I am one of the luckiest film geeks in Austin right now. I managed to get one of the Austin Film Society slots in UT’s master class for film students. I’m not taking the class for credit; I show up once a week and listen to interesting speakers who talk about their movie-related work.
I took the class last year, too, but it was a little easier to get a seat then. I think this year’s lineup of speakers had something to do with it. Last year’s schedule was excellent, but the speakers were perhaps not quite as universally known: Rob Epstein, Polly Platt, Bradley Beesley, and Don Hertzfeldt were some of the better-known names. Compare that with the better-known speakers lined up for this year’s class: Mike Judge, Kevin Smith, Mark Cuban, and Ray Harryhausen. John Pierson is in charge of the class this year (which would explain Smith’s inclusion). No wonder the AFS server slowed to a crawl and nearly froze as I tried to register for the class. There’s talk about moving some of the popular speakers’ sessions to the Austin City Limits stage, which may sound fun to all of you, but as someone who worked there as an intern, I know that the seats are not very comfy and not at all suitable for note-taking. Hopefully we’ll get to stay in the nice fourth-floor studio.
I have a few small worries about this year’s lineup. First of all, some of the speakers are so popular that it will be hard to maintain the intimate tone of last year’s classes. The room holds about 100 people, and was often only about half-full, so everyone was able to ask questions and the speakers felt very comfortable and chatty. Even when the room is full, however, it is still a good atmosphere for filmmakers to speak informally. Last week’s packed-to-the-gills class with Mike Judge proved that, so I shouldn’t worry.
The other issue is that none of the speakers are female. I don’t mind personally, but I think it is a shame when so many of the students in the class are female and might enjoy hearing from women in film-related careers. Again, that hasn’t stop the women from flocking to the classes for the past couple of weeks.
Okay, I have one further regret, which is that my friend BZ wasn’t able to get a slot in the class. He and I were IM’ing about the slowness of the AFS server as we both tried to register at the same time. I wasn’t even sure if I’d been able to get a seat, because the confirmation page never displayed properly, but I went back to check later and realized how fortunate I was. BZ and I had a lot of fun taking the class together last year (at the time, we worked as writers for the same employer), and I don’t know anyone in the class this year.
Still, I am looking forward to a semester of wonderful, inspiring speakers. I developed a fun routine last year of leaving work early so I would beat the traffic and arrive on campus around 4:30 pm. This gave me lots of time to find good parking around the building (I am not sharing my UT parking secrets, however) and to have dinner near campus before class, usually while reading a good frothy novel.
Aside: I have a question for Austinites. I heard so many good things about Madam Mam’s last year, and tried eating there a couple of times before class. However, I never did find anything I liked. One dish was tasty, but too spicy to eat without drinking tons of water, which was a dumb idea to do before a 2.5-hour class (with no break). Another dish was served in an unusual way, with a small pile of sugar on top of one portion, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Can any of you Madam Mam’s fans recommend a non-spicy dish there? Because I’d like to give it one more try, although I am also fond of Thai Noodle and Texadelphia. I need to figure out some more places to eat or I am going to get sick of noodle bowls and cheesesteaks by May.
Anyway, I have been taking tons of notes during the first couple of classes. The speakers so far have been Mike Judge and Ross McElwee, and both were fabulous in their own ways. I’d heard Judge before, but not McElwee. Tonight’s speaker is Richard Linklater. I’m also trying to think of good questions to ask, because I don’t want to be the quiet one in the corner.
Some of the classes are being audio recorded, with the idea that they might be edited for KUT radio broadcasts sometime in the future. If I hear more about this, I will let you know. (So far, Judge didn’t want to be recorded; I don’t know if they got McElwee.) In the meantime, you will have to settle for me and my notes … which I really should finish transcribing and post soon. I’ve got an entry on Mike Judge nearly done, so look for it sometime this week.