Monday, March 22, 2010

IFP Alum PUTTY HILL take on Austin!

The Putty Hill gang, getting chicken and waffles: Marc, Steve, Joyce, Jeremy, Matt, Amy, Eric, Rachael, Jordan

Last Saturday I departed a wet and blustery Baltimore for SxSW with Putty Hill director Matt Porterfield, editor Marc Vives, and our friend Amy Belk. As soon as we stepped out of the airport into Austin's perfect, sunny, 77 degree weather, we knew immediately that it would be an amazing trip. We drove with the windows down just because we could, looked out in awe of the new landscape, and psyched ourselves out for the delicious meals to be had with every BBQ and taco joint we passed.

We arrived at the charming house we'd be renting for the week, just over a mile outside downtown Austin, and couldn't resist relaxing outside for a while just to take it all in. When we finally went to pick up our badges at the Austin Convention Center, the hub of SxSW, we were overwhelmed. As we made our way through a sea of film and interactive attendees and volunteers, we passed the trade show over here, promotional stands and panel rooms over there, and hundreds of posters hanging up everywhere. There was no doubt that this festival, in true Texan spirit, was huge.

On Sunday evening, the whole Putty Hill family got together: Myself, Matt, Marc, Amy, Jeremy Saulnier (cinematographer), Eric Bannat (producer), Steve Holmgren (producer), and Rachael Rakes (publicist). Even our producer and co-writer Jordan Mintzer flew in from Paris and spent less than 24 hours in Austin just to make the premiere. We met up at a food truck on E. 6th St called Lucky J's to enjoy some pre-North American premiere chicken and waffle tacos, which, I might add, were delicious and are highly recommended.

Our premiere was at the Alamo Lamar, one of the bigger theaters at the festival. There were some minor issues with the image quality of our projection, but no one seemed to mind as the film was very well received by our audience. One woman even commented that Putty Hill was the most authentic film she has ever seen(!)... does it get better than that? Following our North American premiere, in true Putty fashion the team went to local dive bar The Liberty for a modest but memorable celebration. We don't remember what happened next.

Our two remaining screenings were at the Alamo Ritz, in the heart of downtown on 6th street. This theater was smaller but a nice size; more intimate, and very well-suited for our film. Matt, Marc, Amy and I all sat through the final screening last night, and we were glad we did because it was an interesting experience watching the film with an American audience after our premiere last month in Berlin. I enjoyed hearing laughter at certain nuances and moments of humor in the film, which I think were missed in our screenings in Germany. The projection looked perfect, and again we had a really wonderful Q&A with people who were enthusiastic about the film and asked thoughtful questions.

Q and A session

Aside from the beautiful weather, friendly atmosphere of Austin, and our successful screenings, I can't forget to mention another highlight of this trip... the FOOD. I love the food truck culture in Austin and my favorite was Chi'lantro, which served up Korean-Mexican fusion. The Al Pastor plate from Al Pastor restaurant, as introduced by SxSW Manager/Programmer Jarod Neece, was a delicious deal. We even ventured out to Driftwood, TX to eat at the famous Salt Lick, which was easily the best BBQ I've ever had.
Salt Lick BBQ

After all these eats it's likely I'm returning home 20 pounds heavier, but I'm also returning 20 pounds happier. Overall, it's been an amazing trip. We've met some wonderful filmmakers, made new fans and friends, all the while accumulating some great press – and it's just the beginning! In April alone, Putty Hill will screen at BAFICI (Buenos Aires), CPH PIX (Copenhagen), Atlanta, and IFF Boston. If you haven't seen the film yet, what are you waiting for? Matt will be attending all of these festivals, so please come out to say hi! I, in the meantime, will hang back in Baltimore to work off these tacos...

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