Austin Film Society Announces Artist Intensive Mentors and Participants

October 24, 2018

Austin, TX – The Austin Film Society (AFS) announces the participants and mentors for its sixth annual Artist Intensive (October 31 to November 4), a weekend of work, focus, and mentorship for emerging narrative feature filmmakers poised for career leaps. The weekend, which includes screenplay readings and rehearsals with guest actors, has been instrumental in providing artists with creative feedback, resources, and momentum for their projects.

WHO:  Austin Film Society

WHAT: Austin Film Society Announces Artist Intensive Mentors and Participants


MEDIA CONTACT: Christine Lee | | 512-322-0145 x 3213

This year’s selected Artist Intensive projects, all at a development phase, include the following:

  • Lulu Street from Jazmin Diaz
  • Gospel of the Well from Kelly Daniela Norris
  • Close to You from Jim Hickcox

Creative advisors and producing mentors who will work with the filmmakers throughout the weekend include AFS Artistic Director Richard Linklater, acclaimed filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Twilight, Lords of Dogtown), director Travis Mathews (Discreet, I Want Your Love), producer Sara Murphy (If Beale Street Could Talk, The Mountain, Land Ho!), and producers Toby Halbrooks and James M. Johnston (The Old Man and the Gun, Never Goin’ Back, A Ghost Story).

Previous Artist Intensive projects include Never Goin’ Back (Augustine Frizzell, Sundance 2018, SXSW 2018), Barracuda (Julia Halperin and Jason Cortlund, SXSW 2017), Slash (Clay Liford, SXSW 2016), The Honor Farm (Karen Skloss, SXSW 2017), the works-in-progress Bull (Annie Silverstein, 2016 Sundance Labs selection), and Miss Juneteenth (Channing Godfrey Peoples, 2017 Sundance Labs selection).

The Artist Intensive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka. The Artist Intensive is catered by Sonya Coté, owner and executive chef of Eden East.  

High-resolutions images available.

More about this year’s Creative Advisors and Producing Mentors:

Toby Halbrooks is a filmmaker from Dallas, Texas. He is a member of the collective Sailor Bear with his partners David Lowery and James M. Johnston. Their films include The Old Man and The Gun, Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story, Never Goin’ Back, Listen Up Philip, Upstream Color, and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.

Catherine Hardwicke’s first film as a director was the critically-acclaimed Thirteen, which won the Director’s Award at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, and awards at numerous other international film festivals. She has since become best known as the director of Twilight, which launched the worldwide blockbuster franchise, The Twilight Saga.

Hardwicke previously worked as a Production Designer on films directed by Richard Linklater, David O. Russell, Cameron Crowe, and Lisa Cholodenko. Recently Hardwicke has directed television episodes for AMC and pilots for CBS, MTV, and USA, all of which went to series. Additionally, she directed the music video for the Emmy award-winning song “Til It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga. Her most recent film, Sony’s Miss Bala, an action thriller, stars Gina Rodriguez, Ismael Cruz Cordova, and Anthony Mackie and is slated for release in January 2019.

James M. Johnston is an award-winning filmmaker from Fort Worth, Texas. He is part of the filmmaking collective known as Sailor Bear where he produced the films Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Listen Up Philip, Person to Person, A Ghost Story, Never Goin’ Back, and The Old Man and The Gun. He was a 2011 Creative Producing Fellow at the Sundance Institute, named to Variety’s ”Producers To Watch” in 2012, and won an Independent Spirit Award for producing in 2013. 

Travis Mathews is a writer/director/editor. Informed with a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a background in documentary, Mathews is a self-taught filmmaker based in San Francisco. In 2009 he started an ongoing documentary series called In Their Room about gay men and their bedrooms as sanctuaries. In 2013, Mathews collaborated with James Franco to make the docufiction Interior. Leather Bar. The film played numerous international festivals, including Berlinale and Rotterdam, and was released theatrically by Strand Releasing. In 2017, Mathews premiered the narrative feature, Discreet (Berlinale, SFIFF), a startling genre film about one man’s unresolved trauma. Discreet was sold internationally and had a domestic release in the summer of 2018. Mathews is currently developing Sutro Forest, a psychological thriller based in San Francisco, for a summer 2019 production.

Sara Murphy recently produced Rick Alverson’s The Mountain, starring Jeff Goldblum and Tye Sheridan, a world premiere at the 2018 Venice International Film Festival; Aaron Katz’s Gemini, starring Lola Kirke and Zoë Kravitz, released earlier this year by NEON; and Radiohead’s “Daydreaming” and “Present Tense” music videos, as well as HAIM’s “Little of Your Love” video, all directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.  

Murphy produced Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk premiering this fall, adapted for the screen from James Baldwin’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name. She also produced Person to Person, Hunter Gatherer, and Land Ho! She was awarded the 2016 Amazon Sundance Producers Award in 2016, alongside Adele Romanski, and was listed as one of Variety’s “Producers to Watch.” She has twice been nominated for the John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award, winning in 2015.

More about the selected projects and filmmakers:

Lulu Street: Two decades after immigrating with her family from Mexico, an aging Dalia’s previously buried struggles are laid bare before her granddaughter Sofia, an overwrought ten-year old with intentions of making it to an audition out of town. Jazmin Diaz is a Mexican American filmmaker from Fort Worth, Texas. She is the writer and director of the short CARNE SECA, which screened at various film festivals such as SXSW, Karlovy Vary, Maryland, Denver, Texas Filmmaker’s Showcase, and went on to receive a jury award from the Director’s Guild of America. Her producing work has screened nationwide, received recognition from NALIP, and been in distribution with HBO. She is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin with degrees in radio-television-film and marketing and is a previous recipient of an AFS Grant.

Gospel of the Well: In this noir of identity and emptiness, a deeply unhappy pre-transition trans man bulldozes the marriage of a vanilla, normative couple by convincing its “husband” she was meant to be a woman all along. Kelly Daniela Norris cofounded Rasquaché Films in 2008, and her debut feature, the Cuba-set drama SOMBRAS DE AZUL (2013), won the Texas Independents Audience Award at the 2013 Austin Film Festival. Her second feature NAKOM (2016) premiered at Berlinale, and was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the 2017 Independent Spirit Awards. Based in Austin, Kelly is a Mexican-American dual citizen, and has taught courses on avant-garde cinema, film history, and digital film production at UC Berkeley. 

Close to You: 23-year-old Ishy hopes that the body she just found behind a dumpster (a dead middle-aged man) might be her escape from loneliness and boredom – but when she starts wearing his body and assumes his identity, she finds that she’s only invited his problems to convolute her own. Jim Hickcox describes himself as “two snakes and a baby bear dressed up like a grumpy man.” He directs films that play at genre and indie festivals (including Fantastic Fest, FilmQuest, Portland International, Sidewalk, Tromadance, Oak Cliff, SXSW) and DP films that play at well-respected festivals (including Cannes, IDFA, True/False, Morelia, Berlinale, SXSW, Slamdance). 

About Austin Film Society
Founded in 1985 by filmmaker Richard Linklater, the Austin Film Society’s mission is to empower our community to make, watch, and love creative media. AFS curates and screens hundreds of repertory, international, and art house films annually at the AFS Cinema; delivers financial support to Texas filmmakers through the AFS Grant; operates Austin Studios, a 20-acre production facility, and Austin Public, a space for our city’s diverse media makers to train and collaborate. Through its award-winning after school classes, intern training, and the Ed Lowry Student Film program, AFS encourages media and film literacy and provides a place for youth of all backgrounds to learn the craft of filmmaking and gain access to tools for media production. By hosting premieres, special events, local and international industry events, and the Texas Film Awards, AFS shines the national spotlight on Texas filmmakers while connecting Austin and Texas to the wider film community. To learn more about the AFS Cinema or about Austin Film Society’s mission visit: and follow @AustinFilm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.