Anna Margaret Hollyman's Directorial Debut at SXSW
Austin's own on her films, Don't Leave Home, Cleansed, and "Maude"
Since her starring role in 2011's Small, Beautifully Moving Parts, actor-turned-director Anna Margaret Hollyman says she has worked on "at least 10 projects at SXSW." She was Angry Audrey in 7 Chinese Brothers, with Jason Schwartzman and Olympia Dukakis. She starred as Suzanne in White Reindeer, Claire in Before the Sun Explodes, and Allison in Claire in Motion – to name a few. But in 2011 she also appeared in a SX bumper directed by Joe Nicolosi. "And to this day," Hollyman said, "of all the work I've done over the years, the one thing that I'm still recognized for is my first South By bumper. People will still come up to me during SXSW and say, 'Were you the girl in The Line bumper?'"
Yes, that bumper – in which two festivalgoers meet, fall in love, marry, and raise a family all while waiting in line for a screening. With so many contributions over the years, Hollyman has become a festival favorite, and it seems the feeling may be mutual. "[SXSW] has really been the place where I've been able to meet other directors and connect with people," she said. "I'm forever indebted to the festival. Truly. Maybe more than anyone else."
This year, Hollyman stars in two projects: a feature film, Don't Leave Home by writer/director Michael Tully, and an episodic series, Cleansed by co-writers/directors Flora Birnbaum and Sarah Scarlett Downing. She also makes her writing and directorial debut with the short "Maude." In it, she plays a babysitter in the gig economy who accidentally signs up to watch the daughter of an old classmate − now a successful lifestyle blogger.
The inspiration for the project came from Hollyman's own experiences. "I've always worked exclusively as an actor in independent films," she said. "I've had a plethora of interesting survival jobs that have gone along with that because, believe it or not, one cannot make a living on acting alone – especially in indie film. 'Maude' was an attempt to take an experience that was personal to me and interpret it in a comedic way, which is the best way for me to cope with things in life in general."
In Don't Leave Home, Hollyman plays an artist, Melanie Thomas, exhibiting work about urban legends. One of her pieces focuses on the story of an Irish priest whose daughter goes missing on the same day her image vanishes from a portrait of her. The priest, Father Alistair Burke (Lalor Roddy), contacts Melanie and invites her to visit his reclusive home in Ireland. From there, the story takes a turn for the supernatural. "It's been described as an Irish fairy tale or an Irish fever dream," she says. "And I think that so much of what my character goes through – she's just processing this strange, magical, and odd environment. And I did feel that I was doing that both on and off set." They filmed in Ireland at a private family home that's hundreds of years old. "We were told there were certain ghosts – past family members – who lived in certain rooms," she said. "There was something about the experience of my character walking into this surreal, possibly haunted home, since that's quite literally what was happening," she says. "Every aspect of it was very on the nose."
Hollyman's work this year lengthens an extensive SXSW catalog. It's a list that gives her a unique perspective on what makes the festival special. "It's grown, but the essence of the festival hasn't changed much for me," she said – describing it as a way to "gather great filmmakers, actors, and producers for a week and restore. But with margaritas."
Don't Leave Home
VISIONSSaturday, March 10, 1:45pm, Zach Theatre
Sunday, March 11, 3:45pm, AFS Cinema
Wednesday, March 14, 10:45pm, Alamo South Lamar
Thursday, March 15, 4:45pm, Alamo Ritz
INDEPENDENT EPISODICSSunday, March 11, 3pm, Alamo South Lamar
Wednesday, March 14, 9:30pm, Rollins Theatre
TEXAS SHORTS COMPETITIONFriday, March 9, 8:30pm, Vimeo Theater
Monday, March 12, 8pm, AFS Cinema
Saturday, March 17, 7:15pm, Zach Theatre