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With 7 (!) Films at SXSW, Jonny Mars is the Texas Film Star You Probably Never Heard Of

With 7 (!) Films at SXSW, Jonny Mars is the Texas Film Star You Probably Never Heard Of

Why He’s On Our Radar: With four films at Sundance 2013 and a whopping seven (four features and three shorts) at the recently wrapped 2013 SXSW Film Festival, Austin-based actor/filmmaker has already had a banner year — and it’s only mid March. Mars, last at SXSW with his directorial debut, the Dallas Cowboys documentary “America’s Parking Lot,” spent the bulk of his time at SXSW this year shelling his lead role in the moving dramedy “Good Night,” co-starring “Girls” regular Alex Karpovsky. On the feature front, Mars also had supporting parts in “Pit Stop,” “A Teacher” and “Computer Chess,” all of which premiered in Park City before making their way to Austin (and all of which were made in Texas). And on the short front, he played a heavy metal rocker in “Black Metal,” and appeared in “Follow” and “Hell No.”

What’s Next: “I just did a couple days on David Gordon Green’s new film ‘Joe’ with Nic Cage, who’s awesome,” he told Indiewire. “I didn’t expect to be nervous and I was just so impressed with Cage. He was everything I wanted him to be. Way into his character, very caring and giving performer, kinda nuts, kinda sane — you couldn’t peg him down. I really had a great time with him.

“That’s really all I have. This is what I call the end of phase one.”

You’ve been a mainstay on the Texas filmmaking scene for a number of years now. How have you seen the industry here evolve since first becoming a part of it?

Evolve or devolve?

Either, or.

It’s interesting, it’s way more democratic. I have a lot more power than I ever did ten years ago as a filmmaker. By power I mean the ability to do what I want — to find a story a story and take it all the way to screen.

One thing that I’ve noticed, this democracy should allow us as storytellers to take more chances and tell stories that should be told. There really is a penchant for narrative storytelling here in Austin. There’s a long historical tradition within the state of Texas, from songwriting to poetry. There’s a European tradition to storytelling — it’s in our DNA.

Two things really work in Texas. One is digital technology has really made us more democratic. We’re now able to fail quietly and on our own dime. The second thing is Texas, the South, has an anecdotally proven blue collar work ethic. These kids who have that work ethic and grow up with technology can realize their dreams. We might not make the sexiest products, but it’s blood sweat and tears. I think the fact that there were what, nine movies at Sundance from Texas is crazy. It’s a wave but it’s not a wave that’s going to crash anytime soon. This isn’t going away.

Is that’s what’s kept you from LA?

Yeah, I can wait tables anywhere. I can’t make movies in California on my own without money. I don’t have two things. One, colleagues that would jump at a phone call and run out and help me. I just don’t possess that. Two, permitting alone changes that. Texas, we don’t always need permits. We can do things at a state level for twenty bucks. That’s just a reality. Also in Central Texas, within fifty miles I can hit almost every geological formation known to man outside of an iceberg. We have things we can call mountains (laughs). It makes those locations easy to get.

I would like to make that transition. I wish I could stay here and have LA management, but I just kind of get laughed at when I talk to them out there — and I get it. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I get it. We’re only having this conversation because I was able to do what I did in the state of Texas. That’s a fact. It seems wrong for me to plant a crop and then just leave it. There’s fertile ground here. There’s a workforce. I feel we’re more dangerous here.

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