Film News

Reporting from the starting line of the SXSW marathon

Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron

Running to SXSW

In her final days shooting jumping off bridges last summer, writer/director Kat Candler mused what came next. "We're thinking of running a marathon," she said. This past Sunday, she, bridges producer Stacy Schoolfield, and editor Nevie Owens joined a team organized by TexFX's Gary Walker (also running were Bennie Klain, Kristina Mann, and Ken Lewin) and beat the beast that is the Freescale Austin Marathon while raising $8,500 for the Austin Children's Shelter. They've got bruises and monstrous blisters, but, hey, Candler and company did it all while preparing for a second grueling event: premiering their film at South by Southwest in just a scant few weeks. They'll be joined by a slew of others – red-hot locals and budding auteurs from far and wide – sweating out the marathon that is making a film and shepherding it to the big screen. Consider Jacob Vaughan and Bryan Poyser moving up a notch past feted first feature Dear Pillow with their Burnt Orange film, The Cassidy Kids (you can see the trailer at; or local photog-turned-documentarian Andrew Shapter, whose Before the Music Dies premiere will be followed by a gargantuan party at the Austin Music Hall on March 12 with music by Erykah Badu, Doyle Bramhall II, Questlove, Wendy and Lisa (from Prince's Revolution), Blaze (featuring Austin's Ephraim Owens), DJ Jazzy Jeff, Branford Marsalis, and Seattle's Correo Aereo. Some tickets will go on sale to the general public next week. Did I mention the party will be taped for a June television showing promoting a film soundtrack? Other locals running the SXSW marathon are Steve Collins, who expanded his 2004 SXSW jury-winning short into Gretchen; Turk Pipkin with his look at the world's big issues in Nobelity; and Heather Courtney, who brings her border doc Letters From the Other Side to this race fresh from kudos at Sundance. Plus, for those with a little less stamina, there are 130 short films slated, including work by TV personality Maria Menounos, actor/comedian Bob Odenkirk, Sky High director Mike Mitchell, and the folks at DreamWorks Animation. Hand these guys some Gatorade, buy a SXSW film pass (a limited number on sale in person only at Waterloo Video for $65) and meet some road-weary filmmakers at the finish line. And, if that's not enough for you, speakers at the accompanying conference include Charlize Theron, David Cross, Henry Rollins, John Sayles, and Peter Bart. And don't get me started on actors scheduled to attend screenings, like David Strathairn at The Notorious Bettie Page and L.Q. Jones at A Prairie Home Companion.

Copeland Muses Film Studio

Tom Copeland, former director of the Texas Film Commission, has signed on as senior vice-president of film for Villa Muse Studios, a major project that will provide studio space for big-budget feature films as well as serve the music and video-game industries. Copeland said Villa Muse founder Jay Aaron Podolnick approached him about the project a decade ago, and its diversity was the key to him signing on. "It's no different if you're building a studio or working as a journeyman crew member; there are going to be good years and really bad ones," Copeland says, noting that talk of other area studio projects are sticking just to film. "My concern always was 'Can you survive the bad days?'" Paul Alvarado-Dykstra, aka former Robogeek of Harry Knowles' Ain't It Cool News and former assistant to both Guillermo del Toro and Tim McCanlies, says plans are to break ground this year, have some elements online in 2007, and have the full facility in place by 2008. Could this mean a $100 million film in Austin's future? Alvarado-Dykstra, vice-president of strategic development for Villa Muse, hopes so. "We're looking to grow the upper level of the market from midrange on up," he says.

Saturday Night Lights

We have our first star announcement for the NBC television pilot Friday Night Lights. It's Kyle Chandler (King Kong and TV's Early Edition), who recently was blown to bits by a bomb on Grey's Anatomy. You can join him Saturday at 5:30pm at Pflugerville stadium, 1301 W. Pecan, for filming of a football game sequence that requires the stands to be full of fans of all ages. No pay, but lots of prizes. Reservations are required. Call 472-5385.

And the Rest

Raj Chheda's Austin-shot For Sale by Owner premieres at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, Calif., on March 11. The program guide hails the film for "a creepiness worthy of Roman Polanski." See the trailer at Former University of Texas football player Michael Meredith's directing debut, Three Days of Rain, based on a group of Anton Chekhov short stories, opens in Austin on March 3. Meredith also co-wrote Wim Wenders' recent Land of Plenty.

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South by Southwest 06, Raj Chheda, For Sale by Owner, Tom Copeland

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