I still remember the first time I heard the words Hill Country Film Festival. If I recall correctly, our story began long ago, high in the mountains of Iceland…
Nope, not kidding. That’s really how it happened.
In April 2010 I was the press office rookie at the Dallas International Film Festival and was attempting to maintain composure in the midst of an eight-day press junket. In spite of my nerves, it was a brilliant introduction to the independent film press—not to mention my first meeting with the individuals who would eventually organize as Selig Film News.
Also in April 2010, an Icelandic volcano called Eyjafjallajokull determined that Earth had become too stable and quiet. The subsequent eruption created an ash cloud that, for five days, halted nearly all air traffic across northern Europe. No big deal, really, unless you wanted to cross northern Europe—which my parents did.
With her suitcase packed and her mission trip indefinitely postponed, my mom decided that her travel prep would not be wasted and quickly made arrangements for a few days trip to Fredericksburg, TX. While picking up a city map, my parents noticed an unusual poster displayed at the Visitor’s Bureau. A poster for a new film festival…
So, there you are: an Icelandic volcano landed me at the first annual Hill Country Film Festival. Captain Random strikes again.
Fast forward five years to HCFF’s fifth anniversary, which should’ve been loglined, “The Homecoming Game.” The 2014 festival ran April 30-May 5, and featured the return of numerous HCFF alums, including N.T. Bullock and Jared Hopkins, who contributed to the screenwriting panel and whose feature I Ran Against Us won the 2010 Cinema Dulce (Best of Fest) Award. Jenny Goddard-Garcia was another triumphant return; her short film Happy Voodoo played at HCFF 2013 and has since been adopted into the Tribeca Film Festival’s online project, “Picture Show,” as well as United Airlines in-flight content offerings. Garcia’s 2014 short, People Food, starring Lauren Alexander as a happy-go-lucky activist with an unusual cause, premiered Saturday morning to a lot of laughs.
The feature lineup for this year’s festival included a couple of victory laps, including a Thursday night special screening of Bernie, presented by distributor Millenium Entertainment. Friday evening belonged to Before I Disappear, the feature that grew up from Oscar-winning short film Curfew (Hill Country’s 2013 Best Short Award winner). Associate producer Brenden Hubbard, who also worked on the wacky comedy short, Grandma's Not a Toaster, attended the screening to answer audience questions. DIFF alum Lord Montagu also screened on Friday, and it was soooo relaxing to see this documentary from beginning to end in a real theater (not that I didn’t enjoy watching it in five-minute clips in the middle of a busy press office last spring…).
Texas films took up a huge portion of this year’s lineup, and several of the filmmakers cited meetings at previous Hill Country Film Festivals as the catalyst for their productions. One particular team that formed after an HCFF meeting produced the closing night feature. For the past several months, Selig has been keeping tabs on a certain Austin-based film featuring a roster of Texas filmmakers and young comedy stars. On Saturday night, we finally got a ticket to the game. After its world premiere at last month’s Tribeca Film Festival, Intramural returned to a packed theater for a Texas Premiere. Lead actor Jake Lacy (of NBC's “The Office”) attended the screening, along with director Andrew Disney and much of the production team. This film frat first came together at HCFF 2012, where Disney’s feature Searching For Sonny won Cinema Dulce and screenwriter Bradley Jackson’s film, The Man Who Never Cried, won Best Short. (Standby for more on Intramural, including an interview with Lacy, Disney, and Jackson, coming soon.)
**In related news, I clearly had serendipity/kismet on the brain last weekend. The final scene of Intramural features Clint Howard, the very first actor I interviewed at my very first Dallas International Film Festival in 2010. My jitters before that interview were so bad that Mr. Howard coached me through some actors' breathing exercises before we turned on the camera. True story.**
The closing night party at the Hangar Hotel’s Pacific Showroom is a Hill Country Film Festival tradition. This year’s winners included:
Audience Choice Award: Cootie Contagion | Directed by Joshua Smooha
Best Feature Film: Before I Disappear | Directed by Shawn Christensen
Best Texas Film: The Grove, Texas | Directed by Lori Najvar
Best Short Film: Cootie Contagion | Directed by Joshua Smooha
Best Actor: Jake Lacy | Intramural | Directed by Andrew Disney
Best Actress: Rebekah Downs | Where The Red Fox Lies | Directed by Jeff Ray
Best Feature Screenplay: Pawn | written by Uyen Le and VW Scheich
Best Short Screenplay: Hyperspace | written by Taegan Carter
And Cinema Dulce Best in Fest goes to….INTRAMURAL! (Crowd goes wild….)
A note to the HCFF staff,
Sunday’s send-off party took place at Pecan Street Brewing and, tired as I was, I was sorry to see another festival weekend gone. I want to congratulate Festival Directors Chad Mathews and Amy Miskovsky on an amazing five years. My friends, I’ve attended HCFF yearly since 2010, and watching this event grow is an honor. Year 5 was the best yet and I’ve never been more excited to see where you’re going to take this festival. I hope I don’t have to wait an entire year to run into all the awesome HCFF staff members again.
Another year in the books, and another festival to look forward to next year!
Hugs to you and I hope to see you soon,