Sophie Turner’s blond hair might be a “Game of Thrones” spoiler revealing the fate of the elder Stark sister.
At least, that’s what Maisie Williams, who plays the younger Stark sister, Arya, would have you believe.
“Her hair is still blond, so she’s dead,” Williams said during Sunday’s South by Southwest Conference panel with “Thrones” showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff.
Williams and Turner moderated the panel introduced as the “Holy Grail” of Game of Thrones panels. Williams’ theory came about while Benioff and Weiss griped about how the Stark sisters have a tendency to dye their hair between seasons.
Shooting for season seven has wrapped up, and the show’s penultimate season is set to premiere July 18.
But it was the beginnings of the show that concerned Turner and Williams as they asked questions of Benioff and Weiss.
Arya was the hardest character to cast, the show creators said. Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage were the only two actors picked before casting began. And Mark Addy was the only actor to impress so well on the first take that he became a shoo-in for Robert Baratheon.
Toughest character to kill? Jason Momoa’s Khal Drogo.
Speaking of, Momoa is rumored to reprise his role in the upcoming season. The speculation is fueled by Momoa’s Instagram photo of a much talked about bar outing with Benioff and Weiss.
But what hasn’t been publicized about their visit to the Belfast bar is a slap game Benioff had with Momoa that led to Benioff being taken to the hospital. After repeated slaps to the hand, Benioff said his hand swelled up and looked like a catcher’s mitt. “The doctors said ‘Your friend squished your hand.’ That was the medical term they used,” Benioff said.
“I thought, he’s big, but I think I’m quicker,” he said. “I’m not.”
And apparently the showrunners are practically George Clooney when it comes to pranks on set.
They once told Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) at one point that HBO thought he looked too much like a character out of Harry Potter for the gritty show. Their solution was to write a scene in which Snow’s hair is completely burned away and his upper lip permanently mangled.
“It was great acting by him pretending he wasn’t disappointed,” Weiss said.
Jill Soloway, the creator and showrunner of the award-winning Amazon TV series “Transparent, ” has some bad news for all you South by Southwest attendees: Networking is a fake tool. “I know at South by that’s not a very political thing to say,” Soloway said in her keynote Saturday. “I’ve seen a lot of networking going on; in fact I recognize that networking is really just day drinking.”
Most of Soloway’s speech focused on gender issues in filmmaking and in society in general. She conducted what she called a “feeling, body experiment” to explain what it means to grow up female. The men of the audience stood up, and photos of boys were projected on the screens of the Convention Center hall; Soloway described a childhood where you’re always complimented for your looks, how cute you are in certain clothes, how it feels to be adored. But it’s a world where the leaders of the world are all female, and God is female; you, as a man, don’t look like them. You can dream of being anything, you’re told, but they never tell the girls that — maybe because they are already everything, Soloway said. “Doesn’t it feel good, guys, to just be admired all day long?” Soloway said. “But it’s also your job, besides being beautiful, to make sure women don’t have sex with you. It’s your job to say no.”
Later, Soloway did a similar exercise for the women, to describe what it’s like growing up being praised for what you can do and accomplish, living in a world where leaders all look like you and male bodies are available for you to worship.
So, why aren’t their more women directors? “Patriarchy, studios, men, white men… Bell Hooks calls it ‘dominator culture,” Soloway said. “I heard this thing on a podcast …a woman named Eula Biss talked about opportunity hoarding. That white men are hoarding opportunities for people like them. I wouldn’t blame them. Directing’s really fun; why wouldn’t you hoard it?”
“One of the biggest things I learned when I became a director was that directing is about desire,” Soloway said. “There is nothing you do, no two words you say more as a director, than ‘I want.'”
“So, if there’s nothing more connected to directing than desire, what happens when we live in a culture that for women, desire is shamed?”
Soloway goes for a fluid feel to shooting scenes. “We imbue the actors with a feeling of ‘this is real,'” she said. The scenes are set up, and Soloway tries to direct without taking away from the moment. “There is nothing worse for taking people out of their bodies than yelling ‘action!'” she said.
Soloway also talked about the need to take up space — to claim your space, your right to be there.
“For women, for people of color, for queer people, for gender nonconforming people, for anybody who feels that they have been ‘other,’ we’re taking a step to claim our subjectivity when we grab that camera. And sometimes just that movement from object to subject can be so impossible. And we don’t even realize that. That’s the psychological, that’s the spiritual that’s underneath this political question of why aren’t there more female directors.
“Saying ‘I want’ when you’re raised to the be object of somebody else’s ‘I want’ upends their subjectivity, and what we’ll get is a negative response.”
Soloway said she’d love to make a “post-matriarchal-revolution virtual reality” movie so that people could experience what it would be like to have reversed gender roles. But ultimately, as we see a broader spectrum of possibilities, and not just male versus female, perhaps the idea of gender isn’t so clear cut.
“You can talk about gender regarding the present and the past, but when I look at what’s going on in the White House right now, and what’s happened to this thing called masculinity, I know there are a lot of men who say, ‘That is not me.’ That masculinity is not me. And that there are beautiful ways to be masculine, and there are powerful ways to be a man, and there are beautiful ways to see and be seen that belong to both genders”
The common factor between the two films (besides plots, budgets and profitable box office receipts) is a production studio: Pure Flix Films.
The Scottsdale, Ariz.-headquartered Christian film production and distribution company was founded in 2003 by David A.R. White and Russell Wolfe. The studio’s credits include the “God’s Not Dead” franchise, “Do You Believe?” and the 1970s-era high school football movie “Woodlawn.” Upcoming releases include the Lee Strobel biopic “The Case For Christ” and October’s “Same Kind of Different As Me,” a true story about a Fort Worth art dealer, his wife and the homeless man they befriend.
The company recently got in the streaming business. The Pure Flix app was released in 2015 and is available on Android, iPhone, Roku and Amazon and can be used via Apple TV or Google Chromecast. The streaming service itself is free for one month, then jumps to $7.99 after that. As of this writing, there’s almost 6,000 titles available on the site, all of which boast “no language, sex or violence surprises.” The selection includes most of Pure Flix’s catalog, as well as other faith-based films, TV series, documentaries, sermons, Bible studies and home-schooling materials.
“It’s all based on what the consumers respond to, and it’s all about what we can bring to them through all the different formats,” Pure Flix Digital CEO Greg Gudorf said. “Actually, one of the strongest markets we have is Houston, and Dallas is one of our biggest home-school material markets.”
Last year, faith-based films made almost $137 million worldwide, according to Boxofficemojo.com. Like the horror film genre, the Christian film genre has proven a lucrative formula: Built-in loyal fan base + small budget + reaffirming stories – sex, language and violence = profit.
And this year will see the release of “God’s Not Dead 3” as well as a smattering of other faith-based entertainment. “The Shack” opened at No. 3 last weekend to the tune of $16 million. “The Case For Christ” opens April 7 and is poised to further help Pure Flix’s brand. But what about their streaming service? Is it any good?
I have watched a pretty steady diet of Christian media along with secular media all my life. I was raised on stuff like “McGee and Me,”“Adventures in Odyssey” and “Psalty the Psalm Book” as well as Disney movies and any action or comedy film I could get my hands on. And I’ve always been fascinated by the divide between secular and Christian media, and why both seem to be diametrically opposed to one another. Is it possible to make good Christian entertainment that appeals to everyone, not just Christians?
I set out to find an answer to this question last week when I picked seven pieces of content from Pure Flix’s streaming service to watch. Some were great, most were OK, and some were really bad — just like any streaming service. A majority of the films and TV shows I watched were produced by Pure Flix, but most of the content on the site is licensed content from other studios.
I live-tweeted my experience @jakeharris4 every night, and I detailed the first night of my #PureFlixWeek in a previous blog post. “New World Order: The End Has Come,” the first film I watched, was a low-rent “Left Behind”-type film rife with inconsistencies and a blindsiding ending. It’s in the “most-watched” category, and it was not made in association with Pure Flix. Its “most-watched” status leads me to wonder if the target audience is indeed preparing for the end times. If so, they would be better off reading the Bible than watching this film, which implies that the Mark of the Beast will look like the Wu-Tang symbol and the Antichrist will be Hispanic.
About that target audience — Gudorf told me the company’s main audience is evangelical Christian-focused.
“Our bullseye is typically an evangelical Christian household, yes. But the command we were given was not to just minister to evangelicals; it was to minister to all. And so we have a pretty interesting mix, not just the single view of one particular denomination. And our customer information reflects that kind of broad basis, from people who are Catholic, Protestant, even Jewish. Yes, it’s faith content, but it’s also family content.”
That target audience was clearly in mind for the second film I watched, the Pure Flix produced and distributed “Do You Believe?” In this Christian version of “Crash,” the paths of 12 people all collide together after a pastor meets a sidewalk preacher played by Delroy Lindo (here in the “mystical Negro” trope) who helps him clarify what exactly he believes about Jesus. Other characters include Sean Astin as an atheistic doctor who could have only been written by someone who has only been around angry atheists (“I’m the one who saves people, yet they thank Jesus”), Brian Bosworth as a reformed convict, Lee Majors as a man grieving the loss of his daughter and Shwayze as a gangster trying to do the right thing (side note: there are four black main characters in this movie; half of them begin the film as criminals).
And Sean Astin's character is a religious person's view of an atheist: "I'm the one who saves people, yet they thank Jesus." #PureFlixWeek
Oh, and if you thought “Crash” didn’t have any subtlety, consider this: Sean Astin’s doctor is named Thomas, as in Doubting Thomas. He refuses to believe it when Bosworth comes back to life after flatlining for eight minutes. And in a movie that insists on spelling out its themes for its viewers, Thomas is the only character left with an ambiguous faith at the end.
That’s not to mention the many ways “Do You Believe?” cribs from the “Crash” playbook, including an end sequence that calls to mind the Matt Dillon/Thandie Newton crash scene from that movie. It’s even worse when you remember that Dillon’s cop sexually assaulted Newton earlier in that film and he’s rescuing her later not out of any compassion but because it’s his job. This theme is handled in “DYB?” by allowing a Christian paramedic to rescue the lawyer who previously prosecuted him for administering the sinner’s prayer to a dying patient instead of any sort of aid.
Lest I sound like I’m relentlessly bashing the film, it did make me think hard about the ways I portray my Christian faith to the world and inspired me to live it better. That’s the point of the film, but I could have gotten that message without seeing multiple characters die simply as a service to the film’s convoluted plot and to the film’s main (Christian, mostly white) characters.
So, as Day 2 of Pure Flix Week came to a close, I was impressed with the app, but I wasn’t feeling too impressed with its content. But then I watched “The Encounter.”
“The Encounter” is one of Pure Flix’s first original series. It’s based on a series of films that share the same name. In them, a mysterious man simply referred to as “The Man” shows up to help people out of whatever bind they may be in. It’s later revealed that the Man is Jesus.
The pilot episode is about an amateur convenience story robbery gone wrong, carried out by two brothers and some friends. “The Man” here appears as the store’s clerk. He helps one of the brothers realize the error of his ways, and that influence spreads to the rest of the robbery crew. The 30-minute episode ends with one of the brothers preaching about his conversion to Christianity in a prison chapel.
On Day 4 I watched a second episode, “U-Turn,” which established “The Encounter” as an anthology show. In this episode, a high-profile lawyer attempting to leave her small hometown after an argument with her mom at her dad’s funeral ends up on a car ride with the Man and someone who I think the audience is supposed to believe is the devil. During the car ride, the lawyer comes to grips with her father’s loss and her mother’s grief at losing a husband and a daughter (to the big city). It also ends on a happy note, with the lawyer and her mother reconciling.
I found both episodes to be immensely watchable and not too preachy. Despite some casual sexism in the second episode (why is it always female characters who are punished for having jobs “in the big city” in Christian entertainment?), both were well-done and executed their premises in challenging ways. At one point, the Man offers a riff on Mark 8:36, emphasizing the importance of treasuring human relationships.
A good twist on Mark 8:36 here: "What good will it do if you save the world but lose your most important human relationships" #PureFlixWeek
For Day 5 of Pure Flix Week, I watched a game show. “It Takes a Church” is a Game Show Network-produced series hosted by Christian singer Natalie Grant. Grant travels to different churches across America in search of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. The catch? All of the potential matches for each contestant must come from their church.
I could write an entire thesis on this concept and how, in attempting to create “‘The Bachelor,’ but for churches!,” the show ends up being no better than the reality TV it’s trying to ape. But I will leave that for another time.
Day 6 saw a sermon from Bayless Conley, a pastor at Cottonwood Church in Orange County, Calif. Pure Flix’s streaming service offers several Bible studies and sermons from a variety of sources. This sermon focused on ways to improve your relationship with God if you feel stuck. It was a great way to start my morning, and I found the message to be inspirational and challenging as well as biblically sound.
I watched that sermon on the Pure Flix iPhone app, which worked better than Netflix’s iPhone app at some points and was extremely user-friendly. That’s thanks to Gudorf, who said the company just revamped the app a few months ago and worked out a lot of bugs.
On Day 7, the final day of my week with Pure Flix, I watched “Woodlawn.” The film was produced and distributed by Pure Flix and brought in a little more than $14 million on a $12 million budget, according to Boxofficemojo.com.
The inspirational sports film centers on the true story of Birmingham, Ala.’s Woodlawn High School in the early 1970s. Integration was just starting to take effect, and head coach Tandy Gerelds is tasked with coaching his first integrated football team. Superstar black tailback Tony Nathan ends up becoming the team’s secret weapon on the field, and Sean Astin’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chaplain becomes the secret weapon off the field. Oh, and Jon Voight shows up as Bear Bryant.
This film could very easily have become a “Remember the Titans”-meets-Christianity mashup (indeed, the similarities between the two films are numerous), but it succeeds because the message that unity through a shared belief in Christ crosses through all color lines is deftly dealt with. It doesn’t preach, and it lets the Christian actions of the characters come naturally through their actions, unlike in “Do You Believe?” And Astin’s chaplain is just as convincing as his atheist doctor.
Throughout this experience, I kept thinking about the Christian music genre in my teenage years. The common refrains of “Oh, if you like Blink-182, you’ll love Relient K,” or “Switchfoot is a great band, but they’re also Christian, so that’s better!” rang hollow to me then, and they still do today. I was always confused: Why can’t we have both/and, not either/or? The divide between secular and Christian media was meant to offer a safe haven from the perils of the world I was supposed to be of, but not in. Instead, it turned many people of my generation away from the saccharine messages of Christian media and caused us to search for something that felt real and not merely an attempt to Christianize what Hollywood was doing.
So, for this experiment, the parallels became clear the more I watched. Do you like “Left Behind” or other post-apocalyptic films? Watch “New World Order.” Did you enjoy “Crash” but don’t want to deal with the racism or the explicit language? Then “Do You Believe?” is right up your alley. Does “The Bachelor” make you squirm, but do you still want to see a representation of what love should be? “It Takes a Church” it is, then.
And yet, there are still great strides being made in Christian media. The primary purpose of films like the ones Pure Flix offers is to be reaffirming to the faithful. And those films are doing that in a number of ways. “Woodlawn” makes a point about sports being a unifier, and “The Encounter” encourages Christians to look in the mirror and confront their own selfish choices. As a streaming service and app, Pure Flix is top notch, and better than its competition in some regards (looking at you, HBO Now app).
But if the film studio is to expand to become one that can minister to non-Christians, the programming must get better at creating its own original stories and stop simply mining secular entertainment to create pale imitations of other films. Christians, especially young ones, can spot that type of in authenticity a mile away. For Christians looking for a service that promises family-friendly entertainment that will lead to conversations, Pure Flix is a great investment. If you’re not in that target market, however, you might not want to wade into these waters. But that’s a shame, too, because there is some genuinely entertainment here. You just have to know where to look. Just like Netflix.
What would Jesus watch? Maybe Pure Flix, dubbed the “Christian Netflix” by many viewers.
The Scottsdale, Ariz.-headquartered Christian film production and distribution company was founded in 2003 by David A.R. White and Russell Wolfe. The company’s biggest hit to date is “God’s Not Dead,” which made almost $61 million on a $2 million budget, according to IMDb.
Pure Flix is also the studio behind that film’s sequel, as well as “Do You Believe?” which could be described as a Christian version of “Crash” starring Sean Astin as a cynical doctor. Upcoming releases include the Lee Strobel biopic “The Case For Christ” and October’s “Same Kind of Different As Me,” a true story about a Fort Worth art dealer, his wife and the homeless man they befriend.
Pure Flix also offers a streaming service not unlike Netflix, or Hulu, or HBO NOW. The service is free for one month and then jumps to $7.99 after that. It’s available on Android, the Apple App Store, Roku and Amazon. The site advertises “thousands of titles” with “no language, sex or violence surprises” in any of its content, which includes movies and TV shows in genres like faith, education, shorts, kid’s choice and sermons and ministry. Sample titles include the aforementioned “Do you Believe?,” “Saved By Grace” and “Revelation Road.”
The service allows Christian parents the ability to control what their kids are watching without worry, and that’s a big deal in today’s cord-cutting world where entertainment is available at the click of a button. And for those so inclined, many of the films offer an opportunity to discuss matters of faith with your family.
But many of these films have very low or nonexistent Rotten Tomatoes ratings and (at least in my case Wednesday night,) look to be made on shoestring budgets in an attempt to relate a message that would comfort the intended audience but alienate possible converts. I’m a Christian, and I have always been curious about why there has to be a divide between “Christian” film and “secular” film, and why there’s such a tension between the two.
The movie paints a not-very-bleak picture of a post-Rapture America as a place where the Mark of the Beast looks a lot like the Wu-Tang Clan logo, the Antichrist is the only Hispanic man in the film and people pronounce the final book of the Bible as “Revelations” with an “s” (if you’re going to make a movie about the book of the Bible that talks about the end of the world, at least copy edit).
Apparently in this world when the Tribulation happens, life goes on as normal- school, haircut appointments, etc. #PureFlixWeek
The plot follows young Demi and Christen, two friends who were not raptured with everyone else and are living out the earth’s last days after Supreme Chancellor Lord Aldo Deluca has been Satan-resurrected after he is assassinated while trying to broker a peace treaty in the Middle East. Or something. The movie’s explanation for the Rapture is never too clear, content to throw around words like “Iran” and “assassination-by-hire scheme” to explain why the bad guys are here.
By the end of the movie, Demi and Christen must choose whether to be branded with the Mark of the Beast or be martyred for their beliefs. There’s not a lot of room for subtlety in this movie, so you can guess which one is martyred and which one takes the easy way out. I don’t recommend it unless you want to relive your childhood memories of watching really bad Tribulation-themed movies in Sunday School (or maybe that’s just me, I don’t know). It would make a great candidate for the “How Did This Get Made?” podcast. If you really want to find out what happens, check my Twitter feed.
So while my first viewing experience with Pure Flix wasn’t pleasant, I’m keeping an open mind. I’ll be watching and live-tweeting“Do you Believe?” tonight, using the hashtag #PureFlixWeek. And if you or someone you know uses Pure Flix’s streaming service, send me a message or comment on this article- I’d love to know your thoughts!
Central Texas recently got some good news that AMC will start filming the new series based on Philipp Meyer’s “The Son” here this summer. But there’s one troubling development regarding another longtime project that started in Austin.
Robert Rodriguez, who has been shooting his El Rey Network series “From Dusk Till Dawn” at his local Troublemaker Studios, has decided to begin filming season three of the popular show in Albuquerque, N.M.
The new season will have 10 hour-long episodes with a returning cast of D.J. Cotrona, Zane Holtz, Jesse Garcia and Jake Busey.
The new season will follow the travails of the Gecko brothers who have to fight their way through vampire empires in Texas and New Mexico.
Rodriguez has long been a proponent of shooting in Texas, and most of his films have been shot here. But the Texas Legislature has cut funding for the film incentives program overseen by the Texas Film Commission, and New Mexico’s program is more alluring, in financial terms.
Burt Reynolds hosting “Smokey and the Bandit!” Manga zombies! Robert Klein!
The South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival announced Tuesday the Midnighters, the 13 Festival Favorites, shorts programs and special events for the 23rd fest, which runs March 11-19.
They also threw in a few last-minute bookings in other categories for good measure.
Comedian Doug Benson (of “Doug Loves Movies” fame) and Master Pancake will celebrate St. Partick’s Day with a swing at “Leprechaun 4: In Space.”
Also look for a restored print of Eagle Pennell’s “Last Night at the Alamo as well as three nights of free film screenings outside the Long Center, screenings that are open to the public with free SXSW Guest Pass available at guestpass.sxsw.com:
A 10th anniversary screening March 12 of Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel’s LARP documentary “Darkon” paired with a 30th anniversary screening of John Heyn and Jeff Krulik still-brilliant “Heavy Metal Parking Lot”
Burt Reynolds introducing an outdoor screening off “Smokey and the Bandit” March 13
A “Family Night Under The Stars” with a screening of episodes from the brand-new Powerpuff Girls cartoon series March 14
The Midnighters (read: genre films — thrillers, sci-fi and horror) will feature 12 films, including six world premieres.
As far as shorts go, SXSW programmers selected 114 short films from 4,784 submissions. SXSW is an official qualifying festival for the Academy Awards Short Film competition.
Winners of Best Animated, Best Narrative and Best Documentary Short Film categories become eligible for Oscars, while British short film or British short animation that screens at SXSW is eligible for BAFTA nomination.
The jury awards ceremony is March 15 at the Paramount Theatre.Awards will be given for Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature and Design, along with a few special awards.
All feature film categories (except Special Events) will be eligible for category specific Audience Awards. Those will be announced March 20.
The year is 1978. A team of wannabe crooks botch a small-town bank heist and flee with their hostage deep into the California desert, where they find themselves in a harrowing fight for survival against a psychotic ex-military sniper. Cast: Ashley Bell, Pat Healy, Alan Ruck, Darby Stanchfield, Larry Fessenden, Graham Skipper, James Landry Hebert, Michael Villar
“Hush” Director: Mike Flanagan, Screenwriters: Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel
A deaf woman is stalked by a psychotic killer in her secluded home. Cast: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr, Michael Trucco, Samantha Sloyan (World Premiere)
“I Am a Hero “ (Japan) Director: Shinsuke Sato, Screenwriter: Akiko Nogi
Japan’s first major zombie movie based on a blockbuster manga series! Cast: Yo Oizumi, Kasumi Arimura, Masami Nagasawa (U.S. Premiere)
“Jack Goes Home” Director/Screenwriter: Thomas Dekker
After his father is killed in a car crash, Jack travels home to Colorado to help nurse his mother (who was injured in the crash) back to health. There, he uncovers long buried secrets and lies within his family, his friends and his very identity. Cast: Rory Culkin, Lin Shaye, Daveigh Chase, Natasha Lyonne, Louis Hunter, Nikki Reed, Britt Robertson (World Premiere)
“Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word” Director: Simon Rumley, Screenwriters: Ben Ketai, Marc Haimes, Tony Giglio
When a young man is executed for committing murder, he leaves behind a curse letter in which he promises to take vengeance on all those connected to his trial. Cast: Sean Patrick Flanery, Erin Cummings, Devin Bonne, Mike Doyle (World Premiere)
“My Father Die” Director/Screenwriter: Sean Brosnan
A young deaf boy avenges the death of his brother, and the killer happens to be his father. Cast: Joe Anderson, Gary Stretch, Candance Smith, Kevin Gage, John Schneider, Gabe White, Ross Britz, Michael Francis Murphy, William Mark McCullough, Frances Reagan James (World Premiere)
“Pet” Director: Carles Torrens, Screenwriter: Jeremy Slater
A lonely man fatefully reunites with a former high school classmate. When she spurns his advances, he takes her prisoner, only to find that she is not what she seems. Cast: Dominic Monaghan, Ksenia Solo, Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Parsons, John Ross Bowie, Da’Vone McDonald, Janet Song (World Premiere)
“PHANTASM: Remastered” Director/Screenwriter: Don Coscarelli
Filmmaker J.J. Abrams and his company Bad Robot have undertaken a meticulous 4K restoration of writer/director Don Coscarelli’s beloved horror fan favorite about a young boy confronting the embodiment of death in the form of the sinister “Tall Man.” Cast: Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester
“Under the Shadow” (Jordan, Qatar, UK) Director/Screenwriter: Babak Anvari
As a mother and daughter struggle to cope with the terrors of the post-revolution, war torn Tehran of the 80s, a mysterious evil begins to haunt their home… Cast: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Arash Marandi, Ray Haratian, Hamid Djavdan, Nabil Koni
“Untitled Fede Alvarez/ Ghost House Thriller” Director: Fede Alvarez, Screenwriters: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
A group of teens break into a blind man’s home thinking they’ll get away with the perfect crime. They’re wrong. Cast: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Stephen Lang (World Premiere)
A few more Festival Favorites
“Cameraperson” Director: Kirsten Johnson
Exposing her role behind the camera, Johnson reaches into the vast trove of footage she has shot over decades around the world. What emerges is a visually bold memoir and a revelatory interrogation of the power of the camera.
Six men on a fishing trip on a luxury yacht decide to play a game to compete. Things will be compared. Things will be measured. Songs will be butchered, blood will be tested. Friends will become rivals and rivals will become hungry. Cast: Yorgos Kentros, Panos Koronis, Vangelis Mourikis, Makis Papadimitriou, Yorgos Pirpassopoulos, Sakis Rouvas
“Free In Deed” Director/Screenwriter: Jake Mahaffy
Free in Deed depicts one man’s attempts to perform a miracle when a single mother brings her young boy to church for healing. Cast: David Harewood, Edwina Findley, RaJay Chandler, Kathy Smith
At the age of 34, Steve Gleason was handed a death sentence. When doctors diagnosed him with ALS, they gave the former NFL defensive back and New Orleans hero two to five years to live. So that is what Steve chose to do – LIVE.
“The Greasy Strangler” Director: Jim Hosking, Screenwriters: Jim Hosking, Toby Harvard
Ronnie runs a Disco walking tour with his son, Brayden. When a sexy woman takes the tour, it begins a competition between father and son for her love. It also signals the arrival of an oily strangler who stalks the streets at night. Cast: Michael St Michaels, Elizabeth De Razzo, Sky Elobar, Joe Walters, Gil Gex, Abdoulaye NGom, Sam Dissanayake, Holland MacFallister
“Hunt For The Wilderpeople” (New Zealand) Director/Screenwriter: Taika Waititi
Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a defiant city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle (Sam Neill) in the wild New Zealand bush, in this hilarious and heartfelt adventure from director Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows). Cast: Julian Dennison, Sam Neill, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley, Rhys Darby, Stan Walker, Cohen Holloway, Mike Minogue, Troy Kingi
“Morris from America” Director/Screenwriter: Chad Hartigan
Morris From America is an endearing, heartfelt coming-of-age comedy about Morris, a 13-year-old African-American boy who has just moved to Heidelberg, Germany with his caring but troubled single father. Cast: Markees Christmas, Craig Robinson, Carla Juri
“Newtown” Director: Kim A. Snyder
Newtown documents the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history. A cast of characters within Newtown and beyond interconnect to weave an intimate story of trauma, grief and community resilience.
“Operation Avalanche” Director: Matt Johnson, Screenwriters: Matt Johnson, Josh Boles
In 1967, four undercover CIA agents were sent to NASA posing as a documentary film crew. What they discovered led to one of the biggest conspiracies in American history. Cast: Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Josh Boles, Ray James
“Presenting Princess Shaw” (Israel) Director: Ido Haar
Presenting Princess Shaw is the true story of the incredible Princess Shaw and the enigmatic composer Kutiman, who discovers her from the other side of the world.
“Richard Linklater – dream is destiny” Directors: Louis Black, Karen Bernstein
Richard Linklater – dream is destiny is a feature-length documentary on the filmmaker Richard Linklater and an unusual look at a fiercely independent film style that emerged from Austin, Texas in the 1990s.
“Sing Street” (USA/Ireland) Director/Screenwriter: John Carney
A boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980s escapes his strained family life by starting a band and moving to London. Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Mark McKenna, Maria Doyle Kennedy
“Trapped” Director: Dawn Porter, Screenwriters: Dawn Porter, Sari Gilman
Trapped follows the clinic workers, women, and lawyers on the frontlines of the battle as they fight to keep abortion safe and legal across the US for millions of poor and uninsured women caught in a political quagmire.
Two 24 Beats Per Second titles
“Robert Klein Can’t Stop Shaking His Leg” Director: Robert Klein
A hilarious and heartfelt look at the career and influence of comedy legend Robert Klein. (World Premiere)
“Sidemen – Long Road To Glory” Director: Scott Rosenbaum, Screenwriters: Scott Rosenbaum, Jasn Cadic
An intimate look at the lives and legacies of piano player Pinetop Perkins, drummer Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith and guitarist Hubert Sumlin, all Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf sidemen. (World Premiere)
Dali and her 8-year-old son Pepe take a vacation with Dali’s boyfriend, Chavez. Instead of bringing them closer, their beach holiday brings out things in each of them that threaten to pull this emerging family apart. Cast: Anajosé Aldrete, Tenoch Huerta, Esteban Ávila (U.S. Premiere)
And one more Visions film:
“Boone” Director: Christopher LaMarca
A unique sensory and unsentimental peek beneath the veil of the Utopian dream of farming. Stripped of interviews with farmers or agricultural experts, a sense of time and place serve as a meditation on the gritty reality of three young goat farmers. (World Premiere)
And here are alll the shorts!
A selection of original, well-crafted films that take advantage of the short form and exemplify distinctive and genuine storytelling.
Director/Screenwriter: Jay Rondot
A homespun cocaine dealer takes to social media to expand his operation, but things don’t go as planned. (World Premiere)
Markus is in an institution for young sex offenders. His only friend inside is the unpredictable and violent Tobias. (North American Premiere)
Crooked 180 (Netherlands)
Director/Screenwriter: Kevin Boitelle
A young skateboarders summer with endless possibilities and an approaching ending. (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Javian Ashton Le
Harpreet and Emily drive to New York days after 9/11 (World Premiere)
Ernestine & Kit (UK)
Director: Simon Bird, Screenwriters: Simon Bird, Kevin Barry
A darkly comic fairytale about two elderly women who travel the countryside of rural Ireland, imagining the terrible, immoral lives people are living today. Their one consolation is the innocence of children… (World Premiere)
The First Men
Director/Screenwriter: Benjamin Kegan, Story by: Stacey Richter
An overextended teacher bumps into a troubled student while at the mall with her mom. (World Premiere)
Director: Paul Briganti, Screenwriters: Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe
In this dark comedy of manners set in a surreal world, meticulously-coiffed soccer moms Jill and Lisa vie for perfect children, perfect husbands, and most importantly, perfect teeth. (North American Premiere)
Her Friend Adam (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Ben Petrie
A boyfriend’s jealous impulse spirals out of control in 16 minutes of romantic doom.
Het Geluk (Belgium)
Director/Screenwriter: Jan Van Dyck
One evening, 38-year-old Frank returns to his quiet residential house where his family has organized a surprise birthday party. (North American Premiere)
Hip Hip Hooray
Director: Lizzy Sanford, Screenwriters: Lizzy Sanford, Anna Cordell
Harry breaks up with his girlfriend on his 30th birthday, moments before discovering she has thrown him a surprise birthday party.
Director/Screenwriter: Yianni Warnock
Shannon cooks dinner whilst speaking to a perverted stranger online. Andrew takes a bath wrapped in seared Christmas lights. What could possibly shock this estranged couple from their malaise? (World Premiere)
A struggling performer stumbles upon a real-life version of the character she plays in this doppelgänger rom-com.
Director/Screenwriter: Jim Cummings
Officer Arnaud loved his mom.
Director/Screenwriter: Frankie Shaw
After becoming pregnant from sexual assault on campus, a young woman goes on a journey to find out if the rape was ‘legitimate.’
Victor XX (Spain)
Director/Screenwriter: Ian Garrido
What would happen if you didn’t feel comfortable with your body? What if you decided to experiment with your gender?
Where You Are
Director/Screenwriter: Graham Parkes
When Jen’s son disappears in a game of hide-and-seek, she unwittingly embarks on a journey through time in order to find him. (World Premiere)
Woman in Deep
Director/Screenwriter: Janicza Bravo
A woman struggles to make it through her birthday in one piece. (World Premiere)
Slices of life from across the documentary spectrum.
Alive & Kicking: The Soccer Grannies of South Africa (South Africa/USA)
Director: Lara-Ann de Wet
A story that brings to life the struggle of grannies in South Africa through the game of soccer. (World Premiere)
Another Kind of Girl (Jordan)
Director/Screenwriter: Khaldiya Jibawi
17-year-old Khaldiya meditates on how the refugee camp has opened up new horizons and given her a sense of courage that she lacked in Syria.
Bacon & God’s Wrath (Canada)
Director: Sol Friedman
A 90-year-old Jewish woman reflects on her life’s experiences as she prepares to try bacon for the first time.
The Black Belt
Director: Margaret Brown
In September 2015, Alabama closed 31 DMVs, which largely impacted voters in Alabama’s Black Belt. To combat these closures, the Secretary of State issued a Mobile Voter Registration unit, which traveled to every county to issue voter IDs. (World Premiere)
Director: Terri Timely
An aesthetically lavish portrait of a “reborn” artist who strives for maximum verisimilitude in her creation of newborn baby dolls. (World Premiere)
Director: Garrett Bradley
At the intersection of internet popularity and economic gain a booming industry grows in Bangladesh based on Likes. (World Premiere)
Love Bite: Laurie Lipton and her disturbing black & white drawings (UK)
Director: James Scott
No one on the planet has drawn more than Laurie Lipton. Armed with only a pencil, her haunting images seek answers to the most uncomfortable themes in our culture. But what compels her to live a life of isolation drawing is neither black nor white. (World Premiere)
Miss Me: The Artful Vandal
Director: Mohammad Gorjestani
Renowned Montreal street artist, “Miss Me”, gives us an unprecedented inside view into her life and her quest for self-liberation and authenticity, as she uses her art to take aim at the objectification of women in advertising. (World Premiere)
Directors: Annie O’Neil, Jessica Lewis
Due to treatments for his stage 4 cancer, Phil can only dream of walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. He does the next best thing: he builds a Camino behind his house and along the way he learns his true pilgrimage is the one he travels within. (World Premiere)
Directors: Leah Galant, Maya Cueva
Restrictive laws, such as HB2 in Texas, threaten abortion providers and force clinics to shut down or hire out-of-state practitioners. Some abortion doctors, such as Dr. Shannon Carr, travel hundreds of miles to provide legal and safe abortions.
These C*cksucking Tears
Director: Dan Taberski
The gritty, fearless voice behind the world’s first and only gay-themed country music album, 40 years after its release. (World Premiere)
The Vodou Healer
Director: Lucy Walker
In post-earthquake Haiti, Vodou healer Katy leads a captivating and cathartic all-night ceremony. (World Premiere)
An assortment of stories told using traditional animation, computer-generated effects, stop-motion, and everything in-between.
Accidents, Blunders and Calamities (New Zealand)
Director/Screenwriter: James Cunningham
A father possum tells his kids a story about the most dangerous animal of all – humans! (World Premiere)
David Gilmour – “The Girl in the Yellow Dress” (UK/USA)
Director: Danny Madden
Paris, 1961—The “it” girl walks into a jazz club, imaginations run wild.
Deer Flower (Republic of Korea)
Director/Screenwriter: Kangmin Kim
Deer Flower is a stop motion and 3d printed film following elementary student, Dujung and his parents. Dujung drinks rare food and suffers side effects.
Director/Screenwriter: Nina Gantz
A funny and dark story of a man with cannibalistic urges who travels back through his life, looking for the root of his unhappiness.
Directors: Alex Sherwood, Ben Harper, Sean Mullen
A shipwrecked fisherman is led to a dark secret within this short thriller. (World Premiere)
Directors: Alexa Lim Haas, Bernardo Britto
The true story of a glove that has been floating forever in space since 1968.
Director/Screenwriter: Rose Stark
A man, infected, runs for his life.
Director/Screenwriter: Réka Bucsi
LOVE is a short film describing affection in 3 different chapters, through an impact on a distant solar system. (U.S. Premiere)
Pombo Loves You (UK)
Director: Steve Warne, Screenwriters: Josh Blaaberg, Steve Warne
A distant father is forced to confront a heroic but troubled past life as the 1980’s TV show character Pombo.
Directors: Daniel Cloud Campos, Spencer Susser
A damsel in distress gets undressed when a man from the Midwest puts to rest a world that’s obsessed with “the priceless,” also known as “the shiny.”
Director: Conor Whelan
A story of fleeting love at a house party.
Things used to be hidden (Germany)
Director/Screenwriter: Tara Mercedes Wood
Things used to be hidden is a mockumentary about the aftermath of a disaster which caused everyone to loose their perception filters. Various characters tell us how they feel about their new lives. Is knowing it all really what we want? (North American Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Kelsey Goldych
A cat that likes to knock over trashcans. (World Premiere)
Director: Becky James
An oblivious Snake and his neighbor, Butterfly, come to life on a vocabulary worksheet. (World Premiere)
Bite-sized bits for all of your sex, gore, and hilarity cravings.
An Arms Length (UK)
Director/Screenwriter: Max Weiland
God couldn’t be everywhere, so he created mothers.
Battlefield Casualties (UK)
Director: Price James, Screenwriters: Darren Cullen, Price James
Battlefield Casualties is a Veterans For Peace UK Film challenging the British Army’s policy of recruiting 16-year-olds into the most dangerous army jobs.
Don’t Tell Mom (Japan)
Director: Sawako Kabuki
A nocturnal education film, designed to help children develop their emotions and expressions as well as language and physical skills by enjoying singing and exercising with a big brother.
Eat My Shit (Spain)
Director/Screenwriter: Eduardo Casanova
Samantha has an anus instead of a mouth. Everyone picks on her but she just wants to be normal.
Director: Brian Lonano, Screenwriters: Brian Lonano, Victoria Cook, Kevin Lonano
A disgusting love story between Man and Goblin.
Director: Simon Cartwright
When Glen attends primal scream class, he releases something from deep within that knows no limits.
Night of the Slasher
Director/Screenwriter: Shant Hamassian
A ‘shot-in-one-take’ slasher film about a teenage girl who must commit horror movie sins by drinking alcohol, doing drugs, and having sex in order to lure a masked killer and exact revenge.
Director: New Media Ltd , Screenwriters: Mike Anderson, Ryan Dickie, Abigail Horton
The Night Stalker gives you poisoned to go container of food and you turn to clay and go to another dimension!!!
Director/Screenwriter: Calvin Lee Reeder
An unassuming man is forced to endure a strange experiment.
A Reasonable Request
Director: Andrew Laurich, Screenwriters: Gabriel Miller, Andrew Laurich
A desperate son reconnects with his estranged father to ask an unspeakable favor that will change their lives forever.
Director/Screenwriter: Zach Lasry
There comes a point in every young man’s life where he must rise to the occasion or admit defeat. For Seth, impressing his father is his only goal, his greatest test, his Everest. Today is the day.
The Smiling Man
Director/Screenwriter: A.J. Briones
A little girl home alone finds herself face-to-face with pure evil.
Directors: Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman, Screenwriters: Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman, Scott Yacyshyn
A teenager’s trip to the clinic becomes freakier than usual when she learns that something supernatural is involved. (World Premiere)
A range of classic, innovative, and stylish work showcasing the scope of music video culture.
Childish Gambino – “Sober”
Director: Hiro Murai
Dillon Francis – “Not Butter”
Director/Screenwriter: Brandon Dermer
DJ Carnage feat. Tomas Barfod – “November Skies”
Director/Screenwriter: Saman Kesh
Earl Sweatshirt – “Grief”
Director: Hiro Murai
Elliot Moss – “Pattern Repeating” (Norway)
Director: Daniel Howlid
Flying Lotus – “Coronus, the Terminator”
Director: Young Replicant
Fur Voice – “Fantasia” (Spain)
Director/Screenwriter: Pablo Maestres
Joywave – “Somebody New”
Director: Keith Schofield
Leftfield & Sleaford Mods – “Head and Shoulders” (UK)
Directors: Casey Raymond, Ewan Jones Morris
Lorn – “Acid Rain”
Modestep – “Rainbow” (UK)
Director: Jamie Delaney
Naughty Boy ft. Beyoncé and Arrow Benjamin – “Runnin’ (Lose It All)” (UK)
Directors: Charlie Robins, Julie Gautier
Robin Schulz – “Sugar (feat. Francesco Yates)” (Germany/USA)
Director: Zak Stoltz
Rudimental – “I Will For Love” (Belgium)
Director: I Owe Youth
The Shoes – “Drifted” (France/USA)
Director: Dent De Cuir
The Shoes ft. Blaine Harrison – “Submarine” (UK/USA)
Director: Karim Huu Do
Son Lux – “Change is Everything”
Director: Nathan Johnson
Tussilago – “Waltz” (Sweden)
Director: Maceo Frost
Vance Joy – “Georgia” (Australia)
Director/Screenwriter: Luci Schroder
Vince Staples – “Señorita”
Director: Ian Pons Jewell
Yvein Monq – “Twun” (Hungary)
Director: Kinopravda, Screenwriter: Viktor Horváth
An offshoot of our regular narrative shorts program, composed of work shot in, about, or somehow relating to the Lone Star state.
Director/Screenwriter: Yen Tan
A dying man seeks out a beauty consultant to hide his symptoms. (World Premiere)
Director: Brianna Barsalou
An exploration of the lifestyle and challenges faced by those who are transgender through the lens of one individual, Blair.
Joan on the Phone
Director/Screenwriter: Kayla Abuda Galang
Joan delivers an overzealous apology in a series of voicemails. (World Premiere)
The Mink Catcher
Director: Samantha Buck, Screenwriters: Marie Schlingmann, Samantha Buck
Dallas, Texas, 1980: A gossip columnist hunts down Dallas’s new First Lady to unearth the truths underneath her legendary mink coat.
Director/Screenwriter: Augustine Frizzell
Two teen girls scheme their way out of work to spend a day at the beach. Things don’t go as planned. (World Premiere)
Directors: Ivete Lucas, Patrick Bresnan
Emboldened by a giant block party on the evening of their high school prom, a group of students enters the night with the hope of transcending their rural town and the industrial landscape that surrounds them.
The Superlative Light
Director: Ben Steinbauer, Screenwriters: Ben Steinbauer, Robert Shults
Documentary photographer, Robert Shults, went from being a homeless dreamer to a home-owning artist after taking photos of the brightest light source in the known universe, a laser in basement of the physics department at UT. (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Steve Collins
An I.T. employee discovers a shameful secret during a routine printer malfunction. (World Premiere)
Director: Darius Clark Monroe
Locked inside the mind and memory of Dr. Mtangulizi Sanyika, he reflects what it means to be part of the displaced New Orleans population in Houston.
TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL SHORTS
A preview of the next filmmaking generation, as Texas High Schoolers present shorts of 5 minutes or less.
Always With You
Director/Screenwriter: Jonathan Schuette
Emotionally struggling to prepare for a funeral, a teenage boy receives crucial encouragement from his father.
The Ambition Song
Director: Ian Chapoy
An animated interpretation of “The Ambition Song.”
The Archer Hadley Story
Directors: Ben Root, Alex Treviño
The Archer Hadley Story follows Archer Hadley, a senior student who has cerebral palsy as he hosts the Wheelchair Challenge fundraiser in hopes of buying his school automatic doors.
Directors: August Grau, Devan Prabhakar
Two artists of different style interpret the same landscape.
Badi’ Al Zaman
Director/Screenwriter: Arhum Khan
Badi’ Al Zaman is a story about a musician’s experiences that go into constructing his art, and with all the content, he can’t help but think you never really feel him, because you don’t hear his words, you probably watch them.
Director/Screenwriter: Zoe Allen
You might think you are enjoying your coffee, but what if someone is enjoying you?
Directors/Screenwriters: Francisco Alvarez, Linda Robledo
A young man contemplates suicide while drinking heavily, never leaving his room, due to his survivor’s guilt over a previous incident that inadvertently killed his loved one.
Directors: Devan Prabhakar, Matthew Theilman, Screenwriter: Devan Prabhakar
The world is filled with distractions, and one boy is engulfed by social distractions.
DoubleDVE – “Endeavor”
Director: Gilbert Giles-Sosa, Screenwriter: Daniel Vango
Taking back hip-hop from the mainstream.
Director/Screenwriter: Delaney Alexander
A Dragosaur doesn’t need anyone’s help in claiming the largest nut he has spotted for himself, especially a pesky Dragoroo. It soon finds that even the smallest critters can be the biggest help.
Good Night Lizzie
Director/Screenwriter: Kriti Narayanan
A group of women have sinister plans for an abusive father and his daughter.
Directors/Screenwriters: Autumn Grounds, Andrew Fleming
In the dramatic short film Hello, Lawrence Kelly, a suicidal boy, meets a girl named Eden, and without even knowing it, she singlehandedly saves his life.
Director/Screenwriter: Jonah Goldberg
A girl is put through a series of trials to join a group of apocalypse survivors.
Director/Screenwriter: Evan O’Brien
Haunted by his past, a tortured boy turns to KATHAROS, a dream therapist to help him overcome his trauma.
Lady of Paint Creek
Director/Screenwriter: Alexia Salingaros
A woman, trapped in a society of mindless ritual and minimal emotion, must find it in herself to escape — and face the consequences.
Director/Screenwriter: Remy Dunagan
A girl with insomnia sees a figure during a sleepless night. Was she dreaming?
Memories Upon Memories
Director: Geoffrey S. Glenn, Screenwriters: Dominique Coleman, Geoffrey S. Glenn
When a man’s reality is questioned, he goes on both a mental and physical journey looking for answers.
Mischief & Mayhem
Director/Screenwriter: Isabelle Hodge
A mischievous fairy intercedes between a girl and her crush.
Of Gods and Bells
Director/Screenwriter: Alexia Salingaros
A unique exploration of the hidden, magical world of classical Indian dance in a seemingly modern and suburban environment.
Out of Reach
Director: Max Wilson, Screenwriters: Kyria Seitz, Brad Kowalski, Max Wilson
An animator on a tight deadline just wants take a sip of his hot chocolate and continue working. Unfortunately his computer and his reaching tactics conspire against him.
“Everybody Loves Raymond” and “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” creator Phil Rosenthal chatted with legendary television creator Norman Lear about Lear’s life and experiences in television during the Austin Film Festival Saturday at the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel.
The panel began and ended with standing ovations for Lear, who was responsible for tackling then-taboo subjects including race, gender and abortion in his 1970s situation comedies.
Lear, wearing his trademark hat, discussed his childhood and subsequent family life, and told Rosenthal that he had been a humor writer for his high school newspaper. His column was called, “Notes to You from King Lear.”
“Did somebody encourage you to do that? “ Rosenthal asked?
“No,” Lear replied. “Nobody ever encouraged me to do anything.”
He later became a shadow writer for social columnists at New York City newspapers, feeding them humorous items. If his material got laughs, he said, he never got to hear nor enjoy them.
A sobering segment about Lear’s moral crisis in the military, where he flew in 52 missions bombing Berlin in a B-17, led to lighter anecdotes about Frank Sinatra and, eventually, the genesis of “All in the Family.”
Lear was working on Martha Ray’s live, musical television program when he discovered that filmed programs that could be rerun, such as “I Married Joan,” were potentially very lucrative. He picked this up from a friend who wrote on that program and was going through a divorce. All his ex-wife wanted, he told Lear, were his “Joan Allen reruns.”
“There was more excitement in live television, but for good reason, I wanted to do a situation comedy,” Lear said.
Eventually, he discovered the British television comedy “Til Death Us Do Part,” which focused on a father and son who fought about political issues. “My father called me the laziest white kid he ever met,” Lear recalled. When Lear would try to educate his father about the racial problems with such statements, his father would respond that his son was also “the dumbest white kid he ever met.” So the material resonated with him.
Lear made a pilot, “And Justice for All,” in which future “All in the Family” icon Carroll O’Conner played a character named Archie Justice. His future television wife Jean Stapleton also starred. The pilot was never made into a series, but the network wanted it remade in a year so it could keep its option on the property. Lear recalls shooting the exact same script two more times with different actors. Finally, a regime change at CBS led to the series being picked up as “All in the Family.”
“At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you,” Lear told the crowd, quoting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “I take credit for casting those four people, but can take no credit for what developed after that. The chemistry was glorious from the start and got more so in every episode. That was a gift from the gods.”
When Rosenthal told the crowd that Lear’s trailblazing was largely responsible for his own success, Lear humbly replied, “We all walk in on the shoulders of others.”
Rosenthal noted that because of the importance we place upon “All in the Family” in the history of television, we tend to forget how funny it is. This led to a discussion of the famous episode guest-starring Sammy Davis Jr., the first toilet flush heard on television and the transvestite character to whom Archie administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in his cab.
The subject of taboo topics led to the discussion of Lear’s spin-off, “Maude,” and the episode centering on abortion. Lear noted that when the episode first ran, there was nary a peep, with the exception of perhaps a few complaint letters.
“But when show went into reruns, the religious right — the far right, the crazies that now compose the tea party — knew the show was coming on,” he said. They showed up in force with banners and laid down in front of cars in protest.
“I didn’t understand I was expressing a point of view, because I was defending the comedy we were trying to do,” Lear told the audience, noting that all of the shows were filmed in front of live audiences he was attempting to entertain. At some point, he said, he realized that if the biggest problems faced by characters on shows that preceded his was that “the boss was coming to dinner and roast was ruined,” well, that fact was also sending a “wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling message” — that everything was fine and dandy in America. At that point, he began to embrace his platform.
This resulted in Lear proudly winding up on Richard Nixon’s enemies list, which Lear discovered as a result of Nixon’s infamous tapes. A seven-minute segment of the recordings, Lear said, found the President bemoaning an episode of “All in the Family” with Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman. In that episode, Carroll O’Connor’s bigoted Archie Bunker learned that one of his favorite athletes, a pro linebacker, was gay.
“These were his words,” Lear said: “we were ‘making fun of a good man (Bunker).’ ”
As usual, Rosenthal was a great interviewer and the perfect choice to guide the 93-year-old Lear through the discussion even if, at times, Lear appeared uncomfortable with the adulation.
“You’re wet,” Lear told Rosenthal, explaining that he’d long ago decided people fit into one of two categories: dry or wet.
“If you’re dry, there are no hugs You’re brittle; flaky. If you hug someone who’s a dry person, you could get cut on their body,” Lear joked. “Wet people are huggable and warm. And you’re soaking wet.”
“In many ways that I don’t even want to go into,” Rosenthal replied. “Norman Lear, you made my life better.”