I AM TX Film Sheds Light on Rarely Heard Perspective

Filmmaker and ColdTowne Graduate, Ryan Darbonne’s love for film has run deep since his first job as an usher at Regal Westgate movie theater in South Austin. After moving to Denton to attend the University of North Texas Film School, Darbonne returned to Austin where he has since made his mark in the comedy, film and music scenes.

Now after wearing several hats including co-founder of Cinema41, Film Department Director at Austin Film Festival and original member of hip-hop group, SPACE CAMP Death Squad, he is in pre-production for his next big project, a narrative short film called “I AM TX.”

We sat down with Darbonne to learn more about I AM TX and why he is raising money to fund the project.

Tell us more about who you are… as a filmmaker.
I am Ryan Darbonne. I’m an Austin-based filmmaker with over a decade’s worth of experience in production. I have written and directed a number projects that have been featured on Noisey, OVRLD and other online publications. In 2011, I co-founded Cinema41: An award winning (Austin Chronicle ‘Best Of’ 2012) community arts organization dedicated to hosting free screenings of independent films with diverse themes and served as the Film Department Director at Austin Film Festival in 2013.

What are you up to outside of film?
In addition to my film work, I have written, directed and produced several successful live shows at ColdTowne Theater, and I’m a member of the award winning all black improv troupe Sugar, Water, Purple.

I AM TX is a narrative short film about a fictitious black hardcore punk band, comprised of members Charlie, Sonny and Otis, on their last leg of tour. Told over the course of one day, we follow the group from the desert roads of El Paso, TX to a popular music venue in Austin.  Throughout the film, each character is forced to contend with cops, insufferable fans, and an ever persistent “woke” music blogger who all serve to reinforce the band’s position as outsiders in a mad, mad world.  

Inspired by personal experiences, I wrote this film to showcase the frustration, anxiety and often humorous/painfully ignorant interactions that go along with being a “cultural mulatto.”

So you mentioned before that the cast is made up of actual musicians, who are they?
The film stars three key figures from Austin’s music scene: Audrey Campbell of Pleasure Venom, Jonathan Horstmann of BLXPLTN, and Greg Williams of Chief and the DoomsDayDevice. We’ve been rehearsing for weeks and they’re an amazing group, who all have personal stakes in what the film is trying to convey.

What is your goal with this film?
The film is a DIY project made by and starring punks of color. Hollywood has come a LONG way in its portrayal of people of color, but there has yet to be an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be black and alternative; to straddle two sides of a cultural track.

Why should people support and back this project?
This is a chance to support and help nurture diverse voices on film. Those wanting to back the project have until Nov. 10 to donate on Indiegogo at indiegogo.com/projects/i-am-tx#/

If you don’t have the means to donate, please share our campaign page and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Instagram and Facebook: @iamtxfilm

 

 

Classic TV Meets Classic DC

This November, Austin’s home for improv and sketch comedy ColdTowne Theater is excited to present Barney Miller Dark Knight – a theatrical event that is exactly what it sounds like. Part classic ‘70s sitcom and part gritty DC Comic, Barney Miller Dark Knight threads storylines from the caped crusader and the 12th Precinct.

Barney Miller Dark Knight was conceived of and created by ColdTowne Theater’s Executive Producer Dave Buckman. We spoke with Dave about his inspiration, classic sitcoms of the 70s and his plans for the midterm elections.

Barney Miller Dark Knight runs Saturdays at 7pm at ColdTowne Theater.

What was the inspiration to mix Barney Miller with the world of Batman?
I had to look and search in my email to see when the first time “Barney Miller” came back into my consciousness. It was December 2011. I wrote my step-brother-in-law an email thanking him for a Secret Santa gift. I casually mentioned “I am working on writing a stage show that is a Dark Knight version of Barney Miller.” Three weeks later I ordered Season 3 off o Amazon in hopes finding what the internet told me was the best episode of the series, S3E6: “Werewolf”. I couldn’t tell you how that combination jumped into my mind, but it’s been there for six years. And then one night in 2015, I ran into Leng Wong at SpiderHouse. It was night time, but she was wearing aviator sunglasses and wearing a maroon leather jacket. I thought to myself, “Holy shit! That’s [Jack Soo’s character] Nick Yemana… right there in front of me.” I went home and finished the first draft that weekend and started the process anew, adding a few more storylines, exchanges and jokes from other episodes. We’ve been improvising on top of that script, sprinkling in Batman and Gotham references ever since.

What’s the attraction to classic sitcoms?
I have always loved sitcoms. Another dream show of mine is putting up staged versions of the classic ABC line up: Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Three’s Company using the same reparatory cast for all three shows. Like someone would play Fonzie, Squiggy and Mr. Roper in the same night. I love those three in combination, because they represent three very different types of comedy: realtionship-based, pure physical and bedroom farce. Some of those old shows hold up 30-40 years later. Welcome Back, Kotter does not hold up so much. Mork & Mindy is not a strong as I remember. But Barney Miller, Soap and Golden Girls are still killer, because they had really good writing and really good actors. Not comedians, actors. Also shout out to Sgt. Bilko/Phil Silvers show. One of the few black and white sitcoms that is better than anything on TV today.

Any concerns adapting pre existing properties? What do you do to make it fresh?
I hope to god we get a cease and desist letter. That would be great. So no concerns at all. As I was combing through episodes (thank you Sundance channel!) there was a lot of misogynistic, homophobic and semi-racist jokes and storylines that were allowed on television 40 years ago, but that would make my stomach (and yours) turn watching them now. So excising and rewriting those things were necessary for making it palatable and presentable in 2017. I hope this show launches a national revival of Barney Miller, the way The Annoyance Theater launched the Brady Bunch revival in the 90’s.

What are you looking forward to – creatively speaking – in 2018?
I’m going to direct an original sketch revue with Second City’s style of writing/improvising for a few months to get to some sketches and songs for ColdTowne next May. It will be about the 2018 mid-terms. I am hoping to cast some of ColdTowne’s best firebrands and flamethrowers to write it with me. It’s working title is Kill Rightey. My wife Rachel Madorsky came up with that title a few years ago, and I’ve always wanted to use it for a political sketch show. Next year, I get to.

TICKETS ON SALE NOW

Top 5 Reasons to see One Hour Til Air

Our current Mainstage show follows the excitement, creativity and drama backstage at a late night talk show. What are the top 5 list of reasons to see their latest production?

  1. Um, it’s a ColdTowne Mainstage.

The Mainstage slots (7 and 8:30 Saturdays) at ColdTowne are tightly curated – they take the biggest and best ideas from our stable of performers and put them through intense rehearsal and production process to make sure they are the best comedy you will see for $10/BYOB/free parking, BAYBEEE. (Yes, the parking/BYOB thing is always true, but it’s an extra relief on a Saturday night.)

  1. 30 Rock has left Netflix.

I KNOW, we are bummed too! We love the comedy-behind-the-comedy format of shows like 30 Rock and the Larry Sanders Show. That’s why we made One Hour Til Air! Late night host Katie Stone navigates the big personalities of performers, varied skills of her crew of writers, and personal feelings of her friends on the crew, much like a Liz-Lemon-meets-Larry-Sanders type.

  1. There should really be more women in Late Night, ya know?

This show isn’t just for those who are actively interested in women’s equality, but also, shouldn’t you be? We imagine a world where there’s a nightly talk show hosted by a woman, and no one even questions it. She just gets to, um, perform comedy? Radical. Truly radical.

  1. Live. Austin. Musicians.

We live in the Live Music Capital, and yet seldom do music and comedy collide! Whether musician-improvisers like Arielle LaGuette, or local favorite singer-songwriters like Sam Ehrnstein and Daisy O’Connor, One Hour Til Air has invited fantastic musicians to perform live every week.

  1. This freakin’ cast, man.

If you’re not a local comedy NUT like us, you may not recognize the names of our cast members, but you may recognize their projects. Our performers are staples on Austin favorites like Fuck This Week, Naughty Bits, and the Iden B Payne Award Nominated ColdTowne Mainstage Latinauts. Director Chris McKeever has over a decade of improv experience, and ColdTowne’s own Artistic Director Will Cleveland serves as Katie’s eccentric boss to round out this fantastic crew.

One Hour Til Air’s final show is Oct 14 at 8:30 PM. Don’t miss out on this fantastic show!

ColdTowne Graduate Premieres Short Film Series

ColdTowne Graduate premieres short film series with the help of Issa Rae

Austin filmmaker and ColdTowne Graduate B.B. Araya moved to Austin about two years ago and immersed herself in the filmmaking, improv and comedy scenes. Shot over summer 2017, her six-part short film series We Are  is a genuine, humorous glimpse into the lives of seven young women of color navigating their way through friendships, self-doubt, and quarter-life crises. The series premiered last month to standing ovations at the North Door and was subsequently picked up by Issa Rae’s Youtube channel for distribution.

Araya is a member of several ColdTowne Theater improv troupes, including Best of Austin Nominee Loverboy (Fridays at 8:30) and the all-women cast of LadyParts. New episodes of We Are premiere on Sundays through November 5.  

We had a chance to talk with Araya about improv, the creative process and We Are.

Hey! We don’t know each other that well, so I have to ask some basic questions. Like, how and why did you get into filmmaking? What brought you to improv?

I’m really glad you ask about improv, because it is something so dear to me that I don’t get to talk about often enough. When I moved to Austin about two years ago, I was checking out I LUV VIDEO one Saturday night and thought the place next door looked tight. I went home and googled the shit out of it to learn it was a comedy theater. A few days later, I drew up the courage to come back for a free class (mind you, I had very severe social anxiety at the time – still do – but improv has helped tremendously) and then went on to sign up for Level 1. I had never planned on doing improv until I literally did improv – something just kept pulling me back. I’m so grateful because I ended up meeting some of my closest friends and collaborators at ColdTowne. Improv has also heavily informed my writing process – which is to just keep going – and is the reason I started writing comedy (everything I’d written before improv was melodramatic AF)! Improv has absolutely changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to describe.

Regarding filmmaking, I’ve always had an undying love for cinema. It stems from my dad who is a videographer and total movie junkie. He would take my sister and I to the movies every single Sunday and was always encouraging us to watch movies with intention and really immerse ourselves in the worlds created by filmmakers. People went to church; we went to the movies.  As I got older, I started wondering why there weren’t more narratives with women and POC. After doing a few years of solid research on filmmaking and writing, I decided to take a stab at it and made my first short in my actual backyard about three years ago. Then I made another one and another one and I couldn’t stop.

Tell me a little bit about the “We Are” Film Series. What was the genesis of this project? What was the collaborative process like?

The project was born out of me and [producer Tamar’s desire to make something aimed toward women who look like us in a city that – although very liberal/progressive – is not always reflective of us. We brought a team of wonderfully talented folks together, and it was a beautiful collaborative experience. Films were co-written with actors, so we built these characters together. I wanted everyone to feel like they were telling their version of the truth and a piece of them is in the work.

Any fun, amusing or weird “making of” stories from production?

On our last day of filming, we had about 30 extras and were shooting in a place with no AC. In June. In Texas. It was pretty hot to say the least. About halfway through the day, we tripped the breaker (whoops!) and the venue owner notified us that we we had to stop filming until it was fixed. Typically, that would stress me out, but the heat ate up my energy so I was like “Bet, we can take a break now”.

Everyone was like “what’s going on, what’s happening, why aren’t we shooting?” and Jess, Tamar, and I were just like “Oh, nothing!” Thankfully, it was fixed so we powered through the rest of the day. We were all pretty delirious by that point.

We Are is debuting on Issa Rae’s youtube channel this month. That’s exciting. How did that come about?

Earlier this year, I submitted a film I made called BETA (starring Ronnie Miller in her debut acting performance!) to a series they do called #shortfilmsundays in which they showcase films by creatives of color the first Sunday of each month. We were in the very early stages of working on We Are (I think we had just solidified our cast) when BETA was selected as a part of the series and that triumph definitely gave us a validating push. I went to LA this year and got to meet the team in person and told them about We Are, and they told me to send it when it’s done. They saw it and wanted to showcase it. It’s been a dream come true to be able to share all the work of our cast, crew, and artists/musicians here in ATX on such a large platform.

What was it like getting a standing ovation at the premiere?

I’m still processing that, to be honest. When it happened, I thought everyone just stood up because they had to pee after the film, but then they didn’t move. Then everyone turned around and looked at us (cast/crew) while clapping,and I was like “ohhh, i see what’s happening here.” At that point I left my body. It was deeply gratifying to receive a standing ovation because it validated that the project resonated with the people we made it for – which were the women in that room, particularly the women of color. It’s something I’ll never ever forget.

You perform with Loverboy. What was it like joining an already established troupe? How did they ask you? Are they all jerks?

Yes! They asked me and Laura de la Fuente to join the cast after Cené moved to Amsterdam to join the cast of Boom Chicago. It was pretty sweet; we had been sitting in with them for a few weeks prior to them asking, and then in December, they asked us to join them for drinks after the show and popped the question! It was the sweetest moment, and I had been a huge fan of Loverboy long before I joined the troupe, because of how inclusive and welcoming they were to me and my friends when we were new to the theater, plus the improv was always tight, not to mention Cené was literally my first muse and trusted me enough to work with me so early in my filmmaking journey. They also had me sit in with them when I was wee little Level 3 baby and it was quite the honor to bestow upon a newbie.

Loverboy got a bunch of Best of Austin and B. Idea Payne nominations. How does it feel to be crushing it? And can I have a job when you’re famous?

The recognition is honestly in my periphery. The true honor comes from getting to play with such brilliant women each week. Regarding the job, probably, sure.

Araya’s work features a number of ColdTowne Theater graduates and performers including Ronnita L. Miller of Damn Gina, Ryan Darbonne of Sugar, Water, Purple, Xaria J. Coleman of Damn Gina, Michael Jastroch of The Frank Mills and Cene Hale, formerly of Damn Gina and Loverboy. You can catch her latest project, the We Are Film Series premiering new episodes weekly as part of #ShortFilmSundasys at Issa Rae Productions on Youtube. Want to be part of #ShortFilmSundays? Submit your film to submit@issarae.com.

Take a look at ColdTowne Theater’s improv and sketch comedy classes. The new session begins mid-October, so sign up now.  

ColdTowne’s Victrola Debuts Album

ColdTowne Theater’s sketch and improv comedy podcast, Victrola, debuts album

ColdTowne Theater’s sketch and improv comedy podcast Victrola’s debut album, Virtual Aurality, is due out on Austin label Sure Thing Records October 5th.

Victrola is a monthly smorgasbord of sketches written and performed by some of Austin, Texas’s best improv comedy talent – Michael Jastroch, Bob McNichol, Bryan Roberts, Lance Gilstrap, Cortnie Jones, Jericho Thorp and Molly Moore. As regular performers at ColdTowne Theater, the cast of Victrola have been performing with one another for over a decade.

Splitsider called Victrola “Plucky” and “delightful” and “painstakingly edited.” Another dope on the internet said Victrola was his favorite podcast. Recently, Victrola was a national finalist in the popular Earwolf improv podcast Improv4Human’s Contest4Humans and produced a podcast pilot for Audible.com. So, people are talking.

Recorded in the middle of nowhere over a long weekend in February of 2017, Virtual Aurality employs the technique Victrola uses for their podcasts. Namely, recording hours and hours of improv and cutting out the parts that aren’t funny. The end result is hilarious and chaotic, and captures the spontaneity of a live improv show without all the awkward bits.

Virtual Aurality will be available on online retailers (iTunes, surethingrecords.com,victrolapod.com) starting October 5th and is available for pre order and sampling right now.

We sat down with some Victrola cast members to to discuss the upcoming release.

Courtesy of An Indoor Lady

What was the recording process like for the album?

Jericho: We recorded at my cabin in west Texas. It’s near an old Union fort where they stationed Buffalo Soldiers. The cabin is on the San Saba River, not too far from Menard, TX. It’s beautiful, quiet, and peaceful out there. The perfect place for a bunch of comedy nerds to get intensely liquored up and laugh loudly around a fire.

Lance: A lot of the sessions ran really long and we would often start the day a little slowly, holding back ideas because we were just getting warmed up. By the time a two hour or more session was almost over, we would get very ridiculous. To the point where I don’t think anyone was afraid to say anything and we supported it all.

Bob: We spent Friday night hanging out and talking about ideas we had, and put them all on the huge piece of paper. We went through all of those ideas and more over the course of recording on Saturday and Sunday. We had fires going outside for alot of the weekend, and it was so far away from big cities that you can see so many more stars than usual. Like 10 or 20 more stars. Insane.

Molly: Someone brought a very fancy telescope, but I got there late and everybody had already had their telescope fun so I went out alone. The trek to the ‘scope was cold and spooky and dark and no doubt filled with lurking snakes and once I got there, I couldn’t figure out how to work it so instead I just looked up with my own two (20/20, bragging) eyes and invited the cosmos right in. Another cozy moment happened around the fire as we listened to a playlist curated by soundhound Bob that was heavy on deepcut soul, funk, and reggae — all very warm music. As each song began, there would be an identical fifteen-second pause before Dalton would say “hey, this is great. What is this?” and Bob and the rest of the guys would geek out about the song.

Cortnie: My favorite part was Dalton, who brought a stick of cinnamon. We never used it, I have no idea why he brought it but it sat on the counter. I also saw a hat at the cabin that I assumed came with the cabin. A week or so later I saw Dalton wearing it and thought he stole it. Turns out, it was just his hat. It was really fun to stand in front of mics and just fuck around with what was funny about each sketch idea. Michael is really good coming up with usable premises. Bob’s understated straight man paired with Lance’s crazed straight man is always hilarious. Lubu brings the jokes and Molly and Jericho’s voices and game ridden bits are over the top hilarious. I think I almost peed myself twice during recording. Two days of recording sketch comedy is pretty tiring, but I was pretty proud of us for all getting along and still having fun and coming up with some really good sketches and jokes in the end. I’m really proud of the work we’ve all put into the album, especial Michael, who has worked endlessly on editing out all our thirty hours of bullshit material into one hilarious album.

Courtesy of An Indoor Lady

What sketch from Victrola – album or podcast – did you have the most fun recording?

Molly: We entered some strange time vortex during the recording of Smorgasborg and emerged – no joke – an hour later sweaty, disoriented, and newly registered with Discover. It was JAZZ, my man! It’s also always fun meeting up with grumpy old Mr. Peters and ragging on the guy.

Bob: We did one recently with Juliet and Aly sitting in where we were in a Target dressing room. I could not stop laughing during it. I’d say Jastroch and Dalton cut maybe 60% of it out, and rightfully so.

Jericho: I love any sketch that devolves into the characters and world succumbing to some ultimate evil. I mean, just in general. One of my non-evil favorite moments is when I brought my horse to a dog training class and insisted it was just a really big dog.

We make each other laugh constantly. I’m always surprised/pleased when a moment where we all are laughing makes it into the final product. People do this sort of laugh/word vomit thing to get out their line before they bend over and try to laugh as quietly as possible off the mic. When we’re all doing that together, it’s pretty great. I think people seeing that from the outside without any context would assume we were all having some kind of fit.

Courtesy of An Indoor Lady

Any moments from sketches that you wish weren’t cut out?

Cortnie: There was a moment with special guests Kasey Borger where we were at a swimming pool, we were lifeguards and I said, “Tweet!” thinking Jastroch would cut it out and replace it with a whistle, but Kasey asked why I said that, so I explained and the whole thing made it into the episode. It’s pretty funny, but I wish I had just made a better whistle noise. We are improvising, so it’s nice when those little reminders pop into episodes.

Bob: Cortnie and I played these bumbling cops early on in the first season.  It was super-fun and super long. It was eventually released as like 6 minutes, but I’m pretty sure we went on for like 30 minutes as these cops.

Molly: There have been a few moments that I have felt personally attacked for being left on the floor (one about mixing up the name for Netflix comes to mind). Whenever this happens, I confront Dalton who says something to the tune of, “I think it played better to the room than it would in an episode.” Very polite but also VERY RUDE.

Lance: I do remember Molly doing some kind of counting thing once that got cut and when I heard the episode, I thought to myself “why would that not be in the episode? I was literally on the floor, laughing when she did that! But I don’t remember the specifics and I’m sure there was a good reason. Maybe you had to be there.

Jericho: Jastroch, Dalton, and anyone else that helps with editing/recording do a pretty great job of picking the most perfect cherries to put into the episodes/album. I pretty much trust them at this point to make me sound way more witty, quick, and amazing than I do in real life. They left in a bit where I gradually reveal that not only am I James Taylor, but also a ghost hovering outside a man’s window, giving him life advice. Not sure what else I could want.

Courtesy of An Indoor Lady

What’s been a favorite Victrola memory ?

Cortnie: I love our live shows. My favorite is when we went to Dallas and did a show for three people, Dalton being one of them. The lobby was so loud we could hear them during our entire set. It’s those times we have the most fun.

Molly: We did a SXSW show this year. The setup was two big chairs in front of a mic and a small couch with a mic. Cortnie and I took the chairs while the guys squeezed onto the couch, a reality I didn’t realize or appreciate until a photo surfaced. I do remember watching the guys struggle to pass the mic around on their tiny little couch while I sat cross-legged on my giant chair in front of my very own mic and felt at peace. QUEEN ALERT!!

Jericho: Improv is usually a very in-the-moment, “you had to be there” form of comedy. Writing the show on the fly with some of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life has been such a great experience. These people are not only my creative partners, they’re my friends. It’s kind of amazing to have something like this together. We meet once a week, walk into a tiny room together, and have the best time. Then that’s distilled into something that’s genuinely funny and of which I am very proud.

Lance: My favorite part is always getting lost in recording a sketch. One where we are all cracking each other up and then we end it and we’re like “we were recording that ONE sketch for forty five minutes.”

Bob: I just love how easy it is to get together on Mondays and record. It’s low pressure and everyone’s open to whatever ideas we bring in. I don’t know if it’s a favorite memory, but we’re frequently listening for practicing drummers or trumpet players who live in the same building as Jastroch and Cortnie. I’m sure it’s tough to edit around, but it makes me laugh when i start hearing trumpet scales bleeding into some scene in our headphones.

Courtesy of An Indoor Lady