Film News

Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund grant winners, plus The Unforeseen, Bella, and 'Chickenfüt'

They're in the Money

If you want a good idea of what's upcoming and cool in the Texas independent film scene, take a look at the filmmakers snagging grants from the Austin Film Society's Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, which this year doled out a record $150,000. The biggest bucks ever awarded, at $20,000, went to June Lee, a Master of Fine Arts grad from the University of Texas' Department of Radio-Television-Film. The money will go toward production of Starfish, a feature film about a middle-aged ex-gangster trying to make amends with his mom after eight years in prison. The next biggest award was $15,000 to Laura Harrison of Houston for Ant, a documentary about the Seventies artist collective Ant Farm, which is best known for Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo. Harrison also received a grant for the film last year. Two Austin documentarians received large awards. First-timer Mitch Schulz got $12,000 for DMT: The Spirit Molecule, about the science behind the drug DMT, and Heather Courtney got $11,000 for Where Soldiers Come From, about young National Guard recruits in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Other winners include: John Bryant, $5,000 for short "Loveolution"; Sergio and Victor Carvajal, $5,000 for experimental feature Lo Que Daria por Volver; Steve Collins, $2,000 in Kodak film stock for short "Dead Dreams Incorporated"; Lucia Duncan, $4,000 for the documentary Stories of the San Ignacio Lagoon; John Fiege, $10,000 for the documentary Goal Citesoleil; Walter Glass, $1,000 in Kodak stock for the feature film Corpus; Paul Gordon, $10,000 for the feature Naomi, Naomi; Deb Lewis, $6,000 for postproduction on the doc Supercollider; David Lowery, $6,000 for feature St. Nick; Geoff Marslett, $5,000 for postproduction on the animated Mars; Lucas Martell, $5,000 for the animated short "Pigeon Impossible"; Darius Monroe, $8,000 for the doc Evolution of a Criminal; Douglas Newman, $5,000 for the doc Gone to Texas: The Lives of Forrest Carter; frequent Chronicle contributor Spencer Parsons, $5,000 for distribution of feature I'll Come Running; Michel Scott, $5,000 for doc The Horse Boy; Leah Sharpe and the Chronicle's own Jason Stout, $5,000 for experimental "Doodad's Moon Pad"; and Arie Stavchansky, $5,000 for animated short "Optitronic."

This year makes a total of $750,000 in cash and $80,000 in goods the film society has given to 243 projects over 11 years. Where does all of this money come from? Much is from you, the film viewer, who shows up for glitzy Film Society events like the premiere of director/co-star Ethan Hawke's film The Hottest State Sept. 19, at the Paramount. Austin native Hawke adapted his own novel into the film, a romance about first love starring Mark Webber, Catalina Sandido Moreno, Laura Linney, and Michelle Williams. Tickets are $75 and get you into a swinging afterparty at a location soon to be announced with celebs galore. Get your tickets at and fund some independent films.

'Bella's 'Unforeseen' success

Laura Dunn's doc The Unforeseen has been picked up for distribution by the Cinema Guild, with an opening planned in New York and Los Angeles this fall, followed by a national rollout. Dunn's film, executive produced by Terrence Malick and Robert Redford, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. It's about the big-picture story of Austin's growth as developers slobber in glee and environmentalists become activists to protect dear old Barton Springs. Dunn has said she got the idea for the doc from Malick. She took 150 hours of film shot over three years and then spent two years editing it down into an intriguing tale surrounding a very humanized developer Gary Bradley and the ever-vigilant Save Our Springs gang. Meanwhile, Bella, by former Austinite Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, has been picked up by Roadside Attractions. The People's Choice Award winner at the Toronto International Film Festival, which also screened at South by Southwest, will be distributed in the U.S. through Lions Gate with a big promotional push.

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Texas film news, Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, Bella, The Unforeseen, Ken Johnson, Merle Bertrand, Friday Night Lights, Chickenfut

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