Movies, Film And Acting At South By Southwest

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At the SXSW Film Festival, we profile the new film Lovers of Hate, hear how distribution will change in five years and attend Jeffrey Tambor's acting seminar.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

For every big studio movie, there are countless, small independent films waiting to be seen. They often show up at festivals, like South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, because that's where deals are made. A record number of movies were submitted to festival organizers this year - nearly 4,000 - and one of those films got a lucky break.

"Lovers of Hate" is a dark comedy about two brothers in love with the same woman. One of the brothers writes young adult fiction - think "Harry Potter." The other brother is not so successful, and likes wallowing in his own unhappiness.

(Soundbite of movie, "Lovers of Hate")

Unidentified Man: Let me just preface this by saying I love the guy, okay? He's my brother, I love him, but you did the right thing. Diana, neither one of us are ever going to make him a happy person, all right? That's not going to happen. That's not who he is.

HANSEN: "Lovers of Hate" will be released in theaters in May, but it can be seen now on cable television's Independent Film Channel. It's directed by Brian Poyser and stars Chris Doubek and Heather Kafka. The actors are from Austin and were at South by Southwest this year. They even participated in a workshop led by Jeffrey Tambor. You may know the actor from "The Larry Sanders Show" or "Arrested Development." He told the actors that they have to be willing to act badly before they can act well.

Mr. JEFFREY TAMBOR (Actor): I have four kids at home. I have two five-month-old boy twins and I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old and that's why I look this way. And they are willing to build but they're also willing to destroy, as you know, and they love destruction. And we lose that. We just go, is this good? That's the killer - is this good? Is this right? Do they like it? The hat in the hand, waiting for the director to go, that's, that's, you understand, whereas I'm for you guys getting down and dirty. We can always repair it.

HANSEN: To illustrate the point, Jeffrey Tambor used a scene from "Lovers of Hate." This is how the scene is played in the film.

(Soundbite of movie, "Lovers of Hate")

Mr. CHRIS DOUBEK (Actor): (as Rudy) We'll break up right after dinner.

Ms. HEATHER KAFKA (Actress): (as Diana) We are broken up.

Mr. DOUBEK: I know, I know. I am under no illusion about that but he is, so I'd like it if you would not dissuade him from that.

Ms. KAFKA: Well, I'm not going to do that to Paul.

Mr. DOUBEK: Why not?

Ms. KAFKA: Because he's your brother.

Mr. DOUBEK: So what?

Ms. KAFKA: So what?

HANSEN: At the workshop, Tambor instructs Chris Doubek to perform the same scene as a little kid. In fact, to pretend he is Heather Kafka's three-year-old child.

Mr. DOUBEK: Why not?

Ms. KAFKA: No, I'm not going to do that, no, no.

Mr. DOUBEK: Why not, why not, why not, why not, why not?

Ms. KAFKA: Stop it.

Mr. DOUBEK: Why not?

Ms. KAFKA: No.

Mr. DOUBEK: Why not, why not?

Ms. KAFKA: 'Cause I don't want to do that to Paul.

Mr. TAMBOR: And does Harper get mad?

Mr. DOUBEK: Sometimes.

Ms. KAFKA: Oh yeah.

Mr. TAMBOR: Let's have Harper have a temper tantrum.

Ms. KAFKA: No.

Mr. DOUBEK: Why not.

Ms. KAFKA: No, no.

Mr. DOUBEK: Why not.

Ms. KAFKA: Okay. You done?

HANSEN: After the workshop ended, we corralled the two actors for an interview, but first, Harper, Kafka's three-year-old daughter, needed some mommy time.

Ms. KAFKA: This is my daughter Harper.

Ms. DOUBEK: A lollipop and a...

Ms. KAFKA: Where did you get this?

HARPER: In mommy's purse.

Ms. KAFKA: In mommy's purse?

HARPER: Um-hum. Daddy has it.

HANSEN: So, you feel like you - I mean, even though you are a working actor in a film...

Mr. DOUBEK: Right.

HANSEN: ...that's going to be distributed, you discovered new things today.

Mr. DOUBEK: Oh sure, yeah. And I'm also reminded about being around people like Jeffrey how much I like doing this.

Ms. KAFKA: I think there's always something that you can chip away at and open up more about. And so there's always something to be learned if you're open enough to it.

HANSEN: So, the scene that youre doing all these different improvisations and different ways of doing the scene, your film is already done, it's in the can, it's being seen. I have to ask, I mean, if you watch yourselves doing this scene now, are you going to be thinking about it differently?

Mr. DOUBEK: What do you think?

Ms. KAFKA: In film, you do so many different takes of one scene and then when you see the movie, you don't know what the director and the editor have chosen. So, a performance is constantly being made. It's interesting. It's like you give birth to this baby and it grows up and goes out into the world and people are able to experience it, but at the same time it's not dead to you. You know, it continues to go on and then people analyze it and say what they got from it.

HANSEN: Of course, before audiences can analyze and scrutinize, they have to see the film, and not every movie is lucky enough to wind up on the Independent Film Channel. But there are other avenues opening online that weren't available even a few years ago.

That was a hot topic at the South by Southwest Film Festival this year. Representatives from Criterion, the Independent Film Channel and YouTube led a discussion in front of a packed room at the Austin Convention Center. Sara Pollack said that YouTube is starting a rental service. It put up a few films from last year's and this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Ms. SARA POLLACK (YouTube): And there was some backlash of the very vocal users who visit the homepage saying, you know, YouTube's supposed to be free, why do I have to pay for this, yadda, yadda, yadda. And it's something we'll have to deal with.

And what was interesting was, like, the one thing that kind of stopped those comments was when a bunch of a filmmakers kind of got on, got back into the comments and explained, you're asking why we would do this, why would YouTube do this? We're doing this because we made a film. We want people to see it. Like, we're in a crisis as an industry and people aren't watching our work and this is us trying to get you our film. And when you spend that $3.99, most of it's coming to us.

HANSEN: YouTube will keep a percentage of the profits, Pollack said.

The new business model could hold a lot of promise for films like "Lovers of Hate" and the 4,000 other films submitted to the festival this year. But Pollack says just merely posting a film online doesn't automatically equal success.

Ms. POLLACK: I feel there's sometimes an expectation that if you put something online and just leave it there people will discover it, 'cause isn't that what online is all about? And it's not. And this is the place where theatrical and online are actually quite similar.

HANSEN: In other words, filmmakers will still need to generate good old-fashioned buzz.

And for anyone worried that online will kill the movie theater experience, rest easy. The panel agreed that people will always want to go to the movies.

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