On the weekend of Oct. 24, eager, fest-happy College of Communications majors will descend upon the Austin Film Festival, ready to bask in another week of new screenings and artistic vision. For RTF senior Andy Young, however, this year of AFF marks the beginning of his career.
By Samantha Jogenia Grasso
Young’s short film, entitled "The Crime of the Century," is one of the 100 short films that has been officially selected to premiere at this year’s Austin Film Festival and Conference. Out of 4000 submissions, the festival selected 11 from Texas, five of which belong to University of Texas students, Young says. Young's film is the only UT selection that wasn't created for scholastic purposes. “I’m a very self-deprecating kind of person, and so it’s weird seeing my film next to all these great UT films. It blows my mind,” Young says.
The premise of "The Crime of the Century" unconventionally centers on film bumpers, which are 30-second to one-minute short films that play at film festivals before the feature film begins. In the short, two cops — one the friendly, conversational type played by Michael Buckley and the other cop, loud and violent, played by Bobby Kelland — interrogate a colorful character played by James McEnelly. McEnelly’s character embodies different standard movie stereotypes, such as the “lanky ‘Michael Cera’ teen” and the “sassy best friend,” explains Young.
The short ends in a satirical tribute to the ultimate purpose of bumpers as an allusion to the real “crime of the century” in movie etiquette. “There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing something that you put blood, sweat and tears into on the big screen, and hopefully seeing it get laughs. You have to make something good enough to where people can see it 20 times without rolling their eyes,” Young says about the nature of movie bumpers.
The production for "The Crime of the Century" began after a previous film of Young's won Grand Prize at the 2012 Texas Union Film Festival. He created that film, Tony Seven, under “Dingoman Productions,” a production company Young began in high school with McEnelly and colleague Derek Papa. One of the judges for the festival also worked for AFF, and Young, aspiring to create film festival bumpers, spoke to the judge about his vision. She told him to pitch his ideas to her later that week. “I was just like, ‘[Bumpers] are my bread and butter. That’s what I want to do next.’ Festival bumpers end up getting seen more than short films at festivals,” Young says.
Although the festival did not accept any of Young's bumper ideas, an inspired Young decided to him to turn the bumpers into a short film. Young wanted to create a quality short to show to AFF the following year, in the hopes of again presenting his skills and possibly scoring a job opportunity. The following summer, Young began to work on "The Crime of the Century." During production, Young had 6 other filmmakers read drafts and help with the process. He spent the month of June casting actors, looking for locations and rehearsing, with three days of filming scheduled for the end of July. “We had a crew of 12 people [in total] with actors and costumes. It felt like being on a movie set. I finally felt like I was controlling the way people were going to see a story,” Young says.
McEnelly says that the film was more involved than most of the other projects he and Young had worked on together. Previous shorts of theirs had more of a guerilla film style, but in "The Crime of the Century," Young coordinated with others and tried different methods. “He was overseeing so many more aspects than I was used to him working with, and it really spoke to his drive. I think that Andy has become a truly fine director because he makes the effort to push himself until it's over, and that's a part of the job some people struggle with,” McEnelly says.
While Young had ambitious ideas for the film, he says he did have a challenging start. Although UT film students comprised the crew, the film wasn’t technically a “student” film for scholastic purposes, which prevented Young from checking out filming equipment through the College of Communication. To compensate, Young says he and his crew depended on equipment, props and editing software from kind strangers. Even the prospect of bringing a cast and crew together, with only a promise of IMDb credits and the chance to work on a unique film, was initially unsettling for some of the crew, although it ultimately resulted in success, says Young. “It was really a very tricky production just bringing everything together, but we found a crew that really wanted to support the film and they all gave 110 percent thinking that no one would end up seeing it,” he adds.
On top of the crew’s difficulties finding resources, rewrites of the short had to be made during filming. The original ending of "The Crime of the Century" was set in a movie theater, with one of the cops comically shooting the other in the face multiple times. Young changed his plans in the third week of July after a gunman entered a theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others during a midnight premiere of "The Dark Night Rises." Young pushed that day of filming in the theater to the end of August, replacing the shooting with a punch in the face. “[When the shooting happened] my phone just blew up. Of course there were a lot of horrible things that came out of that tragedy; my dinky little movie was just one of the tiny things that got changed because of it,” Young says.
Despite the obstacles, Young finished the film in November of last year. After showing "The Crime of the Century" to a group of comedy filmmakers, HUMORdy offered Young an internship, but it wasn’t until the AFF selection that the film received attention after its completion. Young submitted the film to multiple festivals and screenings in Texas and Austin without success. After rejection, Young left "The Crime of the Century" alone to direct three shorts and work on a feature, before he submitted the film to the festival without any real expectation. “I knew AFF’s audience might like it because it’s a writer festival, and that was the audience I wanted to make the bumper version for in the first place. I never thought it would go play at the festival. It’s just been a weird kind of circle closing itself,” Young says.
Young urges that aspiring filmmakers take the initiative to turn their ideas into a reality. “In the real world, no one’s going to tell you to go make your movie. You’re just going to have to have the power and potential to go make it yourself, or you’re probably not going to get very far in this business,” he says.
"The Crime of the Century" will screen at AFF on Friday, Oct. 25 and Sunday, Oct. 27 at 6:45 p.m. at the Hideout Theatre presented by KD College. Under the category “Shorts Program 9 - Sex, Love, & Other Bits of Ridiculousness,” the film is open to anyone attending the festival with a film pass.