The Texas Motion Picture Alliance (TXMPA), founded in 2006, is a non-profit organization based out of Austin, Texas that “educates its members, legislators, and the general public on all forms of media production within the state.” TXMPA’s executive director Mindy Raymond and the rest of her hardworking comrades are genuine advocates and admirers of Texas films and Texas filmmakers alike.
On Saturday, January 30, 2016, the Texas Motion Picture Alliance held a showcase at the Alamo Drafthouse Park North that screened ten short films from San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Dallas filmmakers. Despite the mild trepidation I had initially going into this endeavor (I have attended many recent film festivals whose content was rather sub-par), I was delighted to find that all of the films screened were of a highly professional nature.
Once the screening had ended, I was able to have a Q&A session with San Antonio filmmakers Kevin and Robin Nations, a husband and wife duo who have quite an impressive resume. The Nations’ submitted film, Away With the Fairies, is a quiet contemplation on the friendship between an older African-American man and a young white girl that gradually develops as the girl learns to build a birdhouse and feed the gentleman’s overgrown rabbit. The lingering shots that focus on the minutiae of the characters’ physical movements and the electrically alive sound design remind me of the visual poetry contained in Terrence Malick’s most recent films. I was highly impressed to say the least. Below is my conversation with the Nations duo.
What can you tell me about Away With the Fairies, other than what I just saw in the theater?
KEVIN: This short was an experiment.
ROBIN: We wanted to see if we could go out and make a film by ourselves without a crew.
KEVIN: I had never written anything before. So I wrote it, shot it, directed it, and wrote the score for the film. I didn’t even know Robin had submitted it to the TXMPA showcase.
ROBIN: And I submitted it to NBC on a whim because NBC/Universal was hosting a series of short films about diversity. And next thing you know, Kevin is in New York talking to NBC, and now Away With The Fairies is on Hulu.
How did you get started in filmmaking?
KEVIN: I met Robin in film school. She was getting a degree in film, and I was getting a degree in graphic design.
ROBIN: Kevin did the animation for my senior thesis film.
KEVIN: And while I was doing the animation, Robin invited me to the set. I had never been on a film set before. She showed me how to load a 16 mm film camera, and she invited me into the editing room.
ROBIN: I was old school back then. I edited with a Moviola and cut the film with scissors.
KEVIN: And after that, I was hooked. She said, “If you marry me we can move to Austin and make movies.” So we got married and moved to Austin in ’97. Worked on a bunch of shorts. Then moved to San Antonio in ’98.
ROBIN: We started making features with no money. Got into a couple of festivals. From there, we were able to get some investors and make features that got distribution. Ever since, we’ve had filmmaking careers while staying in San Antonio.
What do you think San Antonio has to offer its filmmakers that other cities cannot?
ROBIN: It’s a big city with a small city feel. So the communities, the locations, and the businesses are not jaded.
KEVIN: You can get filming locations for cheap or for free here. Usually businesses are happy to see you.
ROBIN: The climate here is warm year round. There are nearby farms, ranches, hills. San Antonio has a lot of beauty that filmmakers can take advantage of. We shot a film about a city girl moving to the country, and it was a ten minute drive from our city location to our country location. Where else do you have that?
Do you have any ambitions to leave San Antonio and move to a city with a larger film industry?
ROBIN: Austin is always tempting. But we have built up such a team here.
KEVIN: We’d have to give up our crew.
ROBIN: The city has supported us as filmmakers. We just won a grant from the city. So we feel like we should stay and build things here.
What aspect of filmmaking do you enjoy most?
KEVIN: I tend to get a lot of work being a cinematographer, but my first love is definitely directing.
ROBIN: My favorite aspect of filmmaking is the teamwork. But then I also love post-production, which I do completely by myself. My favorite thing is bringing all these different talents together to share one vision.
What is the hardest part about making films?
KEVIN: Getting the money.
ROBIN: Everything else is fun. But letting things go is hard. When I see our films, I tend to pick it apart and see the flaws others may not notice.
Is there a place online that people can view your films?
KEVIN: We have a demo real on Vimeo.
ROBIN: Our last movie, The Adventures of Pepper and Paula, is on Netflix.
KEVIN: Angel Dog is shown on the Starz network. My Dog The Champion was on Netflix and Redbox. But now, I think you can only get it on DVD.
What are you two working on next?
ROBIN: We are working on a comedy western called the Brothers McShane. It was written by Holt Boggs, who is a hilarious Austin actor. It’s probably going to be the most fun project we will ever work on.
For more information about the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, click this link: TXMPA.org.