Shorts on a Shoestring

The Texas Documentary Tour presents 10 Under 10

Shorts on a Shoestring

The rules of engagement for the fourth annual 10 Under 10, the program of UT student short films produced by documentary filmmaker (Troop 1500) and associate professor Ellen Spiro, are simple: a budget under $10 (oomph) to make a film under 10 minutes long. "I want to promote the idea that debt is not sexy," Spiro explains, "and that one does not need a trust fund to make incredible films." More importantly, she selected films with an eye for those that "push the boundaries of the documentary genre." The program ranges from the intensely personal to the socially conscious – from funny to serious – with a lot of quirkiness in between. So often, explains Spiro, students put an amazing amount of time, energy, and passion into works that turn out to be little gems, but then they move onto other projects without having had an opportunity to show their shorts. The 10 Under 10 program aims to remedy that omission. Come to think of it, at a time when we're worn down by films that go on way too long (and cost far too much), a well-made short film made on a shoestring could be one of life's few remaining small pleasures.


Josh Kinney

The fast-growing and elusive crime of identity theft is analyzed by a professional investigator and a thief who tells all. We gain an insight into how the process of identity theft and the mind of the thief work and also learn how, from the criminal's point of view, we can protect ourselves. "Working with a criminal for a confession of their activities and their methods on camera was an intricately tricky process," Kinney explains. "It required a massive amount of trust, confidence, and deal-making on both sides, which is ironic considering that I was dealing with a thief. To balance these demands with the technical intricacies of creating a good film was the most difficult part of making 'Invincible.'"

K-Town, Texas
“I want to promote the idea that debt is not sexy, and that one does not need a trust fund to make incredible films.” – Ellen Spiro
“I want to promote the idea that debt is not sexy, and that one does not need a trust fund to make incredible films.” – Ellen Spiro (Photo By Deb E. Lewis)

SunHee Cho

What do 3,000 Korean women living in Killeen have in common? They left everything they knew behind and came to a whole new world with their American husbands. In this documentary, two women, Pong and Shin, guide you to the Korean women's community in the town of Killeen, home of Fort Hood, the biggest military training base in the U.S.

Toilet Seat King

Caroline Hoffman

Barney Smith, 82, has been creating works of art from toilet seats for 30 years and has more than 700 differently decorated toilet seats housed in the Toilet Seat Art Museum in San Antonio. His museum collection is affectionately portrayed here.


Naiti Gamez

An intimate portrait of a young man's struggle with mental illness and the failings of the criminal justice system. In 2003, 24-year-old Luke Ashley was sentenced to serve time at a drug and mental health rehabilitation center in Round Rock. But because no beds were available, he was sent to the Williamson County Jail to await a bed, despite the fact that he was mentally ill. The results were tragic. This film explores Luke, his life, and his family's struggle to get him adequate care despite the flaws in the criminal justice system. "I am interested in exploring the ways in which mental illness affects people, those afflicted as well as their families, in a personal and immediate way," Gamez explains. "I set out to make this personal portrait of Luke – as someone's son and brother – rather than as a statistic."

Sophie's Story

Jeanne Stern

"Sophie's Story" explores the imagination of a little boy and his friendship with a mermaid that lives in the faucet. This story was passed down from the filmmaker's great-grandfather and is a symbolic tale about his lonely life in a foster home and the death of his mother.

My Life as the American West
'Brian and Lazzio'
'Brian and Lazzio'

Douglas Perkins

This film documents a personal journey through an inner landscape that resembles the American West, a place of dreams and the last great frontier on earth. "My film," Perkins says, "is a reaction to a homeland which encourages world conquest without physical exploration. It is a survey of myself and where, as an American, I fit into the global landscape."

Brian and Lazzio

Karem Sanga

"Brian and Lazzio" playfully explores the awkward and funny development of a college romance.


Jeanne Stern

"Spiral" is a poetic exploration of the way in which time seems to go faster as we age. A grandmother tells her story as the camera passes from the point of view of a little girl to the mother and then to the grandmother. The three characters simultaneously represent a matrilineage and a single woman at different points in her life.

Holy Crap

Devon Ryan

"Holy Crap" follows the filmmaker, a longtime nonpracticing Catholic, as she trudges humorously through Catholicism after she vows to give up skepticism for Lent in an attempt to rekindle her belief in God. The film also explores the mind of a nondevout Catholic: the doubt, the frustration, the guilt, and the absurdity. "If Jesus were around today, I think he would be very perplexed all the time," Ryan says. "He would walk up to people and poke them in the chest and ask a lot of questions. That's what I'm trying to do in my film."


Berndt Mader

Armed with a local legend, a backhoe, and a sophisticated gold-detecting device, rancher/businessman George Broady and National Sniper Champion Todd Hodnett set out to find lost Spanish gold at the bottom of a dried-up Texas lake. end story

The 10 Under 10 program screens at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown on Wednesday, May 11, 7pm. Admission is $4 for Austin Film Society members and $6 general. For more information, see

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Berndt Mader, Devon Ryan, Jeanne Stern, Karem Sanga, Douglas Perkins, Naiti Gamez, Caroline Hoffman, SunHee Cho, Josh Kinney, 10 Under 10, Texas Documentary Tour Ellen Spiro

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