Austin Film Festival 1997: The Kickoff
by Eugene Hernandez
Autumn in Austin is clearly nothing like autumn in Manhattan. Leaving the big city on a cloudy 50 degree morning and arriving in Texas on a sultry mid-90 degree afternoon is quite a shock to the system. And so is Austin — a small town big enough for two different film festivals, South by Southwest in the Spring, and the Austin Film Festival & Heart of Film Screenwriters Conference in the Fall — two uniquely separate events run by to uniquely separate organizations (but that’s another story).
Wednesday night, on the eve of the Austin fest and conference, the film community here is buzzing, not only about the upcoming weekend of screenings, seminars and panels, but on this night one of Texas’ favorite filmmaking sons is in town for a special screening (not connected to the festival or conference). The Austin Film Society, a local institution founded by Richard Linklater, has welcomed Robert Rodriguez (“El Mariachi,” “From Dusk Til Dawn“) for two showings of his never before seen (on a big screen) movie, “Road Racer.” The evening served as a fundraiser for AFS and Rodriguez held a Q & A session immediately after both screenings. The one million dollar Showtime movie, Rodriguez’ follow up to “El Mariachi,” was shot in 13 days and stars David Arquette and Salma Hayek — she was cast so that the filmmaker would have a demo reel to use in convincing studio execs to let him cast her in his next film, “Desperado.” The film, described by Rodriguez as a “degenerate hot rod flick,” is a fast paced, sharply edited crowd pleaser that quickly won over the local crowd. As for his next project, the filmmaker explained that he is expecting to close a deal in the next few days, for a project that will be produced locally. “Check Harry Knowles’ website,” Rodriguez quipped, referring to the Texan’s popular film site <http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com/>, “he knows what I am doing before I do.” Knowles will be on hand at the Film Festival this weekend to introduce a night time screening.
Yesterday afternoon, the Screenwriting Conference kicked off during a standing room only welcome seminar at the event headquarters — the nicely restored Driskill Hotel. Among the panels conducted on day one, were: “Getting it Right the Next Time Around: Rewriting Your Screenplay,” “Don’t Use So Much Dialogue: Writing Visually,” and “Negotiating a Deal: How to Keep from Getting Screwed.” The afternoon concluded with a crowded reception on the mezzanine level of the Driskill. The party featured a performance by the legendary country artist, Don Walser. A small but devoted crowd reveled in the show, while the majority of guests schmoozed loudly across the room. Later that evening the festival kicked off in Austin’s beautiful Paramount theater, with a screening of “American Perfekt,” starring Amanda Plummer. The actress and writer-director Paul Chart participated in a Q & A after the screening.
The Festival and Conference boast a number of notable events this weekend: Tonight Oliver Stone presents a screening of his new film, “U-Turn,” followed by a discussion. Also, Buck Henry presents and discusses an anniversary screening of “The Graduate,” and Bud Shrake & Dennis Hopper present “Kid Blue.” At a special screening tonight at the University of Texas Union, alumus Stephen Schwartz will present “Critical Care,” a new Sidney Lumet movie from a Schwartz script. Among the anticipated panels this weekend are “Budget and Filmmaking: How to Cut Corners Where They Won’t Show,” featuring Miguel Arteta, Beau Flynn, Polly Platt, and Chris D’ Arienzo; “Naras Panel: Music and Movies,” with Mike Judge, Robert Rodriguez, Joe Tropiano, Richard Linklater, and Richard Perna; and “The Labors of Hercules: Getting Your Film Made,” with Paul Chart, Adrian Pasdar, Rea Tajiri, Beau Flynn, Neil Mandt, and D.J. Paul.
[For more information on the Austin Film Festival and Heart of Film Screenwriters Conference call 512/478-4795.]