It wasn't a good day for writer/director Mariusz "Mark" Kotowski. One of his lead actresses was home sick, and the Austin rains wouldn't end. But the shooting went on. Kotowski is an interesting newish face in the Austin film scene, shooting his first fiction feature, Forgiveness, around Austin. The story follows two women, one Jewish and the other Christian, who discover their families' histories are intertwined through events of World War II. Kotowski, a native of Poland, was a choreographer in London before studying directing at New York University. Why the move to Austin? "New York is too busy, and I needed a change," he says. "Austin is the same as Poland." Kotowski's first film, a documentary titled Life Is a Dream in Cinema: Pola Negri, tells the story of Polish actress Pola Negri, who grew up in a small town and went on to a Hollywood career and torrid personal relationships with Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino. She spent her last days in San Antonio. Kotowski hopes Forgiveness will be the first of a slate of features shot in Austin.
Facing a very limited release by the Weinstein Co. this month, the Bastrop-shot horror flick All the Boys Love Mandy Lane received instead a stay of execution and promises of a wide release early next year by its new U.S. distributor, German-based Senator Entertainment. The company is also behind the star-studded independent film Fireflies in the Garden, which recently lensed in Austin with Julia Roberts among the leads. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Weinsteins, who purchased the low-budget film right after its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, saw danger signs in a downturn in the teen-horror-film market. Chatting after the film's showing to strong buzz at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, director Jonathan Levine told this columnist that the filmmakers looked for inspiration from two very Texas efforts, the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and NBC's series Friday Night Lights, as well as John Hughes' teen films from the 1980s. "We thought it was interesting to take that [teen film] model and graft a horror film onto it," Levine said.
The Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival fetes its 20th year with a trailer competition themed We Speak Film that promises the winner free entrance to the fest, which runs Sept. 28 to Oct. 6. The deadline is Aug. 15. More at www.agliff.org. Meanwhile, the Austin Film Festival trailer contest deadline is Aug. 10! Snap to it! Plus discount badges for the October fest are now on sale. More at www.austinfilmfestival.com. And, yes, the SXSW Film Festival 08's website is now active at www.sxsw.com/film.
Look for comedy The Sno Cone Stand, Inc. to shoot here in September with Tony Sirico of The Sopranos and Morgan Fairchild starring. The budget is reportedly around $1.5 million and marks the debut of writer/director/producer Travis Knapp... John Singleton has signed on to direct the true-life Tulia, starring Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton in the adaptation of Nate Blakeslee's book Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town about an incident in 1999 when 10% of the Texas town's black population was dubiously arrested. Look for it to likely shoot, ouch, in Louisiana in the late fall... Austin resident (and instructor at the school that shall forever be known as Southwest Texas State) Tim O'Brien's masterful tale of the war in Vietnam, "The Things They Carried," will be adapted by AMC as a television miniseries, with James Sadwith writing the script.
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