Alamo Drafthouse introduces ‘Alamo For All’ sensory-friendly screenings

(Straight up editorializing: This is a terrific idea.)

The Alamo tradition of “Baby Day” — screenings on weekdays for parents with infants — is now becoming “Alamo for All.”

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is part of the Lamar Union development on south Lamar Blvd. Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (Stephen Spillman for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (Stephen Spillman for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The new “Alamo for All” are sensory friendly screenings open to all ages, including infants and adults and children with sensory or cognitive issues such as autism. Like its “Baby Day” predecessor, at these specially designated screenings the house lights are left a little brighter and the sound is turned down a little lower, plus:

• The feature film will run without preshow and without trailers.
• Moving around the theater and noise will be allowed.
• Latecomers will be permitted.

The use of cell phones or other nonessential devices, however, will still be discouraged.alamo_for_all_logo_800_420_81_s

“Alamo for All” screenings will be found not just on weekdays, but on weekend mornings as well. Check out  https://drafthouse.com/program/alamo-for-all for up-to-the-minute list of screenings as well as full details on sensory friendly policies. The page will also link to upcoming Open Caption screenings for the hearing impaired.

Austin Film Festival awardee Paul Feig talks ‘Alf,’ female comedies, movie jail, Donald Trump and more

Paul Feig at the 2016 Austin Film Festival. (Credit: Jack Plunkett AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL)
Paul Feig at the 2016 Austin Film Festival. (Credit: Jack Plunkett AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL)

He may be now be known as that guy who makes all the really good female comedies, but Paul Feig is so much more. In addition to directing “Bridesmaids,” “Spy” and “Ghostbusters,” the latter two he also wrote, Feig created “Freaks and Geeks” and has directed episodes of some of the best TV shows of the past decade, including “Arrested Development” and “Mad Men.” The dapper director with the voice of an NPR affiliate station in Michigan received the Extraordinary Contribution to Film award at this year’s Austin Film Festival and appeared in conversation Sunday with the festival’s executive director Barbara Morgan. Below are 10 takeaways from that chat:

  1. This ain’t Feig’s first rodeo. He has been coming to AFF since 2002 and won an audience award for his second feature, “I Am David,” at the fest in 2003.
  2. Feig got his start in “show business” when he moved to Los Angeles as a young man to serve as a tour guide at Universal Studios. He was under the impression that the “tour guide was the conduit between lay people and showbiz.”
  3. He turned to “The $25,000 Pyramid” to earn some money during his nascent stand-up comedy career. It worked. He won $29,000, which helped support him for five years a comedian.
  4. Before cracking into the industry, the former script reader wrote many spec scripts, including one for “a very special episode” of “Alf,” in which Alf worked at a suicide prevention hotline. He teased the audience with the idea that one day he may offer a script reading for that at AFF.
  5. “Freaks and Geeks” started as a memoir that he translated to a television show. The dodgeball scene from the pilot was torn from the pages of his real life, as were most of the characters. The only character not based on someone Feig actually knew? Lindsay Weird, played by Linda Caredellini. She was the platonic ideal of the kind of big sister Feig always wished he could have had.
  6. Feig’s stand-up career informed his filmmaking. He would tape his stand-up act and go back and listed for what jokes got laughs and what didn’t work. He applied that same technique to test screenings of films, looking to see what resonated with audiences and what needed to be excised or honed.
  7. Feel the pain. Feig said that the painful personal stories are the ones that give you the best and most relatable material.
  8. Big tip on writing comedy: “Don’t try to be funny.”
  9. On why he wasn’t a good actor: He thought too much and you could see it in his performances.
  10. Turn out the lights. “The only true way to end a series is to kill everybody. That is why ‘Six Feet Under’ was the best ending ever.” #spoileralert
  11. Biggest lesson he ever learned: Jason Segel killed in his audition for “Freaks and Geeks,” but he wasn’t the kind of person Feig had envisioned for the role, so he was prepared to pass on the 6’4″ kid from Southern California. But producer Judd Apatow convinced him to hire Segel and figure it out from there. “If you get a great person, tailor that role for them. Take the strength,” Feig said.
  12. Why comedy? “Life is too short to try and depress people.”
  13. After two box office bombs, Feig was making promotional movies for Macy’s. One of them included Donald Trump and a bake sale, apparently. Feig was stressed out from the work and said Trump, whom they wanted to get in and out as efficiently as possible, “was so nerve wracking to work with.” Feig said he almost had a nervous breakdown working on the project and was suffering what sounded like something of an existential crisis surrounding his career and his future. A day or two later he got a call alerting him that the long-gestating comedy about bridesmaids was back on. He was hired to direct soon thereafter. And the rest is history.
  14. Feig said finding his groove as the man who directs women was “the happiest day of my life.” He admits that he isn’t great at writing male characters, in part because he doesn’t relate to hyper masculinity and he’s always related better to women.
  15. As for the state of female comedies, “It’s better than it was but it should be way better than it is.”

Tony Hale talks Tim Conway, ‘Arrested Development,’ ‘Veep,’ YouTube and more at Austin Film Festival

Austin Film Festival executive director Barbara Morgan (left) and Tony Hale in conversation at the 2016 Austin Film Festival. (Credit: Jack Plunkett AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL)
Austin Film Festival executive director Barbara Morgan (left) and Tony Hale in conversation at the 2016 Austin Film Festival. (Credit: Jack Plunkett AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL)

Tony Hale has made a name for himself playing lovable oddball that can hold discomfort and tension in their wrought faces until the wires snap and the comedy boils over in fits of hilarity.

Following the Saturday world premiere of dark comedy “Brave New Jersey” Saturday night at the Austin Film Festival, Hale appeared at the Driskill Hotel ballroom Sunday to talk about his career with AFF executive director Barbara Morgan. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Hale currently plays the neurotic and overprotective bag man to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ president Selina Meyer on HBO’s “Veep.” True to form, when Morgan’s phone buzzed in her purse at the back of the stage, Hale transformed into his Gary Walsh character and retrieved the phone from the purse of AFF’s commander in chief. Later in the talk, Morgan’s water bottle fell and Hale dutifully returned it.
  2. Hale says he has dealt with anxiety in the past, which he has gotten a handle on through therapy but that he’s been able to “use it for good” in portraying a character who often looks twisted in knots on the inside.
  3. Not surprisingly, Tim Conway and Bob Newhart are both huge comedic influences on Hale, who says those two greats, “didn’t push comedy; they sat with the tension.” Audiences would often laugh at the two actors because you could tell what was happening in their heads. Since Gary can’t often speak up in his role on the president’s team, Hale has found ways to use a raised eyebrow or a sigh to deliver his point (and laughs).
  4. When Hale is finally able to let Gary blow off some steam when he loses patience with Meyers’ team, Hale describes it as “Five years of build up watching idiots around Jesus.” Indeed, Hale says Gary loves Meyer so much that his spare time his spent practicing how fast he can retrieve things from her bag.
  5. Asked to reflect on some moments from his time on the short-lived series “Andy Barker, P.I.,” Hale (who drew a blank on specific memories) used the opportunity to praise star Andy Richter as “the coolest guy.” In discussing his high regard and appreciation for Richter, whom he called “a very normal guy,” Hale explained how “arrogance sucks the creative energy out of the room.” He likes an atmosphere of respect and giving, which he says he found on “Brave New Jersey,” as well.
  6. Don’t ask Hale about his favorite aired episodes. He doesn’t watch his shows over again. He does, however, watch the blooper reels from his shows because he says that they make him laugh and remind him of the great camaraderie and energy on set.
  7. Echoing something Jason Segel said Friday, Hale said that his biggest challenge is to stay present. That is something which must be practiced, he said. “If you don’t practice being content where you are, you are not going to be content when you get where you want to go.”
  8. On whether he wants to break from his typecast (that of Bust Bluth and Gary Walsh), Hale, joked, “I am very comfortable in emasculation.”
  9. Hale obviously has had much fun with his work on “Veep” and “Arrested Development,” and some of his favorite moments are not being able to contain his laughter. He says he cracked most often at Will Arnett’s outrageous alpha male on the latter. As for the former, he said one time Louis-Dreyfus looked at him after cracking and said, “Tony, you know you’re not watching the show; you’re on the show.” Hale doesn’t just enjoy cracking on his own shows; he said he loved the “Saturday Night Live” Debbie Downer at Disney World sketch (featuring a rattled Jimmy Fallon everyone) so much that he’s watched it 500 times.
  10. What else does he watch in his spare time? Apparently not a lot of scripted television. But he loves YouTube. Bloopers for a laugh and soldiers-coming-home videos for a good cry.

See Tony Hale for yourself. “Brave New Jersey” screens again Monday night during AFF at Alamo Village.

Video: Muppets, ‘Freaks’ and more with Jason Segel at the Austin Film Festival

I sat down with actor/writer/producer Jason Segel today at the Austin Film Festival to discuss his colorful career. Since I was holding a microphone instead of pen and paper, I didn’t get great notes on the talk or exact quotes, but these are few of the winning anecdotes from an artist who is as affable, humble and approachable as fans of his imagine him to be. (All quotes are paraphrases based on my memory.)

Jason Segel signs some Austin Film Festival posters after his moderated conversation at the conference. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Jason Segel signs some Austin Film Festival posters after his moderated conversation at the conference. (Credit: Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
  1. Not the cool dude. When auditioning for “Freaks and Geeks,” Segel was worried that he and a young James Franco might be trying out for the same part. When they were told they both got hired, Segel somewhat perplexed told Franco on the way to their cars that, “I guess I’ll play the awkward guy and you’ll play the cool guy.” To which Franco cooly responded, “Uh, yea.”
  2. Segel loves the ethos surrounding “The Muppets,” a franchise which he helped reboot — “A bunch of weirdos make a family.”
  3. The Muppet to which he best relates: Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear.
  4. When doing a table read of “The Muppets” script, Kermit appeared out of a trunk about 20 minutes into the reading and an unsuspecting Segel burst into tears.
  5. Segel didn’t originally write the Dracula puppet musical for the end of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” He wrote it after “Freaks and Geeks” got cancelled and before making “Sarah Marshall.” Judd Apatow had instructed Segel to write his own material. So, after finishing that musical around midnight one night, Segel called Apatow and asked if he could come show him something. Apatow relented and Segel showed up to screen the Dracula love story. Segel intended it as an earnest artistic expression. When it ended, Apatow looked at Segel and said, “You can never show this to anyone.”
  6. The first thing Segel, who suffers from night terrors, wrote was a screenplay entitled “Nightmares Beware,” about a kid who battles his nightmares. He has since turned the idea into a series of children’s books.
  7. Segel loved musicals as a child and when he attended his older (much cooler, alpha male) brother’s camps, he jumped up at the chance to perform a talent and sang “Castle on a Cloud,” a song usually performed by a young girl, in its entirety.
  8. Two informative pieces for Segel as an artist: the documentary “Beauty is Embarrassing,” which encouraged him to identify himself as an artist and own it, and the Christopher Vogler book “The Writer’s Journey,” which helped him understand story structure.
  9. Being in the moment. Segel said that as they filmed the dancing scene for “The Muppets,” a large billboard of Jim Henson installed at a museum was overlooking the shot, by complete coincidence. Here was in the middle of a scenario you could never dream to imagine — a young man remaking one of his most beloved childhood movies — and all he could think about was, “What am I going to do next.” Segel said that hindsight has allowed him to realize he needs to be more present and appreciative of the moment.
  10. His advice to a young writer looking to write autobiographical material: I write about one of the hardest, most embarrassing moments in your life and set it on a tropical island.

After his chat, I talked to Segel about his final day of shooting “How I Met Your Mother” and what he learned from “Freaks and Geeks” creator and 2016 Austin Film Festival Extraordinary Contribution to Film awardee Paul Feig.

Austin director Jeff Nichols: Showrunning? No. Mini-series? Yes.

Jeff Nichols is in the middle of an intense press tour for his new film “Loving,” which screens tonight (Oct. 13) at the Paramount as part of the Austin Film Festival.

Jeff Nichols (photo: Joe Gross)
Jeff Nichols (photo: Joe Gross/American-Statesman)

But he also discussed his relationship to another medium on display at AFF: television.

“The first time I ever got paid (for a script) was a pitch I did to HBO for a TV show,”  Nichols said in an interview Thursday. “And it was great. Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, my producing partner with Sarah Green, is like, ‘To this day, that’s the best script you’ve ever written.’ And it’s just sitting in turnaround at HBO.”

Then again, he wrote it when he was pretty young. “This was before ‘Take Shelter,'” Nichols said, “and at some point HBO was like, ‘This is real good but you are just not famous enough to have a one-hour drama on HBO.’

“And I said, ‘I completely understand. You’re developing something with Scorsese? Fair enough.’ And thank goodness they said that.”

Nichols said he wouldn’t want to  show-run an ongoing series but is interested in the mini-series format.

“What really appeals to me creatively right now is a four-, six- or eight-part piece” Nichols said. “I think ‘True Detective’ really broke down the door for having one filmmaker, one guiding voice, for a series.”

Nichols notes that while novellas are the perfect length for the traditional movie, novels have never been a great fit. “Everybody knows it, it’s just that there was no other option and now there is,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do something with (William Faulkner’s novel) ‘Go Down, Moses,’ and there are certain things that need to be longer, they need to be six hours instead of two.”

cormacmccarthy_bloodmeridian“It’s very tempting to say you wanna make (Cormac McCarthy’s 1895 masterpiece Western) ‘Blood Meridian,'” Nichols said. “I could probably never get the rights and, frankly, to live in that world for the years that it would take to make it is pretty dark. But there are so many amazing visuals.”

Nichols trails off for a second. “If anyone ever gave you enough resources to do it correctly…” Nichols said. “Plus (frequent Nichols actor Michael) Shannon agreed to shave off his eyebrows to play the judge.”

“Loving” screens tonight at the Paramount.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devin Faraci steps down from Alamo-owned Birth.Movies.Death after assault allegation

deathBirth.Movies.Death editor Devin Faraci has stepped down from the Alamo Drafthouse-owned magazine following allegations of sexual assault made by a fellow film critic.

“This weekend allegations were made about my past behavior,” the Los Angeles-based Faraci said in a statement reprinted in Variety. “Because I take these types of claims seriously I feel my only honorable course of action is to step down from my position as Editor-in-Chief of Birth.Movies.Death. I will use the coming weeks and months to work on becoming a better person who is, I hope, worthy of the trust and loyalty of my friends and readers.”

Birth.Movies.Death managing editor and Fantastic Fest social media director Meredith Borders posted the following on the BMD site: “I’m sure many of you have heard that Devin has stepped down as Editor-in-Chief of Birth.Movies.Death. I’m here to assure you that the site and magazine will continue, with a team of smart, passionate writers dedicated to bringing you the best in pop culture news and conversation today. Devin built this site into something we’re proud to continue and grow in his absence.

“We are a community, and you are a crucial part of that community. We’re eager to move forward, together, with all of you.”

On Oct. 9, after Faraci criticized Donald Trump for comments he made on a leaked “Access Hollywood” tape from 2005, a fellow film critic who goes by the Twitter handle @spacecrone accused Faraci of doing the same thing Trump had discussed — grabbing and sexually assaulting her with his hand.

Faraci replied: “@spacecrone I do not remember this. I can only believe you and beg forgiveness for having been so vile.”

Tim League tweeted that afternoon: “I take this seriously and have taken Devin offline until we sort through this,” though that tweet was later deleted.

Other complaints about Faraci soon appeared on Twitter.

@Spacecrone commented Tuesday morning on Twitter: “Some of you may already have seen that Devin has stepped down from his job. After talking with , who was extremely supportive, it sounds like he is genuinely interested in getting help. I’ve let them know that I am available to be a part of whatever accountability process is part of Devin’s recovery. Am I happy all of this had to happen? No. But I am really relieved that something constructive seems to have come of this. I think we could all use this time to reflect on the myriad ways we give people free passes for harmful actions. And I hope anyone who has gone through something similar might look at this and see that you’re not frozen in that moment.”

Fons PR, the Drafthouse’s representatives, declined requests to comment.