AFF Guest Blog: Director Alex Holdridge on The 2001 Making of WRONG NUMBERS and the Landscape of Filmmaking in Austin
05.01.13 | Alex Holdridge
Next Wednesday, May 8th at 7:00pm AFF’s Made in Texas series kicks off with a retrospective screening of WRONG NUMBERS. WRONG NUMBERS was a 2001 Austin Film Festival Audience Award Winner, directed by native Texan Alex Holdridge and launched the careers of comedian and radio personality Matt Bearden and actor Scoot McNairy (ARGO, KILLING THEM SOFTLY). Alex, Matt and Scoot will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. Alex Holdridge sat down to pen what he remembers of filmmaking in Austin in 2001 when the Alamo Drafthouse was a one room entity, and late nights at Kerbey Lane was payment for the crew. For more information about the screening, and for tickets, click here.
What I remember about Austin in 2001 was shooting anytime we had cash (waiting tables at Hickory Street/working at Precision camera) to buy more DV tapes. That meant late nights with friends that were as obsessed about films as you were. There was no money for any of us, so payment was often pancakes at Kerbey Lane after shooting all night, exhausted. It was the end of an era when people could still smoke at Starseeds, and online editing at home was financially out of reach unless you braved hacked Adobe Premiere software and reconfigured your computer endlessly so it could play back without a hiccup (which we eventually did). It was the era of cutting, exporting back to DV tape “lossless,” and that made it possible to shoot way too many takes. It was the beginning of the end of 16 mm for low-budget films. We began WRONG NUMBERS shooting a 16 mm trailer to raise money when the three chip DV cameras started to become a viable means of shooting, and we took the chance to actually make the film rather than waiting around failing to raise money. It was the time when the Alamo Drafthouse was a one room affair, and they introduced us to a whole slew of great films that we watched while we actually drank beer, completely new for us. The drafthouse even showed Wrong Numbers for what eventually lasted for three solid weeks of screenings. Tim and Carrie are forever appreciated for that.
The Chronicle was kind and to my surprise actually took the time to write about our tiny film. JB and Sandy became friends after JB strolled into an Alamo screening one night and liked the film. They talked it up for us on their show, and made us feel special and got people to the Drafthouse. I was blown away because the film took us four years to make. We were all working full-time or going to school, so we shot part-time and had to figure out how to edit it. Along the way we changed a lot and learned what we were doing. The mistakes I made as a director are endless in this one, but the actors are absolutely phenomenal, and that made all the difference. I knew there was something special in each of those guys Scoot McNairy, Matt Bearden, Matt Pulliam, Brian McGuire, Robert Murphy. All still good friends. I continued making films with many of these guys for the next decade.
A decade later Scoot is in the best picture winner. That was a special little crew, and I love all those people for diving in like that.
Before we showed it, however, I was certain it was going to be a failure. The night of the AFF premiere, I slunk into the theater convinced this was going to be the most embarrassing night of my life. My friends were expecting Titanic after four years of working on the same film, and it was a tiny comedy about two underage friends trying to buy a six pack on a Friday night. Given I was learning what I was doing, I figured people had way too high expectations. You know what it’s like when people ask, what’s up and you say you’re working on the film. And they say, “The same one?!” When that goes on for years, you start to feel nervous. That tiny premiere in the Driskill was something I’ll never forget.
It’ll be fun to be back in Austin with the old crew to kick off the AFF screenings. It’s an honor.
For more information on WRONG NUMBERS and to attend the screening (Tickets are $5 General Admission / Free for AFF and Bullock State History Museum Members), click here.
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