February 6, 2006 3:24 AM

No sooner than I have just returned from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, I am headed off to the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas March 10-14. Also known as SXSW, film fans know that this has become what Sundance used to be (and was supposed to be), a showcase for cutting edge independent film.

"It's a great place to discover new talent," said Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker. "It's attracting more people, and more important people, from all areas..." For nine days in March, the SXSW Film Festival screens the best in new independent film from around the world. SXSW has gained accolades for the quality of our programming, which focuses on both emerging talent and cinematic greats. With over 180 films, including innovative narrative and documentary features; narrative, documentary, animated, and experimental shorts; music videos; and midnight films.


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February 6, 2006 4:55 AM

Eric Allen Bell, the writer/director/producer of The Bondage, has invited me to the World Premiere Saturday March 11. In this case, not only is it a World Premiere, but it is also in competition, which is a very prestigious honor. It is one of 8 films in the Narrative Feature category.

Here is a brief description. It is based on the true story of the writer/director/producer:

The Bondage
Dir: Eric Allen; Cast: Michael Angarano, Illeana Douglas, Griffin Dunne, Eric Lange, Evan Ellingson, Mae Whitman
An Orange County youth escapes an abusive home only to find himself forced to survive a psychiatric ward. (WORLD PREMIERE)

In this case, fortunately, I'm not just flying in for the film and flying back. I'll be there from Friday-Tuesday and will have the opportunity to see dozens of films.

Here is some info:
The Bondage page at IMDb


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February 6, 2006 11:27 PM

Here is Variety's excellent article on the announcement of the SXSW lineup. Of particular note is the fact that The Bondage is not only one of only 115 pics this year, but those 115 pics were chosen from a pool of 2800 entries. Pretty amazing.

'Prairie' opens SXSW
'Dreamz' to wrap film fest
By IAN MOHR

The South by Southwest Film Conference & Festival unveiled its full competish lineup Sunday, and plans to unspool 115 features this year overall. Fest, which runs March 10-18 in Austin, Texas, culled its lineup from about 2,800 submissions and will host 50 world premieres.

After kicking off with the North American preem of Robert Altman's ensembler "A Prairie Home Companion," being distribbed by Picturehouse, the 13th annual SXSW will wrap with Paul Weitz's comedy "American Dreamz." Universal opens that social satire, starring Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid and Mandy Moore, on April 21.

Other highlights this year include the Kim Basinger-Ray Liotta vehicle "Even Money"; "Heavens Fall," starring Timothy Hutton and David Strathairn; James March's "The King," starring Gael Garcia Bernal and William Hurt; and Billy Kent's "The Oh in Ohio," starring Parker Posey and Paul Rudd.

Also world preeming is the John Goodman-narrated "Tales of the Rat Fink," Ron Mann's profile of hot-rod designer Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, who created the popular rubber-burning "Rat Fink" character.

Competish pics include Eric Allen's world preeming "The Bondage," starring Michael Angarano, Illeana Douglas and Griffin Dunne, which follows a teen's ride through Orange County's correctional system, as well as "Live Free or Die," starring Aaron Stanford, Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Rapaport and Judah Friedlander.

"Live Free," from helming duo Andy Robin and Gregg Kavet, follows a would-be criminal who finds himself in real trouble when he teams with a dimwitted friend in an attempt to prove he's an outlaw.

Making the cut in the Emerging Visions program were "Apart From That," Jennifer Shainin and Randy Walker's interweaving tale of a disparate group of quirky Pacific Northwest residents, and "Bickford Shmeckler's Cool Ideas," starring Patrick Fugit in the story of a college freshman who finds his prized journal of cool ideas is stolen.

"We considered many more films this year," said fest producer Matt Dentler, adding that the quality of submissions was particularly high. "Despite the large amount of star-driven films at the festival, there is still an amazing variety of new voices in our programs. There will be a wealth of talented discovery at SXSW this year."

Docu competish section will include "Darkon," Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer's look at a group of hardcore medieval fantasy role-players; Mark Woollen's "Jam," an exploration of the world of roller derby; Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack's "Oil Crash," about the world's dwindling oil supply; and "Shadow Company," helmer Nick Bicanic's inside view of private military forces.

Away from the SXSW cinemas, other highlights will include "A Conversation With Peter Bart," editor-in-chief of Daily Variety. Another panel will focus on Mark Cuban Cuban and Todd Wagner's 2929 Entertainment.

Variety (subscription)


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February 22, 2006 1:28 AM

The trailer for The Bondage is now posted at the SXSW website. You can watch it here:

The Bondage trailer


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March 4, 2006 8:11 PM

SXSW has announced the list of screening dates, times, and locations for The Bondage.

11:00 AM, Saturday March 11th - Alamo Downtown (World Premiere)
4:00 PM, Monday March 13th - Alamo Downtown
3:45 PM, Friday March 17th - Dobie

The trailers are all here in ABC order:

TRAILERS

These are the films The Bondage is competing against:

Americanese
Dir: Eric Byler; Cast: Chris Tashima, Allison Sie, Joan Chen, Kelly Hu, Ben Shenkman, Sab Shimono
After a break-up, two adults find themselves locked between racial identity, meddling friends, and mismatched ideals. (WORLD PREMIERE)

Dance Party, USA
Dir: Aaron Katz; Cast: Anna Kavan, Cole Pensinger, Ryan White, Sarah Bing
Two aimless teenagers connect with each other at a 4th of July party and go their separate ways when a dark secret is revealed. (WORLD PREMIERE)

The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael
Dir: Thomas Clay; Cast: Danny Dyer, Lesley Manville, Dan Spencer, Ryan Winsley, Charles Mnene
A group of English teenagers try to transcend the dull and bleak surroundings of a country at war, with some very disturbing activities. (NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE)

Inner Circle Line
Dir: Eunhee Cho; Cast: Eunyong Yongkun, Yumi Jung, Soyun Jang. A woman and a man, who share the same name, lie at the center of a circle of young adults in Seoul whose intertwined relationships cause them to revolve through cycles of love, loss, and rebirth. (NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE)

The Last Romantic
Dir: Aaron & Adam Nee; Cast: Aaron Nee, James Urbaniak, Shalom Harlow, Jane Bradbury
Fancying himself a poet, Calvin Wizzig moves to New York, with aspirations of making his mark on the world. Unfortunately, the world is not particularly keen on having marks made on it. (WORLD PREMIERE)

Live Free or Die
Dir: Andy Robin & Gregg Kavet; Cast: Aaron Stanford, Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Rapaport, Judah Friedlander, Kevin Dunn
A would-be criminal finds himself in real trouble when he teams up with a dim-witted friend and attempts to prove his chops as a local outlaw. (WORLD PREMIERE)

LOL
Dir: Joe Swanberg; Cast: Kevin Bewersdorf, Joe Swanberg, C. Mason Wells, Tipper Newton, Brigid Reagan
Alex, Tim, and Chris all view the women in their lives through the dimensions of a computer screen or the lens of a camera-phone, but they must learn to balance their online fantasies and addictions with the demands of real life. (WORLD PREMIERE)


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March 9, 2006 9:06 PM

I am finishing up some last minute details and then will be on a plane to Austin to attend the World Premiere. I will try to post from the festival as much as I can, about the film and the response it gets, as well as my own thoughts.

See you from SXSW!


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March 12, 2006

Greetings from the Lone Star State! It's been a whirlwind couple of days here in Austin, and this is the first chance I've had to sit down and bring you up to date on the World Premiere of The Bondage at SXSW. Nevertheless, it will have to be a quick one since I am heading out to see another film.

The screening yesterday exceeded the expectations of many. I was not quite as surprised, though, especially since some of our friends from the message boards made the trip down to join us! The audience reaction, both during the film and in the Q&A afterwards, was warm and positive. I've attended many festivals, and it's fairly common for audience members to find some reason to get up and leave. Needless to say, nobody walked out. They were engaged in the film and they were eloquent and intelligent in their questions afterwards, which Eric and the cast handled with equal eloquence and intelligence.

I will be posting more details later as I get the opportunity, and will be posting pics of the meet & greet before the show as well as the Q&A afterwards. I also recorded it, and as soon as I can transcribe the tape I'll be posting that as well.

Eric and Michael were both very open and accessible to the attendees.

That's just a brief overview of the SXSW experience so far, and I apologize for the brevity. I will fill in the details as time goes on.

Bottom line: The Bondage was a hit, and the World Premiere a definite success. People are really talking about it.

Until later...


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March 13, 2006 AM

Another quick update...The Bondage buzz is bubbling here at SXSW. Everywhere I go, as soon as the name is mentioned, ears perk up. Example: last night I went to a screening of Alex Frost's new film. You may remember Alex as the co-star of Elephant, with John Robinson. John was one of Michael's co-stars on Lords of Dogtown. Alex is staying in the same hotel as me and we were standing in the lobby of the hotel. As soon as the words "The Bondage" were spoken, heads turned and complete strangers moved closer to us and either asked about the film ("yeah, how is that? I've been hearing good things about it") or simply told us they had it on their schedule as a must-see. The same routine was repeated when we were at the theater waiting to take our seats.

This afternoon should be interesting, to say the least. At 4 PM we are showing The Bondage for the second time. I will be there and I will report back later on how well this screening was received.

Thank you all for your support!


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March 13, 2006 PM

The Bondage screening #2 was another rousing success. Once again, a nice crowd turned out for this 4 PM weekday screening. Even during the day on a Monday, when work hasn't even let out yet, when most SXSW attendees are "movied-out" at this point, it looked like another World Premiere. The line went around the corner and the anticipation was almost audible. Audience reaction was extremely positive once again, and Eric led another terrific Q&A, joined by editor Tony Ciccone.

Tomorrow is the last day of the Film Festival (the Music Festival begins Wednesday, and there will be another showing of The Bondage in a few days). The awards ceremony takes place tomorrow night. Reports from those who have attended the other 7 films in the competition have been less than favorable. I've managed to catch a couple of them and was quite unimpressed. One was..well, awful, to be polite. I'll try to catch a couple more competition films tomorrow. The strength of the films being shown here is that much more a testament to what an honor it must be for The Bondage to be in the competition in the first place.


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March 14, 2006

Tonight's Film Awards were exciting and dramatic. Appropriate for the purpose, eh? Congratulations to the winning films, all of which were worthy achievements. Although The Bondage did not pick up an award, it was still an exciting to see the film's name up on the big screen, as one of only eight finalists in the Narrative Feature competition. It was the marquee event of the night and the last award. So to be up there among the other seven in the Festival's grand finale, literally, is still something which everyone associated with the film can be proud of. Of 2800 submitted films, only eight made the cut for this most prestigious award and that can never be taken away.

There is no doubt that The Bondage had a huge impact on many festival attendees. Even as I stood in the lobby with Eric after the event, we had folks walk up to us and say how much they loved the film and that they were rooting for it. Afterwards, I headed over to the Film Festival closing night party, which was also the Music Festival's opening night party. The moment I walked in, I was approached by someone who had seen the film. He couldn't stop talking about it. This continued throughout the night, as I was asked why I was there, and I mentioned that I had attended the world premiere of The Bondage. I saw the director of The Lost, a film which had its world premiere here on Saturday night (I had attended with a few of our group -- see "Monday AM" above). I approached him to let him know how much I enjoyed his film. Instead, he wanted to know when the next screening of The Bondage would be. I pulled out my schedule, showed him the Friday screening time, and he wrote it down and told me he had heard so much about it that`he had to see it. When the directors of other films are more interested in talking about The Bondage than their own films, you know it must be something special.

On that note, I headed out and will be flying home in the morning. When I get back, I'll post the pics from the screenings and the transcripts of the Q&A sessions.


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March 18, 2006 2:03 AM

Now some thoughts about a few of the lead actors in The Bondage.

Griffin Dunne: As the psychiatrist assigned to counsel Charlie, Mr. Dunne almost steals the show. Despite its heavy subjects, the film has many lighthearted moments, and some of the biggest laughs come in these scenes. This is one brilliant comic actor, and must have been a riot to work with. I thought of Eugene Levy at his best. Every word, every nuance in the exchanges between Dunne and Angarano in these scenes is priceless.

Evan Ellingson: Plays Charlie's younger but taller brother Mark. He is slightly more mischievous than Charlie. Is he more the instigator here or just a willing participant? You'll just have to see for yourself. I did envy the closeness of the two boys' relationship, though. They seem more friends than brothers and I certainly didn't experience that in my own life, which made it that much more poignant.

Eric Lange: Dear old Dad. Lange is appropriately scary as the father who can turn moods on a dime. Scenes shown in flashback illustrate some of the events in Charlie's life which lead up to his fateful acting out and subsequent incarceration. I really hated this guy, and that is testament to Lange's talent. He was my father, too. I suspect you'll despise him as much as I did. Or will you feel sorry for him?

Mae Whitman: The adorable and aptly named Angelica, Charlie's newly acquired friend in the latter stages of his ordeal. Whitman enters the film like a light in the darkness, and has an onscreen chemistry with Angarano which is apparent in all their scenes together. As the saying goes, "you'll laugh, you'll cry" -- Whitman brought me to tears in her portrayal of perhaps the one person who understands Charlie, something he has never known.

Illeana Douglas: Charlie's Mom. Everymom. I cannot say enough about the impact of her performance. Every moment she appears onscreen is filled with emotion and tension. Douglas is absolutely breathtaking in her portrayal of the seemingly helpless, hapless parent struggling to gain control of her out-of-control child. And who can relate to that? Maybe every mother in America? In the world? She tries everything to repair the broken bond she once had with Charlie. Or was it ever really a bond in the first place? A heartbreaking performance.

Michael Angarano: Plays Charlie Douglas, the protagonist. The Bondage is his story, based on the true life events of writer/director Eric Allen Bell. First off, it must be said that Angarano is arguably the most talented teenage actor in America, if not the most prolific. With 4-6 films a year under his belt, as well as numerous television appearances, one would think that we might have seen him tackle a role like this before. But we really haven't. This is not Will Stronghold, the lovable would-be superhero of Sky High, or "Baby Sid," the Lords of Dogtown skateboarder who isn't quite up to snuff with the other guys but is allowed to tag along because we feel sorry for him. This is a side of Angarano we haven't known -- angry, sad, and frightening.

Charlie has known little but disappointment in life, from the fractured relationship with his father, to the strangely disconnected bond with his mother, to the little brother who seems to get away with everything -- it's all there. And it all adds up to rage, which leads to trouble, which plants poor Charlie in Juvenile Hall. But now he really does have some life-altering decisions to make. And he now needs to reach out and enlist the help of others to save himself -- something he has never had to do. Along the way, he is tamed by the system, but not whipped into submission. He still has the cojones to fight back, and he does it with every fiber of his being.

This is a startling performance which should cause moviegoers to sit up and take notice. To call it chilling doesn't do it justice. I literally had shivers up my spine in scene after scene after scene. Angarano is riveting, captivating, endearing, and always sympathetic. Anyone who doesn't identify with Charlie's sense of loss and despair has no heart. We have all been in bondage in our own way, and Charlie's attempts to break free of his own bondage will resonate with the viewer long after leaving the theatre. This is a performance that ranks among the best I've ever seen from someone so young. I'm not one for hyperbole but I was absolutely blown away by Angarano's performance and that alone is worth the price of admission many times over. This film will leave you thinking, and it is largely due to the brilliant subtleties and incredible range of Michael Angarano.


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March 20, 2006 3:37 PM

Here is the transcript from the Q&A after the March 10 World Premiere of The Bondage at SXSW in Austin, Texas. I excised a couple of questions which would be spoilers.

Eric Allen Bell
: I guess this is the Q&A, so I have a lot of questions for you guys (laughter). Does anybody have any questions? Okay, let?s go to lunch. Oh, question?

Q
: What did you shoot in on and how long was production?

Eric: Production was 4 weeks long. We shot it at Super 16 not only to save money, but because the institutions looked better in Super 16. So it was about 4 weeks.

Q: [About the budget]

Eric: It was way way way obscenely over budget, and if I told you we?d all start vomiting. So it was really a lot more than we expected to spend. Not more than Titanic but?

Q
: Do you want to talk about the music a bit? Your selection of music and how that worked out?

Eric
: Mostly we looked for music that helped tell the story and helped modulate in terms of what characters are feeling. I?ve watched so many movies and very very rarely do I see a movie where they get into the psyche of characters. I noticed a lot on ?Six Feet Under? they?ll take a moment and show you what the character?s actually thinking, or in ?Pink Floyd The Wall? who he is, more what the character?s thinking than what?s going on in reality, and here we went ahead and blurred that line in the narrative. And so with music, the selection really was just, ?what is Charlie feeling?? and we chose music accordingly.

Q: [About what happened to the characters next]

Eric: It?s a true story. I can tell you what happened to his brother, because he?s my brother. He?s been to prison about 30 times. I haven?t spoken to him in many many years, but he?s definitely more hardened than anybody portrayed in the movie at this time. I mean, he?s completely gone.

Q
: Did you grow up in Southern California? Because I?m from Los Angeles and I have a lot of friends from Orange County who really strikingly, kind of scarily had similar family-type situations?people.

Eric
: Yeah, I grew up in Fountain Valley. I changed the names, obviously, so my parents don?t sue me?but yeah, I did, and I went to Orange County Juvenile Hall, and I went to a psychiatric facility there that?s?Newport Beach Psychiatric [pictured in the film] doesn?t exist because if they did they?d sue us, so we had to invent them. But yeah, I did.

Eric: Does anybody have questions for the cast too? Yes, question?

Q
: Was it hard playing the director?

Eric: Was it hard playing Eric Allen Bell, Michael?

Michael Angarano
: He?s a very complex man, Eric Allen Bell. I didn?t really want to try and do an imitation of him as much as I did want to just try and capture the essence of the man. Because if you try and do an imitation, I mean, Eric Allen Bell? No, it was weird at times because some of the scenes are pretty dead on exactly what happened to him, and other scenes are different, but we would kind of go in and out of it after a take after it?s all said and done. We?d check the gates, I?d go ?alright, was that really what it was like at all?? and sometimes you?d go, ?[expletive] yeah,? or sometimes you?d go, ?uhh?no, not really.? It was pretty awesome actually, so it was weird at times but we were really creating this character Charlie and were really collaborating on that and using his psyche as the foundation. But other than that it wasn?t too bad, it was fine.

Q: Excellent acting! (big ovation)

Q: I know you said in a chat on your website that you had only had, was it a couple of weeks to prepare for the role when you found out you had it?

Michael: Actually 2 days!

Q: 2 days! Alright, a couple of days?how did you do it?

Michael: It was pretty interesting because about 2 days before, I found out I got the part and I was pretty scared because it was like, ?I really don?t know what you want me to do in 2 days? but a lot of the time it was just jumping into the scene and figuring out what came out and not?it was different because a lot of roles you want to take the time to prepare for, and you want to think about them, but this one was really, ?let?s just go in there and see what comes out.? And we did all the juvie stuff in the first week and I think we did all the stuff at home the next week and then we did the psychiatric hospital the last week so a lot of it was just going in there and seeing what happens, what came out and that?s really all.

Q
: How much fun was it to trash the house?

Michael: It was a lot of fun. It was cool. It was a dream come true. Not to trash my house?not mine.

Q: [What's next for everybody?]

Michael: I just finished a movie that David Gordon Green wrote and directed called ?Snow Angels? with Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell that should be out sometime next year. And after ?Bondage? I did a movie called ?Man in the Chair? with Christopher Plummer that should be coming out. ?One Last Thing,? another movie I did before ?Bondage,? with Cynthia Nixon and Ethan Hawke that went to Toronto and should be coming out. And ?Dear Wendy? DVD that?s coming out next week.

Mae Whitman: I?m on a show called ?Thief? that?s going to be premiering on FX on March 28 with Andre Braugher and Clifton Collins Jr. so go check it out!

Eric: I?m going to get some sleep, and stay out of jail pretty much, and possibly make another movie.


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March 21, 2006 4:21 PM

Here are some pictures I took as writer/director Eric Allen Bell arrived at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown for the World Premiere screening along with cast members Michael Angarano, Mae Whitman, and Paul Peglar. Bell and Angarano took to the stage afterward for an exciting Q&A.

PICTURES from The Bondage World Premiere


Author

Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

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