It's Open ... Come On In

Screen Door welcomes short-film makers

John Hewlett (l) and Ryan Long
John Hewlett (l) and Ryan Long (Photo By John Anderson)

Once you get past the foreboding barbed-wire fence around the parking lot of Arts on Real, you realize just how inviting the theatre is. A wide, carpeted staircase leads to a plush lobby with a bar where Ryan Long and John Hewlett of Screen Door Film wait to elucidate the ins and outs of the short-film world. Long tells it like it is: "You find when you start off that there is no database you can look up short films. They're out in the ether. ... We're trying to let the people of Austin know that we're here and we have this beautiful facility and all we need are your freakin' films."

Desperate? Judging by the caliber of works to be offered in their Screen Door Best of 2004 program, you wouldn't think so. They accept submissions (for free!) and, after disposing of the chaff, use the wheat to cook up a bimonthly program of local, national, and international short-form cinema. "We're always seeking films. ... [But] we like to think of ourselves as a bit of a filter so that you don't have to sit through Bobby's homemade porn movie," Hewlett admits. The films range from four to 25 minutes, from drama to comedy, and from 35mm to DV, and the showcases offer works from Austin and beyond. But here, we like things all Austin all the time.

"If we could show nothing but Austin films we would be ecstatic," Long says. "But, unfortunately they're not as accessible to us." Luckily, what little they might lack in local content, Long and Hewlett certainly atone for in local spirit. Screen Door showcases are as much about networking within the Austin film scene as they are about the art of film. "That's why we always do an intermission, so that people have an opportunity to meet," Hewlett explains. Directors meet actors. Editors meet camera operators. And you might meet Blake Yelavich.

Yelavich, the manager of Arts on Real, turned out to be an extension of his theatre's inviting ambience, offering Screen Door access to his facilities for presenting the films and later even buying a top-of-the-line projector for their use. "Blake Yelavich is our benefactor in a sense," Long says, "kind of our guru. Always encouraging us."

Encouragement Screen Door is using to think big in 2005. "Another one of our long-term goals is once we have enough films under our belt and we feel like we have a definitive best ... I think we can take it on the road," Long says. "Instead of submitting your film to 20 different festivals, submit it to Screen Door and we'll take it on the road for you."

So, they have heart? Check. A theatre? Check. Know-how? Check. Projector, future goals, supportive peers? Check. Films? Uhhhhh. Long states the obvious: "People should know that if you're thinking about making a film and you don't know where it's gonna end up or where it's gonna go, we have a facility that's dying to show it. So, get off your ass and do it."

The Arts on Real theatre (2826 Real St.) presents Screen Door Best of 2004 on Jan. 25. Doors opens at 7pm; films start at 8pm. Admission is $5. For more information, see

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Ryan Long, John Hewlett, Screen Door Film, Arts on Real, Blake Yelavich

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