Courtesy of the Austin Film Festival

The 22nd Annual Austin Film Festival is getting underway. This year’s lineup includes more than 180 films – 20 of which are world or North American premieres.

The film festival and conference is unique because it was founded to recognize some of the less talked about people behind films – screenwriters. And that’s still true after 22 years. But the festival has also evolved a lot in recent years.

Today is October 21, 2015, a day fans of the 1980s Back To the Future movie franchise have been waiting for all year: the day Marty McFly stumbles upon his older self, and discovers hoverboards, after traveling 30 years in the future in a flux capacitor-enabled DMC-12.

As it turns out, the company behind that time-traveling car has roots right here in Texas, thanks to a recent legal settlement. 

'Lazer Team' trailer

People have talked for years about the death of the independent film industry. Seasoned filmmakers continue to leverage credit cards, family and friends to realize their creative visions. It’s a tough climate to find financing.

Fantastic Fest/facebook

From Texas Standard: There are a lot of film festivals these days. Some focus on the work of one big director or actor – like the John Wayne Film Festival now in its fourth year in Dallas. Other festivals have a theme – perhaps it’s films by or about the LGBT community, or only documentaries.

Image via facebook/7chinesebrothers

In the U.S. entertainment industry, there’s LA, there’s New York, and then there’s Texas — at least that’s what a lot of us have gotten used to hearing. But how far away is Texas from actually being that “third coast” in the biz? And what do new reductions in film incentives to do that image?

Callie Richmond/Texas Tribune

The Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program offers grants for companies who hire Texans for projects in-state. The Coen Brothers' True Grit was filmed in Texas, largely due to the state's incentives.

Drafthouse Films, Participant Media

From Texas Standard:

The 2013 film “The Act of Killing” broke the mold for documentary storytelling. It told the events of Indonesia's 1965 genocide — some estimate more than half a million people were purged following a coup —  from the perspective of the killers. The film even had the killers reenacting what they’d done.

Now, “The Look of Silence” tells the same story from another angle: that of those still living under the rule of the men who murdered their loved ones.

Photo via Cody Rea/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Actor Jason Schwartzman is a Californian through and through. He was born in LA and is part of the storied Coppola film clan – led by Schwartzman’s uncle Francis Ford Coppola. Before he turned to film, he was a musician. And his band Phantom Planet’s most famous song? “California.”

But Schwartzman is Texan by association. He’s best known for his work with Houstonian Wes Anderson – and North Texas brothers Luke and Owen Wilson. One of the two films he was promoting at this year’s South by Southwest was filmed in Austin.

The entertainment industry was shocked when state legislators slashed $63 million from the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentives Program from the state’s budget. It’s a program that was created in 2008 to attract businesses by giving companies grants for hiring Texas workers to develop film, tv, commercial or video game projects in the state. Now the film and video game industries are trying to figure out what went wrong.

Courtesy Pixar Animation Studios

From Texas Standard.

Pixar has produced hit after award-winning hit. Films including the “Toy Story” series, “Cars” and many others. The company has arguably set the standard for computer-generated animation.

Jim Murphy has been at Pixar since 1996. He’s been an animator for Academy Award-winning films including “Finding Nemo “ and “The Incredibles."

Why Mad Max Might Really Be a Texan

May 15, 2015
tricks ware/flickr

He's just a Texan posing as a Brit posing as an Aussie.

Is Mad Max a crypto-Texan? About as much as a character played by an English actor in an Australian film shot in the African desert can be. Director George Miller has said he's making a "western on wheels." And Max is a character straight out of the American West. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is the fourth part of the dystopian series.


This story comes from Texas Standard.

When someone says filmmaker brothers, who comes to mind? Likely, it's the Coen brothers. But it’s another set of filmmaker brothers that have really gotten the attention of critics and film festival attendees lately, and these guys have Texas ties.

David and Nathan Zellner were born in Colorado but now live in Austin. They’ve probably spent at least half of their careers fielding comments about the Coen brothers, but their latest film “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” sort of pays homage to them.

Bernardo Ruiz

This story comes from Texas Standard.

A documentary at SXSW – “Kingdom of Shadows” – forces us to look at the ongoing violence south of the Texas-Mexico border.

The film is told through three people – a Mexican nun working to find answers about tens of thousands of disappearances, a U.S. drug enforcement agent and a former Texas drug smuggler. Bernardo Ruiz directed the film.

The Jones Family Singers is made up in part of five sisters, two brothers and their father. The gospel music band is based in Bay City, Texas – outside of Houston.

For the last several decades, the Jones Family Singers have been touring churches and winning singing competitions. But it wasn’t until recently that the group started getting some real attention.

That’s thanks in major part to music critic Michael Corcoran. Austin-based Arts and Labor produced an album last year. And now, their story is being told in a film getting its world premiere at South by Southwest: The Jones Family Will Make a Way.

Cody Rea for Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Robert Rodriguez is one of Texas’ most high-profile contemporary filmmakers — best known for Sin City, Spy Kids and From Dusk Till Dawn among other films. So, why has he set up a temporary art museum in Austin?

Rodriguez has taken over a space near the Capitol and has lined the exposed brick walls with framed work by fantasy artist Frank Frazetta.

Rodriguez says when he was a kid growing up in San Antonio, he devoured Frazetta’s work – which showed up on the covers of comic books and paperbacks including "Conan the Barbarian," "Tarzan" and "The Death Dealer." Some of the art in the downtown space once even hung on his bedroom wall.

Micah Magee, Petting Zoo

Filmmaker Micah Magee has been all over the world – but just wanted to capture the Lone Star State in her SXSW Film "Petting Zoo."

Micah Magee directed "Petting Zoo." It's making its North American premiere at SXSW.

"When I was in film school in Berlin I’d go like sit in the cactus section at the biological gardens because I missed the way it smelled so much and you can’t really get smells to be in a film," Magee says. "So I had to find the ways to have that feeling of really being there that I really missed so much. I wanted to like transport that to everywhere else in the world where the film could and, hopefully, would go."

South by Southwest is the biggest conference of its kind in Texas. It draws in tens of thousands of people and has an economic impact of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Janet Pierson heads up SXSW Film, which is screening 150 films this year – the most ever.

“We actually really wanted to show fewer films. The last couple of years we had settled on about 130-133 features – down from 140 – and we wanted to actually pull it down to about 125, and then there was just too much work that was interesting,” Pierson says.

Photo courtesy of Endocrine Entertainment.

Austin has a brand-new film festival and it’s all about science fiction. The first-ever Other Worlds Austin Sci-Fi Film Festival is happening this weekend.

I know what you’re thinking – just what Austin needs – another film festival. But that’s exactly what Other Worlds Austin Director of Programming Bears Fonté thought.

“I had a science fiction film a couple years ago that wound up playing about 40 film festivals. So as I was going around the country with the film, I just saw so many great science fiction films and I was like, this isn’t playing Austin and I want to do that, I want to bring those films to Austin and give those filmmakers a chance to play in front of an audience that’s going to be really receptive," Fonté says.

Lionsgate Publicity

The third film in the popular “Hunger Games” series hits theatres on Friday. To drum up anticipation for “Mockingjay Part-1," the filmmakers are traveling the globe for special premieres. So far they’ve been to London, L.A. and Austin. 

KUT sat down with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson to talk about the film and why they made a stop in Central Texas.

Michael Wilkinson

Oscar-nominated costume designer Michael Wilkinson is making his first-ever trip to Austin this weekend. He's the subject of a special event with the Austin Film Society on Sunday.

Wilkinson is known for his work on films including "American Hustle", "Man of Steel" and "Noah". He's also working on the upcoming film "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." Wilkinson spoke with KUT about his varied collection of work and some of his favorite past projects.

On His Goals for Superhero Costumes:

With superhero films, you want people to come out of the theatre and talk about the costumes and how inspiring they are and how cool they look when they're on a billboard that's like 10 stories high and you want to show people different creative worlds that they haven't seen before and take them to new inspiring, compelling places."