Entering our fifth year as an Austin film and theatre community resource and service, I need to reflect humbly, and give some serious credit where it is due. We started as both a film and actor resource, and would not exist had it not been for the members of the Actors Alliance and Film Alliance of Austin in the late 90s. Our initial clan emerged from that pool of energy, so we've been about both filmmaking and acting.
Trant Batey and the late Don Phillips Jr. kept the Alliance organizations alive until late 1999 when the two groups eventually dissolved. The community was left with unfulfilled needs, though there was no clear path as to how to satisfy or clearly identify those needs. In an effort to keep communication channels open within that segment of the film community, Trant maintained a Film News e-mail list. He was respected for his ability to disseminate and distribute information in useful form via e-mail to filmmakers and actors long after the Alliance organizations ceased to exist. On March 1, 2000 I built and launched austinactorts.net to add a web component to the same community, so we engaged everyone on that list to jump on board with the website.
Trant's Film News e-mail list, and subsequent inclusion in austinactors.net's infrastructure, kept the community of film activists in touch with each other-- with crew calls, screening announcements, and special event notices.
Screenings were a regular part of our first two years of austinactors.net meetings (2000-2001) because at that time I was living in an apartment complex that had a big screen TV in the rec room. We met monthly, did the usual round of introductions. People brought food or something to drink. Then we cracked up laughing to film and video.
Credit goes to all of the filmmakers and actors who were regular or periodic attendees of our screenings and mixers over the last four years. Members of our group were also members of DFRG, Reel Women, the Austin Film Society, Cinemaker (now Motion Media), Flicker, and so on. Friendships turned into collaborations, and the end result is a group of filmmakers and actors forming cross-organizational bonds, keeping the projects alive-- just going out and getting it done.
We were also in the right place at the right time, so we also give credit to serendipity.
Actors and Filmmakers saw our meetings as an opportunity to show works they did, and many filmmakers were actors themselves. Low budget digital Indie filmmaking became a tool for actors to learn the trade from both sides of the camera.
You never knew what would happen at one of our meetings because they were so free-form, but we were often pleasantly surprised. Kirk-O-Matic would show up with his latest camera toy, and wow us with demonstrations. One time Kirk-O-Matic and I did a DV firewire-to-firewire transfer from the front seat of his car in front of Pro Tape on South Congress. To the casual passer by, it probably looked like a shady business deal going down. I digress.
Ms. Bubbette was a regular attendee before moving out of Austin, and usually brought the best snacks. After four years under the penned name of Ms. Bubbette, she has finally revealed her true identity in her March 2004 contribution. Check it out.
On the website, Trant continued maintaining Film News, and Michele Déradune (actor and regular column contributor to austinactors.net) stepped up to the plate as our lead Editor for the article submissions. Michele's service has been steady since near the beginning. She has great suggestions, and continues to show support for new ideas. We don't have an organizational structure defined, but she's really 2nd in command. Sharon Cave worked as editor the first two years, and remains in touch.
Nick DiCenzo and Jermeny Denzlinger regularly logged into various sections of the site to remove the garbage postings from the site, and were regular attendees at the meetings. Jeremy moved to LA, and Nick went to Utah. They still log in now and then. Roger Kunshick donated time with a piece of Perl script for the web, and attended regularly.
Dan Eggleston, or "capydan," started his own extras casting list in 2001, so we ran our two service projects in tandem. We linked to Dan and his lists, and he linked back to our casting/crew-call announcements on austinactors.net. We thank him for announcing our meetings and events on his list. His e-mail list has grown into a very large indie casting resource, though the austinactors.net website has different filtering criteria based on our core audience and focus. There is something for everyone in both projects.
We thank our guest speakers.
Our guest speaker list from the last 18 months (June 2002 to March 2004) includes:
- Casting Directors: Beth Sepko, Gary Chason, Donise Hardy, Jo Edna Boldin
- Acting Coaches: C.K. McFarland, Michael Costello, Mona Lee, Marco Perella
- Filmmakers: Sidney Brammer, Kat Candler
- SAG Houston Pres. John Borrowman
- Talent Agents: Jeff Nightbyrd, Barbara Gray, Liz Atherton
- Reel Women's Sherry Mills
Featured writers in the site number over 50, so I won't name them all; however, it is fun recalling that the true but funny stories written by Marco Perella monthly for this website over the course of two years became chapters in his gut-splitting hilarious book "Adventures of a No Name Actor."
The honestly selfish motive:
Starting the website was a way to stay in the loop by harnessing a local energy pool that was starting to dissipate, and to at least get something going for me and some friends while I was finishing grad school. The web made it possible to keep people hooked up outside of classes, and also not be locked into limiting channels of information.
Necessity motivated this project too. Others and I longed for a community site where we could see all the Indie, UT and Filmworks audition notices without having to go grab a paper. Anyway, that was late 1999/2000-ish.
What indie filmmakers will sometimes say:
They will say things like, "yeah, I cast my entire film off your site in just days. When I needed to recast within 24 hours, it was a snap." Or this one I've heard more than twice, "The Director of Photography on my film bailed three days before the shoot, and I got one just in time by posting on your site." (really, it happens more than you may think)
That is a prime example of how we are a community service. For all of you out there who are big on branding, that is the example that brands our group. We also tell stories, and hook people up.
Thank you Austin, and let's have fun moving forward. Film is making a huge comeback in Austin. Let's go grab it.