Preview This! Austin Film Festival Day 1

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Mike Mike has a degree in Film from The University of Texas at Austin. He has worked in the entertainment industry for the past 25 years and sees two to four new movies in the theatre a week. Mike has a weekly movie blog where he reviews films both present and past at:

lastonetoleavethetheatre.blogspot.com

He can be followed on Twitter @lastonetoleave

I had the privilege of attending the opening night ceremonies of the 19th Annual Austin Film Festival. The opening night film was David Chase’s “Not Fade Away.”  I was able to interview Mr. Chase on the Red Carpet about his directorial debut.  Mr. Chase is a writer/producer who is most known for his seven Emmy wins for “The Sopranos.”  “Not Fade Away” is his first theatrical film.

What was the inspiration for this film?

The inspiration for this was the rock and roll music between 1964 and 1968.

Not Fade Away

Source: Paramount Pictures

I know that the Rolling Stones are very important to you as you have used them in a number of your works – you have used them a lot.  Can you explain why they are so important to you?

Maybe you’ve heard that they are the greatest rock and roll band in the world.  That’s who they bill themselves as and they deserve the title, no doubt about it.  I respond to so much of what they put out as far as music.  I love the Beatles, the Beatles are amazing, but I don’t think the Stones get as much credit as they deserve.  Keith and Mick don’t get much credit as songwriters, not to the extent that the John Lennon and Paul McCarthy did.  The Stones are just a great band that put out great music.

What was it like working with James Gandolfini again, your old Sopranos partner in crime?

That was really good.  We had a lot of fun.  We hadn’t had a lot of fun on the last two season of the Sopranos, but we had a lot of fun on the movie.  He’s a great guy.

Thank you very much and I wish you success on the film.

My Review:  Not Fade Away  (2012)  It’s 1964, and America is being invaded by musical groups such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Douglas (John Magaro) and his friends are about to graduate from high school and decide to form a rock band with dreams of a record contract and playing to sold out venues.  Soon the boys find out that carrying out their dreams isn’t as easy as they thought as they end up having to play birthday parties and frat keggers just to get gigs.  The best part of this film is the music, which does a great job of giving the audience a sense of the great and groundbreaking music of the mid 1960s.  Magaro, as Douglas, gives a satisfying performance as an initially shy young man when given the center stage, grabs it with gusto, and is willing to take the lead singer position at almost any cost.  James Gandolfini plays Douglas’ father, who disapproves of his son’s career and lifestyle choices, but Gandolfini isn’t given much in the role to play.  He only gets to show some of his acting skills near the end of the film when he has a heart-to-heart with his son.  I found I was a little let down by the script, and it’s disappointing from someone who can write so well.  I feel I was never was pulled into the story.  It was as if Director/Writer Chase wanted to share with great music but wrote a story to just set up each song.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee

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I went the red carpet premiere of “Junk,” a film brought to the screen by the writing partners of Kevin Hamedani, who also directed the film, and Ramon Isao.  Both men are the stars, and basically play themselves as this film is based on their  experiences they had when they took their first film, “Zombies of Mass Destruction,” on the 2009 film festival circuit, including the Austin Film Festival.   I interviewed both Kevin and Ramon before the screening of the film.

You came out with a film in 2009 called “Zombies of Mass Destruction.”  That film played the film festival circuit, so is this film based on your experiences when you took that film around the country?

Kevin:  Yes, more or less.  We were here at the Austin Film Festival in 2009, showing our first film. Bringing your film to a film festival is a very surreal experience.  It’s kind of sexy and exciting, a mix of a lot of things.  But, it’s also about stuff such as when we were showing our film here, we were waiting outside for the Question and Answer session to start and we came up with the idea for this film, “Junk.”  But because we got so involved with coming up with the story, we almost missed our Q and A session.  When we went to make this film, we used that scene in the movie.

So tell us a little more about the film.

Ramon:  The film is about two friends who have made a “B” movie together but have had a falling out a while ago after their film just didn’t get picked up by anyone.  Finally a film festival takes the film and the two friends reconnect over a swirly, dangerous weekend where they are trying to pitch their movie to a legendary film producer.  It’s a film that’s all over the place.  I made the film, and I don’t fully understand it.

So you guys put your knowledge of film festivals to good use?

Ramon:  Yeah, this film is definitely about the festival experience, though the guys in the film have a lot of negative things happen to them, and I, personally, have never had a bad experience at a film festival.  But hey, it’s a movie and we needed conflicts and problems, so we took a little bit and ran with it.  But we love film festivals.

So this truly was one of those films where you write what you know?

Ramon:  Absolutely.  The entire time we were at the Austin Film Fest, we were pitching story lines back and forth.  We were constantly coming up with ideas that we thought would be funny.  We wanted  to kind of show the two sides of the festivals – how the filmmakers can be a little full of themselves, a little pompous. But at the same time we wanted to show how joyous the festival experience can be.

Your the director of this film,  but you are also one of the stars.  Is that hard to be a lead actor and the director of the same film?

Kevin:  Yes, I don’t recommend it.  That is unless you have millions and millions of dollars to be able to do numerous takes.

I’m going to ask you a line right out of the film.   What was the shooting schedule of the film?

Kevin:  It was shot over twenty four days in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York.

Did you actually shoot at film festivals?

Kevin:  No, we created our own fake festival, which was pretty easy to do.

You have a bunch of well known actors making cameos in this film.

Kevin:  Yes, we have a lot of cameos, with people playing themselves at a Festival, which they had a great time doing.  We have Brett Davern from MTV’s Awkward, Jake M. Johnson from New Girl, Scott Sanders who directed Black Dynamite, playing himself.  James Hong who was in Blade Runner and Big Trouble in Little China,  plays Yukio Tai, a filmmaker being honored at the festival. So the film nerds out there will appreciate this movie.

Was there a lot of improv in this film, especially with all the cameos?

Ramon:  Most definitely.  You have all these great actors with their A game, so you want to be able to let them bring something to the table with their improv.  We wanted to have the script be the bones of the film and then let the actors supply the muscle and the flesh of the film.

Did you enjoy making this film more than your last one, because it was based somewhat on reality?

Kevin:  I actually enjoyed making the first film more, only because I wasn’t in it.  I could sit back and literally sit down, watching on my little monitor all the action. But the flip side of it was, this film, unlike our first film which was an all out comedy, has a number of dramatic scenes, which was a nice change of pace.

Thanks guys and good luck with the film.

My Review:  Junk  (2012)  Two B-Film filmmakers, Kaveh (Kevin Hamedani) and Raul (Ramon Isao) have brought their film, Islama-Rama 2, to a small time film festival with the hopes of selling the film to a studio.  When the pair find out that legendary filmmaker Yukio Tai (James Hong) is attending the festival, they make it their mission, to deliver their script to him, at any costs.  This raunchy, funny film perfectly shows the strange and fascinating world of film festivals and all the characters that show up for them.  The two play off each other extremely well, with Kaveh playing the brash director who has a hard time talking to women, and Raul who is reluctantly dragged to the festival and quickly realizes that he will have to play babysitter to his friend.  This film doesn’t always hit its mark and sometimes the film drags a bit, but it’s still a fun ride in the world of film festivals.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee

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