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  • Writer's pictureJoe O'Connell

A new day for independent filmmakers

In 2001 I talked to producer Scott Perry about Jet Blast, an Austin-made, low-budget comedy about a future time where airlines got super competitive. An evil rogue group armed their planes to take out the other guys. Some planes crashed into buildings. It was clearly a goofy joke. Jet Blast was set to premiere at the Austin Film Festival. Then 9/11 happened. No festival screening. No much of anything for a long time.

"We had somehow managed to find the exact wrong film to make at the exact wrong time," Perry told me then.

Also in 2001, a Spider-Man trailer that showed Spidey swinging from a web between the Twin Towers was pulled. There was talk of shelving terrorist-themed movies. It was a tough time for the movie industry.

OK, as filmmakers today we need to lighten up. Things are not nearly as bad. Yes, festivals have been cancelled. Yes, many more have been postponed. But, like with 9/11, the bigger picture shines through as we huddle in our houses and get back to basics. My family watched Onward on overly expensive pay per view just days after its release in theaters. (It was great.) Screening parties are happening on Facebook. Classic films are being rediscovered. This time film is our escape. It just isn't happening in the normal way.

For example, where I am in Austin, Texas, the documentary Also Starring Austin is screening for free online here for a short while. The Austin Chronicle is asking readers to watch Texas Chain Saw Massacre along with them at home and engage in a running commentary. Film is bringing isolated people together.

I've been quiet lately about the release of my documentary Rondo and Bob, which is about Texas Chain Saw Massacre art director Robert Burns and his obsession with '40s actor Rondo Hatton whose iconic face was twisted from the effects of acromegaly. Deeper down it's about the love Burns searched for and Hatton found. It was set to premiere April 17 at MegaCon in Orlando, with attendance of about 100,000 one of the largest fan conventions in the country. But I knew it wouldn't happen. It had become a rare holdout to the cancellation list.

Word came down Monday that the fest has been pushed to June. Rondo and Bob is the feature screening on June 5. Will it actually happen? Will life be back to normal by then? I'm still not sure. Perhaps it takes a great re-imagining of the film release process. I'd love ideas on that.

In the meantime I want to share this amazing poster based on a painting created by tattoo artist Camilo Esparza. It's an homage to a poster for the 1946 film House of Horrors featuring Hatton as the Creeper.

Stay safe. Go watch a movie.

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