SXSW ‘06 – Day 2 – Saturday

Saturday was not an easy day to get out of bed. But, driven by the sheer force to want to learn something and/or see something that would change my life I tripped over to the Austin Convention Center for a couple of panels. DVDs vs. Theaters and then Shooting Docs with a little BBQ thrown in for good measure and nutrients.

DVDs vs. Theaters took on the topic of the state of film exhibition in the current climate and where it could be headed. Is theatrical doomed? How do all these businesses work together and still stay healthy?

John Sloss, CEO/President of Cinetic Media professed his dismay with the specialized distributors and their driven mentality to really be looking for films that gross more than $10 million.

Tim League, Owner of independent cinema Alamo Drafthouse and Ted Mundorff, VP Film Head Buyer for Landmark Cinemas had a spirited discussion about the struggle between indie exhibitors and chain theaters for who gets certain films.

Netflix VP of Original Programming Eric Besner had a little happiness to bestow on the crowd as he discussed Netflix’s love for independent film and how we need to continue to foster that love for indie films in audiences and to find new and unique ways to get that product out there.

Palm Pictures founder, Chris Blackwell discussed the similarities between the music biz and movie biz. Saying that a band would rarely release an album and then not tour, the way a film should play in theaters and come out on DVD.

Maybe theater owners just need to make the movie going experience a little more pleasant for filmgoers. I think people will always go to the movies. Another popular phrase being heard lately “day and date” pushes the distribution model around a little. Day and date means that a film (most recently Steven Soderbergh’s Bubble) debuts in theaters, on DVD and airs on television on all the same day. Right now it is still an experiment (see more on Day 3 panel – A Landmark Business).

After a proper lunch of pork ribs with all the fixins at Ironworks BBQ (if you’re in town it’s just behind the ACC – corner of Caesar Chavez and Red River – it’s cheap, fast and authentic). I made it back for Shooting Docs. Not to sound too cynical, but it was surprisingly inspirational. Moderated by sales rep Josh Braun, the panel covered a lot of ground in less than an hour. I was most impressed by Kirby Dick’s view on shooting. He talked about setting up a film that seems impossible to make. He also brought up this interesting tidbit:

    How to turn an interview into a verité scene: You get the two people in the room that you want to talk to one another and you start talking to them, get them talking and then just, look down. The two are forced to engage and you get your verité scene.

He went on to say that if you have an idea and you’ve thought it through you should just start shooting. Even without a DP. This can either work great later for extra texture in your film, or be something you never use that just helps you focus your ideas.

Shooting on film forces you to think because it’s so expensive, but Chris Hegedus says that the video camera can be used as a sketch pad and can be a good way to get through the though process.

By the time I got out of the panel I didn’t have time to get anywhere else so I just went downstairs in the convention center where they have the most pro makeshift theater with stadium seating to see Janet Baus, Dan Hunt and Reid Williams’ investigative doc, Cruel and Unusual. The film tells the story of several transgender women who end up in men’s prisons after having lived as women in the outside world. The film states that 30% of transgender people end up in prison. It is a disturbing look at something that seems so easy to change. One character, Linda, once an oilrig worker, is unable to find work after her transition from male to female. She ends up homeless and eventually in a men’s prison. There are no policies in place to deal with gender identification disorder in the prison system. The filmmakers hope to use the film for educational outreach in hopes of helping make a real change to how transgender individuals are treated in prison. (I’m writing this Sunday night and I’ve seen 7 films in the past three days. This one has really stuck with me.) It’s the kind of film that actually makes the audience want to make a change.

chris and nick
Chris and Nick discuss Al Franken: God Spoke at the Q&A.

Next it was over to the Paramount to see the world premiere of Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus’ new film Al Franken: God Spoke. The film follows comedian and liberal personality Al Franken from the launch of his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, to the inception and launch of Air America radio, to their live broadcast at both the DNC and RNC and on to his possible run for senate in the state of Minnesota. There are truly some classic moments in this film; his quick remarks at a book panel with Ann Coulter, his phone call from the floor of a coat closet at an exclusive Newsweek party, the first Air America broadcast. I really enjoyed the film. And…it’s probably safe to say that the other 1600 (!!) people in the theater did too from the applause and hissing at republicans every chance they got. And…should I remind you this festival is in Texas??!!

RF Marquee

I reached my goal of seeing three movies a day with Tales of the Rat Fink, Ron Mann’s tribute to Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. “More is more. It was the golden age of custom cars,” purrs John Goodman’s voiceover as Ed Roth. Ron Mann combines after-effects to bring photos to life a la Kid Stays in the Picture with animation (Rat Fink of course) and anthropomorphizes Big Daddy’s cars with voiceovers from the likes of Jay Leno, Matt Groening and Ann-Margaret combined with John Goodman’s portrayal of Roth to tell the story. Sadly, the film primarily focuses on Roth’s business life of customizing cars, making models and distributing the first t-shirts with logos on them (who knew?!) and barely scratches the surface of anything personal. The film is entertaining, but still seems like a missed opportunity. The closest it gets to personal is when a young fan sends him a letter that says, “My whole life I felt like a weirdo, but you made being a weirdo cool.”

The film had a cool party and art opening at the Continental Gallery and next-door at the Continental Club. On display were about 30 Rat Fink figures customized by current artists.

Day 3 more heat in Austin!!

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Ron English does Rat Fink.

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