A feature documentary in the making, “When We Were Live” is in the process of restoring hundreds of old VHS tapes from the public access age, many of which contain interviews and footage of now-famous directors. The documentary’s director, John Moore, has posted two of these clips — interviews with Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez — that will certainly evoke nostalgia for the bygone era of public access TV.
Public access TV — something that is now entirely lost to the reign of the YouTube generation — now stands as a vestige and emblem of old DIY filmmaking. Austin’s public access TV in the ’80s and ’90s was a thriving world of both the eccentric and the boundary-pushing, and was an exciting new space for future and would-be actors and directors.
From drag queen Carmen Banana to geophysics PhD student/call-in host Livia Squires, public access TV in Austin was a groundbreaking community with a wide range of people and ideas. “When We Were Live” seeks to not only reminisce on this era, but also to explore the evolution of the now-successful products of its community by inviting them to talk about their early selves in this arena.
Here is a very early interview with Linklater, post-“Slacker.” He talks about both the Austin film industry and filmmaking itself in the context of his debut feature, one that now stands as a necessary component (and pioneer) of the indie film canon.
Another gem of this age is in the form of a 1991 interview with Robert Rodriguez. He answers calls on TV, responding to questions about very low-budget filmmaking and film classes at the University of Texas.