Where are you from and what brought you to Austin?
I grew up in St. Louis and came to San Antonio when I was 17 because my father was transferred. I moved to Austin after graduating from the film department at UNT with dreams of starting a screenwriting career here.
Is there a particular film that got you hooked on movies?
I have always been a sucker for horror and SciFi, but I think it was all of the amazing coming-of-age films from the 80's that got me hooked. “The Goonies” and “Stand by Me” helped define my childhood. They made me want to go on adventures and value my friendships. I really like how the main characters in both of the films deal with real problems and react realistically to these problems. I think a lot of the coming-of-age films that have been released since then gloss over reality and underestimate how smart kids can be.
What’s the first SciFi film you remember seeing? What kind of impact did it have on you?
“A New Hope”, “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Return of the Jedi.” I was a child of the 80's. If these films were not made, I would be a different person today.
Do you have any SciFi pet peeves?
I get annoyed when Scifi films take up most of their runtime with exposition about the science of the film and then spend little time developing interesting characters. “Back to the Future” is the greatest time travel movie ever because of its character development and emotionally driven plot. The science of the film is explained, but in a comedic way. I like being challenged by a film, but I don't want a headache from trying to sort everything out.
What do you consider to be the Golden Age of SciFi?
If you could not already tell by my previous answers -- the late 70's to the late 80's. “Alien,” “Back to the Future,” “Star Wars,” “The Last Starfighter,” “Terminator,” E.T.,” and the list goes on and on.
What do you like about being a programmer OWA?
I'm really excited about being on the ground floor and looking ahead to what this festival could grow into. I think Bears Fonte has put together a strong team and has created a foundation for a festival that will be around for years to come. I also love meeting filmmakers from around the world and helping them to share their films with Austin.
You’re also a screenwriter, what appeals to you about writing science fiction?
I like the challenge of creating something new and working in worlds that have different rules. On the other hand, I like taking very normal situations and injecting an element of SciFi into them. Either way, I have learned that SciFi is really hard to write because you have to find ways to both develop characters and get out exposition about the science or the world that you have created. It's also tough trying to keep a SciFi script within a reasonable shooting budget.
What’s your experience with film festivals?
I have been a screener volunteer for the Austin Film Festival over the past few years, but I have been a festival junky for the last decade. I have not been able to go to many festivals outside of Austin because, well, I'm kinda poor, but I have been tracking films on the festival circuit and waiting patiently for them to become available.
My favorite thing about going to film festivals has been the friends that I have made over the years. Most of these friendships have started with standing in line and talking with the people around me. I love discovering a gem at a festival and getting out of the theater and talking about it with people who are just as excited as me.
What do you like to do when you’re not watching films?
I love to hang out with my wife and cook for her. It's fun finding new ways to make her smile. She supports both my obsession with film and my dedication to the St. Louis Cardinals. I am truly a lucky man.
Is there anything else people should know about you?
I was nine days old when my parents adopted me and it was Christmas Eve when they brought me home. Like most Christmas gifts, I came with a set of instructions. The instructions were simple and not anything that could be found in a good parenting book. The instructions consisted of three rules. The first rule was to keep me out of bright light because it could hurt my sensitive skin. The second was to never get me wet because one baby Dan is quite enough of a challenge for first time parents. And the third and most important rule was to never feed me after midnight. By Christmas morning, my parents were stuck with a gremlin for a son.