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By Don R. Lewis | March 13, 2013

Sorry for the lack of updates, it’s insane here at South by Southwest 2013. Did you know there’s free beer everywhere?! There is. And I can’t stop drinking it. Plus there was quite a bit of nervous running around before Sunday’s world premiere of “Holy Ghost People” which was, for the most part, pretty fantastic.

I arrived in Austin in the early afternoon Friday and my brothers in Holy Ghost arms had already been in Austin raising hell for a full day. I jumped right into the fray and hit a few parties and saw many, many old friends. Even though it felt great to be back in Austin and especially great to have a film playing SXSW, the fact I had a film playing SXSW hadn’t really sunk in yet. Friends wished me well and the night was a blur of fun and festivities. However before I came out for the fest, I made a secret pact with myself that I wouldn’t spend the entire festival drinking beer and would not only pace myself but also go see, you know, movies. The two festivals I attended in 2010 with “The Violent Kind” were a total blur and I really didn’t want to make that mistake again.

So I got up and out of the hotel at a reasonable time Saturday to see “The Act of Killing” at one of the satellite theaters at the fest, the Alamo Drafthouse. I went with Kevin Artigue and Joe Egender from the film and it was exciting because they’d never been to a Drafthouse. Unfortunately, “The Act of Killing” is an intense documentary about Indonesian war criminals who killed thousands of people with their bare hands as part of a war in the mid-1960’s. The filmmaker gets these men to re-create these acts and film them as a movie and it’s pretty insane. Scarfing down a pizza with beers just felt… weird. After the film we got all the people in town for the film together for an awesome dinner with, yes, more drinking.

Sunday was all about the premiere of our movie. After telling you all how nervous I was, I found myself feeling not only very calm but also pretty good about it. I really think it had quite a bit to do with how much I love and respect the people who made it and having us all together was a great feeling. Four of our younger crew members drove 19 hours to be there. All the actors from the film (save one) were there and it felt like the family was back together. The other part of my “limited party animal mode” idea was to be stone cold sober at the screening, and I was. I wanted to really feel how the experience was without hiding behind a pint of beer. Seeing all the actors made realize something I’d never thought of though, was how weird and intense it must be to be an actor.

You sign on to a film and carry a huge load. You work your butt off doing weird things and acting like someone else (in most cases) then you just leave and go onto the next gig. Granted, most crew do the same thing but for a performer it must be so strange to give yourself over to a film for weeks and then never see the final result till a year later, or longer. You have to have so much trust that a director didn’t make you look bad, sound stupid or seem like you’re a poor performer. It never really hit me until we walked the red carpet (yeah, I walked the red carpet. I know, I know) but as I’m trying to do more and more now, I just let that stuff go and knew we did our best.

The movie played pretty well. Only 2-3 walkouts and 2 of them were an older couple who got really upset by some of the violence. I will say, the sound in the theater made the dialogue a little muffled and the sound effects really loud so that was a bit of a drag. But people for the most part seemed to dig it and I was thrilled at how it turned out. They had changed some things around from the last time I had seen a cut and there was also special effects now so it was really like seeing it for the first time and I was very, very happy with how it turned out. Of course I had to rush to twitter right away to see who was spewing negativity and aside from a few people, it was mostly positive so I headed to the after-party head held high.

The party was a blast and then some pretty heavy rain quelled out spirits a bit. Mostly because we were at a remote bar way, way down 6th street and got drenched. I finally begged some girl and her boyfriend to give me a ride and they did. The rest of the guys later paid a pizza guy to take them home. Cabs are tough to come by, as you might guess.

The next day I headed out before noon to see Daniel Destin Cretton’s follow-up to “I Am Not A Hipster” at 1:00 pm. It was a beautiful, bright Austin morning and I arrived at the theater before anyone else. The volunteers said no one was in line even so I went and grabbed coffee and sat in the sun. I finished my cup ‘o Joe and headed back to the theater, about 15 yards away from where I had been sitting. When I got to the door, it was sold-out. Unbelievable. So I made due with the film “Loves Her Gun” which was o.k. It’s a tough film to manage as a filmmaker because it’s kind of a light road-trip, coming of age story but it’s also incredibly dark. I thought the performances and characters were great but overall it was tough to get behind it.

Last night was another blur and today we screened our film again. I’m not sure if it was the lack of nervous energy from myself and the other guys or the better theater, but today was amazing. The crowd seemed really dialed in and I had the immense pleasure of watching a guy about 2 rows ahead of me freaking out during the more intense scenes. Although it might be mean to enjoy it, but seeing something you helped create physically move someone to jump, squirm or cover their eyes is a pretty cool feeling.

Overall it’s been a great fest and a fantastic experience. I’ll admit to being a bit burned out but even as I write this, the party lists are building in my in-box. I really plan on trying to see a movie at midnight though so perhaps a little laying low is in order. Oh, what’s that? Free beer and tacos at your party that starts in 45 minutes? Sigh.


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