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Small Grants Help Filmmakers Make Giant Leaps, Richard Linklater Says

Texan filmmaker attends screening of 1990 movie 'Slacker' at Karlovy Vary Film Festival

Emerging filmmakers can parlay even the smallest of financial grants into major career-advancing moves, per director Richard Linklater.

Interviewed by Variety film critic Peter Debruge, the helmer was speaking at the Variety Critics Corner series at the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival. He was referring to the types of funds awarded by the Austin Film Society, a nonprofit organization he established in 1985 in his hometown of Austin, Texas – originally to screen classic and auteur films.

AFS – which is being showcased as part of the Made in Texas program at Karlovy Vary – has grown to own a cinema, manage local soundstages, and provide funding to help Texas-based artists at the script stage, in post, or in any other way that will advance their projects. These modest grants, he said, are a way to incubate or jump-start new films.

Linklater came to Karlovy Vary to accompany Made in Texas, as well as to present a screening of his 1990 picture “Slacker.” His oeuvre also includes “Dazed and Confused,” “Boyhood,” and the series “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight.”

The director, who also writes, recalled his own starting years, during which a lucky financial break made all the difference. “Early on I heard you could sell something to European TV,” he said, “and sure enough, I got $35,000 from a German TV sale and was able to finish that particular project.” He added, “If you’re a smart filmmaker, you have to be kind of a hustler.”

Since its inception, AFS has awarded more than $2 million in filmmaker grants. This money has supported the production of hundreds of Texas films and spurred careers of such filmmakers as David Lowery (“A Ghost Story,” “Pete’s Dragon”), Athina Tsangari (“Attenberg”), Kat Candler (“Queen Sugar”), and David and Nathan Zellner (“Damsel,” “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”).

“Damsel,” a western comedy starring Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska, is screening at Karlovy Vary, and Pattinson will be on hand to accept the President’s Award at the fest’s closing ceremony.

Clearly pleased with the results of AFS initiatives, Linklater called the Zellner brothers “creative and brilliant filmmakers.”

Linklater also stressed the often critical role of actors in a film’s creative process. “Pattinson clearly used the profile he gained in the ‘Twilight’ series to go on and work with great directors,” he said. “And Kirsten Stewart, his counterpart, did the same thing. That’s a lesson for all young actors. It’s not about the money. It’s about great stories and exploring yourself.”

Stars, he said, have a lot of power in the industry because “they can get movies made by electing to work in them. What films get made are often actors’ choices.”

Linklater is content to stay put in Austin. In Hollywood, he said, “it’s like, I love your film, how much money did it make on its opening weekend? That’s so boring.”

In the future, he sees himself doing exactly what he does now. “In thirty [years’ time] I want to be an old guy that still makes movies.”

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