (The Lure); Turkish horror pioneer Can Evrenol (Baskin); and from the U.S., Calvin Reeder ("The Procedure"). Joining these FF alums if the project hits its target will be India's Ashim Ahluwalia (Miss Lovely).
If you're interested in investing, visit www.microventures.com.