Texas Film Awards Salute Lone Star Filmmakers

On the eve of SXSW’s opening night, the Austin Film Society will present its 17th annual Texas Film Awards, which spotlights the org’s programs and honors a group of stalwart Texan filmmakers. But this year’s event will also look forward to the completion of an initiative first announced at last year’s ceremony, as the Austin Film Society prepares to open its own dedicated, full-time two-screen cinema later in the spring.

For Richard Linklater, who founded the AFS 32 years ago, the cinema will be the culmination of years of planning and fundraising, and will allow the society — whose programs encompass everything from artist services to grants, education programs, an ongoing screening series, and a home on Austin’s public access TV station — to have a real public-facing hub.

“It was just a great leap that we had to make,” Linklater says. “We do that about every 10 years, where the organization takes a great leap forward. At year 10 it was the production fund, the grants we give out. Ten years later it was starting the Austin Studios. So it seems about right that we’d take the leap to having our own cinema.

“Austin’s a wonderful cinema town, and we have wonderful relationships with all the places where we show our movies. But to have your own two screens gives you a lot of leeway, for special programming, to hold films over. Kinda like our Austin version of the Film Forum in New York, where a documentary can actually have a theatrical run.”

As for the Texas Film Awards themselves, this year’s honorees, who will be inducted into the organization’s own Texas Film Hall of Fame, encompass a wide range of filmmakers. Hector Galan (“Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement,” “The Hunt for Pancho Villa”) will be the first documentarian to be honored, a move that AFS CEO Rebecca Campbell calls “long overdue.” Shirley MacLaine will receive the society’s lifetime achievement award, as well as accept the Star of Texas award, given to a quintessentially Texan film, for “Terms of Endearment.”

The other three honorees — director Jeff Nichols, producer Sarah Green, and actor Tye Sheridan receiving the Rising Star honor — will need no introduction to one another. Green has worked with Nichols on his previous four films (including last year’s “Loving” and “Midnight Special”), and gave Sheridan his first film role, as producer of Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life.” (Sheridan would go on to work with Nichols in “Mud.”)

Campbell notes that the connections among the three offer proof of “that sense of our regional film culture being really strong, growing, and continuing to be home to and attract top-caliber talent.”

Additionally, Nichols is the first Texas Film Awards honoree who was himself a recipient of one of the AFS’ grants, back when the Arkansas native had recently arrived in Austin. He applied for a travel grant to hit the circuit with his debut, “Shotgun Stories.”

“Those were really lean times,” Nichols says. “I had what you would hope for as a first-time filmmaker, which is that amazing worldwide tour of festivals you get to take. But it was a situation where you’ve got $37 in the bank and you’re about to board a plane to Slovenia. It’s like, ‘I really hope there’s some free food when I get there, because I don’t even think I can afford the exchange rate on my debit card.’

“So their grant was very intelligent and very specific for me. It got me through a couple months, to be honest.”

Nichols was soon to meet the Gloucester, Mass., native Green, who came to Austin while working with Malick on “The New World,” and took to the city quickly. Green will be on hand the day after the Texas Film Awards to unspool Malick’s SXSW-opening “Song to Song.”

“I’ve shot a couple of movies in Austin,” she says. “We shot ‘Tree of Life’ just outside of Austin in Smithville. And then of course we shot ‘Song to Song’ there, and that was very much influenced by the town itself. … We didn’t even consider [shooting] anywhere else, because it was so inspired by the place and the culture and the musicians coming through.”

Green has shot elsewhere in the state, and lauds the Texan film community and the professionalism of local crews. Like most producers, she would like to see more robust tax incentives to encourage more shooting, but she sees plenty of value in Lone Star filming all the same.

“It’s got a decent incentive, though certainly not one of the better ones in the country,” she says. “But whenever I think about shooting, I have to weigh the value of tax incentives against the rest of the infrastructure —  what does it bring in terms of film commission support, what does it bring in terms of other types of infrastructure and rebates and everything else, and Texas is very strong in all those other key areas. And when you do the math, it probably makes up for their lesser tax incentives.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Beyonce Knowles'The Lion King' film premiere,

    ABC Announces Behind-the-Scenes Special for Beyoncé's 'Lion King' LP

    ABC has announced a new behind-the-scenes look into the making of Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” LP, which is set to air September 16 on ABC at 10 p.m. EST. Titled “Beyoncé Presents: Making the Gift,” the new hour-long special will allow viewers to “experience the process” behind the “Lion King” companion album, according [...]

  • Jason Lei Howden, Samara Weaving and

    Daniel Radcliffe On Acting With Weapons Nailed To Your Hands

    How did “Guns Akimbo” director and writer Jason Lei Howden convince Daniel Radcliffe to play a character with guns nailed to his hands? Easy, he sent him the script. Radcliffe joined Howden and “Ready or Not’s” breakout star Samara Weaving in the Variety’s Toronto Film Festival studio, presented by AT&T to talk the limits of [...]

  • Box Office: It Chapter Two Maintains

    Box Office: 'It: Chapter Two' Continues International Reign With $47 Million

    Pennywise’s reign of terror hasn’t wavered: Warner Bros.’ “It Chapter Two” maintained first place on box office charts, led by another strong showing overseas. The sequel, based on Stephen King’s horror novel, generated another $47 million at the international box office for a foreign tally of $169 million. After two weeks of release, “It Chapter [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Taika Waititi’s 'Jojo Rabbit' Wins Top Prize at Toronto Film Festival Awards

    Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The honor positions the film for a potential Oscar run and bolsters its awards chances. That’s good news for Fox Searchlight, which must have been disappointed by the lackluster critical reception for the movie, a dark comedy [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Racks Up Solid $33 Million Debut, 'Goldfinch' Bombs

    “Hustlers” rolled in the Benjamins this weekend, collecting $33.2 million when it debuted in 3,250 North American theaters. Boosted by rave reviews and stellar word of mouth, “Hustlers” beat expectations and now ranks as the best start for an STX film, along with the biggest live-action opening weekend for stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. [...]

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content