Where are you from and what brought you to Austin?
I grew up about an hour north of Austin in Harker Heights. I was an army kid, and when my Dad retired we stayed in the area. Austin was always "the big city" to me and we visited it quite a bit as I was growing up. I just fell in love with city and decided pretty early on that I was going to end up here one way or another. When I discovered Austin had a film scene, I had a professional reason to do it along with the personal ones. I graduated with a film degree from the University of North Texas and then moved down here about four years ago.
How long have you been a cinephile?
I hate to give the cliched answer of "my whole life" but some of my earliest memories are of watching movies. Going to the theater was always a big deal for me, no matter what I was seeing. I would always get those Starlog magazines that would come out for big event films and read them cover to cover. Because I was one of the really popular kids, a big part of my teenage years were spent watching Monstervision on TNT during the weekends and seeing a lot of (edited for television) horror and SciFi classics. And then of course when I got into college I realized that there was an entire world of films and filmmakers I needed to catch up on. I'm still working on that.
Is there a particular film that got you hooked on movies?
Tim Burton's BATMAN. I wore that VHS tape out (and still have it.) I know I saw other movies before then, but that was the first film I remember watching and wondering "How did they do that?" The big scene in particular to me is when the Batwing is flying through downtown Gotham to stop The Joker's parade/Prince dance party. That blew me away, and that's when I realized somebody actually makes these things. There are aspects of that film that haven't aged well, but I still think it holds up tremendously. In fact I'd put it alongside ED WOOD as Burton's best film.
Did any particular SciFi film or TV show have an early influence on you?
Like most people my age, the Star Wars movies are important milestones. But the one SciFi film that really stuck out to me was STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN. I had seen and enjoyed The Next Generation on TV, but I'm pretty sure that was the first Trek film I saw, probably on cable. Not knowing the series lore at the time, Spock's death (sorry if I spoiled it for anyone) was a big emotional blow. I love that film because amongst all the space battles, special effects and Ricardo Montalaban monologues it's a story about old friends reflecting on life and what they could and should have done differently. You don't have to be a Trekkie to identify with the central themes.
What appeals to you most about science fiction?
It's really a blank canvas. You can tell any kind of story you wish, explore any themes or characters you want. Because it deals in fantasy, you can stretch the bounds of your story as far as your imagination will allow.
What do you consider to be the Golden Age of SciFi?
To me, the 1980's. Not just because of the Star Wars or Star Trek sequels, but because of the crop of directors that were given big chances with SciFi films. John Carpenter, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, James Cameron, Ridley Scott. With the obvious exceptions of Cameron and Scott, can you imagine any of those other directors being given big budget SciFi movies today? DUNE for example, is a problematic film at best, but the fact that at one time a studio gave Lynch $50 million or whatever it was to make it as he wanted to is almost unbelievable. Whenever interesting or out-of-left-field directors are given a chance to do something like that today, more often than not it's a pre-packaged deal: a comic book film or remake that doesn't let them really exhibit their voice. But for a time in the 80's, some great filmmakers were really given that chance and made films that, if not classics, were at least interesting.
What do you like about being a programmer OWA?
It's all brand new to me, which is great. I'd worked for Austin Film Festival in the past, but not on the programming side. To be able to watch new films, figure out how they may or may not work together, and actually put together a program of films is genuinely exciting. And we haven't really even scratched the surface, there's still a lot to do and a lot to learn.
What’s your experience with other film festivals?
My brother got badges for the 2005 South by Southwest festival for both of us my freshman year of college. I had never attended a film festival before and it was a revelation. I attended again the following year, and then every year since I moved down here. (Through a tremendous amount of luck, I've always gotten free badges to SXSW.) I worked for AFF as a production manager in 2012, where I met Bears Fonte, and really dug the mechanics behind it. I enjoyed the stress of it all and the idea that we were really doing something big. I also like the idea of not starting because you're ready, but starting because it's opening night and it's time to go. I'd love to attend the big international festivals as well, but I haven't figured out how to get free badges to those yet.
What do you like to do when you’re not watching films?
Not watching films? Uhh... I have countless half finished screenplays on my computer. I love reading film history and analysis books. There are still parts of Austin I need to discover and experience. I'm considering taking up yoga, which to anybody who knows me is equal parts hilarious and terrifying.
Is there anything else people should know about you?
I was a projectionist in high school and college before all this digital crap, so one of my goals is to buy and refurbish a 35mm projector and collect prints for it. My dream car is the 1960's Batmobile, complete with emergency Bat Turn lever and flaming exhaust port. Also, I've attended three Wrestlemanias. That about covers it.