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Lone Star Stars Shine Brighter At SXSW

Local talents, once ghettoized, gain traction at indie showcase

For years, Texas films were the last thing people wanted to see at South by Southwest, to the extent that local directors begged fest programmers not to put them in the Lone Star section. Fest director Janet Pierson abolished the sidebar in 2012.

A year later, Texas-tied pics are burning up the circuit, including such high-profile titles as Austin-based Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight” and David Gordon Green’s “Prince Avalanche,” shot in the wake of forest fires that ravaged Bastrop State Park.

Ten films with strong Texas ties screened at Sundance this year, seven of which will continue on to SXSW, where they join a dozen more Texas-connected pics. According to Pierson, SXSW received no fewer than 47 Austin-made submissions this year — proof that the local scene has blossomed in a big way.

When SXSW founder Louis Black launched the event’s film festival in 1994, the event had a distinctly regional focus, bringing world-class independent film to local audiences, while providing a platform where Texas filmmakers could share their work. But the bar of entry often seemed lower for locally made selections — no different from the Canadian pics that play Toronto or, to some extent, even the French films in Cannes.

Not anymore. But the transformation has hardly been an overnight occurrence. For years, extremely low-budget helmers worked in the state (launching the Duplass brothers, among others), while other more established artists (such as Andrew Bujalski, Jeff Nichols and Green) relocated to Austin, attracted by a creative community that already included the likes of Linklater, Robert Rodriguez and Tim McCanlies (whose SXSW-bound “When Angels Sing” stars local legend Willie Nelson).

Back in 1985, Linklater and Black co-founded the Austin Film Society with several other local film champs, establishing a production fund designed to mirror the boost Linklater had gotten from the National Endowment of the Arts on “Slacker.”

Richard Linklater is really the reason we all live here,” Pierson says. “He’s such a magnet for other talented filmmakers.”

Dallas also has been fertile ground, producing such talents as David Lowery, who collaborated with fellow locals Yen Tan (co-writing “Pit Stop”) and Shane Carruth (editing “Upstream Color”), in addition to helming his own feature, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.”

“One of the reasons I stay in Dallas is that it’s really easy for me to make films there because of all the commercial production. You can exist outside the bubble and still have all the means to make movies,” says Lowery, who credits SXSW with giving him a chance to hang out with future collaborators, such as Joe Swanberg and Frank Ross.

“It has been an evolution,” says Bryan Poyser, whose “The Bounceback” bows at SXSW. “I think a big part of why that is, it really is a community, a group of people who know and support each other.”

HIGHLIGHTS

FILM

March 8
Opening Night:

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” (Don Scardino)
7 p.m. Paramount Theater

“Evil Dead” (Fede Alvarez)
9:45 p.m. Paramount Theater

March 16
Closing Night:

“The East” (Zal Batmanglij)
8 p.m., Paramount Theater

SESSIONS

Austin Convention Center

March 9
A Conversation With Danny Boyle
11 a.m.-noon, Vimeo Theater

DIY: How Crowdsourcing Has Saved Independent Film
2-3 p.m., Room 16AB

After Effects: Festivals & Your Film’s Future
3:30-4:30 p.m., Room 15

March 10
Death of the Couch Potato: The Future of Social TV
5-6 p.m., Room 18ABCD

March 12
Acquisitions: Digital Age Evolution
12:30-1:30 p.m., Room 16AB

Crowdfunding 2.0 – The Game Changer
2-3 p.m., Room 9ABC

Songs in Your Head: Randall Poster Master Class
2-3 p.m., Room 13AB

Fair Use: Now More than Ever
3:30-4:30 p.m., Room 9ABC

MUSIC SESSIONS

Austin Convention Center

March 12
The Buyer and the Beats: The Music Fan and How to Reach Them
12:30-1:30 p.m., Room 12AB

March 13
The Top Ten Web Music Companies of 2013
11 a.m.-noon, Room 10C

Inside the Music Supervisors’ Brain: Case Studies
3:30-4:30 p.m., Artist Central in Ballroom E

March 14
SXSW Keynote: Dave Grohl
11 a.m.-noon, Ballroom D

Digital Marketing Bootcamp for Musicians
12:30-1:30 p.m., Artist Central in Ballroom E

SXSW Interview: Clive Davis
2-3 p.m., Room 18ABC

Kickstarter 101
3:30-4:30 p.m., Artist Central in Ballroom E

Using Social to Fill the House
3:30-4:30 p.m., Room 9ABC

SXSW Interview: Stevie Nicks
5-6 p.m., Room 18ABC

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