Welcome, honored visitors! Lurking among your South by Southwest Film Festival compadres this week will be some natives. They may attempt to converse with you. Consider this your guidebook for pretending you know what they're talking about. First, there is in fact a film scene in Austin, though much of it is currently vacationing in Louisiana and New Mexico. Here are a few possible conversation starters: Did you see the photo online (www.flickr.com/photos/almostlindy/ 2238811062) of the Smithville (or Smithfield, as one Internet paparazzo site termed it) house that supposedly is the focus locale for Terrence Malick's now-lensing (and supersecret) Tree of Life? I hear it's a family film set in the Fifties starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, but then again it may involve aliens. One thing is sure, Pitt's got the new cool haircut (www.worstpreviews.com/headline.php?id=7756)... Nearby Smithville gets the auteur, while Austin gets teen hotties like Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical and Aly Michalka of Aly & A.J. (plus that "golden oldie" Lisa Kudrow and pretend-teen Scott Porter of Friday Night Lights) starring in swinging battle-of-the-bands flick Will... Speaking of High School Musical, would you believe Zac Efron's latest film, Me and Orson Welles, is directed by Austin's Richard Linklater, who I'm betting will miss SXSW on account of the European shoot? Slacker, he not be... I knew Chris Eska back when he was just valedictorian of Gonzales High School. No, really; we shared a locker. Now he's the big-shot winner of the John Cassavetes Award for best feature shot for less than $500,000 at the Film Independent Spirit Awards for his Gonzales-lensed August Evening. Oh, yeah? I knew his fellow nominee and Austin resident Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories) back when he called Little Rock home. Did you hear he's taken over from David Gordon Green as director of the long-delayed adaptation of Brad Land's fraternity-hazing memoir, Goat?... Did I mention that Austin documentarian Laura Dunn's enviro-film The Unforeseen won the Truer Than Fiction Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards? Did I mention Malick produced it along with Robert Redford?... I'm still wondering what Robert Rodriguez's next film will be... Word is Fox's Prison Break, which shot seasons two and three in Dallas, will shoot its fourth season in Los Angeles. Now the jittery hope is that Friday Night Lights will survive to shoot a third straight season in Austin. Variety says NBC may at least partially farm it out to another network, with the CW, TNT, E!, and DirectTV gabbing about it. Fans at www.savefridaynightlights.tv are doing their part by sending more than 6,000 tiny footballs to NBC execs. Expect a decision by April... A final tip: When in doubt, my touristy friend, mention bats and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and argue that the best barbecue in Austin isn't in Austin. See you at the panels.
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