NEW CHALLENGES, NEW OPPORTUNITIES

– A Message from our CEO, Rebecca Campbell –

2020 was a year of many milestones for AFS—the 35th anniversary of the organization and the 20th anniversaries of both Austin Studios and the Texas Film Awards. This time last year we were making plans to celebrate each of these important moments in AFS’s story. Then the pandemic hit and drastically altered our daily lives, followed by a reckoning with and fight against systemic racism and historic injustices in this country. Like so many others, once we gathered our footing, we recognized that a return to the “before times” would not lead us to the future we dream of for our community, and embraced a path of renewal and change.

We put anti-racist work front and center and underwent an equity audit in the fall to evaluate all AFS programs and policies. The findings will inform our long-term institutional planning and provide a road map for AFS now and for years to come with diversity, equity, and inclusion leading our way.

Our program staff looked for ways to turn new challenges into new opportunities. When the AFS Cinema and Austin Public temporarily closed in March, we launched our Virtual Cinema and moved all classes and events online, upholding our mission of making diverse and independent film accessible. We rallied our most important efforts to support filmmakers and give out more funding to artists this year. After a pause, film productions are safely starting back up at Austin Studios, infusing new jobs and revenue into Austin’s local economy.

AFS was started 35 years ago with two essential goals in mind—support independent filmmakers and show great films. This has been our north star ever since, and it has guided us through this uniquely challenging year. Thanks for sticking with AFS in 2020 and we look forward to the time when we can come together again in support of this vibrant film community and keep Austin a center for great film culture for years to come.

REBECCA CAMPBELL

CEO, AUSTIN FILM SOCIETY

 

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at AFS

Racial equity is a priority for AFS. We join the City of Austin in recognizing that race is the key indicator of quality-of-life outcomes in our city. This winter, AFS completed an equity audit to assess all programs, practices, and policies regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. We clarified that we want equity and inclusion to inform all AFS decision-making. We want AFS to be a part of a community transformation that makes Austin safer, healthier, and more equitable for its people. We are now creating a strategic plan that is informed by the recommendations and questions for exploration in the equity audit report, and the plan will be complete and shared publicly in late 2021.

Supporting Filmmakers Through the Pandemic

(Pictured above: the production of 2020 AFS Grant recipient TASMANIAN DEVIL, directed by Solomon Onita, Jr.)

When the pandemic struck, AFS knew independent filmmakers would be among the hardest hit, and we responded quickly by concentrating our efforts on our most important support for filmmakers, the AFS Grant. AFS reallocated resources to two new funding opportunities for filmmakers and moved training and classes online.

AFS Grant Expands to Create New Fund

In 2020, AFS handed out more than $146,000 in cash funds to directly support 26 short and feature-length projects by 28 directors. Generous donors helped create the AFS Grant for Development to provide further funding resources for filmmakers—empowering a diverse set of Texas storytellers and supporting regional makers’ career momentum.

AFS/Stand with Austin Fund

AFS provided additional funding to filmmakers through the AFS/Stand With Austin Fund, a special fund established by the Austin Community Foundation and AFS’s annual travel grants, to provide some relief and support to filmmakers with feature-length films that were to premiere at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.

The 2020 AFS Grant Recipients

AFS Grants create opportunities for artists with backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in the film industry and who are working outside of large industry centers. The 2020 applicants represented one of the most geographically diverse groups in AFS funding history, with directors residing in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Arlington, Eagle Pass, Taylor, Missouri City, and Marfa, Texas.

AFS intends for the grant program to actively work against the structural racism and sexism in the screen industries. Female-identifying filmmakers made up 50% of the 2020 AFS Grant recipients and 71% of the 2020 recipients identify with a community of color.

The Texas Film Awards

In March, the Texas Film Awards marked its 20th anniversary and attendees came together to celebrate our amazing and resilient film community. Emceed by indie icon Parker Posey, the evening’s awardees included Erykah Badu, Shelley Duvall, and Kaitlyn Dever. Robert Altman’s 1970 Houston-based film BREWSTER McCLOUD was also recognized with the Star of Texas Award. 

This annual event honors Texans in film and fundraises for our filmmaker support programs such as the AFS Grant—a vital resource for independent filmmakers to keep the Austin and Texas film scene vibrant and thriving. In 2020, we raised $380,000 to support filmmakers during the ongoing pandemic. 

Filmmaker Annie Silverstein (BULL) got her start with an AFS Grant and she took the stage with her long-time producing partner, Monique Walton, to share what AFS’s support has meant to them on their filmmaking journey.

Classes and Training Move Online at Austin Public

Since temporarily closing to the public, our community media center has offered classes and training online with a number of new people signing up for the first time for courses such as Cinematography Techniques, Media Policy, and Intro to Adobe Premiere Editing, among others. During the shutdown, we have welcomed participants online, not just from Austin, but Houston, Dallas, St. Louis, Mexico, and Poland.

“I’m so excited to have just recently discovered AFS to start my journey and training. The Cinematography Techniques class with Angel was awesome and a great primer for me!”

– Elisabet Davis, Houston-based film student

Austin Public Producers Tell Their Stories from Home

Austin Public’s Producers continued to work on their craft during the closure. By utilizing the equipment and streaming resources made available to them, Producers covered stories happening out in the community, such as the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and produced content from home that reached communities through AP’s distribution channels. Since shelter-in-place began, AP producers have provided original content for live broadcasts every day of the week, from local political talk shows and roundtables to programs such as Austin Music TV to support the local music community.

“Austin music TV has been such a beautiful way for us to reach out to the community and meet so many amazing creative, driven souls. There is always more to learn and I’m hungry for more.”

Jeska Forsyth (pictured above with husband Guy Forsyth), Austin musician

Career Leaps for Filmmakers

Although many opportunities have been on hold—if not lost—this year, AFS continues to provide filmmakers with avenues for career leaps.

Two AFS-supported films, BULL and MISS JUNETEENTH, opened nationally this year.

MISS JUNETEENTH

Channing Godfrey Peoples’ directorial debut feature film, MISS JUNETEENTH, is a two-time AFS Grant recipient.

The project participated in the 2016 and 2019 Artist Intensives, where director Channing Godfrey Peoples and producer Neil Creque Williams were paired with mentors Charles Burnett
and Richard Linklater. They workshopped the project with mentors and a community of peers.

MISS JUNETEENTH premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Narrative Feature Competition. It also won a SXSW 2020 Lone Star Award.

The film released nationally in June (opening June 19th in Austin Film Society’s virtual cinema) to overwhelming critical acclaim. National Board of Review awarded Channing Godfrey Peoples the Best Directorial Debut and selected the film as one of the top ten independent films of 2020. It was also nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards and two Gotham Awards, including Breakthrough Director, and took home the Best Actress win for Nicole Beharie’s outstanding lead performance. Peoples has subsequently landed a first-look deal with UCP (Universal) where she is developing MISS JUNETEENTH into a series for television.

BULL

Annie Silverstein is the recipient of three AFS Grants, one for her first feature film BULL.

BULL made its global premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard competition. The film took top honors at the 2019 Deauville Film Festival winning the Critics, Grand Special, and Revelations Prizes.

The film opened nationwide on May 1 and was the recipient of a Lone Star Award (Special Jury Recognition for Performance) at SXSW 2020. It was also nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards including Best Actor, Someone To Watch, and Cinematography.

OTHER AFS GRANT RECIPIENT NEWS

Chinwe Okorie’s short film LOVEBITES was picked up by Issa Rae Presents to air on Rae’s YouTube Channel. Okorie was a participant in the 2020 AFS Shortcase program, an annual program of short films produced by AFS’s MAKE Members.

2018 alum of AFS’s Doc Intensive program, Madison Hamburg’s four-part documentary series MURDER ON MIDDLE BEACH premiered on HBO in November.

Maisie Crow’s AT THE READY (formerly Untitled Criminal Justice/High School Project) and Clint Bentley’s JOCKEY are two 2020 AFS Grant recipients that will be premiering at Sundance 2021, as well as Fort Worth-born filmmaker Carlson Young’s THE BLAZING WORLD, produced by AFS Advisory Board member Elizabeth Avéllan.

Bringing Austin Film Culture to Audiences at Home

When the AFS Cinema shuttered this spring, we faced this new challenge by introducing our new Virtual Cinema as a way to support Texas filmmakers with new films in release and continue to help bring the best non-commercial cinema to our audiences while at home. 

Virtual Cinema at AFS

AFS@home, Austin Film Society’s virtual cinema, supports Texas filmmakers with new films in release and continues to help bring the latest in independent film to our audiences at home, most frequently new releases that would otherwise be on our theater screens.

The Lone Star Slate

In May AFS launched the Lone Star Slate, a new virtual screening library of Texas films by AFS-supported filmmakers. The series kicked off with a diverse slate of eleven titles from Texas artists, including the world premiere of Ben and Bo Powell’s documentary NOTHIN’ NO BETTER

“Texas’ tradition as an indie cinema hub is second to none, but it’s easy for smaller films to be forgotten over time. Now AFS Cinema is bringing some of the best underseen movies to its virtual cinema with the Lone Star Slate.”

– Austin Chronicle

Staying Connected Through AFS

From virtual meet-ups, special events and retrospectives, to socially distant screenings and drive-ins, film culture inspired and connected us during this pandemic year. Here are some of the highlights.

AFS Discussion Club

This summer, AFS kicked off its new members-only Discussion Club series bringing together our member community and special guests for group conversations about some of the gems available for home viewing.

BOYS STATE

In August, AFS partnered with A24 Films for a virtual member sneak preview of the Grand Jury Prize winner for documentary at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and winner of a 2020 Critics Choice Documentary Award, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

The Good Lord Bird

In October, AFS presented to its members a free virtual sneak preview of the first two episodes of the SHOWTIME® Limited Event Series starring Ethan Hawke.

DAZED AND CONFUSED Live Script Reading

In October, the original cast of 1993’s DAZED AND CONFUSED reunited for a live virtual script reading to support voting in Texas in partnership with March for Science, Voto Latino, and AFS. A Q&A with the cast and director Richard Linklater followed.

Laguna Gloria Special Outdoor Screenings

This October and November, AFS and The Contemporary Austin partnered on special outdoor screenings of the classic Japanese ghost story, Kaneto Shindo’s 1968 KURONEKO, and a sneak preview of the critically acclaimed film MINARI, the 2020 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award Winner.

Oral History of DAZED & CONFUSED Book Event

On November 18, AFS hosted the official launch event of Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED, published by HarperCollins. The virtual event featured a conversation with director Richard Linklater and author Melissa Maerz, moderated by podcaster Andy Greenwald.

Drive-in Screenings

AFS hosted a series of special drive-in screenings with Rocket Cinema at Pioneer Farms, including a new restoration of SMOOTH TALK by Janus Films, the Powell & Pressburger classic A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, and DIAL CODE SANTA CLAUS.

World of Wong Kar Wai Series

Our virtual cinema platform, AFS@home, hosted the Austin premiere of seven new restorations by the contemporary master auteur, Wong Kar Wai.

‘Our Town on TV’ Series and Town Hall

This October, we featured a six-part video series showcasing the best of ATX Public Access Television. The first five episodes streamed through our Virtual Cinema.

On November 15, the sixth and final episode aired live on Austin Public channels and on social media followed by a Town Hall conversation with director and AFS Grant-supported filmmaker John Moore and participants from public access’s early days.

Economic Recovery & Jobs

The pandemic may be one of the greatest economic challenges our community has ever faced. The short and long-term film/media productions based at Austin Studios bring both jobs and revenue, which is playing a significant role in the recovery of our local economy.

Austin Studios at 20

In 2000, AFS started Austin Studios by turning empty airplane hangars at the former Robert Mueller Municipal Airport into production spaces and sound stages for local filmmakers. In the years since, the 20-acre production complex has become an integral part of the Texas film ecosystem—a hub for film creatives and home to large and small production companies and other independent film-related businesses.

Read more about the history of Austin Studios in the Austin Chronicle’s cover story from March: “20 Years of Austin Studios: More than Just Soundstages, Looking Back on the Unique Success of Austin Studios.

Austin Studios Generates Jobs

CBS/Eye Productions Incorporated

With filming already underway at Austin Studios, the new CW series Walker has hired over 300 professionals from Austin and surrounding areas. The show plans to spend just over $17 million on local payroll for the first 13 episodes through April 2021. Additionally, while on location the series will have an estimated $30 million budget for services including catering, housing, production equipment, security, transportation, and more.

Young Adult Stories Thrive at Austin Studios

Robert Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios filmed WE CAN BE HEROES in and around Austin, including Austin Studios; and Amazon Studios/Picrow Pictures’ new YA series Panic wrapped their first season of filming in September. HEROES was the most-watched family movie internationally with 44 million views in its first four weeks, and a sequel has already been ordered.

Rooster Teeth & RTX

Austin Studios is also the headquarters for global media and entertainment production company, Rooster Teeth. During the pandemic, they increased live streaming from 12 to more than 60 hours a week and launched new Smart TV apps to connect with and bring content to their community at home. After cancelling their in-person convention RTX, which normally brings more than 60,000 attendees to Austin, Rooster Teeth pivoted to a virtual convention in September. Partially shot live from Stage 5 at Austin Studios, ‘RTX at Home’ was a resounding success pulling in nearly 1.5MM views over a 10-day span.

AFS Looks To Our Next Chapter

The AFS Cinema Will Return

“Film people are film people. There’s no place they’d rather be than in a theatre.”

– Richard Linklater on the future and resiliency of arthouse cinema in The New Yorker this summer

Since first turning on our projectors, the AFS Cinema has become a cornerstone of Austin’s vibrant film community. A culmination of 35 years, it is a vital cultural resource and a hub for filmmakers, a unique place where we experience and celebrate great film and the work of our regional storytellers together. Reopening the AFS Cinema is not a matter of “if,” but “when,” and when Austin is ready to return to the movies, we will be ready.

In 2021, we will restore the AFS Cinema as Austin’s essential, central home for film, while reopening safely and securely for all of our guests and staff. We have deepened our commitment to help dismantle structural racism and sexism in the film and media industries, and through our programming, we aim to bring back the AFS Cinema as a truly inclusive home for all of Austin’s film-loving community. We can’t wait until we are able light up our screens once more and welcome everyone through our doors for the next chapter.

FINANCIAL INFORMATION

Fiscal Year 2020

September 1, 2019 – August 31, 2020

THANKS TO OUR 2020 DONORS

Academy FoundationEl ChilitoKathrin and James BrewerRachel Manning
Ace Hotel New YorkEleanor and Ron LukeKathy Blackwell and Steve ScheibalRea Charitable Trust
Adrienne and Rick PappasElizabeth Avellán and Ronald RamónKatrine and Bill FormbyRebekah Falkner
Amber Scanio and Al KoehlerElizabeth Cates and Dave BellagioKiki Lambden-Stout and Stephen StoutRene Harbison
Amy ShimotaElla and Eric BensonKim and Kurt BuchmannRichard's Rainwater
Ana Martinez and Bill StapletonEllen and Steve LeBlancKip McClanahanRick Triplett
Andrew NairnElzbieta SzokaKristin and Robert GaunttRide Austin
Anna Crain and Jacob WeissEmily and David HartsteinLALO TequilaRiki Rushing and Allen Gilmer
Anne and Mark McKinnonEmily Glover and Neil WilsonLaura Galt Snavely and Mike SnavelyRobert and Danielle Wills
Anthony WalletteEmily NashLauren and Phil SiegelRobert K. Schultz
Art-House America CampaignErica McCarthy and Paul WadeLauren CarsonRoxanne Elder
Applied MaterialsEvonne Atlas and Abe ZimmermanLaurie and Douglas Vander PloegRyan and Ethan Hawke
ATX Film & Television Studios, Inc.Frank PRLeMel HumesSara Lemoine Knox
Audrey Muntz and Ronald LaForceGavin DuncanLey Line EntertainmentScott Saldana
Augustine Frizzell and David LoweryGilmer/Rushing Philanthropic Fund of the Southwest Community FoundationLinda Ball and Forrest PreeceSerendipity Wines
Austin Community FoundationHaydeana Gaviria and Artemio San MartinLisa and Matt HickeyThe Sermoonjoy Fund at the California Community Foundation
Austin Creative AllianceHeather ReedLive Oak Brewing CompanyShanaz Hemmati and Rubik Abbassi
Ayleen PerezH-E-B Tournament of ChampionsL'Oca d'OroSherri and Travis West
Barbara HoranHelen and Jordan LevinLone Star Brewing CompanyStaci Sprayberry
Becky BeaverHolt Atherton Educational Foundation, Inc.Louis BlackStand With Austin Fund
Belva GreenHome Slice PizzaMarcy and Robert GarriottStephen Kinney
Bettina and Brian BarrowHoward BoyleMargaret and Matt WinklerSteve Davis
Bloomberg PhilanthropiesHumanities TexasMarjorie and Lenny DorrStill Water Foundation
Brandi CowleyIrene and Alexander ShoghiMelissa and Andrew SheaSTS VIP Helicopter Services
Estate of Brian O’LearyJamie BarshopMelissa Plunkett and Richard WhittakerSusanne and Eric DeJernett
Brianna LandryJane and Thomas UnderwoodMelody and Shain McCaigSusie and Dan Allen
Carol and Chris AdamsJane SchweppeMerrill Davis and Nils AndresenSusto Mezcal
Carol Walsh-Knutson and Kelley KnutsonJasmine BakerMichael & Susan Dell FoundationSuzanne and Marc Winkelman
Catherine RobbJeannette and Adam ChibibMike Simpson / WME EntertainmentSuzanne Deal Booth
Cecilia ContiJennifer KuczajMiriam WardSynthetic Pictures
Cesca and James SilvaJoe B. Foster Family FoundationMissy and Jeff NicholsTamara Saviano and Paul Whitfield
Chandra WilsonJoe BatsonMoody FoundationTaylor Hall
Cherise SmithJohn Robison and Jason PappNeysa King and Matthew CrawfordTerry Trudell
Chip BrayJosh BeckerNicole and Edward GriffisTiff's Treats
Chris and Francesca Beale FoundationJP's Peace, Love & Happiness FoundationNina and Frank SeelyTito's Handmade Vodka
Christina Harrison and Richard LinklaterJulia Halperin and Jason CortlundNine Banded WhiskeyTodd Waldron
Clark RichardsKaren and Col NeedhamNoah IsenbergTracy LaQuey Parker and Patrick Parker
The Cynthia & George Mitchell FoundationKaren and Mike BlizzardPäivi Pütsepp-Seufert and Eric SeufertTroublemaker Studios
Cynthia GoldrickKarma MontagneThe Panacea CollectiveVisit Austin
Dallas Producers AssociationKarrie and Tim LeagueThe PershingW. Andrew York
Dan StasiewskiKat Candler and Mark OsbornPhilip HardageWaller T. Burns
Deborah Green and Clayton AynesworthKate and Joe McSpaddenPolly and Lonnie CooperWarren Skaaren Charitable Trust
Diane and Stephen BienemanKathleen LucentePropaganda Hair Group

The Austin Film Society is funded and supported in part by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts and in part by the City of Austin Economic Development Department/Cultural Arts Division believing an investment in the Arts is an investment in Austin’s future.

The Austin Film Society is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and is made possible with funding from Humanities Texas and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the federal CARES Act.

The Austin Film Society is generously funded by Mid-America Arts Alliance, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the state arts agencies of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Donors listed contributed at the $500 level and above in Fiscal Year 2020. Please contact us at donate@austinfilm.org to make a contribution.

Thanks To Our Annual Sponsors