Monday, May 12, 2008

Guerilla filmmaking goes wonderfully right



Once again I dreaded making the drive downtown to the Alamo Ritz for a screening. I dread the parking and the hordes of drunken college students. But all that fades once I step into the dark theater house that so many times before has left me inspired. A few days ago I read an editorial in the paper about a young local filmmaker – Kevin Ford. He was going to be showing his most recent project When is Tomorrow starring himself and Eddie Steeples from My Name is Earl. I really had no idea what to expect. What I found was what will become an underground gem in the same vein as Linklater’s Slacker. It is testament to the fact that you don’t need millions of dollars, 35mm
Panavision cameras, monstrous crews or time for that matter to make a film worth something. This film was shot all over Austin in three days with guerilla tactics.

The story chronicles the day and night before Mike is to be married off into adult life. His best friend Ron has flown in from New York to be the best man. What looks from the outset as a carefree final hurrah for old times quickly becomes a study in the manipulative nature of friendship and the ever present threat of needing to grow up and move forward.

When is Tomorrow is alive, vibrant and real. There are many of us who struggle with our own ability to grasp the day and use it toward the deepest passions we each possess. Ron, a poet, embodies this seemly unattainable but ultimately desirable state of being. A poet is passionate by definition. He lives his faith. Mike represents all of us who teeter on the cusp of maturity. He is a man full of inspiration but no direction. He preaches his faith but does not practice.

I fear that to describe the story, characters or structure anymore would give something away so I will leave you with this; It’s not every day that you see or read something that makes you question whether or not you are taking the right steps to better yourself. Because, ultimately - the choice to grow up and move forward is a singular choice and a difficult and sometimes painful choice.

GO SEE THIS FILM – Alamo south Lamar – check listings

Adam Moroz
Cita Mag
Editor

Monday, May 5, 2008

Villa Muse News

Sadly not in Austin....hopefully still close!

www.villamuse.com

Friday, May 2, 2008

UT Masters Class with Matt Stone


In Helping us understand our world, you're pretty much at the top."

Oh, That's too bad."
- Matt Stone


Matt Stone graced the UT Masters Class tonight with host John Pierson at the legendary Austin City Limits studio on the six floor of the UT communications building. Very much like Inside the Actors Studio the setting was simple and intimate using the classic ACL backdrop and two chairs in talk show fashion. Students and AFS members watched in shear delight as Mr. Pierson picked the brain of one of the most influential social commentator's of our generation.

Stories of stardom could hardly best the quirky alternative rise to the top experienced by best friends Matt Stone and Trey Parker. A product of the 80's Stone and Parker did not have the vast networking capabilities of the internet to market themselves. Though, they do have plenty of wonderfully 80's references such as Cartman channeling Jamie A Escalante from Stand and Deliver. They did however do something quite remarkable. The spirit of Christmas Aka Jesus vs. Santa Clause was a short animation in somewhat bad taste that appeared around Hollywood in 95. Word spread like wildfire. People were making VHS copies. Then copying the copies until the the quality was almost not watchable on some. Today this would be called a Viral video and be on YouTube or something similar. Who were these guys? No one knew. Stone and Parker had decided not to put any credits. This added to the mystique. Mysterious funny as hell animators afoot in Los Angeles. They drove to Sundance with a with their finished film Cannibal the Musical and had no planned screenings. Yet, they managed play it up and make it work. This business is all about how badly you want it and how far you are willing to go to make that dream come true.

Then in 1997 the first episode of South Park airs, the rest is history. Literally an overnight success fame and more importantly, constant work slaps them in the face. This would be welcome considering Stone spent the entire OJ trial in front of his TV smoking cigarettes and eating burritos while waiting for their William Morris agent to call. Stone couldn't say how it all come together or if it would have ever happened if they had been part of the YouTube generation.

On a more present note, when asked about their experience in Hollywood during the writers strike Stone explained that it it did not affect the show except in commentary. South Park has always been non-union and as result he got to watch the strike come and go. He told us that many in Hollywood believed it to be a failure . Certainly not an "inspiration, not only to us but the entire organized labor movement." As spoken by Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East. Then he laughed mocking the WGA for being so boisterously cocky; as if they needed anymore work or money.

Southpark's success comes directly from their ability to be of the times. They can literally read a story in the newspaper, observe the public opinion and then turn around and comment just one week later. But, ultimately the story is about the boys stuck in a world of cliches and cultural faux pas that only they seem to see as ridiculous or damaging. It is this model that allows them to examine the social extremes to which many readily conform. Sometimes they agree with an extreme and other times they don't - but i am most happy when the finale lands somewhere in the middle because that is just where we are; stuck in the middle of never ending, randomly evolving social issues that always affect us whether we know it or not. And, the truth is - our reality is quite ridiculous at times.

Next year Southpark will go HD and right now you can view any episode up to the present on their official website.

"we succeed, but it's mostly because we are immature." - Matt Stone


Adam Moroz
Cita Mag
Editor

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Benh Zeitlin


Benh's Benefit Screening was very good. He is truly talented. I almost cried. I think Courtney did cry. The turn out was small but we went to the late show. There were seven films by a few different people; Benh Zeitlin, Ray Tintori and Max Goldblatt all of whom are very talented.

"The Egg" and "Origins of Electricity" by Benh Zeitlin had a Brother Quay feeling while his most recent work "I Get Wet" was very innocent, fun and very well constructed. The child actors were amazing i smiled the whole time. Max Goldblatt's "Kinetoscope" was disturbing in its Psycho-esque voyeur world where the line between reality and the dream is blurred, twisted, filmicly reflective and sometimes funny.

But, the one that got me the most was, "Glory at Sea". It had to have been shot shortly after Katrina in a devastated part of Louisiana. It was the story of a man who lost his girl friend in the flood. In his torment he makes a raft and inspires others to help in his effort full well knowing that those they seek are already dead. It was very moving and stylized. Poetic in its narration and beautifully shot. I'm still thinking about it, it was gorgeous. Everyone should see this film.

Benh Zeitlin was badly injured in a car wreck during SxSW this past year on the way to a screening of his films. After a replaced hip and 80,000 dollars later he is in the process of recovery. Proceeds from tonights screening have gone to help pay his medical bills.

Adam Moroz
Cita Mag
Editor

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

TXMPA Event


Attended the TXMPA incentives "Texas Got Game" happy hour held at the Action Figure Studios on East Cesar Chavez. Enjoyed mingling among friends - and yet disappointed at the lack of crowd. There were maybe up to 100 attendees, and while that isn't horrible I've seen bigger parties of film enthusiasts in Austin! I learned that Michigan passed an incentives law of giving back 40% to those who make their films in Michigan. It sounds insane to me - but at the same time I kept questioning how on earth Michigan was able to pass such a bill when Texas has such a "strong" community and yet struggled to pass our 5% return. There is talk of this turning to 15% within a year which I'd love to see happen - I just hope those who are involved and want to thrive in Austin show up!

Iron Man +


Last night I had the privilege of seeing the premiere of Iron Man complete with the Jet Pack guy to raise the spirit of the crowds at Alamo Draft House South Lamar. First of all I'd like to say that I loved the Jet Pack guy - sure he was only in the air for about 90 seconds - but it was a single man flying alone with no parachute or airplane completely choosing his direction - now how cool is that?! For a girl who's drafted blue prints for wings since she was in elementary school - I was pretty excited!

The film was entertaining and while it didn't leave an impact on me where I was running through the various scenes or whatnot throughout my head the rest of the evening or dreaming of it all night - I had a good time and was definitely enthralled for the two hours.

The one thing that did leave a lasting impression on me was the female characters in the movie. According to statistics, men 18-36 are the highest rated attendees of movies and with that logistic studios understand the male interest movies will bring the highest dollar. I am a female, and I definitely enjoyed the film, but I do think the film had an overall lower impact on myself due to my non-association with a single female character. As an actress I definitely wouldn't want to play a single one of those roles except to earn a pay check - and as a young woman I definitely wouldn't want to embody any of the female characters either.

These would have been my choices:
A) Screaming Afghanistan woman as her village is bombed
B) Intelligent sexy reporter who ends up sleeping with Iron Man right off and was considered "trash" the next morning
C) Mousy assistant to the genius who has worked for him for YEARS without him even knowing her birthday
D) Sexy woman at casino that is pushed out of the way when the men come to talk about more important things/sexy airhostess/sexy dancer on plane

Just a note to the movie industry - films like this create the audience that is currently considered "high dollar" - create more films that women can associate with equals more female viewers. I think this is definitely being recognized now that the teen girls are creating billionaires like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Miley Cyrus. We are a huuuuge market.

I believe its time to create Rainbow Brite the movie folks. Now who wouldn't be into that?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Maxim VIP Party


Last night I attended the Maxim Magazine party at the Barr mansion north of central Austin. I was confused the entire time, just what was the purpose of this party? I’ll tell you. Promote the beer and promote the magazine, but to whom?

From what I could gather every former frat boy and delusional princess found their meager way to this party. I am sure that there were some industry professionals and respectable people there, I just didn’t meet any. Wait, sorry, I met six people of the 200 or so there that had anything interesting to talk about.

This was a see and be seen kind of shin dig. When I walked in I saw any number of girls trying with all their worth to be noticed by the production wrapping up a commercial shoot that tied in with the party. The fray was impossibly cliquey. There was even a group of guys doing beer bongs while a group of screaming girls cheered them on. It was quite remarkable seeing as how this party was supposed to be high fashion and classy… Sorry I started to laugh but I am okay now. IT FELT LIKE HIGHSCHOOL! All the jocks and cheerleaders, equally simple, jostling for some kind position over one another as if they commanded that kind of attention. It was really sad.

The illusion of class and aristocracy was the pungent odor of the night and it stank. But upon thinking a little harder I realized that this is Maxim’s target audience, so, good show, bong some beer and drive home you peoples of the upper crust.

By the way production value and the staff were superb, wonderfully accommodating and polite. Cheers.


Adam Moroz
Cita Mag
Editor

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Beats at the Ransom Center

Recently I braved the hordes of college students at the University of Texas on my way to the Harry Ransom Center which is located directly in the center of campus. For the next six weeks the center will play host to the writings, rants, manuscripts, sketches, paintings and music of Beat Era Icons such as Alan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Ted Joans, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

The beat movement is hard to pigeon hole into specific dates but can easily fit between late 1940’s and well into the middle 1960’s. These years were riddled with racial tension and post World War Two idealism. It was the beginning of the cold war and the nuclear family; mother in pearls cooking dinner while little Johnny feeds the dog is how history remembers these golden years before Vietnam. Ginsberg and Kerouac were disgusted with the blatant paper thin idealism that shrouded the country at the time. Such structure and form confined their freer sensibilities. They were the ideal deviants.

Enthralled by the Jazz music they frequently listened to in the dives bars of Harlem, the Beats latched onto the musician’s ability to create new rhythms as they went allowing for development in any possible direction. They rejected structure for free form, content for process, statics for motion, and careful planning for improvisation. Jack Kerouac assimilated this strategy in the book, On the Road. Before writing he took many sheets of paper and taped them together to create multiple scrolls of more than one hundred feet each. The idea was that while typing using his scrolls he would not be confined with having to reload his typewriter after each page. This would allow him to write continuously without interruption in a manner we would term today as “stream of consciousness”.

They seemed to be on a constant quest for “here and now” never concerned with past or future. Education on a subject served only as a template for revision. Beats struggled to create and live outside of societal norms in an effort to ponder their purpose while still being delighted to exist within them, for without these norms they would have nothing to question. “I am learning by the week, but my poesy is still not my own. New rhyme new me me me in words. I am not all of this carven rhetoric”, Ginsberg writes in a letter to Kerouac during his years at Columbia expressing his frustrations with accepted written forms. Ginsberg delivers “Howl” October 13, 1955 at the Six Gallery six years after graduating from Columbia.

Beat filmmakers struggled with similar issues of form and content. How does one access the unconscious and spontaneous in a medium that requires such careful consideration? Filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Christopher Mclaine and Maya Deren all dealt with these questions differently. Brakhage attacked the acceptable structure of “story” form from such a different angle that people weren’t quite sure what to make of his work. He would paint and glue things on clear leader. The result was a flash of color and a shape unlike anything ever done before it. Must a story be a linear tale of people or can it not be the transition from blue to red over the course of hundred frames. Kenneth Anger dealt with cultural acceptance of sexuality and innocence in an era where anything homosexual was considered to be socially deviant, almost criminal.

Beatniks where labeled by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover as one of the greatest “menaces” to the stability of America in 1960. I wonder what he would have to say about them now.

-Adam Moroz

The exhibition runs from Feb. 5 to Aug. 3 in the Ransom Center Galleries at The University of Texas at Austin.

Beat Film Series screenings take place at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz at 7 p.m. consult www.hrc.utexas.edu/events/2008/beatfilm for show times.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Do You Know Your Local Casting Directors?

The 1st annual Alliance sponsored Casting Director Q & A gave me more insight into the local casting directors than I had thought I'd gather. There were the extraneous check list of actors do's and don'ts in a casting office: make sure you have a head shot and resume, make sure you bring multiple copies, make sure there are more in your car just in case, make sure you LOOK like your head shot - the list goes on; and usually I go to these events more to make sure my agent knows I care and to socialize but I actually picked up a few things:

1) Do not spend your money or your time on sending the CD's random promotional items or gifts. It's better to use the money on new head shots or classes and they'd prefer if you were just memorable in your audition.

2) They do not remember how you sucked at an audition....forever.

3) You CAN actually ask them to let you do it again if you know that you didn't do it as well as you could have or if you have another take you'd like to try. Remember it is YOUR audition and even if it feels rushed in the office if you have something else to offer, ask. Apparently they only say no if you try to do this 4 or 5 times.

4) The CD's and other people in the room are on your side. They want you to be the one for the role, they want you to be perfect for the part. They're on your side.

5) Try to dress more simply. It's not about your hair or your accessories. When they pull you into an audition they want to see specifically what it is about you - your essence. The way your voice is, your body, and your face. What you give off as a person just as you are without all the stuff. Be natural.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Strapped Entertainment Launch Party

On Sunday March 22, the US Art Authority played host for Strapped Entertainment's launch party. Headed up by Austin's own Brandy Rainey and Steve Barcik, this two person team of creative genius has plans to take over the world or at least put Austin on the map. The two have an unfaltering will and have chosen to stay in Austin regardless of better incentive programs provided by our neighboring states of New Mexico and Louisiana. This evening is meant to both celebrate their homemade works and to also stir the nest in an attempt to revitalize the ever dwindling community since the failure of the city to pass Villa Muse's annexations requests. Unwilling to be discouraged both Brandy and Steve continue to use Austin as their backdrop and local talent as their anchors. The evening of glitz and glamor was mixed with a sense of underground drive bar musk. This is the real indie film scene. My friend Corey and I fell upon the scene around eight pm and left around midnight only after viewing the three award winning short films slated for exhibition.

The first was Snake Pit, it falls into the category of horror and in my opinion remarkable achievement for a novice filmmaker upon its completion. Perhaps the hardest thing to do when watching indie shorts is to set aside all the Hollywood polished crisp and clear images that we expect. It was obvious the film didn't have the production value of a multi million dollar production but that isn't important in this situation. Instead i found my self watching the birth of a great a talent. It was not hard to notice the incredible attention to detail and lighting. Frequently when people view a film shot over the weekend they don't treat it as a serious piece but as a skit there friends could have just as easily made. This is not the case, the editing was simply superb and the concept fit together like clockwork. Editing a coherent story together is not as easy as it looks and when it is done well it is frequently invisible. So Good job Brandy.

Next had Little Dove which is the story of unrequited love in the Romeo and Juliette forbidden sense. This is a large step away from her first horror project. From the outset of the film we can already distinguish that Brandy has talent far above that of the average. The subject matter and setting of this film are so vastly different from that of her first that we are starting to see the diverse nature of her interests and talents. Aside from knowing her own voice Brandy also commands a wacky sense of discipline and detecation. The crew of Little Dove actually camped in Big Bend for a week while shooting. This means no running water no bathrooms and no wimps. Cheers Brandy for taking it to the next level.

Finally we were exposed to the slacker comedy Open House which chronicle's the escapades of two brazen but really stupid young people who sneak into an open house only to party for a week before making a very hasty escape. Again this film is a large departure from the previous two films aside from the only similarity of shooting inside. In the course of one evening we witness the birth of a real talent through the exposure of three completely different short films whose moral fiber is both completely lacking in Snake Pit and ever present in Little Dove.

I don't think for a moment that this will be the last we see of both Brandy and Steve, in fact i think this is the beginnings of Austin's next homegrown hero. Like both Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez when asked by a young film student how they (Brandy and Steve) found their way into the business the answer was simple: "make films" and do it your way about what you want, nothing else matters.

Cheers Brady and Steve, See you soon.


Adam Moroz

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Vortex Presents TROADES: The Legend of the Women of Troy

Bonnie Cullum and her crew at the Vortex do it again! TROADES: The Legend of the Women of Troy is an amazing story about the women of Troy told from their point of view.

I spoke with Bonnie and several cast members and they all said the same thing, the rehearsals were intense and hard. Going to see the show, it's hard for one to not see how much work these people put into this show.

The make up and costumes were amazing! The set was amazing! The light design was amazing. All these elements with incredible acting and beautiful singing make it hard not to enjoy this show.

The cast as a whole was strong. Stand out performances for me were Gabriel Maldonado who played Menelaos; Eric Porter who played Talthybios; Kimberley Mead who played Andromache; and finally Patricia Wappner who played Hekabe, the Queen.

It runs until March 29th (Thurs-Sun at 8pm) and you get to choose what you want to pay (from $10 to 30). There's a possibility of the show extending to another weekend. Check the website or call the box office for more information and also to reserve your seat.

website: http://www.vortexrep.org
Box Office: 512-478-LAVA

Patricia A. Robinson

Partyin with Perez - SXSW 08


So...I doubt there were many people at SXSW who were more excited about Perez Hilton's "One Night in Austin" party than I was. As a faithful reader of his gossip website, I knew that he was a fan of SX and of Austin, and I was eagerly anticipating meeting the "Queen of all Media" and maybe becoming best friends with him! Well...it didn't exactly go that way.

Let me just preface all this by saying that I feel like SXSW has become less and less about music and more and more about private parties put on by this or that company (usually having nothing to do with music), demanding that you RSVP (so that they have your email address now, duh) and then still waiting in line forever just to get into some empty warehouse that they've transformed into a temporary party palace with more advertising, MORE FREE DRINKS and more people standing around trying to look important!!! YAY!!! Oh, and sometimes there's decent music.

The Perez party was no exception. Even though my husband and I had RSVP'd as media (and my husband is legitimately media, he hosts a morning radio show in Austin) we were met with a long line and a cheesy guy parading as "security" asking if we had been "confimed." Um, no, we hadn't, but don't you know who we are dude? We are SO IMPORTANT, you better let us in! And this actually worked. We were escorted up to the front of the line and introduced to a PR person named Stacy. She let us in on the condition that my husband mention the sponsor of the party (Wrigley's 5 Gum) on his show on Monday and send her an aircheck. Yeah, sure, whatever. I just want to meet Perez!

So we get inside and it is PACKED. Not just crowded, but miserably so; the kind where you are constantly touching someone else and getting to the bar seems impossible. Somehow we managed to get some free drinks (mojitos, provided by some type of rum that I'm having trouble remembering. But Perez is Cuban, so I guess there was a theme...?) and walk out to the area outside that was a little less insane. A hair product company was also there and some hairdressers were giving people crazy hairdo's. We tried to talk them into giving my husband a haircut, but to no avail. We walked past the hair people and there was an area roped off, so of course we had to see what this was about.

The girl guarding the "oh so special area" just happened to be someone my husband knew from the radio station. She thought she was really awesome though and was like, "Sorry guys, can't let you in." When I told her that I just wanted to get a picture with Perez she goes "Oh yeah, I already got one with him, it was awwwsome!" Bitch! So when she wasn't looking, we walked past her. But we were quickly stopped by another cheesy security guy (and I say cheesy because they were all skinny and wearing light pink and blue t shirts emblazoned with Perez's party logo, so they looked super intimidating) but we just gave him the same story as the guy at the front door and he was like, "Oh! Ok, then you're fine. Have fun!"

SO, I bet you can guess, in the "special" area, it was more of the same. Free mojitos and people looking like they felt really important. At least it wasn't as crowded. And then...we saw him. Perez in all of his glory. I quickly handed my camera to my husband and moved in to ask for the photo op. I had to wait for him to finish talking to a really scary looking girl and then I got my chance.

"Perez! Can I get a picture?"

He looked nonplussed. "Yeah," he said flatly. He was wearing way more makeup than I was and had obviously visited the crazy hairdo people outside.

I tried to make him smile and want to be my best friend. "You look really hot," I cooed. But he just smiled for the camera and that was it. Picture taken, and he was gone.

UM, ok. Did Perez Hilton, famous in part for talking crap about celebrities for not being very nice to their fans, just blow me off??? I am a HUGE fan! And there's no way he could have known how much crap we had already given his "security" people, so what gives??? Well...let's just say we made up for it later.

Soon after the Perez encounter, yet another "security" guy noticed that we did not have some sort of blue wristband that we were apparently supposed to have to be in the "special" area. We argued with this guy for awhile, using the same argument that had been working so well before ("We're so important!") but this guy was not having it. But he was such a douche about it that we basically just refused to leave. So the douche returns to us with an even BIGGER douche, a guy who was wearing a white baseball hat with the bill FLIPPED UP, and this guy informed us that this was HIS party and that we better leave now. I told him I thought it was Perez's party, and the PR girl totally let us in here so he better leave us alone. This infuriated him and he accused me of threatening him. To make a long and probably not that interesting story shorter, we ended up leaving on our own accord, only to just waltz back in the back door and get another drink in the "special" area not even 5 minutes later.

We found some friends (who shall remain nameless) and hung out with them (very peacefully) for awhile, when douche #1 saw us again and immediately came back over and told us we'd better leave. At this point it was just a big joke to us. My husband pointed out that most of the people in the "special" area didn't have wristbands and why was he picking on us? Well, he called white baseball hat douche over again and it was like de ja vu. Except this time there were supposedly police on the way to kick us out. RIGHT. So again, we walked out on our own and had another good laugh. We contemplated going back in again but decided we wanted to go see some music.

Which brings me to this point...Perez was so excited about his music lineup, which included N.E.R.D., Robyn, Katy Perry and a bunch of other bands I have never really heard of or care about. We really didn't watch any of the music while we were there. I know that Perez prides himself on introducing new artists, but in a week where there is such saturation of no name bands, and not to mention the fact that perezhilton.com is a celebrity gossip website, I would think that his party would have been more exciting with some actual celebrity guests in attendance. The only "celebrity" I saw was Cisco Adler, who is famous for dating Mischa Barton and I think is technically a musician...?

So...to wrap this all up, I was disappointed. And I don't know if my disappointment has anything to do with it, but I haven't been to perezhilton.com since. Oh, and my husband didn't exactly have glowing things to say about Wrigley's 5 Gum on Monday morning...sorry Stacy. But you should have made sure we had the special blue wristbands.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

SXSW 2008: A Review

So this year I decided to take the plunge and do SXSW, full force. I volunteered my skills for a couple hours and got a Gold Badge, which got me into the film and interactive events. I liked this badge, because most of the events I wanted to do were film-related, and the films ran all week long. Also, it is more difficult to get into films without a badge than it is to get into the music events.

What I learned by doing SXSW:

You will not get to do all the things you want. There is always a million things going on at once, and logistics get in the way. What I ended up doing that worked well is I took my pocket schedule, crossed out times I was working, and then picked out things I wanted to do by looking at what was going on when I was free. A little planning goes a loong way.
Open bar is great; drinking excessively is not. You will not survive SXSW if you spend the whole thing drinking. It is too much work, too much walking, too many people. Alcohol can do weird things to you when you are already tired and a bit dehydrated to start. Plus, the lines for booze can be really long.

The film and interactive parties are overrated. I wasn't terribly impressed with the film parties and didn't see how they really differed from just going out, besides a lot more schmoozing and some swag. There was not one party I went to where people were dancing (ok, one exception) and I didn't even see anyone who was recognizably famous. A lot of line-waiting and people crammed into tight spaces. The one exception to this "overrated" title was the Frog Design Party. This was the one non-music party I thought was worth going to. It was at the Mexican American Cultural Center, a huge and lovely space, and they hired fire dancers and break dancers to keep things lively. Also , Grupo Fantasma played indoors and they are always fun and keep people dancing. I had a blast there.

The music parties are worth going to. Because there's music. Duh. But parties are worth going to when they have free food. You can't beat free. SXSW is all about looking for Free Stuff.

And now for the reviews!!

Films I saw: 21, Flying on One Engine, Secrecy, Reel Shorts 2, Stop-Loss, Mister Lonely, Registered Sex Offender

Best Films: Flying on One Engine, a documentary about Dr. Sharadkumar Dicksheet, a plastic surgeon who is paralyzed on one side, has no larynx, and an aortic aneurysm, yet travels to India for six-month periods to provide free marathon plastic surgery to children who have cleft lips and other facial deformities, was extremely touching and fascinating. I was riveted.

Mister Lonely, a very strange and beautiful film from Harmony Korine, follows a Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) to a commune in the Highlands for celebrity impersonators. Weird as the film was, I found it ten times more human and moving than the two big-budget pictures I saw during SXSW. Diego Luna is perfect as Michael Jackson; a perfect performance. I couldn't keep my eyes off him. Samantha Morton was also fantastic as Marilyn Monroe. I also really enjoyed some of the nontraditional storytelling devices Korine used--song, soliloquy (especially Buckwheat's "Chicken" monologue), and symbolism. I hope this picture is released nationwide in the US. It really was a movie unlike any other I've seen before.

Music: I wish I saw more of it. I didn't have a music schedule, so the music I happened upon was all through word-of-mouth or walking by, hearing it and liking it and getting in. One great new discovery: French singer Yael Naim. She reminded me of Regina Spektor but with a little Alicia Keys thrown in. She has a sexy killer cover of Britney Spear's "Toxic."

And of course, I went to Japan Nite. (This is the third year in a row I've been.) I have to say, I was slightly disappointed. In the past it's been a lot of high-energy punk and ska bands, and this year, well, there wasn't. However, I did like Maki Rinka, a 1940s-esque jazz band whose smooth sound was nice to relax too after a long day of walking, and Damage, an alternative band reminiscient of Nirvana. Once the Emeralds took the stage though, the energy in Elysium went through the roof. They put on one of the best, most high-energy stage shows I've seen anywhere. By 1 AM when the Pillows took the stage, the crowd was up and the place was packed. I really enjoyed the pop rock of the Pillows, who apparently have a following in the US. All in all an enjoyable night, although no one band really blew me away. I guess it's hard to top last year's Go!Go!7188 who are, by my estimation, a killer band. Those girls are the most skilled rock guitarists I've ever seen and they brought down the house last year. Austin needs them to come back, in their own show.

So there you have it. SXSW 2008 in a nutshell. Can't wait for next year!!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Working hard vs. Busting your ass

Is there a difference? Yes there is.

I'm currently involved in a project called, "The Monologue Project". It's a collaboration between Pollyanna Theatre Company and Ballet Austin which touches upon the bullying issues that teens and preteens face in school.

The beginning of our dress rehearsal today got off to such a rocky start that the director and choreographer stopped us (after the first 10 minutes), told us to WAKE UP and start from the top.

I wasn't surprised by their comments, because personally I wasn't present. I walked in with the intention of kicking ass and having a great rehearsal, but I let something I took personally get to me and I lost my focus. I'm pretty sure that for other reasons other cast members felt disconnected as well. Maybe some were tired, maybe some didn't want to be there. Who knows? I could feel that energy, and along with mine, the whole room reeked from it.

Anyways, the second go around was MUCH BETTER. We all managed to put the crap aside and get present.

After we were all back in our street clothes and ready for notes, Thadius (the choreographer) gave a speech. He likes to give speeches and I gotta say, they're pretty damn inspiring. Thadius told us that we need to bring our "A Game" every day. And that our A Game for today should not be the same as it was yesterday. It should be set at a higher level. That means come in every day and bust our asses.

He spoke in terms of a dancer's life, and said often times in dance if you do something less than stellar, your feedback is nicely said, "You need to work a bit harder". He decided to give it to us "raw" because he said we needed to hear it.

So what's the difference? For me, the difference is as follows:

Patricia "Works Hard" Scenario:

I had rehearsal today at 2, so I read through my lines for a 30 minutes early in the morning. Then I went to rehearsal and worked hard. I put all my energy and heart into the performance and was exhausted afterwards. Worked out for 1 hour; did morning pages cause I kinda felt like it...

Patricia "Busts her Ass" Scenario:

I woke up at 5 am, wrote my morning pages, worked out for an hour, after work went to rehearsal for two hours, came home, worked out for 45 minutes, worked on monologues for 1.5 hours, looked for acting jobs and submitted myself for about 30 minutes, worked on lines for upcoming show 2 hours.

Do you see the difference? It's not just about doing what you HAVE to do...it's about doing what you have to do AND doing what you need to do (and what you should want to do) in order to keep your instrument polished and help you continue to get further in this business. You have to be willing to stick with it even when you feel like just quitting and sitting in front of the TV, or sleeping an extra 30 minutes.

It's like my girl, Michelle wrote in an earlier blog (An Actor's Life) "...if you don’t want to work on it every single day...if you are not 100 percent sure that you can deal with the...struggle and hard work then you need to find a new dream. It’s not all glitz and glamour all the time."

Thadius finished by telling us actors and dancers that if we're only willing to work hard rather than bust our asses every day, we need to remember that there's always someone else out there that's busting their ass and ready to take your spot.

Patricia A. Robinson

Facebook and the new avenue for film makers, etc.

Last Sunday I went to the Facebook Film Garage. Although I've heard rumors of TV and film moving more toward the Internet, attending this session was a real eye opener.

Not only is the Internet becoming another avenue for people to get their work out there, it's also becoming a way for studios to make casting decisions for their films and promote the upcoming projects.

Putting together a movie is hard enough, and money is a big one. Using the Internet gives others the opportunity to get their work out there and promote it even if they're working on a $100 budget. By setting up a page on Facebook, put your movie on it, then search for people interested in your movie genre, send them an email and ask them to check out your website. If they like it, they can blog about it and tell their friends and family to check it out (word of mouth).

*When the studio behind the film Iron Man were trying to decide whether or not Robert Downey Jr. would be a good match in the role of Iron Man, they went to the fans. Based on the fan's feedback on the Internet (ex. "Robert Downey Jr. would be perfect for this role...", etc.) the studio made the choice to cast him.

*an example given by one of the Facebook Film Garage speakers

Since the Internet helps make the world a much smaller place, filmmakers from other parts of the world with small budgets can also use it (Facebook, Myspace, etc.) to share their work with a wider, more diverse audience.

This business is booming. So much so that people are creating businesses/websites for this purpose. I spoke with someone that worked for one of these businesses out in LA and he said they were so busy now, they could hardly keep up. When asked if he thought this way was the future for film and TV, he comments, "I know it is."

Patricia A. Robinson

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards

The Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards held its eighth annual ceremonies this past Friday at the Austin Studios facilities near the old Robert Mueller airport. I drove myself being that I posses neither the fame nor the monetary means to be chauffeured up to the red carpet. I couldn’t find the real entrance so I drove in the valet lane and then asked to park it myself for fear of exposing the unkempt nature of the inside to a stranger. Mostly, I didn’t want anyone stealing my cigarettes.

Upon reaching the red carpet I happen to pause for a moment and then for no reason that I can describe I turn around and there is my Dad giving his key to the valet. I waited like any good son would so we could walk the red carpet together. There were cameras and paparazzi all over the place and not one of them taking any pictures of us. Instead they were all aimed at a single person whose presence commanded the attention of the entire room or at least anyone looking in that direction. We continued on and it was only just as we passed him that his face became clear enough to see. A young Luke Wilson stood calm and collected letting the local media snap his picture and ask questions. He was casual in slacks, collared shirt and leather jacket. The ladies scanned him with wonder and lust in their eyes while the husbands and boyfriends stood enviously watching. There was a real star in the building.

I couldn’t help but wonder who else of stature had walked this carpet but now was not the time. We had seats at the Austin Film Society table and a voice over a loud speaker had already requested that our seats be taken. An usher showed us to our table which was adorned in a white table cloth, elegant bouquets and place settings worthy of the occasion. But perhaps the most famous of the table props for the evening were the Lone Star beer can vases each with a single yellow rose.

The evening started with a very public auction of various items including a private shopping spree at Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & CO jewelry and a private tour of the Playboy Mansion that went to for more than thirty thousand dollars. Legendary hair stylist Paul Mitchell took the stage at the end of the auction and offered one more item to the list, “nothing”. Mr. Mitchell reminded us that all of proceeds from the auction will be deposited directly back into the film community. He put forth the notion that this item is not one that a person can display or hold in the palm of a hand but is the feeling of fulfillment that only giving while receiving nothing can provide. The item was purchased by Tom Meredith for fourteen thousand dollars.

Evan Smith, Editor of Texas Monthly and Co-Founder of Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards, Made his way to the podium for the beginning of the awards ceremony. He listed sponsors and gave thanks where it was due and then it was time, “Let me introduce you to your emcee for the evening, Dan Rather”. I was told by a source that will remain nameless that Mr. Rather had been seen practicing his opening and speeches at the podium a few hours earlier very meticulously going through the motions of giving an award away to a ghost. Mr. Rather took the stage like a firecracker and immediately dissolved any notion in my head that he would be a dry old news man. Quite the contrary, he was all smiles while reminding us that he too was Texan and was proud of it. His career spans a massive sixty years in the business and has covered everything from hurricanes, wars, presidential elections and the Kennedy Assassination.

When confronted with the question, what qualifies a person or a film to be inducted into the hall fame Mr. Rather gave the rules as he understood them; the film must have been made in Texas, be about Texas or about a Texan. Dan finished by adding, “or If you take a ride on Willies bus and survive that pretty much qualifies you too”.

The first to be inducted into our Hall of Fame was none other than Morgan Fairchild by the marvelous Tess Harper. Morgan is the quintessential Dallas Blonde. You can’t ask her to be ready in forty minutes and you certainly can’t ask her to curb her opinions. She started at sixteen on the set of Bonnie and Clyde as a stand in for Faye Dunaway and then honed her abilities on the popular soaps of the era. She has been in everything and knows just about everyone and on the off chance she doesn’t know you mentioning Texas will put you on her friend list right away. She spends her professional time these days on the Board of Directors for the Screen Actors Guild and also serves on the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee. For a list of her credits one would have to check IMDB, the list is far t long to mention here and now.

The next inductee would be Jane Mansfield and accepted by her daughter Mariska Hargity who is best known for her Emmy Award winning persona one Law and Order SVU. Jane garnered her first break in the Jack Webb drama Pete Kelly’s Blues where the world took note of the young blonde bombshell. She was not all pretty looks and platinum hair. Most people aren’t aware that Jane spoke five languages and desperately wanted to shed her sex-kitten persona for deeper roles. Unfortunately the opportunities came too late for Jane. In 1968 she appeared in the drama Single Room Furnished which was a departure from her blonde rolls of the past but she tragically died in a car accident in 1967 at the age of 34. Mariska gave a tearful acceptance as she explained a visit to her childhood home in Dallas where the current resident welcomed her and showed her the marks her father had made on a wall as she grew. She continued in tears thanking the Austin Community for honoring her mother and at the same time for allowing her to feel the compassion and respect that so many people felt and still feel for her departed mother. In a way she gained a piece of her mother that night in the lasting impression her career and life left upon the Texas and the world.

Following the tearful induction of Jane Mansfield there was the induction of a band whose early nickname of “the little ol’ band from Texas” would hardly suite their iconic persona of the present. The band ZZ Top had once been offered one million dollars each by the Gillette razor company if they would shave their beards on national television. They refused. Dan Rather followed by mentioning that he could sight many people who would shave a whole lot more than that for a million dollars and that more importantly he was one of them. I never thought that I would hear such ideas from the consummate gentleman who also saw fit to remind us that fighting in the parking lot was just the way it was down here. The sort of venue that ZZ Top frequented was the kind that made you check your gun at the door and if you didn’t have one, they gave you one. The Houston based trio of ragged outsiders was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Self proclaimed super fan Luke Wilson had the honor of inducting the rockers to our lofty ranks.

Dana Wheeler of Friday Night Lights made a surprise appearance and plea for everyone in attendance to voice their opinions concerning our lack incentives. She praises Austin from an outsider’s perspective as being a Mecca for young filmmakers and how we are tragically losing our talent to our neighbors Louisiana and New Mexico. An increase to fifteen percent would be more than enough to allow us to compete in the new market. Movies about Texas are not being shot here because we cannot offer enough of a rebate to attract the market. More importantly we are losing the young filmmakers which are the people who benefit the most from the incentives being that their total capital was probably harder to come by and is also shrouded in more risk. She proclaimed that if we as a community could unanimously show our support, such an incentive program would surely be possible.

The final accolade of the evening went to Mike Judge who is most famous for creating Bevis and Butthead. Mike animated as a hobby while working as engineer and playing base for Doyle Bramhall before hitting it big with his first success “Frog Baseball”. Bevis and Butthead soon followed but tonight he is being honored with the Ann Richards Award and inducted by his own creation Hank Hill. Mike thanked his neighbors who stood in the alley drinking beer while discussing all manner of lawn care and home improvement for the inspiration that garnered the second longest running show in history. Mike was calm and less crazy than I think we all expected. He spoke in soft country tones and was well dressed. He thanked both Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriquez for convincing him to move into live with Office Space and then with Idiocracy. Then he simply said “thank you” and walked off stage. He has given us an incredibly warped view of the world while still being able to maintain and contemplative trek through the always wavering moral fiber of the American way.

By the time the show was over I was full from a marvelous meal, tons of eye candy and more notes than I would care to read. I had no idea that the woman on Law & Order was Jane Mansfield’s daughter or that she spoke five languages. I really think the ZZ Top guys were fantastic and probably a bit tipsy but who wasn’t? They never took their sunglasses off either. Paul Mitchell “shhhed” the crowd. A waiter dropped 15 beers at one time, it was loud. People were dressed in anything from gowns to jeans and T-shirts, it was wild. After a brisk walk to my car with bag full of swag I was off to my house and the next great adventure. SXSW opening weekend.

“Texas really is a state of mind” –Dan Rather

Adam Moroz.

SAG Mixer

Last Saturday (3/1/08) 219 West played host to the Austin SAG Mixer. Although it was called a SAG mixer, all were welcome to attend as long as you RSVPd. I was really excited to get useful information about SAG and learn about something called iActor.

When I read the email over Film Austin's yahoo group, the sentence that did it for me was, "Don't let what you don't know kill your project or your career." The icing on the cake was that the event was free and they were providing food.

Panelist included: Darrien Michele Gipson, National Director of SAGIndie; Mark Friedlander, National Director of New Media; Steve Graham, Director of iActor Online Casting; and Todd Amorde, National Director of Organizing.

They began by spending a bit of time going over the different requirements for the film budget agreements.

For example, did you know that if you want to enter into an Ultra Low Budget Agreement with SAG, the only requirements necessary are:

1) You need a total budget of less than $200,000

2) The film has to be shot entirely in the US

For a modified low budget agreement, the requirements are only:

1) The total budget has to be less than $625,000

2) The film has to be shot entirely in the US

3) There must be an initial theatrical release*

*That could mean getting permission from a local theatre to rent out space for a private screening, inviting friends, family and colleagues.

Sounds easy right? Well, they made it sound real easy and doable. Furthermore, they made it clear that if there are any other questions, all you need to do is contact your SAG rep and ask them to clarify or answer them for you. Don't assume anything, ask your SAG rep. Your SAG representative is your greatest resource. They are there to help you with any and all questions you need answered.

Check out http://www.sagindie.org/ for more information about the different guidelines for the different film budget agreements.

Then they touched on something called New Media. It's basically a way to help people in the film industry find other avenues of getting their work out there (ex. movies on cell phones, UTube, or even Facebook).

Later they talked about iActor (www.iactor.org), which is similar to actorsaccess.com. The differences include:

*exclusively for SAG members.

*you can put up to 10 different headshots on your profile along with 7 different resumes, along with a video and voice clip (ALL FREE OF CHARGE).

It was all very informative and I can't wait to join SAG so I can access the iActor resource...speaking of joining SAG, on a personal note, something that upset me about this presentation was during the Q&A section. One of the panelist (person will be unnamed) compared non-union actors to "freeloaders" because when they get union work, they're taking SAG member's work...they're taking work away from the people who have worked hard and paid dues to get into the union...

Was anyone else offended by this?! HELLO?! The last show I did was an Equity show. I had the opportunity to join Equity and be seen by others in this business as a "serious actor". When I got the news, I was so excited. Until I was told I wasn't eligible for joining Equity because I'd been out of school for more than 3 years...Talk about disappointment.

My point? First of all, why do I need to be in a union to be considered a serious or "professional actor"? I bust my ass every day because I LOVE acting and my goal is to continue getting farther and farther along in my career. I like many other actors I know aren't in unions and we consider ourselves profession. So why are there so many others in this business that don't see that?

Second, as a professional actor with the goal to get further in my acting career, one of my smaller steps in that big picture is to join a union...heck, I'd join more than one (SAG, AFTRA, Equity) bring it on! That's my goal! But I feel like I'm in a catch 22 position sometimes. Like this panelist said, non-union members need to think about what they're doing...well how can I join the union if I don't get involved in a union project?! Everyone has to start somewhere. The point of the panelist was to encourage all "professional actors" to join the union, but the way it was said was offensive to me, and a few other non-union actors I spoke with at the mixer. Then to top things off the comment was followed with, "I'm not trying to be rude or anything..." Well, better luck next time.

Patricia A. Robinson

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Velvet Rut does it again...

Shakespeare, that is...in a modern up to date style. Right now the Velvet Rut is doing Titus Andronicus. The run started last Thursday (March 7th at 8 pm) and it runs the next three weekends Thurs-Saturday 8pm until about 10:30.

I went to see their opening night show. I am a big fan of the Velvet Rut. I've had the pleasure of working with them in two past shows, but I'd never seen any shows there so I was really excited to be on the other side of things.

For those of you that don't know, The Velvet Rut Theatre is a house on 7th and Concho Street and they do Shakespeare, no traditional. The theatre is run by Japhy Fernandez and his wife, Elene and they put their heart and everything else into it to make it.

I was really excited when I went because the house was pretty full on opening night. Let me tell you what I liked about the show:

1) There were some AMAZING pictures in it. What I mean by this is there were some amazing moments with the actors and lights in the show. They were so amazing that I wished I'd had a camera to take a picture of those moments to have them forever.

2) The lighting was amazing, but that's one of the pluses at the Velvet Rut, the great lighting.

3) The makeup and costumes were also incredible. I loved the costumes and make up and I couldn't stop going on and on about that stuff in my head the entire play.

4) The intro to acts 1 and 2. Talk about blowing me away. I got chills just watching the intros.

Stand out performances for me were definitely the lead role of Titus Andronicus, played by Christopher he had lots of intention and heart. Saturninus played by Jennifer which I loved because she is a she and she played a very convincing male character. Tyrell, who played Chiron. Another female playing a male role and I loved the level of energy she brought to her character. And finally new Velvet Rutter, Fraser, who played Aaron the Moor, what can I say? There was just something about his character that was very intriguing and made it easy to watch.

What I missed at times was more passion from characters. For example when one character lost her husband it didn't seem to me that she loved him that much. I didn't see the pain of losing someone she loved more than life itself. There were a few more moments like this, but I'd like to chalk it up to opening night jitters. I also felt sometimes that some people were just trying to get through their scene.

Furthermore, I could have done with out the amount of movement. It seemed to me that there were a few actors that couldn't stand still in their scenes. I mean they were shifting back and forth while delivering their lines or listening to the other actors deliver their lines. That was very distracting to me. Again, I'm hoping it was just opening night jitters. But I'd like to remind everyone that this is just my opinion. I do urge you to check out the Velvet Rut Theatre and judge for yourselves. This place if full of hard working actors and there are some really great things happening at that little place.

The show runs the next three weekends (March 7-March 29)Thurs-Sat 8pm and it's pay what you can.

Check out their myspace page for more information: http://www.myspace.com/thevelvetruttheatre

Patricia A. Robinson

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ooooooooh...now I understand

As an actor in a relationship, one of the biggest challenges for my partner is the idea of me rolling around in the bed with, kissing or being intimate (appearing to be intimate) with another actor.

I remember the first time I kissed someone in my acting class and went home and told him. He was annoyed. He sighed and said something like, "Maaaaaaaaaaaaan!" I didn't see what the big deal was. Sure, I'm kissing someone that I'm not dating. Sure, at times I have to appear to be doing certain intimate things with someone that I'm not involved with and that sometimes I don't always know. But it's my job. It's not like I enjoyed the thought of having to kiss a stranger--or a coworker if you will. AND there are several that feel the same about me. Besides, in all jobs, you have to take the good with the bad. It can actually be kind of awkward and uncomfortable. So what was my partner getting so upset about?

Maybe it's because in Hollywood, you often see celebrities switching partners like one would switch clothing on a daily basis. It isn't that common for average every day people to get involved with their coworkers, but in Hollywood, it's very prevalent to see costars hooking up. Even couples that have been together for years and years have been torn apart by one leaving the other for a costar (examples: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Anne Heche and her Men in Trees costar James Tupper).


I always said to him and myself, that'll never happen to me. I made a commitment to him and I chose this line of work. It's just like any other job that I've had, only I love it. I've spent lots of time around very attractive people in other jobs and there was never a concern. So why should this be any different?


Now I think I'm starting to understand...as an actor, one of my jobs is to create some sort of a connection with my partners (or coworkers) so that the audience gets it. If I'm not convinced, how can the audience be? So when I put all my heart and energy and passion into my character and transfer that to a coworker those feelings can begin to feel real.


This occurred to me one day after coming home from an acting gig. I realized out of the blue that it took me several hours to come down from my character. There's something very draining about putting all my focus into my character for a number of hours, in addition to giving that character all my energy (and then some) and all my heart.


I don't know about other actors, but at times it makes me forget myself. I'd heard about this before. When Academy Award winner, Forest Whitaker played Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, he said in an interview that each day when he came home, he'd have to take long showers to wash that character out of his system.


I must confess that on that particular drive home I found myself ruminating about my coworker and I thought to myself, what's wrong with me? At times after rehearsals or performances I felt very detached from my partner. I was so confused. That's when I had my "Ah Ha!" moment. I said to myself, "Oooooooooooh...now I understand how actors can leave their longtime loves for their coworkers (costars).


It occurred to me that working with someone on a daily basis and putting that much of yourself into a character could definitely be confusing. I'm basically living my life as someone else with different people and different intentions, etc. I could very easily be swept away by those feelings.


But did I want to be swept away??? No way! I don't want to be with an actor! I don't understand how my partner can stand it. Don't get me wrong, I love actors. I myself am an actor. Several of my friends are actors. But at times I personally feel bipolar or multiple personalities (whatever). At times, I have the hardest time coming down from characters that I portray. So if my show, scene or whatever ends on a happy note for my character, I come home happy. If it ends on a bad note or emotionally charged, well I come home with that and he has to deal with whatever I come home as. For that he gets even more of my respect and love.


So how can I prevent myself from being swept away? Well, I journal A LOT about what I'm feeling and that helps me work my way through what's real and what's not real. I also work overtime to focus on myself and everything and everyone in my reality. That's very important. Also, after much journaling I realize that it isn't the other actor I'm having feelings for, but the character that they portray. On that note, I'm pretty damn blessed. My partner is the perfect person for me. I feel very committed to him and just don't see myself leaving him period. So...there's no way in hell I'd walk out on him for a character. What am I supposed to do with a character?

Before I end I want to be very clear. I do believe that relationships that start like this can and do last forever. And I'm all for people following their heart. I'm just personally making a choice not to go down that road...I don't expect that having this realization will make that part of acting any easier, but I do feel fortunate to have figured out what's real and what isn't (for me). I'm glad that now at least I get it...

Patricia A. Robinson

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My 80 dates with the movies!

Movies. Ah! How I just love the movies.

There is something so beyond inspiration when I watch a fantastic film, knowing hundreds or even tens of people poured their hearts into it. So I'm on a quest to really expand my cinematic-viewing repertoire and mental filing cabinet of movies I've seen.

As an actor, movies and theatre are the source of my art, much in the same way the painter will go to a museum to see other works of art, the musician to a live music performance to watch other musicians play their instruments or the cook who watches the cooking channel, etc. etc.

So how do I go about this, just randomly pick one after another? Ask every friend or relative to recommend a movie they loved? Go on IMDB and start at letter A?? Yikes!!

All are good options, but the source I've chosen is every Oscar-wining Best Picture of the Year, starting with the very first winner in 1929, “Wings,” which as it turns out I’ve already seen. I will then go in order year-by-year and (assuming I can find them), watch them all until the end, even if I've already seen it.

I like the idea of going in chronological order to see how film quality, acting styles, themes, and subject matter have changed over the years.

As our society has dealt with social issues, I suspect so did the films and their topics of that time.

Now I need a game plane. Since this is a total of 80 movies to watch, I'm thinking two a week, and if you do the math that will take 40 weeks!! That’s 10 months, so I'm looking at finishing all of them by the end of 2008, which is perfect timing to gear up for the 81st Academy Awards. I'll journal my thoughts on each movie, and keep you posted on how on schedule I‘m able to stay. Thank goodness for Netflix!!

So the next time an acting coach or film-loving buddy says, "Did you ever see ...", I'll have a much better chance at actually saying, "Why yes, yes I have!"

Time to go pop the corn!
Lauren Scott

Frontera from the past

Right now Hyde Park Theatre is showing Three from FronteraFest. Three past plays from the FronteraFest short fringe section.

It started on Monday evening and I went to go see them last night. I don't know what I was expecting, but I didn't realize I was in for three different shows. It was quite a treat, three shows in one evening...

The first show, Port Arthur directed by Ken Webster was interesting. It starts out with two men sitting side by side on a Grey Hound bus...one obviously into what he's reading in his newspaper, the other with a really creepy smile on his face. As I watched the different stories, I thought about awards. If I had to hand out awards at the end, what show would get what? This one definitely wins my vote for most surprising. Just when I thought I had an idea of which way the story was going, it went in another direction.

The second show, Larius Likler, directed by Jamison Driskill wins my vote for funniest. A lot of the humor for me in this one was around names. At first glance it seems to be about a dysfunctional family. It actually is if you just look on the surface. There is definitely more to the story...and I wish I could have seen that. I also missed more character development, especially from the dad. Otherwise, there were some really great moments in this show.

The last show wins my vote for most touching. It was a series of monologues about humans (with the exception of a few mentioned animals)...hence the name, Humans. This one was also directed by Ken Webster. I don't know if it was the monologues or the delivery of the monologues, but this one really touched me. There were a few that left me feeling like I'd missed something, but overall, I enjoyed this one.

Three from FronteraFest runs on off-nights Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 8pm from now until March 26.

Patricia A. Robinson

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Must See Theatre

"Crimes of the Heart", written by Pulitzer Prize winner Beth Henley, is now playing at The City Theatre. This production was directed by Jennifer McKenna and stars Rachel McGinnis, Briana McKeague and Melissa Rentrop, along with Gabriel Smith, Derek Jones and Michelle Cheney.

Each actor does a wonderful job of fueling their character with plenty of energy and passion. Standout performances definitely to Michelle Cheney for her excellent portrayal of cousin, Chick and Melissa Rentrop for her take on Meg. Not only did I sigh with a feeling of, "What now?" every time Chick came on stage, but she certainly got under my skin. And, Melissa...WOW! Talk about making every moment count. These two women really know how to steal a scene!Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all trying to take anything away from the rest of the cast.

The show is well worth seeing, enjoyable. It made me want to go home and call my sister. Overall the cast worked very well together (excellent casting choices), and the sisters were a delight for me to watch together. Not only did they really look like they were sisters, but they acted like they were real sisters. Great chemistry!

I loved it, I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to see some theatre. It runs at The City Theatre from now until March 16th. Thursday-Saturday 8pm and Sunday 5:30pm.

Patricia A. Robinson

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Never Wear a Trash Bag to the Oscars! Never!

Ah, the Oscars. I watch them not only for the speeches and the surprises, but for the fashion. Especially this year, because, well, the speeches were tame and there were few surprises as far as winners.

The general trend this year gravitated toward darker, more serious gowns. Quite a bit of black and red. I missed a gown like Michelle Williams' canary yellow number a few years ago. But some of these dresses came off quite well. Jennifer Garner's black dress looked fantastic on her and Katherine Heigl was a knockout in her one-shoulder red dress. But the best dress in my opinion was the beautiful red dress worn by Helen Mirren with the jeweled shoulder detail. She looked not only breathtaking, but very classy and entirely age appropriate. I hope I am that hot when I get to my sixties. A++ to Queen Helen!

And now for the misses. Well, there were quite a few dresses with ruffles. And I hated every single one of them (why, Penelope Cruz, why??) These ruffles were distracting and ruined the lines of these dresses. I don't care what your stylist says, ruffles like the ones on display at the Oscars should not be worn. And I was wholeheartedly disappointed by Cate Blanchett, who usually dresses so well. I understand she's pregnant, and probably wants to be comfortable, but her dress had no shape and the detail in the front was just plain ugly. But her dress was nothing compared to the trash bag Tilda Swinton wore. What the hell was that??? She is very unusual looking and could have picked a dress that would flatter her unique beauty--something fitted with clean lines, perhaps in a green or purple--but she decided to wear a trash bag instead. And it looked as though she had no makeup on at all. To top it all off, her accessories were ugly. What was her stylist thinking?? At least she's a brilliant actor!

As for the men, Jon Stewart of course gets an A++ for being Jon Stewart, who is always in fashion in my book. Of course, I have had a raging crush on him forever, so I am biased. It was a big surprise for me that Johnny Depp was actually at the Oscars with Vanessa Paradis, looking as cool as only Johnny Depp can do. Javier Bardem looked smashing and reminded me just how ruggedly handsome he is, which is easy to do if your most recent recollection of him is from his latest role in No Country for Old Men. The only miss I clearly recall was the Daniel Day-Lewis get-up. I didn't mind the longish gray hair, but what was up with those ridiculous gold hoops in both ears? Maybe he's preparing for a role opposite Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Carribbean 4. That would be the only logical explanation. It was also terribly disappointing because Day-Lewis is still quite a hottie (those eyes! that voice!) Oh, yeah, and he's only like the greatest actor alive today. Oh well.

Other stand-outs: Cameron Diaz, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard

Friday, February 29, 2008

Auditioning vs. Performing

As an actor auditioning for me is a necessary evil. Not everyone thinks of it that way, but I do. I LOVE performing. To me, performing is like taking a breath of fresh air. It's such a release and it feels like I've taken a hit of the best drug in the world. It's very hard for me to come down from it once I've done it...

I often ask myself this question: Why am I so good at performing and so horrible at auditioning? I've tried a million times to answer this question. A few Saturdays ago after having one of the worst auditions ever and then going on to have one of the best performances later that night, the question came up again...In order for me to get to the performance I have to audition. What is it about auditioning that freaks me out? I don't know.

Maybe it's the competitive aspect of it. A group of people get thrown into a room and they have to prove that they are the correct person for whatever character they're going for. Perhaps I feel a bit intimidated because there are several people I compete with who have their Theatre and Film degrees or have been doing this since they were 16 years old or younger. Or maybe it's just because they seem so sure they know what they're doing and in my head I'm screaming, "What the hell am I doing here?!", while worrying that everyone around me knows that I don't belong there.

I had a conversation with a friend/colleague about this very thing the other day and her advice to me, "Honey, you need to let that go!" (thanks, Carole). She then gave me examples of people that started their acting careers later in life with much success. No formal training, just a dream. It all seems so possible, yet so far away...

It's amazing what the mind can do to a person. I mean it's my mind, with my thoughts and it's working against me. I've taken countless classes, I've been in several workshops. And I would highly recommend several of the classes/workshops I've taken. I often ask myself what ingredient is missing...confidence? Is that what it is? I try to create rituals for myself so that I can feel more calm and ready and focused for an audition. I've asked my friends what they do and some of them seem to have their thing down, while others don't. But I need to find my own thing. How do I do that???

Or maybe it's not even that. Maybe it's all about the mind over matter. Maybe I just need to change my mind set. After all, auditioning is a form of performing. It's a shorter performance with different intentions behind it, but a performance all the same.

Why do some people do so well at auditioning and suck at performances? Why do some people rock at performing and plummet when auditioning? Why is it that some excel in both areas? And how do I get to the point of kicking butt in both areas?

I believe that I come out of my shell in performances because there is no pressure. Isn't that funny?! Because there really is. There's the pressure of connecting with the audience. There's the pressure of keeping the audience entertained for longer than 5-10 minutes. Actually, there's more pressure in performance than in an audition. But the pressure of competition is out the window...sort of (unless you're competing for an Oscar or Tony). But who really thinks about that when they're working on a film or theatre project?

How do I change my mind set in order to do better in my auditions? How do I figure out a routine to make me feel calmer and more focused? Do I need one? Is it all just a bunch of crap? Is anybody out there feeling what I'm saying?

Patricia A. Robinson

The Strike's over...so what's next?

The writer's strike is over! YAY! But what's next for Texas? After the writer's strike ended, I read an article in the news paper. It was regarding what shows were safe and which shows were gone for good. Two shows that were in danger of not returning according to the paper, were Prison Break and Friday Night Lights.

It read something like this : Prison Break gone, probably for good. Friday Night Lights, future unknown. Why did this bother me so much? Both these shows are filmed in Texas! Prison Break is filmed in Dallas and Friday Night Lights in Austin. That means Texas is going to lose more work! Not to mention the fact that both are great shows in very different ways. I was devastated.

My devastation grew even deeper when I later read that although Prison Break would be back on the air, shooting would no longer take place in Dallas. It was moving to LA...sigh. As for Friday Night Lights, well, their future was still up in the air.

So what's next for Texas? Sure there are plenty of films coming into our state. But who gets the leading roles? What about the regular work? And the convenience of having these opportunities right on our doorsteps? Not just for me but for other Texas actors. I happen to watch Friday Night Lights every single week and there are several actors on that show that I know, personally! Although I don't watch Prison Break break as much, the times I've seen it, I see people on that show that I know (personally and professionally).

So it bothers me to think that some of these people will be out of work. Texas has been fighting so hard for the title "Third Coast" and the reputation of being just as capable as LA and NY in the film industry. But with all that "big Texas" talk, Louisiana has passed us by. Word has it that's where you should go if you're a Texas actor and want to get some day player roles and more opportunities. It's closer than LA or NY... At this point in time, there seem to be more chances for a Texas actor to become SAGe by working out of Louisiana.

Sure Villa Muse is supposed to open in Austin in 2009 or 2010, but even that's up in the air. Let's hope that next Thursday Austin makes the right choice and decides to let them build here. Because if Austin loses Villa Muse, I just don't know what people like me will do...I'm torn because I love Austin but there just aren't enough acting jobs here to support my finances. So I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens next....

Patricia A. Robinson

Thursday, February 28, 2008

My Experience with Death and The King's Horseman

So I did this show called Death and The King's Horseman. It was at the Mary Moody Theatre on St. Edward's campus. Pro Arts Collective collaborated with them.

It's based on a true story about a Nigerian village in the 1940s. The story goes something like this, a king passes away and his best horseman is expected to commit ritual suicide in order to help lead him into the next life. Well, there's colonialism that's taking place within their country and when a British officer catches wind of this ritual, he intervenes and tries to "save" the horseman from committing suicide. He actually doesn't end up saving the man, he makes the situation much worse.

If you want to know what happens, I suggest you look for the play, it's by Wole Soyinka. The purpose of my blog is not to talk about the play but my experience.

I played the bride. The bride has no lines. When I first started rehearsals for this, even before rehearsals, I wasn't all that enthusiastic about it. I was like, are you kidding me? No lines?! And they have all these expectations of me?! Whatever....I mean, don't get me wrong, I was excited because I was going to do a show. But a bit disappointed that I didn't have any lines.

At the first rehearsal, I was amazed at how much the director put into it. It was like going back to school and getting a history lesson (and then some). He had a historical expert on staff, a dialect coach, we watched videos of different rituals being performed in the Yoruba culture (the actual village that where the events took place were within a Yoruba tribe). We even got one hundred and one handouts on the play, the themes of the play, the culture we were portraying and on and on and on.

It was intimidating, I felt overwhelmed and I was a bit confused. Were we going back to school or doing a show???? What was the reason for all this? But, I was one of the "lucky ones". The other Nigerian and British characters had to take dialect lessons and listen to CDs in order to familiarize themselves with the language and better sound like they were actual Nigerians/British, not Americans faking the accents. But wait, turned out that although I didn't have any lines, the dialect coach made me a CD. She said it'd be a good idea to think in the language...ooooooooooookaaaaaaaay!

So I did. I listened to the CD for a bit each day (for the first week) and tried to imitate what I heard on it. I checked out the handouts once or twice and put them away in my folder (after the first week). I showed up for rehearsal and watched. When it was time for me to enter a scene and do whatever, I did it. I mean, I wasn't exactly sure what I was doing, but I did what I thought I should do.

I tried very hard to stick to my correct cues for entrances and exits and I tried very hard to remember my blocking. Even though I had no lines, I created a story for my character and tried to figure out what she wanted. I even shed a few tears in the scenes that I was supposed to cry in. I was doing what was expected of me, I was "acting"...

Then one day, the director said to me, "We need to feel that innocence from you. You're playing a 16 year old girl." He showed me some pictures from different tribes of young African women. Then the dialect coach said to me that for one of my entrances I come in and it's too Americanized. So we went over ways to make it more "Nigerian".

After this, something happened. I realized that what I had been doing wasn't enough. Sure I read the hand outs once, I read the play once, I showed up for rehearsal and listened to those darn CDs a few times. I even created a story for my character. But I realized that it wasn't enough because I wasn't convincing those around me that I was this 16 year old Nigerian girl. Heck, I hadn't even thought of a name for my character yet. The thing was, really, I didn't care very much and it was starting to show.

So that night with my mind full of the question, "How the hell am I supposed to be an innocent 16 year old Nigerian girl?" I went to the new encyclopedia...the net. I researched all that I could about that culture and their customs. I tried to find any picture I could of the pre-married teens so I could have something to draw on. I even went on some website and looked up Nigerian names so that I could name my character.

Then I went back to the drawing board, Van Brooks' acting class 101. I began to really ask myself questions about my character, I wanted to make sure that I knew her better than I know myself. Like if someone asked me 20 questions about her I could answer them without hesitation. So I worked on her, I worked on her and worked on her. Every scene she was in, I asked myself questions like, "What is she thinking about here?" "What does this particular line mean to her?" "How would she react in this situation?" "Why would she react that way?"

I'd talk to myself constantly about my character and why she did every single thing that she did. What motivated each movement she made and every action she did. Then I took myself out of my character and using the counseling skills I learned so long ago, I found reasons to empathize with her situation.

I even went further in depth with my character's relationship with all the other characters that she came in contact with in the play. It was hard work, and I had to fight with myself to do it, but I kept with it.

Well, after all this, I discovered something. I discovered how much I liked my character. How much she meant to me. I don't think I've ever felt this way about a character. I realized how important it was for me to tell her story and have the audience really get it. Okay, so I had no lines, and okay so I was on stage with some really REALLY incredible actors, but my goal was to really get across who she was and what her small part was in this big story.

Being a part of this play was such a wonderful learning and growing experience. I had no lines and this was the most challenging part I have played thus far. I realized the importance of taking the time to get to know my character. I mean really get to know her as an insider and an outsider. I could look at the situation and assess what she might be feeling and why she might be feeling it. Then I could go into the character and relate to those same feelings through personal experience. And I discovered that the character doesn't have to stop growing after my first assessment. The character can grow as much as I allowed her to grow.

It was kind of like when I was a counselor, I connected with my character (created rapport) and I figured out who she was and where she's coming from (an assessment). Finally I became her advocate by telling her story. Then I discovered how similar acting and social work are. Both are about communication. They both use a middle party to communicate something from an unheard voice (or unheard voices) to a larger audience . It's such a powerful thing, and I'm so blessed that I do it.

Villa Muse Call to Arms

Friends, Countrymen, Austinites we now find ourselves teetering on the cusp of a bold future. Do we reach out with open arms to the glorious unknown? Or shall we remain as we have always been, simply a footnote on the pages and screens of film history, tucked away in the independent film sections of higher learning textbooks across the galaxy. For to long have we been considered a hobby and amateur film town at best with the exceptions of Terrence Malick, Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez. The average film in LA costs 70 million dollars while the average film in Austin costs a staggering 1.5-3 million dollars. We are seriously missing out.

Louisiana offers a 30% return of total capitol put forth for production in their state. There are fifteen other states in the union that offer 15% or more in return for capitol spent. Since the creation of these incentives the industries in both Louisiana and New Mexico have exploded from non-existent to power-houses that facilitate A-list productions on a globally competitive level. We are stuck in the middle. A sort of go between the talent and crew must traverse between the seeming future hubs of major film production. It saddens me and many colleges to think of all the talent leaving their beloved Austin simply because the work isn't here. The harsh reality is that if we do not make a strong and decisive entry into the ranks i fear we simply may never achieve the level of production many of us have so longed for.

Villa Muse is ready to make such a bold move. They offer a production facility that is both vertically and horizontally integrated. This means that when a production comes to Villa Muse they have the ability to handle preproduction, production and post all on a single campus. As well as all manner of digital animation and video game production. The facility is not closed off to independent productions. in fact the facility will have a full time staff of almost 400 employees capable of filling almost any roll during the production process.

To take this even further the villa Muse property will contain all manner of commercial and residential property as well as all the necessary infrastructure. The idea is to build a new community from the inside-out. As you can see there is a dual purpose for the surrounding community. Villa Muse's surrounding community serves as a both a home to its residents and as possible locations for any production to use. The so very intriguing aspect of this venture is the infrastructure being built with film making in mind. For example, a film crew wants to film at your local Austin grocery store. Well they are going to bring a lot of people, trucks, electrical equipment, props, lights, generators etc. Not to mention slowing traffic and disrupting the surrounding businesses. At Villa Muse the surround communities infrastructure will be wired and prepared. Instead of using a noisy generator they can simply plug in.
There will be alternate roads and walkways. Commercial properties will have multiple entrances.
Villa Muse really is unprecedented.

Villa Muse has paid special attention to the surrounding environment and communities when designing the layout of the subsequent facility. The landmass is essentially a flood plain that fills to about an inch of murky water. In order to make this land ready for development something would have to be done with the water. Fortunately this has been thought through. The flood plain will be filled in with dirt from a neighboring site leaving a man made lake that can support the water already present while not running it off onto neighboring developed or undeveloped areas.

Currently the site chosen garners about 9600 dollars in revenue for the city of Austin per year. this a very small number by any standard. The proposed studio when finished and having fulfill their contracts that would pay the bond holders first then move on to be annexed by the city and taxed accordingly. Keep in mind no Austin resident will be taxed for the construction of the facility or the infrastructure, only its existence within the city after the fact. The tax revenue accrued after development will easily dwarf the previous number easily in the hundreds of thousands.

The truth of the matter is this. Should this facility be built and the productions file in, our incentives will come and our film community will grow from an amateur film town to global competitor.

We must show our support on March 6th before city council. This Studio concerns everyone that wishes to work in the business and stay in Austin.

Adam Moroz
Caught in the Act Production LLC
Contributing Editor


Contact Austin council:
http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/council/groupemail.htm

To read Villa Muse's Jay Podolnick discuss these issue:
http://www.statesman.com/opinion/content/editorial/stories/02/05/0205podolnick_edit.html (copy and paste to browser field)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An Actor's Life

I was watching Family Feud last night and the question was “In what occupation do people make millions of dollars”. 100 people were asked and the #1 occupation was actor/musician. I laughed out loud. I am an actor, married to a musician and I haven’t paid my electric bill in four months.
I do not ever plan on making millions. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn it down if it was offered, but that’s not why I do what I do. I do this because I love it. I struggle and worry and work my ass off, because acting is all I’ve ever wanted. Performing is all I know. And, yes, contrary to popular belief, actors do work their asses off. (Pardon my French)
I’d like to give you an idea about what the life of a struggling actor is like. Perhaps some of you are just getting into it, or want to pursue a career in the arts, or are just a bit voyeuristic. Whoever you may be, please feel free to laugh at, admire, pity and/or take advice from my story.
Every day I, like most people, check my e-mail. I look at the casting lists and see if I am right for anything. If I am I send a polite professional letter, my headshot and resume and always end with “I look forward to hearing from you soon”. It’s a polite way of saying “you know you want to write me back”. I also send follow up e-mails to people I am working with, am about to work with or am desperately wanting to work with. (Much of my time is spent sucking up.) I am fortunate enough to get contacted fairly regularly about gigs. However, many of these are non-paying. When I was new in town, I took everything, but now I am able to be a bit more selective, which is reassuring. I started out looking for creative ways to say “no thank you”, but I’ve learned to just say “I am no longer working for free”. To be completely honest, this is a lot of fun to say.
Next, I am off to my calendar. My schedule is sporadic. There are days when I am overlapping gigs from sun-up to sun-down and days when I have absolutely nothing to do. (I hate those days) As a struggling actor, I have to pick up random jobs to make ends meet. I bartend for private parties, clean houses, model for art classes, mend clothing, etc. Any and every skill that I have or can learn is put to use. I refuse to get a 9-5. There are several reasons for this. One, I wouldn’t want to turn down auditions, shoots, workshops or rehearsals because I’m stuck doing something I’m not passionate about. Two, I feel that spending all day as a drone stunts my creativity. Lastly, I definitely can’t live with the infamous “desk-chair-ass syndrome”. Don’t even pretend that you haven’t noticed it. I am willing to suffer through poverty in order to accomplish my goals. The cake tastes sweeter when you make it from scratch.
Aside from finances, my biggest worries are: Should I switch agents? Should I get new headshots and from whom? Am I taking enough classes? What should I keep/remove from my resume? Would it be easier in LA or New York? These questions are constantly running through my head and of every other actor I know.
All in all, I think I am on the right path. Each year I meet more VIPs in the industry, get more gigs and gain confidence. I believe Austin is where I need to be right now, but I will be moving eventually. I love the challenges that face me on a regular basis and I am only growing hungrier for my dream career every day. My advise for anyone who’s starting out in this field is this: if you don’t feel like your heart is going to jump out of your chest when you think about it, if you don’t want to work on it every single day, if you don’t cry when you watch the Oscars (ok, maybe that one is just me), if you are not 100 percent sure that you can deal with the rejection, struggle and hard work then you need to find a new dream. It’s not all glitz and glamour all the time. In fact, most of the time it’s second-hand clothes and peanut butter and jelly. But, for this actress, it’s totally worth it.
Michelle Keffer