I decided that I was only going to do one red carpet during my time at SXSW. As with last year, I got to cover the Texas Film Awards. I didn’t attend the press conference due to prior commitments, but I was able to make it to the red carpet. Similar to last year, it was a little cloudy and very humid. I regretted putting on a suit to do this, but I went along and did so.
I’m not the biggest fan of red carpets, but I wanted to do this one because I love the Austin Film Society and the work that they do. Year after year, the Austin Film Society gives grants to up and coming filmmakers to see their artistic visions come to life, and are behind some of the very best independent cinema of the past few decades. They also do incredible work in exposing the general public to arthouse cinema, thanks to their weekly screenings (with AFS co-founder Richard Linklater a frequent curator of many of these films). AFS is about to open up their own cinema for screenings (which will reportedly open up in May), so not only will they be able to hold more screenings than ever before, but films that many thought would never be seen by a bigger audience. Maybe I’m bias just because I worked there for a few summers and they’ve been very supportive and helpful with this website, but I think without all of that I would still write very nice things about them.
The first person I got to talk with was Rebecca Campbell, the CEO of the Austin Film Society and an old friend. It was nice because when she was going down the press line she immediately recognized me, which was very nice. She gave me a rundown of what the show would entail (tributes to Debbie Reynolds and Bill Paxton were reportedly in the evening) and what her thoughts were on the future of the Texas Film Commission in light of recent bills proposed/filed in the Texas Legislature.
“I’m not too worried about those bills. I think the focus just needs to be to keep the law the way it is and to get it funded, and try to restore the funding to the 2015 levels. Behind the scenes, we’re supporting the various groups that are keeping the legislators informed. We’re always willing to talk to them about how our industry works and show them around. I think when they realize that its regular folks, good jobs, mom and pop businesses, it’s not really about subsidizing Hollywood, they [the legislators] get really excited and they come around. I’m optimistic.”
This was a theme that I tried to reiterate to some of the other folks during the evening. It baffles me that many of our lawmakers here in Texas can’t seem to realize that this industry brings in so much money to the local and state economy, not along adding jobs to hard-working Texans (not people from out of the state). Like what Rebecca said, I’m optimistic that our leaders will come around on this, and if somebody like Dan Patrick (who I’m no fan of) has publicly stated his support for this industry, then the future looks good for Texas Film.
I asked Sarah Green, the legendary producer behind some great films by Texas filmmakers (The Tree of Life, Mud, etc.) who was being honored that evening, about this issue as well. This is what she had to say:
“I think everyone needs to make their voices heard. Everyone needs to write to their representatives and everyone needs to be very involved in voting for what they need, which is support for the film industry. This film industry is too important here to let go”.
Other folks that I got to talk with during the evening was Hector Galan, a legendary documentary filmmaker who was being inducted by former San Antonio mayor (and the former head of Housing and Urban Development under Bill Clinton) Henry Cisernos. Hector was the first documentarian to be inducted into the Film Awards, which was very exciting for him when I spoke with him. It’s a little hard for me to transcribe what he told me just due to the loudness in the room at the time, but it was a bit of an honor to talk with him, both as a Mexican-American and as a film buff.
I also got to speak briefly with Jeff Nichols, who was being honored that night. I’m refusing to transcribe this interview because I didn’t do a great job in interviewing him as I was unbelievably nervous speaking with him. Nichols is behind some of this generation’s greatest films (Mud, Take Shelter, Loving, etc.), and he couldn’t have been nicer in dealing with me.
After the interviews stopped at the red carpet, I went back home and slept. It was a little exhausting but a very fun and rewarding evening. Congrats to all the honorees from the evening, and to the Austin Film Society for putting on an amazing show and raising tons of money for their organization. For more information on the Film Society, head over to austinfilm.org.