SXSW 2011 Filmmaker Spotlight: Rafael De Leon Jr.


Film Title:  Waffle

Category: Narrative Short

Your name: Rafael De Leon Jr.

Your relationship to the film: Writer/Producer/Director

Elevator pitch: A disfigured, science fair champion invites her new friend over for dinner, but as the night goes on, they discover very unpleasant things about each other and hell breaks loose.

Festival experience: My previous shorts have screened at various festivals around the country, but I was only able to attend the ones that were local.  For the most part, I have had a good experience, but I haven't gotten as much out of it as I feel I should be getting.  That's why I'm trying to go out of my comfort zone and attend more festivals farther away from where I live.

As a submitting filmmaker, what has surprised you about the film festival process? This can be both pleasant and unpleasant depending on a festival's decision, but what continues to amaze me is how someone at a festival might think your film is poor while another person at a different festival might think it's great.

What attracted you to SXSW and what excites you most about having your film selected to play there? Aside from having a reputation as being one of the best film festivals, SXSW seems like a really fun place and being there is an excellent opportunity to enjoy great, independent films and meet new people everywhere you look.  I'm especially excited about attending the Midnight programs at the Alamo Drafthouse theaters, which I have wanted to go to for a long time now.

When and where does your film play at SXSW "Waffle" will screen as part of the Midnight Shorts program on the following dates/venues/times:

3/11/11. Alamo Ritz 2. 11:30pm.

3/13/11. Alamo Lamar B.  11:15pm.

3/19/11. Alamo Ritz 2.  11:30pm.

What's next for you and your film? "Waffle" will continue playing the festival circuit throughout the rest of the year.  I have another short horror film written that will go into production later this year and I'm currently working on a feature screenplay.

SXSW 2011 Filmmaker Spotlight: Dustin Guy Defa

Bad Fever

Film Title: Bad Fever

Category: Emerging Visions (narrative feature)

Your name: Dustin Guy Defa

Your relationship to the film: director, producer and writer

The elevator pitch: Bad Fever is about a very lonely guy who lives with his mother.  He thinks he can become a stand-up comedian but it's a completely hopeless dream.  For one thing, he doesn't have a funny bone in his body.  He meets a drifter at a gas station.  She's bad news, somebody who is manipulative and somewhat abusive.  But because of his desperation to be friends with somebody, he attempts to befriend her, and the main thrust of the film is his plan for his debut as a stand-up comedian, and to get her to come to the comedy club to see it.

Previous festival experience: I've been around but I've never been to SXSW.  This feels huge for me and mainly because I love the film so much and I want other people to love it too.  I'm super anxious about our first screening.

As a submitting filmmaker, what has surprised you about the film festival process? If you mean the actual submission process, sometimes it's grueling.  You don't have any money and so you can't really send the film to all the festivals you'd like to.  It's painful sometimes.   And then waiting to hear back can be tense, especially if you're looking for a place to premiere.  But I guess it's worth it, because attending a good festival can change your life.  I had a short film at the Maryland Film Festival a few years back, and meeting other filmmakers and seeing their films in that environment inspired me.  It's helpful to have the support of other filmmakers who are willing to look at your work and give you guidance and share their work with you too.

What attracted you to SXSW and what excites you most about having your film selected to play there? SXSW is obviously a great place to play.  A lot of independent filmmakers have premiered there, and the festival seems to have supported them throughout the beginning of their careers.  So to be premiering there is special for us.  And I imagine that the audiences there are sitting in those seats because they want to be excited by a film.  That's the sort of environment you always want to be involved in.  The programmers too, they seem to be into the films and sincerely care about the filmmakers.

When and where does your film play at SXSW? We're playing opening night.  Our screening dates and times are Friday March 11 8:45PM @ Alamo Lamar B; Monday March 14 4:00PM @ Alamo Ritz 2; and Thursday March 17 3:00 PM @ Rollins Theater.

What's next for you and your film? I don't know what's next for the film.  A lot of that might depend on the response at this festival.  I'd like to see a small theatrical run, some VOD and I'd like to see it get a good DVD distribution.  And we're looking ahead to an international premiere, don't know where that's going to be yet.  I imagine that this will be a film with a good European response.  I'm just ramping up for this year of doing the festival circuit, and writing my next feature.

SXSW 2011 Filmmaker Spotlight - Michael Langan


Film Title: Heliotropes

Category: At SX, it's a narrative short; at Ottawa it would be an animated short; at most festivals it's an experimental short; but I consider it a documentary short.

Your name: Michael Langan

Your relationship to the film: Director

The elevator pitch: "Heliotropes" is based on a non-fiction poem by a friend of mine, Brian Christian-- Brian rocked The Daily Show on Tuesday night promoting his new book on AI, The Most Human Human. The poem is a scientific/philosophical look at the relationship between sunflowers, airlines, migratory birds and human beings at large; namely, how they all follow the sun in elegant and sometimes incredibly elaborate ways. The film takes this idea and runs with it in a series of crisp, surreal vignettes reminiscent of my SXSW '08 film, "Doxology." Pair that with the Voice of God, and you've got "Heliotropes."

Previous festival experience: I got rolling in 2006 with a one-minute film that premiered at Ann Arbor, and I've been addicted ever since. I make films as much for the excuse to go to festivals as anything else. "Heliotropes" will be my fourth festival film as of its premiere this Saturday.

As a submitting filmmaker, what has surprised you about the film festival process? I leapt into festival submissions and got lucky, hitting about 100 fests with my second film, "Doxology." What I didn't expect to discover on that tour is how small the indie film world is, even on a global scale. I get such joy out of seeing the same filmmakers and programmers at different festivals... It's like a mobile, beer-soaked summer camp for adults.

What attracted you to SXSW and what excites you most about having your film selected to play there? It's a hell of a party. I keep hearing about how great it is to live in Austin, and SX does a great job of letting that spirit shine through. And despite the directors' anxiety induced by waiters dashing through a screening room, the Alamo theaters are an amazing way to watch movies.

Screenings for "Heliotropes:"

Alamo Lamar A
Sat 3/12 2:00 pm

Mon 3/14 11:00 am

Thu 3/17 1:30 pm

Official SXSW page

What's next for you and your film? "Heliotropes" is on to Ann Arbor Film Festival next. Meanwhile, I'm working on two longer films with Harvard professor Terah Maher, involving taxidermy, modern dance, and thirty-two duplicates of an actress.

Peep Show Interview with CineKink's Lisa Vandever

An insightful interview with one of my favorite festival directors.

I know that when I think of DIY filmmaking, one of the first filmmakers who comes to mind is Tony Comstock, whose wonderful film, ‘Damon and Hunter: Doing it Together,’ played at CineKink a few years back. He and his wife, Peggy, have been producing and distributing explicit documentaries for the past decade – and they regularly top Amazon sales lists for number of DVDs sold. Obviously, they’re doing something right – during a recent distribution/marketing panel I attended, Tony was tweeting me from a sailing excursion through the Caribbean, prodding me to ask the participants how many of them owned a yacht.

Overall, I think Comstock Films exemplifies how many filmmakers on the “porn/erotica” side have—largely through necessity—become proficient in getting their work out there and noticed once it’s been produced.  Rather than waiting on the hope of some distributor picking them up, the need is there to reach out to an audience directly, bringing with it a front-running understanding of all the tools necessary to do so, especially staying on top of reaching out through the internet, including supreme mastery of SEO and finding ways to circumvent the many technical road-blocks that are intended to inhibit sexual content.

Read Peep Show Interview with Cinekink Director Lisa Vandever Part One at FilmSnobbery.

Be sure to check out the Programmer Profile of Lisa Vandever too.

Cinevegas interview with Scott Kirsner


Scott Kirsner, creator of the Cinematech blog, answers questions about the (much-speculated-upon) forthcoming revolution in DIY film distribution. It's inspirational stuff if you're disheartened by the lack of opportunity in traditional distribution right now.

Look, I do think that if you can do what Joss and Radiohead do, which is leverage the power of established media companies and their distribution channels while also doing some DIY experimentation, that’s not a bad thing. But I also believe there is incredible opportunity for total unknowns right now. You have access to the tools to make what you want, inexpensively. And you have access to all these distribution channels – DVD production, CD production, book production, digital downloads – that were really locked up just five or ten years ago. What can you do to overcome the power imbalance? You start by making really remarkable stuff that no one else is making, focus on a niche audience, and then experiment with different ways to grow that small initial audience.

Kirsner just published a book called Fans, Friends, and Followers -- check out a sample on Scott's web site.

Interview with Fred Andrews of Kansas City FilmFest (formerly KC Jubilee)

Unveiled with very little fanfare, the first episode of the Film Festival Secrets podcast. In it I talk with Fred Andrews of the new Kansas City FilmFest, the joint creation of the festivals formerly known as KC FilmFest and KC Filmmakers Jubilee. You can listen to it on the web with this player:

You can subscribe to get future episodes with this URL:

(If you don't know how to subscribe to a podcast in iTunes, you can follow these instructions.) I have submitted it to the iTunes store, hopefully you'll be able to subscribe directly through iTunes soon.