I found out last night that Mr. Invisible won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Short at Austin Film Festival. It’s really great news and totally unexpected. The Audience Award is calculated by collecting the ballots that viewers fill out giving each film a rating of 1 to 5. Having attended the festival this year and seen how many good short films we were up against, I really didn’t think that we’d win. In fact, I was positive the brilliant and hilarious ‘Fools Day’ would get the audience’s vote.
However, it’s great to find out Austin crowd enjoyed our film so much. The reason I make films, or indeed anything, is in the hope that my work connects with the an audience so it’s rewarding to get some validation for that. As someone put it, the audience are really the only critic who matters.
It also made up for the slight disappointment of missing out on the Jury Prize the week before. that’s the prize that qualifies you for the Oscar nomination. As Mr. Invisible was nominated, I attended the Award ceremony, which was a great prize in itself (I was sat on the table next to Susan Sarandon and two away from Robert Rodriguez).
They had a pretty funny system if you were nominated for an award. You had to stand up at your table when they read your film out, and then when they announce the winner, they go up to receive your award and the “losers” sit back down.
When they read out “Mr. Invisible,” I therefore stood up. All eyes on the room turn to you. And theres some pretty famous pairs of eyes in there. It feels like you’re already halfway towards accepting the award. Kanye West style.
Then the announcement came… “And the winner is… ‘Fool’s Day’.”
I hastily sat back down, did that “I’m just happy to be nominated” face, applauded a bit, then mumbled something like “At least I didn’t miss my main course.”
Austin Film Festival was a fantastic experience though. For one, the city is great. Full of bars, music venues and good places to eat. It reminded me of Spring Break meets the Wild West.
The festival itself pays particular attention to the writer. There were lots of panels dedicated to writing, with some pretty phenomenal speakers. Highlights included Vince Gilligan talking about Breaking Bad, Jonathan Demme and Paul Thomas Anderson discussing the work of Robert Downey Sr. (Yes, that is Iron Man’s Dad), and a reading of Vince Gilligan’s new film “2 Face” with Will Ferrell. I was tempted to throw my Bigfoot script at him from the back of the theatre, but instead I just took pleasure in knowing I was in the same room as one of my comedy idols.
It was a very relaxed atmosphere and lots of the panelists hung out in the bar of the Driskill Hotel later. I got to meet Shane Black, who wrote Lethal Weapon, and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, and even pitched him one of my movie ideas. I told him Mr. Invisible had been nominated for the Jury Prize. He said “You didn’t win?” I said “No.” He said “Well you fucked it up then, didn’t you?” with a wry smile. I said “Yeah I knew I should have made a damn comedy.” And he laughed, before going back to smoking his electronic cigarette.
The absolute highlight was getting to meet Paul Thomas Anderson though. I saw him sneaking through the bar, put down my pint and got up to approach him. think I took him a bit by surprise, but I just told him I was a huge fan and wanted to shake his hand. That’s the same hand which wrote Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood. Hopefully I’ve sucked up some of his talent to use in my next script.
So if you get a chance to go to Austin, do it! And try and do so when the festival’s on. Even if you’re not a filmmaker there’s plenty of tickets available for screenings. They’re already selling passes for 2014 on the website.
Congratulations to my fantastic cast and crew, the writer Richard Sainsbury and the Producer Kieran O’Brien. Thanks to everyone who came and saw our film and gave it a 5. Hoping to screen it at many more festivals over the coming year.