Maryland Film Fest Wrap Up -or- Yeah, I’ll Continue to Produce Movies

It’s now officially been a year since I upped the ante and started doing film full time. Oddly enough, the Maryland Film Festival, which takes place in May, accurately marks this decision. Last year, ST. NICK screened at the festival and I flew in from Huntsville, Alabama. Upon my return, I immediately packed my belongings and drove back to the Clear Lake Area. Partly due to the fact that I wanted to be closer to my sweetheart and partly because the passion for selling storm restoration services (yep, that’s what I used to do) had completely fizzled out and died. Since then, I haven’t looked back.

This year, EARTHLING, LOVERS OF HATE and MY MOM SMOKES WEED all screened in Maryland. One of the coolest filmmaker hangout festivals in the country, the Maryland Film Festival knows how to show its filmmakers a good time. This year, I got in early enough on Thursday to enjoy some of the sights in the Mount Vernon Historic District before slamming headfirst into films and parties. Strolling through the historic square, I took a gander at the (original) Washington Monument and ducked into The Walters Art Museum before meeting up with friends (including fellow Houstonian, Kelly Sears!) for a relaxing dinner where I sampled famous Maryland crab cakes and cream of crab soup.

As most of you know already, I’m quite a food lover; and Maryland certainly delivers. Golden West Cafe once again catered “Tent City”―the center of festival happenings―where the filmmakers lounge and most importantly, where all the eats and drinks are located. Nonstop complimentary made-to-order food and drink service from around noon to nine is always a plus. I believe I engulfed three rare buffalo bacon burgers in three days. Other complimentary food opportunities included smoked salmon and mussels at the filmmakers’ champagne reception and a gluttonous feast of good ole’ fashioned barbequed brisket at the closing night party.

Along with gorging myself, I happened to catch some really great films as well. The screenings of my films all went really well and the response during Q&A was positive. Maryland is a noncompetitive festival and totally laid back, so it’s a really great forum to hang out with other filmmakers and see lots of films you haven’t had a chance to check out. I used this festival to play catch-up and see some films by friends or acquaintances of mine that I hadn’t had a chance to catch at Sundance or South By Southwest.

DADDY LONGLEGS, a film by Josh and Benny Safdie―ultra-DIY filmmakers with no concern for things like permissions or permits―premiered at Cannes and stars fellow filmmaker and friend, Ronnie Bronstein, as Lenny, a father who’s mastered the art of making life as difficult as possible. Needy, helpless and downright impossible to deal with, DADDY LONGLEGS takes us through a short annual two week period where this completely devoted yet utterly hapless father has custody of his two kids. Most intriguing is the fact that Lenny’s character is based on the Safdie’s real-life father. And so, the film is both a subtly empathetic character study and a disturbingly sentimental portrait of a reckless and irresponsible individual. Distributed through IFC Films, DADDY LONGLEGS is currently in theaters and on demand.

Also picked up by IFC was Aaron Katz’ COLD WEATHER, which bowed at SXSW this year. Katz is often attributed to the esoteric genre “mumblecore.” Sort of a filmmakers and industry only club, mumblecore describes naturalistic, highly improvised low-budget films that started popping up at SXSW circa 2005. COLD WEATHER marks a different approach to the oddly coined genre in that it’s shot beautifully on the RED ONE and mixes in a mystery element, giving the film a richer, more intense, feel. At the same time, the mystery element is really, and brilliantly, beside the point―this film is really dealing with personal relationships of “mumbly” twenty-somethings.

Austin filmmaker and mumblecore actor, Mark Duplass stars in MARS, a film by UT professor Geoff Marslett. MARS is an animated feature about a group of laid back astronauts on a mission to land on the red planet, MARS, amidst a world who doesn’t really care about space travel anymore. An ominous tale of what’s to come; basically, it’s pretty darn close to the world we live in now. With Kinky Friedman playing himself as the President of the United States and quirky sub-genius characters playing highly-skilled astronauts, the film is definitely Austin-based. Marslett actually developed the method of animation used in the film. The film has not yet been acquired.

After leaving Maryland this time around, I was greeted at the airport by my sweetheart and we drove home to Kemah. In an weird sense of justification for the choices I’ve made, I’ve recently become attached to several other projects coming up throughout the year. Even weirder, however, is the fact that AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK, which premiered earlier this year at SXSW, will be having its hometown premiere in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center this month; while the company I represented doing storm restoration is also currently in Chicago selling exterior services after a hailstorm ravaged the northwest suburbs. I’m really not sure what that means; but I am certain I’m too busy to worry about it.

Originally Published in The SCENE Magazine – June 2010

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