SXSW 2011 Filmmaker Spotlight: Andrew Putschoegl


Film Title: Hello Caller

Category: Narrative short (Midnight Shorts Program at SXSW)

Your name: Andrew Putschoegl

Your relationship to the film: Director/Producer

90-second elevator pitch: 90 seconds? That's 25% the length of our entire 6-minute film! I can do it in 10 seconds! Hello Caller is a dark comedy about a suicidal woman who makes a call for help with unexpected and hilarious results.

Previous festival experience: About ten years ago I submitted my thesis film to a number of festivals with mixed results (to be fair, charming romantic comedies aren't typically film festival favorites...) - then in 2005 a film I co-produced and edited, Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party, made the festival rounds, including SXSW, and was a critical (and now, cult) success. I wasn't able to attend SXSW that year, but I made it to a couple of the other festivals and had a great time. I've been to Sundance a few times as a spectator, which is fun, but an entirely different experience than having a film in competition.

We premiered Hello Caller at Slamdance in January, which was such a gratifying adventure. It was the first time we had seen the film with an audience, and there's nothing more head-swelling than hearing an audience laugh at all the right moments (and some you had long forgotten might actually be amusing).

As a submitting filmmaker, what has surprised you about the film festival process? Honestly? I've been surprised at the festivals that have accepted the film and those that have not. You get into a couple of high-profile festivals, which creates an incredible euphoria, and then you get rejected from a small-town festival in the middle of nowhere, and scratch your head. It's entirely valid, of course, since film is so subjective and there are myriad reasons why a festival may not want to program your work, but you really do get addicted to receiving those acceptance emails.

Since we've only attended Slamdance with this film (it also recently played at Cinequest, which we unfortunately not able to attend - and which I loved when I attended with STBP), I can say that the bar has been set high. The programmers and staff for the festival were remarkable in their dedication to filmmakers. We met people with whom we will remain friends for life - so it's about much more than the few days we spent in the snow.

What attracted you to SXSW and what excites you most about having your film selected to play there? SXSW has a reputation as being a raucous good time, so who wouldn't want to attend? I've never been to Austin, let alone SXSW. I'm anxious to see how the audience reacts to our film - if it will be the same as it was at Slamdance, or if there will be any differences. I'm looking forward to meeting the programmers, attending the parties, and gawking at the drunk nerds from the interactive conference. (I should point out that I consider myself quite a nerd, I just don't really drink).

Screening times: We're screening on Friday the 11th at 11:30pm at the Alamo Ritz 2, Sunday the 13th at 11:15pm at the Alamo Lamar B, and Saturday the 19th at 11:30pm at the Alamo Ritz 2.

What's next for you and your film? We're in a number of upcoming festivals, including Vail and others that have sworn us to secrecy until their lineups are announced, so we're going to try to make it to as many as our benefactors at Visa and AmEx will allow. Also, our film won the theatrical distribution award at Slamdance so it will be paired with a fantastic feature and shown at a number of theaters around the country sometime in the next year or so. It's kind of unheard of for a short to get a theatrical release, so we're thrilled.