Austin is a year-round film festival.
Between the Austin Film Society, SXSW, Austin Film Festival, Fantastic Fest, Women in Cinema, Cinema 41, Paramount Summer Classics Series, Cinema East, Experimental Response Cinema, Austin Cinematheque, Alamo Drafthouse, things like Ain’t It Cool News special screenings here and there, and advanced screenings happening every week, I’m pretty much having to choose between great movies on a regular basis.
Best part: all cheap or free, all done in the belief that putting great cinema in front of people is essential for a thriving art community. And indeed, people are making movies left and right with whatever means at their disposal, seemingly less motivated by trying to build a professional career and more out of feeling like they just need to do it.
How could you not be inspired, with all of this happening all the time? That buzz that people talk about feeling after SXSW, after having seen great new cinema and meeting other filmmakers… that’s every week in Austin–AS LONG AS YOU ACTUALLY MAKE IT OUT TO THESE EVENTS.
I stress that because my mind is a little boggled by how few people regularly take advantage of all these things. There certainly is that small circle of regulars I see at all these events, and these regulars include all the people that are important to know in the world of indie film, as well as the people who are clearly going to be doing interesting work and will likely become the people who are important to know. But beyond the “important to know” factor, these are people who are immersed in getting films made and shown, and therefore they are heroes. And of the regulars who aren’t necessarily interested in making films, their dedicated patronage is essential to the life of cinema. None of any of this exists without them, and they know everything. They are also heroes.
And, beyond great film screenings, there are regular panels/conversations with filmmakers that are incredibly accessible, and this does a lot to inspire, as well. Richard Linklater is doing a regular screening series, the Austin Film Society has its Moviemaker Dialogues (during which I’ve gotten to hear from Sandra Adair, Tim Orr, Tim League, Tom Savini, David Wingo, Fred Williamson, Graham Reynolds, Nathan Silver, Onur Tukel, Janet Pierson, Ted Hope, and more), John Pierson used to do a Master Class (during which I got to hear from David Gordon Green, Tom Rothman, Justin Lin, Lisa Cholodenko, Peter Hedges, and more), and Women in Cinema occasionally has some great panels (got to hear from Amy Seimetz, Kim Sherman, Hannah Fidell, Kat Candler, Sandra Adair a couple more times, and more). The best part is that these are all very intimate and fairly casual, and you can really strike up a conversation with these folks in these settings.
I could go on and on (and I usually do), but you get the idea. I started writing this just out of excitement, but I also have a point to make: if you want to be involved in making movies in any way, you have to go to these things, especially in the moments where you feel uninspired or distant from the film world. Live the film life. Watch movies on the big screen with people who really care about this stuff. Let it stoke a fire and let the fire burn. Austin is tinder, and that fire will spread.
If there’s a One Thing that I’d say any Austin-dwelling person interested in movies must do, it’s to become a member of the Austin Film Society. Not only is it the best deal in town ($50 membership for which you immediately get $60 worth of tickets, plus discounts to everything and access to free stuff, including grant money), and an almost-daily encouragement to fill your life with Great Cinema, but this is, excuse my language, the Motherfucking Engine Room of Austin Cinema, and they exist for YOU. They’re not the ones who benefit from your measly $50 membership fee–YOU’RE THE ONE WHO BENEFITS.
I do not work for the Austin Film Society but I still urge people to join every chance I get, because for any film lover or filmmaker in Austin, there is nothing that makes less sense than not becoming a member. If you do not have an Austin Film Society membership card on your person right now, you are actually doing it wrong, and the next time I see you, I’m going to grab you by the shoulders and shake you until you become a member or your head falls off–whichever happens first.