Thursday, July 20, 2017

AFS Goes a Long Way Back with A GHOST STORY Director David Lowery

When David Lowery's film AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS became a breakout hit in 2013, many filmgoers were introduced to this special talent, a writer-director poised to break into the pantheon. But, as it happened, the Austin Film Society was already very familiar with Lowery.

If you only know AFS as the home of film exhibition, it may surprise you to know that AFS has given over 1.7 million dollars to nurture filmmakers and help them make career leaps via the AFS Grant, which you too can apply to receive for your project. This grant is funded by AFS members, donors, and people like you who attend films at the non-profit AFS Cinema.

In 2005, the then 24 year old Lowery applied for an AFS grant to complete his ambitious short film THE OUTLAW SON. With that film in tow, Lowery made the rounds of film festivals and began to put together the building blocks for his first feature ST. NICK, also helped along by a $6,000 AFS Grant in 2007.

When ST. NICK caught the attention of festival programmers, AFS again helped Lowery with a pair of travel grants, so he could attend a lab and festival and further advance his career.

Next, in 2011, Lowery made a short called PIONEER and was again able to travel to Sundance thanks to a $500 AFS travel grant.

By this time, Lowery's talent had been recognized and his career was well under way. After AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS, Lowery signed on with Disney to reimagine PETE'S DRAGON and now he has made one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, A GHOST STORY, now playing at the AFS Cinema.

Lowery's films are just a few of the nearly 500 film and video projects that have been partially funded by the AFS Grant. We're proud to be able to help and we hope you'll join us at the AFS Cinema for this remarkable new movie.

You can watch the trailer for A GHOST STORY here:

And as a special bonus, here is the writer-director himself recommending some of his favorite ghost movies. Take notes!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Watch This: Suzanne Ciani Brings Far-Out Synthesis to 80s Kid’s TV

Suzanne Ciani may not be a household name, but the sounds she invented were in every home in America during the early 80s. In addition to her brilliant work as an electronic composer, Ciani pioneered the use of synthesizers to create musical sound effects – like the fizzy pop of a Coke bottle cap (a hard attack of resonance followed by a long decay of white noise) – and 80s advertising embraced it in a big way. Soon her sound effects were in high demand - she even designed the sensual electric coos of the Bally XENON pinball machine.

Ciani became the unofficial spokesperson for the synthesizer in the late 70s and early 80s, appearing on a slew of popular television programs to demonstrate some of the futuristic sounds of this mysterious new instrument.

The new doc A LIFE IN WAVES (playing AFS Cinema July 19 & 22) tells of Ciani’s singular path through the music industry, despite the intense zeitgeist of sexism in commercial music, to become a modern cult figure among electronic music aficionados. Not just a great story about an overlooked artist, the film is a veritable overdose of 80s aesthetic nostalgia, featuring an abundance of rich archival material including Ciani’s commercials, TV appearances and home studio. This is the stuff that Tumblrs are made of.

Here is one TV appearance that somehow didn’t make the cut: in 1980, Suzanne Ciani brought her cosmic synth sounds to the popular PBS kids program "3-2-1 Contact." With the soft-spoken patience of a kindergarten teacher, Ciani breaks down some rather sophisticated concepts of sound and synthesis, all while dropping some pretty spaced-out synth sequences. Check it out, you might even learn a few things yourself.