Friday, April 29, 2011

Metalhead in a wheelchair

I used to teach this odd mini-course for the University of Texas. It was a last chance grammar boot camp for students trying to pass the grammar-spelling-punctuation test and thus get into the Journalism Department. One day, a long-haired guy in a motorized wheelchair rolled into class. His name was Jacob Payne. His head lolled to the side, drool dripped on his beard and his eyes were all smile.

Jacob had a notebook on which he could slowly, meticulously scrawl out notes. His first to me was, "Can we talk in the hall?" I followed as he zoomed out of the class. He had two requests: "Can you lift my head?" and "use the cloth to wipe my drool." I nodded OK, did both, and we went back into the classroom. Every once in a while I'd lean over and adjust his head or wipe a little drool. No big deal. Jacob seemed to appreciate that I just did it, gave him a thumbs up and moved on.

My plan for the class was blown to shreds by Jacob. He couldn't get on the computer to do exercises. He didn't write quickly enough to do the practice tests. I ended up stuffing his backpack with work to do at home. I was left wishing someone had warned me so I could find a way to better serve him. Then I realized this is what it's probably always like to be him.

After a while I began to notice this guy was funny--and smart (funny people are always smart; it's a law). He asked me about music (Jacob was a MAJOR metalhead). He asked me about writing. He wanted me to hook him up with The Austin Chronicle for music review gigs. At home I Googled his name and read an essay he'd written for The Daily Texan about how he'd scam his way backstage at metal shows by bumping people with his wheelchair until they parted like the Red Sea and he found himself at the stage. Then, the natural scammer scrawled a one-word note (Backstage?) to the band that he'd love to be just a little closer. Soon he was backstage.

Jacob still failed the GSP test, but he showed up again the next time I taught this class. This time I felt like I was greeting an old friend. I purposely put him in a study group with a young woman he thought was cute. She was very nice to him, and Jacob's squeal of a laugh came out often. He had a great time. He seemed to be getting it.

We became friends on Facebook, and I loved the photos he posted of a trip to New York City. He invited me to parties, but I was too busy being a dad with a young son. But I talked about Jacob a lot to everyone. He taught me something important, one of those lessons we're supposed to get early on but never seem to completely stick. It's about not seeing the chair, but seeing the person. I know Jacob had a lot more challenges that most people, but he seemed to revel in life. A band recorded his song lyrics. His articles were published. He rocked out. He traveled. He had a whole lot of friends. He lived. What more could you ask?

Jacob died this week at 27. I'm happy to have grazed against his sparkly life. Rock on, dude. I'm better for having known you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A 'Slacker' remake?

Well, sort of. More like an homage 20 years later from filmmakers:

Miguel Alvarez
Bradley Beesley
John Bryant
Bob Byington
Mike Dolan
Sam Wainwright Douglas
Jay Duplass
Chris Eska
Paul Gordon
Amy Grappell
Duane Graves
Berndt Mader
Geoff Marslett
Spencer Parsons
PJ Raval
Bob Ray
Elisabeth Sikes
Karen Skloss
Ben Steinbauer
David & Nathan Zellner.

The sad thing is it can't premiere at the late Dobie Theater where I saw Richard Linklater's original Slacker all those years ago (yikes!).

Confused? Here's the skinny from the Austin Film Society:

The Austin Film Society and The Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas are excited to announce that 23 of the most celebrated Austin filmmakers will remake vignettes from AFS Founder & Artistic Director Richard Linklater’s seminal film SLACKER. This homage project was conceived by The Alamo Drafthouse team to celebrate SLACKER's 20th anniversary year by bringing the film community together to honor one of Texas' best homegrown films. AFS came aboard with a stellar group of filmmakers and a Kickstarter-like campaign to raise an additional $60,000 toward the 2011 Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (accepting applications until June 1).

Each scene will be recreated, using the original dialogue and locations (whenever possible), and individual scenes will then be compiled to create the remake, presenting the city’s changing face while showcasing some of its most exciting talent. Donations of $50 or higher to SLACKER 2011 will receive a ticket to the World Premiere on August 31st with the remake filmmakers and Richard Linklater in attendance for Q&A. More details on the event will be released when finalized. Project details and updates can be found at

The levels of support for SLACKER 2011:
$25,000 – Executive Producer credit on SLACKER 2011, the option for an walk-on speaking role, an autographed DVD of SLACKER & the remake, and VIP seating for 10 at the World Premiere screening.

$10,000 – Producer credit on SLACKER 2011, the option for a featured extra role, an autographed DVD of SLACKER & the remake, and VIP seating for 6 at the World Premiere screening.

$5,000 – Get a walk-on speaking role in SLACKER 2011, Special Thanks on the finished film, an autographed DVD of SLACKER & the remake, and 4 VIP tickets to the World Premiere screening.

$1,000 – Be a background extra in SLACKER 2011, get Special Thanks credit on the finished remake film, an autographed DVD of SLACKER & the remake, and 2 VIP tickets to the World Premiere screening.

$500 - Get Special Thanks credit on the finished remake film, an autographed DVD of SLACKER & the remake, and 2 VIP tickets to the World Premiere screening.

$100 - Thanks credit on the finished remake film, a DVD copy and 2 tickets to the World Premiere screening.

$50 - $99 – One ticket to the World Premiere screening and thanks on our website as a valuable donor to the Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund.

Monday, April 25, 2011

'Lost in Austin' brings 'Jersey Shore' to Texas

Or at least the drunken inane part of it. What? I think that's all of it!

Here are the details:

Giddy up Texas, time to show the rest of the country what getting REAL is all about!

When they say Don't mess with Texas, they're talking about you. Wherever you go, you make a name for yourself. You've always had the personality, the looks, the charm, and the style to stand out.

One of the Executive Producers behind Jersey Shore in conjunction with Badaddy Productions is now casting Texans who are at least 21 years old who have moved to Austin (or want to) for the party of a lifetime! We’re rounding up the biggest and baddest personalities to live it up in the ultimate Austin pad for a brand new docu-series.

Do you rule the bar scene, rope in the hottest of the hot, drink anyone under the table? We want to hear from you!

Is everything really bigger in Texas? Prove it. Time to go big, because going home isn’t an option.

Let’s show the country how Texans do it. Are you ready to get Lost in Austin?

NOW CASTING guys and girls who are from TEXAS to live it up in the heart of Downtown Austin!

Friday, April 22, 2011

SHOT IN TEXAS: ‘Dallas’ pilot begins 12-day shoot

My Dallas Morning News column (which actually runs Saturday but is already up on the Web site--oddly minus my byline).--Joe

NOTE: Larry Hagman on Sunday at 8 p.m. will be at the Texas Theatre, where the original Dallas series is being screened two episodes at a time weekly.

SHOT IN TEXAS: ‘Dallas’ pilot begins 12-day shoot here next week

@joemoconnell on Twitter

The TNT series pilot for Dallas begins a 12-day North Texas shoot next week. The pilot follows the next generation of Ewings led by Jesse Metcalfe, Josh Henderson and Jordana Brewster. Larry Hagman, Charlene Tilton, Steve Kanaly, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy from the original series are also on board.

“Just because a pilot shoots here doesn’t mean it’s going to stay if picked up,” warned Janis Burklund of the Dallas Film Commission. She has seen network shows such as Fox’s Good Guys come and go. Indeed, most of the original Dallas series was shot in Hollywood.

Dallas-set and Dallas-shot ABC pilot GCB, starring Leslie Bibb, Kristin Chenoweth and Annie Potts, recently wrapped production. Word of a series pickup is expected by mid-May.

A couple of canceled series shot in North Texas are also staging small-scale comebacks. The five unaired Chase episodes shot in Dallas will be broadcast beginning Saturday on NBC. And Lone Star creator Kyle Killen is staging a free screening of the fourth through sixth episodes of the canceled Fox series this Sunday in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse-Ritz.

In 2009, Hagman, Dallas’ J.R. Ewing, wandered the Texas Capitol giving out fake $10,000 bills with his photo on them, successfully prodding legislators to increase filming incentives funding. But incentives are no longer such an easy sell.

With six weeks to go in the session, the Texas Legislature is hashing out the future of a filming incentives program that in 2009 awarded two-year funding of $60 million — with another $2 million for operating expenses and funding of a state film archive. This time the Senate is looking at two-year funding of $10 million, while the House is considering increasing that two-year figure to $30 million plus that spare $2 million for operations and film archive. The decision will likely be up to a House-Senate conference committee.

The industry, in a study expected to be released next week, contends the film, television and video-game industry has had a $1.1 billion impact since incentives were first funded in 2007, and a direct in-state spend of just less than $600 million. The study commissioned by the Texas Association of Business with the help of the University of Texas considers spending through 2010.

“It shows how effective we are at creating jobs,” said Don Stokes, president of the lobbying group Texas Motion Picture Alliance. “It shows the Texas program is the most efficient program out there.”

Competing states also are looking at either cutting back or eliminating filming incentives in this tight budget year. Still, New Mexico is considering a $45 million per year cap, far more than ever offered in Texas.

“Our program was designed from the beginning to be very conservative,” Stokes said, noting Texas’ strengths in trained film crews and varied filming locales. “As other programs across the country pull back and come back into reality, it makes Texas that much more competitive. We hope we end up with enough to keep Texas in the game.”
Burklund agrees. “We all know we’re going to take a cut,” she said. “I’m not panicking about it. We’re doing the best we can given the circumstances.”

Bonus footage

Dallas filmmakers Barak Epstein, Adam Donaghey, Jason Reimer and Eric Steele, working together as Aviation Cinemas, are launching what they term “crowd-funded” indie films and producing them directly from Oak Cliff’s Texas Theatre. The first project is The Verdigris, a music documentary executive-produced by Bradley Beesley (Okie Noodling) and featuring music by Beau Jennings. A donations-only performance by Jennings opened the effort at the Texas Theatre on Friday.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cine Las Americas film passes are half price

Get them quickly. Film passes for the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival are more than half off ($29 as opposed to $75) if you buy them here. Looks like this is only good until Friday. The best runs April 21-28 here in Austin, Texas.

Malick's 'The Tree of Life' to premiere at Cannes

Yes, Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, just a year later than expected and in competition. It's the only film from a U.S. director in competition this year. Largely shot in Smithville, it stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.

Bill Hader eyeing script from Austin's Chris Mass and Owen Egerton

I posted this on Twitter a good while back, but forgot to blog it: Bill Hader of Saturday Night Light is attached to a script from Austin's own Owen Egerton (Mr. Sinus) and Chris Mass (Chalk).

From the Saturday Night Live blog:

Henchmen is based on a script written by Russell Sharman, Owen Egerton, and Chris Mass, with Akiva Schaffer and Hader currently reworking it. “The film is about two guys who don’t realize it, but they’re two henchman for like the badguy in a Bourne movie and then they slowly figure who that they’re working for the wrong guys, but like doing it in the actual style of a Bourne movie,” said Hader.

David Koresh says 'Waco' still swirling

That's actually John Leguizamo, who is set to portray David Koresh in Waco, the movie about the seige on Mount Carmel near Waco. In an interview this month, he describes the film as "still in the development process." Recent reports had it filming soon in Detroit utilizing Michigan's film incentives. The cast--if this controversial film ever gets made--is expected to include Kurt Russell, Adrien Brody and Sharon Stone.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

'Spy Kids 4' sends post production to Michigan

Want to know Robert Rodriguez's reaction to the Texas Film Commission denying incentives to Machete? Read this from The Detroit News:

Spy Kids 4 has been approved for post-production work in Michigan and has qualified for the Michigan film incentives, the Michigan Film Office announced today.

The film, which already has been shot, will be converted from 2-D to 3-D at Speedshape, a post-production facility in Birmingham. The Film Office reported that around $4.5 million will be spent on the process, and the production will receive around $1.8 million in tax credits.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Austin-shot 'Meet Jane' remains not-so aloof

Little Ricky sez "pick up my show!"

UPDATE: New shoots of the pilot apparently have been taking place of late in Austin! An extras notice dated April 1 (no fooling) sought upscale business and model types ages 40-70 for a shoot this past Sunday. Also sought was a photo double for Schroder, so he's still on board and apparently 5'10" tall and weighing int at 160 lbs.

OK, I'm finally checking back on the status of Meet Jane, and the potential Lifetime series remains moored in the land of perhaps. According to "Meet Jane remains in contention and may be retooled." The pilot shot in Austin and starred Molly Parker and Rick Schroder.

Apparently that retooling is a go...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Allen Shamblin wins song of the year again

Just how many country music awards are there? At any rate, Allen Shamblin's song "The House that Built Me" as sung by Miranda Lambert won again as song of the year. This time it was the Academy of Country Music awards. He also won song of the year at the CMAs. If you want to know Allen's story (and figure out who that other guy is in the photo above), go here.

The real 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High'

The 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High is based on Cameron Crowe's experiences posing as a student at San Diego's Clairemont High School in 1979--he wrote a book about the experience first. Here are a few pages from the school's 1979 yearbook. Is that Jeff Spicoli I see lurking in one shot?

For more on the film, check out this Facebook page.