Saturday, January 12, 2013

Texas Sundance entries have Dallas pedigrees

(From today's Dallas Morning News. Stories are behind a pay wall, so I present it for you.)

Texas Sundance entries have Dallas pedigrees

Special to The Dallas Morning News

            Austin gets the Texas indie-film buzz, but the Lone Star State contingent at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival is full of North Texans.
            Yen Tan worked in marketing for Neiman-Marcus in Dallas until he trekked to the Capital City in 2010 with a plan to make a living as the go-to graphics guy for indie film poster art. His third feature film Pit Stop, the parallel stories of two blue-collar gay men in small-town Texas, premieres at Sundance later this month. Tan co-wrote the script with Dallas’ David Lowery, whose feature Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is in dramatic competition at Sundance.
12-year-old Elise Gardner, star of Spark poses for
a film blogger as her mother Mary Catherine watches.

            “It’s like winning the lottery,” said Tan of Sundance in Park City, Utah, which carries the mystique as a magical place where independent film dreams come true. “I’m scared to have expectations. I don’t want to be disappointed.”
            Tan said he quietly flew under the radar in the North Texas film scene with Lowery and Fort Worth’s James Johnston, a Pit Stop producer, before decamping to Austin.
Indie film proves a small Texas world with Austin-based Kelly Williams—yet another Pit Stop producer—programming Fort Worth’s Lone Star International Film Festival while keeping his hand in seemingly every independent movie of note, including Kat Candler’s latest Sundance short Black Metal about a rocker/dad who must deal with the guilt when a killer’s actions are linked to a love of the rocker’s music.
“We’ve all grown up together,” Williams said following a press screening in Austin of Pit Stop clips, Candler’s film and two shorts set to premiere at Sundance satellite festival Slamdance. Williams, Tan and Candler and many others share space at an Austin film production site where relationships bloom and ideas tumble back and forth.
“It’s so incestuous,” said Candler whose short Hellion played at Sundance in 2012 and is being expanded into a full feature. “There’s not a competitiveness about the community, yet everyone’s voice remains unique to them.”
Part of it is the shoestring nature of independent film that require the wearing of many hats to make a living. Candler’s two Sundance shorts were crowd-funded with donations through Web site IndieGoGo. Both star Jonny Mars, arguably the most intriguing actor in Texas indie film. The former Dallas resident also produced Black Metal and directed the 2012 documentary America’s Parking Lot about rabid Dallas Cowboys fans.
Andrew Irvine is Candler’s teaching assistant in the University of Texas Radio-Television-Film program. His frank and funny short Hearts of Napalm, about a young couple’s sexual miscommunication, will screen at Slamdance. Irvine, 30, is seeing a dream forged as a Plano teenager come to fruition.
“I’m old enough now to realize that since this is the first time it will probably never be this good again,” he said of his upcoming Park City adventure.
UT film student Annie Silverstein, whose background is solidly in the documentary form, will see her fictional short Spark screen at Slamdance as well. It’s a touching story of a boy left to deal with the daughter of his father’s love interest and some tempting fireworks.
“Sometimes using fiction you can say things that are more true than in a documentary,” said Silverstein who founded a program that taught Native American youth to use film to tell their stories.
“I’ve lived in many different cities before, and I’ve never felt so accepted so quickly,” she said of Austin. “I feel lucky. That’s not normal in artistic communities where anxieties and egos can get in the way.”
These filmmakers mark a second Texas indie film wave. The first will also be represented this year at Sundance with Richard Linklater premiering Before Midnight and Robert Rodriguez screening his 1993 debut El Mariachi. Austin’s latest “it” film director Jeff Nichols’ Mud starring Matthew McConaughey also is slated, along with works by newish Austin transplants Andrew Bujalski (Computer Chess) and David Gordon Green (Prince Avalanche with Paul Rudd).

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