Almost every low-budget, independent feature in existence has its own story of production hell. Take The Marianao Kid, a movie that local film producer Teddy Hallaron and his crew wrapped 11 years ago. According to Hallaron, the film, which will screen at the Houston Press Indie Film Series, was stalled when a pledge of $40,000 for postproduction costs didn't come through. Hallaron spent the better part of the past decade coming up with the money to complete the film, which recounts the story of Pepito, a Cuban draft dodger who, through a twist of fate, escapes from Havana and ends up in Buenos Aires, where he discovers capitalism.
The Houston PressIndie Film Series will honor filmmakers who've fought their own uphill production battles. "We just had a desire to do a true independent film series in Houston," says organizer Monica Keels, Houston Presspromotions director. "What we're showing are films, I think, that the everyday filmgoer is going to be interested in. Some of them are a little weird, but that's okay. I think that holds true to the independent spirit."
The series includes eight full-length films and six shorts. Its opening film is director Paul Quinn's Never Get Outta the Boat, which lists John Cusack as a producer. The movie takes place in a gritty Hollywood drug rehab center, where protagonists Joe, Cesar and Franky are trying to get clean. Their efforts are going swimmingly until a popular rock star and some alcoholics who are still on the sauce move in.
Other promising flicks include Danny Clinch and Sam Lee's Pleasure and Pain, a documentary chronicling the life and music of roots-rock prince Ben Harper; Shinsuke Sato's The Princess Blade, a jolting Asian samurai actioner inspired by the comic Shurayukihime; and Deepa Mehta's Bollywood/Hollywood, a love letter to the majestic, extravagant musicals of India.
Romantic-comedy fans will dig Stu Pollard's Nice Guys Sleep Alone, a film set in Kentucky horse country about a good guy named Carter who can't get laid. His best friend and sister tell him that if he'd quit being so nice, he'd have more luck. So when Carter meets a woman he could fall in love with, he tries to win her over by playing it cool.
Each feature screening will be accompanied by a short. Among the openers are Talk to You Later, Houstonian Steven Hentges's film about female neuroses, and In/Out, about a guy who starts questioning reality when he sees a weird old man outside his window.
Several featured filmmakers will be present at their screenings, and they'll stick around afterward for Q-and-A sessions. Gillie, the screenwriter, co-producer and co-star of Never Get Outta the Boat, says he finds the format of the series refreshing. "It's interesting that they're screening one film a week," says Gillie. "That tells me that whoever is organizing the festival is really, really serious about film and not so much about the glamour of having a film festival."