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A glance at the new movies coming from Texas artists

Matthew Odam
modam@statesman.com

After years of locals bemoaning the flood of Californians into Austin, the tables were turned this past week as a handful of Austin filmmakers turned up on the West Coast for the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Richard Linklater's "Bernie" served as the fest's opening-night film and topped a list of local films that included Mike Akel's "An Ordinary Family" and multiple vehicles for Austin actor John Merriman.

The films in L.A. represent a busy period of film production from Austin artists over the past year, but with the exception of big names like Linklater and Robert Rodriguez's "Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World," most of the movies being made in Texas are of the microbudget variety.

While there has been a surge in production, with accomplished filmmakers such as Chris Eska ("August Evening") and Tim McCanlies ("When Angels Sing") working locally on their latest films, there has not been the type of economic boom that comes with big-budget productions.

"The environment is tougher than I've seen it in the 13 years I've been managing the film society," Austin Film Society Director Rebecca Campbell said recently by email. "I believe the community will continue its support, because the flow of funds to filmmakers contributes to Austin's economic vibrancy, and because creative filmmaking is woven into our identity and culture."

Below we take a look at movies with Austin ties that will (hopefully) be coming to a theater or festival near you in the coming months.

'Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World'

Writer-director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Jessica Alba, Antonio Banderas, Danny Trejo, Jeremy Piven, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara

Synopsis: A new era of kids help their step-mother, a retired spy, battle the sinister "Timekeeper" in an effort to save the world.

Filming: Shot in Austin last fall.

Next step: Set to open Aug. 19.

Background: After an eight-year hiatus from "Spy Kids," Rodriguez returns to the franchise, which has made more than $300 million at the domestic box office.

'Bernie'

Director: Richard Linklater

Writers: Linklater and Skip Hollandsworth

Cast: Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine

Synopsis: The film recounts the bizarre mystery involving Bernhardt "Bernie" Tiede, a beloved assistant funeral home director in Carthage who admitted to murdering eccentric widow Marjorie Nugent.

Filming: Shot last fall in Austin and Central Texas.

Next steps: Producers are looking for distribution for a possible fall release.

Background: The dark comedy is based on "Midnight in the Garden of East Texas," a Texas Monthly article written by Hollandsworth.

Untitled Terrence Malick project

Writer-director: Malick

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem

Synopsis: The details of the script are secret, but it's reportedly a romance. Bardem reportedly plays a clergyman.

Filming: Shot last fall in Oklahoma, with various Austin crew members.

Next steps: Reportedly in post-production. Release date not set.

'September Morning' (tentative)

Writer-director: Chris Eska

Cast: Ashton Sanders and Tishuan Scott

Synopsis: It's a "Civil War era story of a fatherless boy sent to retrieve a wanted man under false pretense and the unexpected emotional bonds that form between them during their journey," producer Jason Wehling said.

Filming: Shot in January and February.

Next steps: Editing now, submitting to film fests in the fall and should premiere at some point in early 2012.

Background: "September Morning" is Eska's second feature after "August Evening," which won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards.

'Slacker 2011'

Directors: Multiple filmmakers include Bob Byington, PJ Raval, Karen Skloss and David and Nathan Zellner

Synopsis: Two dozen local filmmakers have teamed up with the Alamo Drafthouse and Austin Film Society to remake Richard Linklater's 1991 film "Slacker."

Filming: This spring in Austin.

Next steps: Austin Film Society will host a benefit screening Aug. 31 at the Paramount Theatre with Linklater in attendance.

'Beneath the Darkness'

Director: Martin Guigui

Writer: Bruce Wilkinson

Cast: Dennis Quaid, Tony Oller, Aimee Teegarden and Stephen Lunsford

Synopsis: Quaid plays a well-liked mortician who apparently has a secret serial-killing life.

Filming: Last year in Smithville.

Next steps: The thriller is slated to hit theaters Oct. 31, according to IMDb.com.

'Fourplay'

Director: Kyle Henry

Writer: Carlos Treviño

Cast: Austinites Paul Soileau, Cyndi Williams, Jose Villarreal, Gary Chason and Atticus Rowe and former Austinite Danielle Renee

Synopsis: " 'Fourplay' is a quartet of short stories in which characters' lives are changed by unusual sexual encounters," producer Jason Wehling said. "They touch on themes of connection, desire, shame, fear, love, spiritual healing and self-worth, and tonally, they span the gamut from sorrowful to comedic to downright filthy."

Filming: Shot in four production periods between December 2008 and December 2010.

Next steps: The fourth short is being edited now, and all four will be combined for release in spring 2012.

Background: Former Austinite Henry, who teaches at Northwestern University near Chicago, had his short "Tampa" screen at Directors' Fortnight during the Cannes film festival in May.

'Winter in the Blood'

Writers-directors: Alex and Andrew Smith ("The Slaughter Rule")

Cast: Chaske Spencer, David Morse, Gary Farmer, Julia Jones, Lily Gladstone and Dana Wheeler-Nicholson

Synopsis: Based on James Welch's novel of the same name, "Winter in the Blood" tells the redemptive story of a man who sets out in search for his wife and ends up involved in a dangerous smuggling operation that leads to a deeper discovery of self.

Filming: Shooting this summer in and around the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana.

Background: Alex Smith teaches at the University of Texas and is the creative director of the nonprofit UT Film Institute.

'Somebody Up There Likes Me'

Director: Bob Byington

Cast: Nick Offerman, Kevin Corrigan and Keith Poulson

Synopsis: It's a "deadpan fable about time sneaking up and swerving right around us," line producer Marla Quintana said. "Thirty-five years in the life of a man fumbling his way through unfulfilling but seemingly mandatory entanglements."

Filming: Currently filming.

Background: Offerman and Corrigan reunite with Austin filmmaker Byington for the follow-up to the director's indie hit "Harmony and Me."

'Portrait of Wally'

Director: Andrew Shea

Writers: Shea and David D'Arcy

Synopsis: "In 1939, Egon Schiele's celebrated painting 'Portrait of Wally' (1912), a beguiling portrait of the Austrian artist's red-haired mistress Walentina Neuzil, was seized by a Nazi from Lea Bondi, a Viennese gallery owner," producer Barbara Morgan said. "Nearly 60 years later, the painting surfaced on the walls of the Museum of Modern Art, triggering a historic court case that pitted the Manhattan district attorney, the United States Government and the heirs of Lea Bondi against a major Austrian Museum and MoMA."

Next steps: Film is in post-production and scheduled to finish in late July and will then be shopped for distribution.

Background: Shea is a professor in the Radio, Television and Film Department at UT.

'Spring Eddy'

Writer-director: George Anson

Cast: Gabriel Luna, Verity Branco, Blaise Miller, David Hickey

Synopsis: "It follows an ensemble cast of characters as they each struggle with their own shortcomings," said producer Barbara Morgan. "Through their interactions, the characters are presented with new possibilities, giving them the opportunity to change the course of their lives."

Filming: January and February 2011

Next steps: Austinite Mark Coffey is editing the film, which will feature a soundtrack composed primarily by local musicians. Producers say they hope to have local screenings of the film in late October.

'Doonby'

Writer-director: Peter M. Mackenzie

Cast: John Schneider, Robert Davi, Will Wallace, Jenn Gotzon and Ernie Hudson

Synopsis: John Schneider wrote last year on the Huffington Post: "I call it 'It's A Wonderful Life' without the Wonderful."

Filming: Summer 2010 in Smithville.

Next steps: A fall release has been planned.

'Seven Days in Utopia'

Director: Matt Russell

Writers: Rob Levine, Russell and Sandra Thrift

Cast: Robert Duvall, Lucas Black, Melissa Leo and Deborah Ann Woll

Synopsis: A struggling and hungry young golfer finds himself in a small Texas town where he falls under the guidance of a crusty old rancher.

Filming: Shot this spring in Austin, Utopia and Fredericksburg.

Next steps: Slated for a Sept. 2 release, according to the movie's official website.

Background: Russell makes his feature debut as a director. Based on David Cook's best-selling book "Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia."

'When Angels Sing'

Director: Tim McCanlies

Cast: Harry Connick Jr., Chandler Canterbury and Connie Britton

Synopsis: A family story about how the death of a brother forever changed the meaning of Christmas for one boy.

Filming: Shot in the Austin area earlier this year.

Background: Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson all makes cameos in the Elizabeth Avellan-produced film based on a 1999 book by Turk Pipkin.

'A Splice of Life'

Writers-directors: Mark Potts and Cole Selix

Cast: John Merriman, Heather del Rio, Madi Goff, Byron Brown

Synopsis: "When faced with failed relationships, slipping dreams and an unplanned pregnancy, three friends and movie theater employees must choose between the convenience of arrested development or the difficulty of growing up," producer Kelly Williams said.

Filming: Shot locally in February.

Next steps: The film is in rough-cut phase and should be completed by fall.

'Pictures of Superheroes'

Writer-director: Don Swaynos

Cast: John Merriman, Kerri Lendo, Shannon McCormick, Sonny Davis, Chris Doubek

Synopsis: "An out-of-work maid gets a job cleaning up after an overworked businessman and the aggressively messy roommate he's forgotten about, sending her into a surreal world of candy, insult comics and pretend marriages," producer Kelly Williams said.

Filming: Shot locally in January and February.

Next steps: In post-production with a goal of completion by fall.

'No Such Thing as Ghosts' (tentative title)

Director: Spencer Parsons

Writers: Aaron Leggett, Jory Balsimo, Jason Wehling

Cast: Ashley Spillers, Josephine Decker, Jonny Mars, Adam Tate, Paul Gordon

Synopsis: "A meddling gang of paranormal investigators and their dog get to the bottom of the ghostly stories surrounding an abandoned religious school," producer Jason Wehling said.

Filming: Filmed locally in April

Next steps: In editing, with plans for a fall premiere.

Background: Parsons, who recently left Austin and moved to Chicago, returned this spring to shoot this movie, which plays with horror conventions and stars an almost completely local cast.

'America's Parking Lot'

Writer-director: Jonny Mars

Cast: The Gate Six Tailgaters

Synopsis: "Two hard-core fans of the Dallas Cowboys struggle to re-establish themselves after their legendary 'Gate 6' tailgate ends with the closing of historic Texas Stadium," producer Jason Wehling said.

Filming: From the fall of 2007 through spring 2011.

Next steps: In editing, with hopes of a premiere late this year.

'Good Night'

Writer-director: Sean Gallagher

Cast: Jonny Mars, Adrienne Mischler, Alex Karpovsky, Chris Doubek

Synopsis: A group of friends reunites for a dinner party to celebrate a 29th birthday, but after a few drinks, the guest of honor makes a shocking revelation.

Filming: Mostly summer 2010.

Next steps: Film is being edited and should be ready for fest season beginning next spring.

'Parents Behaving Badly at an Eighth Grade Basketball Game'

(aka 'Days of Delusions')

Director: Scott Meyers

Writer: Asaf Ronen (Institution Theater)

Cast: Arthur Simone, Mallory Culbert, Bill Wise, Jonny Mars, Lucas Molendes

Synopsis: "Movie follows the story of Jimmy and Denise, two past lovers reworking the terms of their divorce agreement, the custody of their child, Kyle (which neither one of them wants), and his eighth-grade basketball season," says Meyers.

Filming: Filmed on location around Austin over seven days in March

Next steps: "Presently finishing a rough cut of the movie with the assistance of a generous grant from the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund," Meyers said. "We will also be creating an original soundtrack with local Austin musicians with the feeling of a high school marching band gone awry."

Background: Meyers premiered his first narrative feature, "The Ultimate Guide to Flight," at SXSW in March. He has worked as an assistant director and trained under directors Terrence Malick, Ron Howard and Robert Rodriguez.

'cancerpants'

Director: Nevie Owens

Cast: Rochelle Poulson and Julie Nielson

Synopsis: " 'Cancerpants' invites viewers into the struggles, losses, triumphs and joys of breast cancer to show how one of the world's most common illnesses affects not only those diagnosed but their family, friends and community as well," Owens said.

Filming: Shot from September 2009 to October 2010 and finished last month.

Next steps: Screenings on the festival circuit, including the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival in September.

Background: "Cancerpants" features Austin artists Suzanna Choffel, Carolyn Wonderland, Ghostland Observatory and many more. Owens worked as an assistant editor to Richard Linklater's longtime collaborator Sandra Adair on "Before Sunset" and edited "The Spirit Molecule," Mitch Schultz's documentary about dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which screened at the Austin Film Festival last year. Schultz serves as producer on "cancerpants."

'The Man From Orlando'

Director: Craig Elrod

Writers: Craig Elrod and Jason Newman

Cast: Newman, Alan Metoskie, Lee Eddy, John Merriman, Chris Doubek, Jonna Juul-Hansen

Synopsis: "Orlando, a lifeguard in the summer and gangster in the winter, abandons his life of crime and returns to his hometown of Priddy, Texas," producer Michael Bartnett said. "After he gets in over his head with his Olympic ex-girlfriend and a crew of volunteer firefighters, his former lifeguard gang comes after Orlando and the contents of his mysterious fanny pack."

Filming: Shot locally in the fall of 2010.

Next steps: The movie is being completed with plans to tour the festival circuit in 2012.

'An Ordinary Family'

Director: Mike Akel

Writers: Akel and Matthew Patterson

Cast: Troy Schremmer, Greg Wise and Janelle Schremmer

Synopsis: Two brothers (one straight, one gay) endure an awkward family vacation.

Background: Five years after his debut, "Chalk," Austinite Akel's second film made its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival this week.

'You Hurt My Feelings'

Writer-director: Steve Collins

Cast: Courtney Davis, Macon Blair, John Merriman

Synopsis: A man mourns his ex-girlfriend, tries to prove his maturity by acting as a nanny to two children and ends up in a love triangle with the woman he lost and her new boyfriend.

Background: The melancholy dramedy made its world premiere this month at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where it screened to positive reviews. All three actors are longtime collaborators with local filmmaker Collins.

'Zombex'

Writer-director: Jesse Dayton

Cast: Sid Haig, Malcolm McDowell, Corey Feldman and Lew Temple

Synopsis: To deal with the trauma of Hurricane Katrina, residents of New Orleans begin ingesting a drug that seems to turn people into zombies.

Filming: Parts of the movie filmed last month in Austin.

Background: Austin musician Dayton, who has a small acting part in Rob Zombie's "Halloween II," steps behind the camera for his directorial debut, which was inspired by an Alex Jones rant on the radio about pharmaceuticals turning people into zombies.

“Sushi: The Global Catch”

Director/producer: Mark Hall

Other crew: Sandra Adair, editor and associate producer; Catie Cacchi, editor; Brian Satterwhite, composer.

Synopsis: A documentary about the tradition of sushi and how it became a global phenomenon in recent decades.

Background: “Sushi” premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival this month and won a jury award for documentaries. The team hopes for a local premiere at the Austin Film Conference and Festival this fall.

modam@statesman.com

CORRECTION: This story gave the incorrect title of one of the films in production. The film is called "Somebody Up There Likes Me." The story also gave the wrong title for Maria Quintana. She is a line producer.