SXSW red carpets are paraded on by people buzzing about their film projects. This year, I spoke with the stars and directors behind two world premiere films at ZACH Theatre, “Behind The Curtain: Todrick Hall” and “Infinity Baby.” In the spirit of keeping things local, I asked each person if Austin tickles their creative side, and whether they have any advice for Austinites who want to walk a red carpet some day.
Todrick Hall and Katherine Fairfax Wright
The documentary “Behind The Curtain: Todrick Hall” follows the American Idol singer turned YouTube sensation and Broadway star as he plans and executes a tour for his musical “Straight Outta Oz,” based on his life and characters from “The Wizard of Oz.”
The audience at ZACH was full of Hall’s young fans who hang on his every word, and know his music, choreography and style as seen in his videos. As a young, gay, black man from Arlington, Texas, Hall learned how to funnel all of his talents into a body of artwork that inspires and lifts up his fans who may feel out of place, too.
On the red carpet, I asked Hall how he feels about Austin and coming back to Texas after living in Los Angeles.
“My impression of Austin is nothing but beautiful. Everyone I know from Austin is really nice and sweet and really appreciates the arts….I’ve always looked at Texas as home. I love Texas for all of the beauty of it, and what some people would consider flaws I don’t consider flaws. I think it’s great that people here have strong beliefs and they stand by those beliefs, I love the fact that people here are raised with such great morals and ethics.”
Hall’s optimism continued to shine as I asked him for any creative advice he had for Austinites. He said that in 2017, anyone can become a star thanks to the Internet, so don’t get discouraged. “Remember that you have so many tools to be able to get your voice out…and remember the values you were taught in Texas,” he encouraged.
After Hall continued down the red line of reporters, I met the kind Katherine Fairfax Wright. She hadn’t had the chance to really experience Austin yet, but she shared wonderful advice for creatives of every discipline. “Strike a balance between your intuition and be humble enough to be bothered to educate yourself on everything. Resign yourself to stopping and taking a moment to learn about every element. [It] will allow you to follow your intuition while being more informed,” she said.
Zoe Graham, Stephen Root and Nick Offerman
The description on the SXSW website for “Infinity Baby” simply read, “A comedy about babies that don’t age.” The film was blanketed in secrecy, except for the list of stars and the fact it was shot in black and white. Those who caught the screening were treated to a satire navigating themes of adulthood and commitment in a not-too-distant futurescape you’ll recognize as pieces of Austin. Filmed here by Austin-based director Bob Byington, “Infinity Baby” might not be for everyone, but it will definitely find its eccentric audience who appreciates the offbeat humor and incredible cast.
I spoke with charming local actress Zoe Graham on the “Infinity Baby” red carpet. When asked to describe her perfect day in Austin, she listed with a smile, “Lucy’s Fried Chicken, going to South Congress and finding the perfect thing at Feathers, and then movie at the Drafthouse.”
Next, the incredibly talented and prolific actor Stephen Root stopped by. Many still recognize him from his role in “Office Space” as Milton. “I come down here [to Austin] and think it’s an ocean of possibilities. People are here to work for the artistic merit of a project,” he enthusiastically told me. Root also had a lot to share with Austin creative-types. “Stay in the gene pool! Persistence is as equally as important as talent. There are a lot of people with talent who are no longer is in the business.”
Last, but certainly not least, was the incomparable Nick Offerman. When he walked up to me, he happened to notice my phone screen. “Is that photographed handwritten notes? That’s cool. Green felt tip? I tip my cap to your technique.”
Offerman definitely knows how to compliment an idiosyncratic interviewer and her city. He gushed about Austin, saying, “My wife, Megan Mullally, the beautiful and talented goddess of all fine things and I are crazy about Austin. We’ve often felt we’d move here, but then we see a lot of signs asking us not to and we want to be polite….Just the freaky weirdness of the town is so much more flavor than anywhere else in the country. I think it’s one of the beating hearts of America’s artistic soul.”
As expected, Offerman had great advice for local creatives, as well. He said he usually tells people to embrace their oddities, but for Austinites, he jokingly said “…maybe tone it down a little bit? But seriously, whatever is weird about you, like the sense of humor you came up with as a kid with your friends, that’s the most powerful thing you have. And 99 out of 100 business people won’t like it, but that one hundredth person will cast you as Ron Swanson, and you’ll get to stand on a red carpet and talk to smart people with purple hair.”
And with that, I had never been so pleased with my hair color choice or note-writing technique.
@madameklm wants to know:
Who do you want to interview on a SXSW red carpet someday, and what would you ask them?