Tuesday, April 6, 2021

'Just Another Day" in paradise


Greg Quadlander remembers the boy inside in Just Another Day. He evokes the peaceful purity/danger of a wooded area that is in far Northwest Austin and now covered with houses.

Billed as a children's book, it will resonate with anyone who remembers what it was like to be a child in search of adventure--the kind that involves rattlesnakes and mountain lions!

The book brings to mind a more serene version of Gary Paulsen's book Hatchet. In this case the adventure ends in the safety of mother's arms.

He includes pencil drawings done by a number of his friends that will make you believe you are a kid again. Check the book out here.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

My book about the Ross Sisters

You've likely seen the video on Youtube. Soon you'll learn their true story.

What I'm currently working on:

Three sisters from West Texas saved their family from the Great Depression when a chance encounter with acrobatic neighbors sparked an unexpected career as singing contortionists.

The Ross sisters quickly traded in their childhoods for roadhouses and rodeo shows. Soon they were on Broadway and in the movies. At the urging of their mother Veda--who trained them relentlessly--the girls lied up their ages.

Just after WWII ended, the Ross Sisters sailed on the Queen Mary to London to perform in a hit stage show. Free of their mother for the first time, they each met a fellow performer and married: Betsy Ross to a schizophrenic and charismatic dancer from America, Vicki Ross to a lovable French ventriloquist and baby Dixie to an English actor and comedian.

Dixie would die on her 15th wedding anniversary, and her sisters would be left to pick up the pieces and save their own children from what they feared had become a family curse.

The Ross Sisters fame was short-lived, but bubbled up in the '90s when their act was featured in the film That's Entertainment III, and again in a new century when their contortions made them Youtube sensations.

I'm in the middle of research and writing. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 15, 2020

A Rondo Hatton short until 'Rondo and Bob' is released

The release of Rondo and Bob at film festivals is on hold until, well, there are film festivals again! We were set to premiere during Megacon in Orlando at the affiliated Saints and Sinner Film Festival, but Megacon was first delayed, then canceled. It may be back in October. We may be part of it, but that's not a certainty.

In the meantime, what is there to do but make some short films from home! We created Meet the Creeper! for Roger Corman's Quarantine Film Festival. The Rondo Hatton mask Paul Smith created for Rondo and Bob was at my house, so we told Rondo's story. I enlisted my son and wife. Kirk Hunter did the editing. My son played trombone and wore the mask. My wife was Mae Hatton. The Austin Chronicle even wrote about the short. You can see the completed film here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Dallas VideoFest's AltFiction goes online

I'm getting almost daily notices of film festivals pushing back to at least the summer. More interesting in the here and now are the fests that are going online. The latest is the Dallas VideoFest's AltFiction which will be online for FREE.

Here's the skinny from the press release:

Dallas VideoFest’s Alternative Fiction (http://videofest.org/Alternative-Fiction/ April 2-5) partners with Falcon Events, Dallas-based event producers, which specializes in producing live online and virtual events, to deploy the latest live online technology via a secure and robust platform to create a virtual film festival experience in your living room.

“We are recreating the festival experience, showing films, and connecting filmmakers with their audiences, with technology that is just right for the moment,” said Bart Weiss, founder and artistic director of Dallas VideoFest.

Alternative Innovation
Falcon Events has the technology and capability to include film introductions from the Festivals’ film hosts as well as Q&As following films. Viewers will be able to hear and potentially see the filmmakers as they answer the viewers’ questions. Falcon Events has very strict protocols in place to ensure each film’s content is not copied, and each film will only be available live.

Dallas VideoFest has been innovating with technology since 1987, such as showcasing HDTV and VR in 1988,  exhibiting interactive media, and pioneering using files instead of videotapes. We are constantly looking for new easy to connect with audiences, and this is the technology perfect for this moment in time.

“In this time when we are literally homebound, we are looking to be inspired. AltFiction’s narrative films will prove entertainment, inspiration and will be the cure for cabin fever,” Weiss said.

Movie lovers can go online and watch great films at specific times.  Like traditional film festivals, there will be questions and answers and intros to the films from hosts and from the filmmakers, but these will be done on video (and unlike the films themselves will be viewable later online). Audiences can ask questions of the filmmakers and have them answered in real-time. 

Here's how you do it:

  1. Sign up at OnlineFest.us 
  2. Browse content
  3. Register for screenings you want to watch
  4. Log back in before the event start time to begin viewing (an email reminder goes out 30 minutes prior to the start time)

In addition, viewers can expect a seamless switch into a filmmaker Q&A using a text-based tool that allows attendees to submit questions online.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The new reality for independent filmmakers

Painting: Camilo Esparza. Poster: Casey Hunter
In 2001 I talked to producer Scott Perry about Jet Blast, an Austin-made, low-budget comedy about a future time where airlines got super competitive. An evil rogue group armed their planes to take out the other guys. Some planes crashed into buildings. It was clearly a goofy joke. Jet Blast was set to premiere at the Austin Film Festival. Then 9/11 happened. No festival screening. No much of anything for a long time.

"We had somehow managed to find the exact wrong film to make at the exact wrong time," Perry told me then.

Also in 2001, a Spider-Man trailer that showed Spidey swinging from a web between the Twin Towers was pulled. There was talk of shelving terrorist-themed movies. It was a tough time for the movie industry.

OK, as filmmakers today we need to lighten up. Things are not nearly as bad. Yes, festivals have been cancelled. Yes, many more have been postponed. But, like with 9/11, the bigger picture shines through as we huddle in our houses and get back to basics. My family watched Onward on overly expensive pay per view just days after its release in theaters. (It was great.) Screening parties are happening on Facebook. Classic films are being rediscovered. This time film is our escape. It just isn't happening in the normal way.
For example, where I am in Austin, Texas, the documentary Also Starring Austin is screening for free online here for a short while. The Austin Chronicle is asking readers to watch Texas Chain Saw Massacre along with them at home and engage in a running commentary. Film is bringing isolated people together.
I've been quiet lately about the release of my documentary Rondo and Bob, which is about Texas Chain Saw Massacre art director Robert Burns and his obsession with '40s actor Rondo Hatton whose iconic face was twisted from the effects of acromegaly. Deeper down it's about the love Burns searched for and Hatton found. It was set to premiere April 17 at MegaCon in Orlando, with attendance of about 100,000 one of the largest fan conventions in the country. But I knew it wouldn't happen. It had become a rare holdout to the cancellation list.

Word came down Monday that the fest has been pushed to June. Rondo and Bob is the feature screening on June 5. Will it actually happen? Will life be back to normal by then? I'm still not sure. Perhaps it takes a great re-imagining of the film release process. I'd love ideas on that.

In the meantime I want to share this amazing poster based on a painting created by tattoo artist Camilo Esparza and realized by Casey Hunter. It's an homage to a poster for the 1946 film House of Horrors featuring Hatton as the Creeper.

Stay safe. Go watch a movie.