All or Nothing

Local short-film-making/sketch group says hello and goodbye with Alamo show

Dax Martinez-Vargas (l) and Barry Flanagan
Dax Martinez-Vargas (l) and Barry Flanagan

It's a Sunday afternoon at an all but slumbering Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, and Dax Martinez-Vargas isn't as sharp, not as solid, as he will be when Nothing Liquid – founded among his friends at Austin High a couple of years before catching the attention of Drafthouse programmer Henri Mazza – simultaneously premieres its show and says farewell later in the week in the very theatre where he now stands asking questions, seeking constructive criticism, explaining that any technical glitches this would-be focus group saw on the screen are just that. He's shaky and quite young, 22, so he's in search of his own particular sense of time. But you get the idea he knows something you don't.

A handful isn't a bad turnout at a press screening/rehearsal for a relatively unknown group of early twentysomethings practicing the kind of humor that can still get you hung on or around each of the eight borders of Missouri. Not because it's all that offensive or subversive (not to say that it's not at some stretches; at some stretches, it very much is), but rather because one might more often than not not get it, which is far more dangerous. It's absurdist and sexual, verbal and visceral, polished yet impolite, unpolished yet somehow professional, scripted and improvised, comfortable with sequences either silently dead-ended or set to Depeche Mode's "Walking in My Shoes." It's also remarkably original and funny.

After the screening, Martinez-Vargas, Jeff Bevill, and Brandon Wilde sit down before shooting a sketch later in the afternoon to discuss their work and what lies ahead. Barry Flanagan, another big contributor, is in New York, where he's waiting on Martinez-Vargas to arrive. It's then that the duo will be producing promos for MTV. Meanwhile, Wilde and Bevill will do their own thing, which for the former means making videos for the likes of Zykos, and for the latter, who recently graduated from the University of Texas, means "resting."

Dax Martinez-Vargas: You only get better as you do it. I think of it as having fun making stuff that's the opposite of the pretentious film student. A little stupid, but still good.

Brandon Wilde: I mean we do this shit anyway, so we might as well. ... It just adds up. Some of this stuff we've had for a year and a half, some of it's new –

Jeff Bevill: Just to see it all put together, you know, it's more for us than it is for anyone else.

DM-V: I think with a crowd of 40 or 50 people, though, people will feed off each other. ... I always wanted to experiment with audiences and see what made them laugh, what would make them boo or piss them off. You figure out how to hold an audience's interests.

Austin Chronicle: What's funny to you guys? Infidelity seems to be up there ...

JB: Cell phone use.

DM-V: I just like the crummy nature of people.

JB: Awkwardness. Forcing people into awkward situations is hilarious.

BW: Packing in as much shit as possible. All of us think different things are funny. I don't know, Jeff's fucking weird.

JB: We're selfish. If it's funny to us, we'll shoot it.

DM-V: My whole thing is when we bring up ideas, and somebody says "seen it," then let's not do it. That's one of our only rules.


The Nothing Liquid shows take place at 9:45pm on Thursday, April 21, and Sunday, April 24, at Alamo Drafthouse Downtown. For admission information and more, see www.originalalamo.com


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