Texas movie theaters may now reopen at limited capacity, but AFS Cinema is among the many waiting a bit longer before switching on the projector. To help with costs and keep cinephiles entertained, Austin Film Society is unreeling Lone Star Slate, a curated collection of films from Texas-based filmmakers.
AFS, the umbrella nonprofit that oversees AFS Cinema, Austin Studios, and Austin Public, designed the Slate to "connect audiences with important films during the Cinema’s temporary closure." The debut collection is a mix of 11 narrative and documentary features and is part of its Virtual Cinema package, an indie video-on-demand service many theaters launched in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the notable selections in the inaugural lineup is director Annie Silverstein's Bull — an official selection at last year's Cannes Film Festival — which tells the story of a headstrong Houston teen destined for jail until she's forced to work for an aging bull rider.
Lone Star Slate also features the world premiere of Ben and Bo Powell’s documentary Nothin’ No Better, a film originally scheduled to travel this year's festival circuit before the pandemic hit.
"The options available to us via streaming these days are overwhelming. Finding independent and regional stories can be like looking for a needle in the haystack on the corporate streaming services," notes Holly Herrick, AFS head of film and creative media.
Despite the name, viewers don't need to be in Austin to access the films, all of which are available now and can be purchased here.
Rental fees (aka ticket prices) range from $2.99-$12, depending on the film, and most include options to buy. Along with screening access, many of the titles come with filmmaker Q&As and additional "extras." Sales, notes a release, are being shared between the nonprofit and the filmmakers.
Supporting Texas filmmakers, of course, is the foundation of Austin Film Society, a nonprofit founded in 1985 by Richard Linklater, a longtime champion for independent films and their creators. Along with discovering something new, AFS's new initiative helps financially support Texas' creative community in these devastating economic times.
“AFS is positioned to champion Texas filmmakers, and connect them with audiences," says Herrick. "In the past, the AFS Cinema was our primary strategy for this, but the current crisis pushed us to explore other avenues for engagement. Advances in VOD technology allow us to partner with our filmmakers, creating an opportunity for them and for our audiences.”