Top Stories of 2005
In 2005, the Texas Legislature came to its senses and acknowledged that filming incentives offered in Louisiana, New Mexico, and elsewhere are sucking national film/television productions out of the Lone Star State. Our lawmakers approved a $20 million incentives package. But then they promptly stripped funding for it. That sound you hear is film insiders scurrying around behind the scenes trying to find a new funding source. Stay tuned.
1) Film incentives? Yes! Money? No!
The search for the next Robert Rodriguez/Richard Linklater to pump up Austin's homegrown film scene got more interesting this past year. The prime contender? Kyle Henry, whose Room was chosen for both the Sundance and Cannes film festivals. "Slacker probably is why half the people came to the graduate film program at UT," he says, because it made true low-budget filmmaking seem realistic. And Linklater had his hand in Henry's success indirectly through grants from the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund that helped support the film.
2) Make "Room' for Henry
Speaking of Cannes, Tommy Lee Jones scored the best actor nod at the festival for Texas-shot The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, which Jones also directed, while Guillermo Arriaga's screenplay took top honors. After a showing at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics and is coming soon to a theatre near you.
3) Tommy Lee Jones Buries Competition
Runner-up for shining independent filmmaker is Kat Candler, who convinced Mayor Will Wynn to plunge into Town Lake in support of her second feature, jumping off bridges. Did I mention that swimming in Town Lake is illegal? Did I mention that Candler's smile can talk just about anyone into anything? Did I mention I'm looking forward to the new film almost as much as I enjoyed her first, cicadas?
4) Austin Mayor Jumps for Candler
Austin is the capital of films aimed at the knee-high set? For your approval: Robert (and Racer) Rodriguez's The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D and New Line's How to Eat Fried Worms. And for the creepy little kid lurking in the shadows of your soul, there's the cute and not-so-cuddly boy Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Origin.
5) Kids Get Their Sharky, Wormy, Bloody Due
Burnt Orange Productions celebrated the premiere of The Quiet at the Toronto festival, and shot two more films: The Cassidy Kids from local legends-in-the-making Jacob Vaughan and Bryan Poyser, and caveman comedy Homo Erectus. Not a bad start for the grand experiment from the University of Texas. What's next, and what happened to country musical Austin Angel? I'll get back to you on it.
6) Three's Charming for Burnt Orange
It began when A&E (and Austin's Action Figure) shot the Lone Star Rollergirls for its reality show Rollergirls (which began its 13-week run this week). It continued when MTV filled the Austin drunk tank with The Real World. Now look ahead to pilots for series based on the Austin-shot films Friday Night Lights and Sin City.
7) Opiate of the Masses
When he spoke at the Austin Film Festival, Mike Judge revealed he'd like to fund his own films in the future. He also admitted he much prefers writing to directing, and his upcoming Austin-shot Idiocracy soured him on the sci-fi route. "I'll never make a movie set in the future again," Judge said. "You can't just go down to Wal-Mart and buy a chair from the future." But he'd love to make the failed television pilot Monsignor Martinez, about a gun-toting priest, into a film. "It would need to be somebody like Antonio Banderas to play it," Judge said. "Somebody macho."
8) What I Never Told You About Mike Judge
Tom Copeland stepped down in 2005 after 22 years with the Texas Film Commission, the past 10 as director. His parting comments were aimed at the working stiffs who make the films happen. "The crews here are awesome," he said. "You tell them they can do things and they back it up." Meanwhile, Suzanne Quinn this month ends a five-year run as the head of the Austin Film Society's Austin Studios. During her tenure, a few hangars at the old Mueller airport became home to 27 features and dozens of other film and video projects for an economic impact AFS estimates at more than $750 million.
9) Gone but Not Forgotten
Don't expect an Austin-shot film to stick with its original title. Dot became The Quiet. Judge's 3001 became Idiocracy. Revolver became The Return. Every Word Is True turned into Have You Heard?, then transmogrified into Infamous. Richard Linklater's Fast Food Nation adaptation was sometimes known as Coyote. And the original name I suggested for this column was "Freeze Frame."
10) What's in a Name?
SXSW Film 06 announced this week that Robert Altman's Prairie Home Companion, directed from a screenplay by Garrison Keillor, would make its North American premiere as the festival's opening-night film. Other premieres announced: James Marsh's The King, starring Gael Garcia Bernal and William Hurt; Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin's loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies; Mary Harron's The Notorious Bettie Page, starring Gretchen Mol, David Strathairn, and Lili Taylor; and Ron Mann's Tales of the Rat Fink,, a documentary about Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. This is the first burst of many; the full lineup will be announced in early February. For updates, stay tuned to the Chronicle or visit www.sxsw.com.
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