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Film News

By Joe O'Connell, December 1, 2006, Screens

Altman at the end

A fictional take on S.R. Bindler's 1997 documentary Hands on a Hard Body was on the fast track when Robert Altman died, with an early 2007 start to filming planned. Now, the project is in limbo. "All I know at this point about the future of Hands on a Hard Body is that Robert Altman will not be directing it," says Stephen Harrigan, who had penned the screenplay. "But I'm grateful I had the chance to work with him and happy that he was so excited about the movie. The last time I talked to him, about a week and a half before he died, he was brimming over with enthusiasm and energy about the casting and the shooting schedule. It's nice to know that, until the last day of his life, he was looking forward to his next project." As you read here back in October, Hard Body was to be Altman's fictionalization of the Longview contest in which contestants vied for a free vehicle as the last one to take a hand off of it. Variety quotes Picturehouse head Bob Berney as saying no final decision has been made. No matter the outcome, Harrigan counts himself lucky to have worked with the famed director. "He had no tolerance for anything that struck him as cliched or conventional or predigested," Harrigan says. "He had no apparent interest in character or plot. He just wanted to create, with every movie, something authentic and new."

Shots fired in film incentives war

Is Angelou Economics of Austin working to pump up Alabama's film industry? That's the gist of an editorial in The Anniston Star that eagle-eyed Angela Lee sent my way. Seems the effort aims to turn a former military installation into an economic hub, including a one-stop film-production shop. They've already hired a main player behind Louisiana's surge onto the film scene. Of course, Alabama's plan depends on its Lege approving filming incentives. The firm, headed by Angelos Angelou, former honcho with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, also prepared an economic development plan for the city of Santa Fe in 2004 that advised using the Austin Film Commission as a model to take advantage of New Mexico's filming-incentives program. We can only hope he's also putting in a good word for filming incentives at the Texas Capitol. More to come when our Lege arrives in town early next year.

Now showing (and Netflixing)

Two films from Austin creators are finding a wider audience. Turk Pipkin's Nobelity, a doc featuring Nobel Prize winners talking about how to save the world, is now in national release, but just as important, you can find previously unseen footage of Nobel winners including Desmond Tutu and Rick Smalley at for your perusal free of charge. Also, Pipkin and crew have formed the Nobelity in Schools program aimed at putting the film in eighth- and ninth-grade classrooms across the nation. Meanwhile, film shooter P.J. Raval says you can now find Kyle Henry's Room available on Netflix for your viewing pleasure. If you missed the film at the Sundance or Cannes film fests – or during its Austin screenings – you now officially have no excuse.

And the rest ...

As we went to press, there was word of the Austin-produced Chalk's nomination for the Independent Spirit Awards' John Cassavetes prize, given to the director, writers, and producers of "best feature made for under $500,000." In Chalk's case, those would be, respectively, Mike Akel; Chris Mass and Akel; Akel, Angela Alvarez, Graham Davidson, and Mass. Past Cassavetes nominees with Austin ties include The Puffy Chair and Room. The ceremony will take place on Feb. 24, 2007... Bennie Klain's short film "Share the Wealth" premiered this week on the opening night of the Native American Film + Video Festival in New York City. The short follows the travails of a homeless, middle-aged Native American woman on a busy city street... Eight new programs of East Austin Stories from a class at the University of Texas will be shown at 7pm, Dec. 12, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and at 9pm the same night at Cafe Mundi. Plus, many of the short docs can be seen at or can be downloaded as podcasts for you iPod-enabled types... Local filmmaker Arnie Reyes has teamed with writer/director Yehudi Mercado to shoot the short "Monster Job Hunter" at Austin Studios early this month. Robert Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios is helping out by donating set materials... Mark your calendar: A holiday party presented by Reel Women and the Alliance is Monday from 7 to 10pm at Hi-Lo, with tickets a measly $5. On Sunday from 6 to 10:30pm at Trophy's Bar and Grill, the oft-postponed benefit for John McLean's Z: A Zombie Musical, which came back from faulty hard-drive hell but still must pay the bills, is expected to finally happen. Really. I mean it this time.

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