Austin Film News: From A(nimation) to Z(ombies)

Production updates from around town and just beyond city limits


Undone

Big Money Time: When the state budget was finally thrashed out at the end of May, the Texas Legislature didn't just continue funding the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program (aka the state's film, TV, and gaming incentives) but raised the fund for the next two years from $32 million to a minimum of $50 million – a dramatic bump that is being received as a sign of legislative support for the job-creating program. Texas Motion Picture Alliance board member Mindy Raymond Benson called the allocation "great news" and noted that there is a possibility that figure could theoretically go up. As TMIIIP is part of the state's Economic Development initiative, unexpended funds from other programs could be transferred by the governor, subject to Legislative Budget Board approval. However, Raymond reiterated that the TXMPA is just happy to have seen this increase.

ATX Attacks Illinois: Sunday, June 16, was Austin Day at Cinepocalypse, Chicago's genre film festival, with world premieres of two locally produced films. First up was Attack of the Demons, the cutout animated supernatural shocker from local one-man-studio Eric Power; then it was Lucky McKee's return to the city from his new home in El Paso, with Kindred Spirits, starring Thora Birch and Austin transplant/fixture Macon Blair. For more on Power and his first film, 2D bushido epic Path of Blood, read "Austin Animator Eric Power Slices and Dices," April 20, 2018, and catch the trailer at austinchronicle.com/screens.

Minnow Mountain Comes Undone: One of the hot tickets at ATX Television Festival this year was a very early screening of Undone, the upcoming animated series for Amazon by the creators of BoJack Horseman. Why the crowds? Firstly, it looks great. And that look owes a lot to Austin animation studio Minnow Mountain. They're part of a raft of animation studios that have worked on the show's distinctive use of rotoscoping (animating over live-action footage), an art form that Minnow Mountain co-founder Craig Staggs helped keep alive as an animator on Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly, before he and co-founder Steph Swope worked on Keith Maitland's Emmy-winning Tower. The show is executive produced by another Scanner alum, Tommy Pallotta, and stars an Austin regular – Alita: Battle Angel herself, Rosa Salazar.

Zombies Say Thanks: Speaking of ATX TV, the producers and stars of the Austin-shot Fear the Walking Dead gave a special shout-out to the local cast and crew of the AMC horror success during a special screening and panel. Showrunner Andrew Chambliss took particular time to note the vaunted flexibility of the region for wildly varying terrains. He said, "You can drive half an hour in any direction and be in a different location." Season 5 of Fear the Walking Dead screens Sundays at 8pm Central; for an interview with Chambliss and fellow showrunner Ian B. Goldberg, read "The Dead Come to Texas," Aug. 10, 2018.

Multiple Malicks: Wait years for a Terrence Malick film, and two come along at once. The legendary Austin director's latest, World War II biopic A Hidden Life, has been acquired by Fox Searchlight after rave reviews at Cannes. However, it seems that he's already working on his next project, and he is reportedly shooting The Last Planet in Anzio, Italy. Details are scarce, but it seems that the film will continue his obsession with questions of faith (A Hidden Life explores the religious basis of conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter's opposition to the Nazis) through biblical parables.

Farewell to Bill Wittliff: Texas and Hollywood are mourning the death on June 9 of William D. Wittliff, the award-winning author who scripted some of the most memorable depictions of the West. Wittliff was probably best known for his Emmy-nominated and WGA Award-winning script for 1989 miniseries Lonesome Dove, but his reputation as a chronicler of Texas life began in 1978 with Thaddeus Rose and Eddie, starring Johnny Cash. He would later write and direct another country legend, Willie Nelson, in 1986's Red Headed Stranger before becoming Hollywood's go-to writer for tales of the great outdoors, including Legends of the Fall and his adaptation of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm. For a full tribute to the writer, filmmaker, and publisher, read "In Memoriam: Bill Wittliff," June 12.

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