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Heavy Load play out Brit Doc 2008
This doesn't really do justice to a wild performance

Heavy Load

I'm just back tired and emotional from BritDoc 2008 & I can definitely report that the festival is much more fun when your film is not playing! This year I was able to see more stuff, concentrate on what was being said/shown and enjoy responding to the question of 'what are you working on next' with 'a film about cat breeding' ... which caused most 'networking' pressures to evaporate ...

My absolute top recommendation would be a co-SXSW film from this year 'Heavy Load - A film about happiness', which I was excited and nervous to see. It didn't disappoint, I loved the film & you can't help but love a band who cover Kylie & the clash & wrote a song in tribute to George Michael 'Gay at weekends'.

Visit their website for more info & sign up for screening info when it's released in the UK - you won't regret it. The image to the right shows the band singing with the producer & director at the closing party.

It reminded me of Bata-ville in a funny way, and how moved I was by the experience of making it, and the commitment of many of the films 'characters'. Bata-ville has been called 'a sad film about hope', in many ways Heavy Load is a sad film about happiness, it obviously had as big an impact on the director as Bata-ville and its participants had on Karen & I.

The other film I saw was Man on Wire ... also a cinema visit you won't regret, although at a festival focussed on composers & music, it was shame to see a film with such a miserable off the shelf top-classical-hits sound track. For me it spoiled an otherwise top notch film.

Other highlights were my 'surgery' with Danielle DiGiacomo of Indiepix & an extraordinarily helpful hot housing session (we BritDoc grantees get extra special treatment) with the forthright Documentary Doctor Fernanda Rossi. The woman is an advice power house, I could see why you might end up paying her to Skype you with exec. feedback!

Chubby frugger at SXSW

We tried to go see Brit band Black Mekon who one of Animal Monday knew, we missed them but enjoyed these guys and their lone fan.

Summercamp! showed at the beautiful Paramount
One of Austin's collection of unique cinemas

Summercamp! & Kentwell

We wrapped up our SXSW stay with one of our festival highlights Summercamp! (which sadly I can't track down a website for, as it had a lovely animated credits sequence I was hoping to see on the web). The directors Bradley Beesley & Sarah Price are obviously friends of SXSW, and had apparently run a development session about the film at a previous conference - which sounded interesting.

Anyway they and the film received a warm reception, including the rather goofy intro they did leading the audience in a camp song! The film is really nicely shot, and you feel very close to both nature and the kids portrayed. I won't give the plot away but let's just say of the 100 kids there they picked two of the best to follow - especially the heart breakingly quirky Holy Stevenson.

We were especially interested in the film as it's obviously a 'walled city' doc in the same way as our film about Kentwell will be - or indeed as the Bata-ville bus was. At the final Q&A we were all ears for how they'd dealt with parental consent (97/100 kids parents agreed) working with the camp hosts etc. Anyway an enjoyable film - if it makes it to the UK go along and transport yourself back to cubs/brownies.

Sadly our day went rather down hill once we departed on a delayed flight from Austin, I won't bore you with the details but let's just say American Airlines will not be the future Somewhere airline of choice. We eventually managed to crawl back to London via Chicago & Manchester just in time to unpack our Tudor costumes for the first Kentwell open day.

This is where everyone who wants to attend this years main re-creation event has to go along to Kentwell for the day and queue! For lunch, costume checks, Tudor nicknacks, and the infamous interviews with Patrick - head of the 21st century Kentwell Hall. These interviews dictate both your acceptance and your role - and no one is excused - hence our decision to detour to Manchester rather than miss the event.

So we made it, and it was fun to see everyone we met last year ... Somewhere is still on schedule to shoot the crazy 'Kentwell Summercamp!' that is the Tudor re-creation.

Our Somewhere @ SXSW film festival snaps are now available for the curious in the background section of the site.

Please don't make us sing the Summercamp! song ...

Darkon bling
Can it buy me a movie distribution deal?

'Darkon' bling

Apparently our fave movie to date 'Darkon' won the best documentary feature audience prize last night so big congrats to them. We have met a few of this tenacious team , who hung out with a group of Baltimore fantasy role players for over a year to make the movie. The DoP, unusually, a woman, said hi at the screening and I have to say her work in the film is one of its most memorable aspects..... The Darkon players themselves have a few of their number here at the festival, and though apparently contentious with some of their group, they seem to be taking a huge pride in the film. The 'president' of Darkon gave me this momento - the currency of Darkon - but how many margaritas can it buy?!

..or should I say 'Bannor'?

We've found the thrift stores

Pre-screening yesterday we caught the free (yes even public transport seems to be free in 'easy' Austin) tram down to SOCO (?) and hit the goldmine of thrift and fancy dress stores as well as a mexian brunch ... Animal masks apparently a speciality.

Austin Convention Centre

Helping to keep Austin Weird ...

“Keep Austin Weird” apparently the city’s by-line and a damn sight more inspiring than the usual “Cumbernauld – better than you might have expected” style catch-phrase towns in the UK are often lumbered with.
Yesterday we did our bit to live up to the challenge and it certainly paid dividends – if you want to promote your film here make friends and meet people I can’t recommend dressing up in a uniform highly enough!
We began yesterdays tour of town with the fantastic Darkon screening (hopefully more of which with more time) which we managed to squeeze into, sadly having to miss the very end to head out of town for a slightly surreal interview on the Austin Movie Show (hence the outfits).
Then it was back to town via Kinkos (unbelievably we seem to be the only people who could come to SXSW without thinking to bring a poster!) and into the plexi-glass SXSW studio at the convention centre. Here, we were interviewed by the totally delightful Lya who has been somewhat of a champion for our film, her relaxed style and sheer enthusiasm made the interview a breeze.
Thinking we’d pop straight out for a much needed drink then head back to change, we began the nights party trawl. Kindly chaperoned by the charming Michael Saleman (hot off the apparently sell out legal panel!) we then drifted on for the rest of the night from one party to the next ending up at the Austin Chronicle event, bemused and almost hoarse from the amount of shouting we’d been doing in response to an endless stream of what felt like genuine interest into what we’re doing here and why the hell we were still dressed up as “air hostesses”!
What’s amazing to me is that in the massive crowds here it is possible to meet the people who run the festival (I put faces to the whole crew I already knew from email yesterday) but also the people who’ve made the films you really want to see. On the N&K wish list we had Darkon, Summercamp! & Danielson: A Family movie … last night we managed to meet the team/directors of all of them … only Lifelike to go! As a bonus we also had an interesting chat to one of the directors of Cruel and Unusual, like many of the other Directors here about our age she works as part of a collaboration working together in a way that maybe undoes some of the pre-conceptions people might have of the lone auteur/director behind most movies.
Anyway we had a fantastic time last night talking not just about films, but Austin and US/UK culture. If this is Austin Weird … Bata-ville likes you this way.


these are the delgates bags just for the music section!

Rock on Darkon

Well it feels like we're getting into the swing of SXSW and Austin now ... but it is big and somewhat impersonal feeling compared to Edinburgh. Everything related to SXSW seems to be packed (queues for parties etc.) whilst generally the streets of Austin seem to be rather oddly deserted, save for flocks of strange black birds roosting in the trees at night, making some otherworldly noises.
Spent most of yesterday in a glut of docs. related panels, 'influential' doc commissioner spotting!
In the evening we went to check out the Dobie cinema where our screening is tomorrow, then post curry (the staple somewhere meal) we headed for the Darkon party.
Obviously we are pretty interested in Darkon so in an uncharacteristic way (for someone British) Karen just went straight for it and asked the SXSW staff to point the crew out, so we had a really interesting chat with Brad the film's editor (unless he was also a very good role player!) obviously a man of great patience judging by how long the edit apparantly took.
We also got to meet the 'president' of Darkon himself, which made for a really interesting comparitive chat about UK vs US re-enactment scenes.
So all in all a good night ... I just hope we can get in to actually see Darkon today ... we're going to look pretty odd in the queue as we'll be wearing our uniform from Bata-ville ready for our Studio SX session straight afterwards!

The crazy sprawl of Dallas airport

Tired in Texas

Well we're here ... not sure how with it we are, but we're here. Just about to head off into Austin to find the conference centre & event. Post weird self-cook waffle breakfast and of course laying awake since 4.00 am with jet lag! Main concerns to date: leaky hotel iron = bata-ville uniform problems, unexpected humid weather = wardrobe & hair probelms!

We caught a little of Austin last night though and it looks crazy - I felt a bit like we were eating in a Disney 'America' theme park. SXSW is obviously a BIG deal here ... it's on the telly, in the papers, and almost everyone we see has a SXSW badge around their neck - the game is to guess if they're 'interactive', 'film', or 'music' ... black-logo-t-shirts seem to span all three categories.

Yee-ha! SXSW here we come

After a busy afternoon at the launch of our new web project Sometime Later ( at the Hospital in London, the suitcases are packed and tomorrow morning we head to Austin Texas for the North American premiere of 'Bata-ville'.
Our usual thorough research - an evening with a glass of wine surfing the website - has yielded a fantastic personalised calendar of events to pack our 5 days with, over and above our 2 screenings (2:00 PM, Tuesday March 14th - Dobie & 4:30 PM, Thursday March 16th - Dobie for any of you in Texas)
Otherwise we have no idea what to expect - stetsons, tortillas, pools?!
By funny coincidence Belle & Sebastian are playing in the music part of the festival - one of the band, Stevie Jackson plays on our flm soundtrack - but due to my brother Sean sorting all that side of things out - we haven't yet met!