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Film News

By Joe O'Connell, April 27, 2007, Screens

A teamster, a couple of happy writers, and a hungry filmmaker walk into a film studio. Does someone hear a three-dot column stirring, or is that my newborn son, Nick Drake O'Connell, seeking a milk fix?… Texas may be a right-to-work state, but that didn't stop a day-and-a-half shutdown of low-budget indie Kings of the Evening in Bartlett recently. Apparently, members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees stagehands union stopped work in solidarity when teamsters had what Bob Hudgins, head of the Texas Film Commission, calls an "informational picket." Director/producer Andrew P. Jones said in a written statement, "I have nothing against unions, but like most indie films, our budget doesn't allow for union terms without compromising quality. The result is that the union members are forced to stop work on a project that they are very proud of and are now out of work. Kings of the Evening is a challenging, diverse, and uplifting story with the theme of survival. And now the unions, in a right to work state, have forced everyone into survival mode." The teamsters' rep did not return our calls for comment, but apparently the two sides have come to an agreement, and filming has resumed with a May 3 wrap date expected. A somewhat similar teamsters action shut down Friday Night Lights for a day early in shooting to make sure locations managers were union members. "The good news is these are being very quickly resolved," Hudgins said… As we tipped you off to more than a year ago, look for Villa Muse Studios to spring up along State Highway 130 just south of Manor as a $125 million film-studio-plus that potentially could draw film projects in the $100 million range here. The new news from last week's press conference? A completion date for the studio's first phase by the end of 2008. Eight soundstages are planned in all, with a concert site and residential development also in the mix for the total $1.5 billion project on 681 acres – just less than a third of which will be dedicated to the film studio – dreamed about by music producer and Villa Muse founder Jay Aaron Podolnick for more than a decade. See more at… Texas' arguably hardest working writers are making waves on the film scene. Last I checked, Rick Riordan of San Antonio was a mystery writer, but that's changed with his bestselling fantasy novel, The Lightning Thief, which two-time Harry Potter director Chris Columbus is expected to direct and produce. Those with long memories will recall that Columbus directed Heartbreak Hotel in Taylor back in 1988. Meanwhile, red-hot true-crime scribe Diane Fanning's yet-to-be-released book, Out There, about lovelorn, diapered astronaut Lisa Nowak's journey off the deep end, has been optioned by Granada America with intentions to make a big-screen film à la To Die ForWillie and Me, a road-trip film about a German woman aiming to see Willie Nelson's farewell concert, has apparently pushed back lensing to the fall. Originally, a Nashville shoot was planned, but Willie apparently said he'd never do a (even fictional) farewell show anywhere but Austin… Alert! Alert! The Austin Film Society has doubled to $150,000 the total of film grants it will award this year through the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund. Hungry celluloid junkies can now rake in up to $25,000 each. More at… The wonderful Altman-esque ensemble Screen Door Jesus, which was shot hereabouts, is finally out on DVD… Alina Fernandez, radio personality and daughter of Fidel Castro, speaks Saturday at 5pm at Cuba Libre in an event sponsored by the National Association of Latino Independent Producers and Floppy King Productions… Gary Walker's special-effects company, TexFX, donated more than $12,000 raised by its team of Austin Marathon runners to the Austin Children's Shelter.

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