Lubbock native Kat Albert didn’t set out to be a filmmaker and certainly not the founder of this weekend’s inaugural Lake Travis Film Festival.
Years ago, the former advertising agency owner said she was at a crossroads on what to do next after selling her company. Spending the following year writing seven screenplays, Albert realized none of them would be turned into a production unless she learned how to make films. So she went back to school, enrolling in a non-degree radio-television-film production lab program at the University of Texas at Austin where she learned all aspects of a set crew, from camera operator to director.
“In the beginning, nobody wanted this middle-aged, older woman on their set,” Albert said, “so I learned how to run sound because everybody always needed a sound person.”
When she began casting her own projects, she didn’t want to be the director. However, Albert soon realized that she could do a better job than the directors she hired. Ever since then, she’s donned a director’s cap. Her self-described style of filmmaking is “gritty realism,” reflecting back to the movies of the 1970s.
But Albert’s story doesn’t end there.
Although, together with husband Steve Albert, she would host outdoor movie nights on her 3-acre property in Bee Cave for local filmmakers, casts and crews, Albert sought to create a film festival on a communitywide scale.
“I’ve been to Cannes. I’ve been to a lot of different big film festivals that I liked, but I wanted to do something here that was smaller, more personable,” Albert said. “What this (festival) has really evolved into is an experiential festival. We don’t sell individual (film) tickets. We believe that if you come into our orbit, you stay in our hotels, ride our shuttles to all of the different events, then what’s going to happen is conversations are going to ensue and friendships (will be made) between filmmakers, local community members, industry people and people from out of town who just come in for the festival. We feel like there’s going to be this amazing synergy that’s going to happen.”
Over two years in the making, festival staff stopped taking film submissions Dec. 1, selecting the best entries out of a total 92 films. By opening night, Albert said she will have watched all 92 entries.
The filmmakers and professionals participating in the festival sport unusual ties to the Lone Star State as well as the local area.
Thursday’s opening includes a documentary that’s never been shown in the U.S. “Family in the Bubble” focuses on the social strata and wealth in South Korea. According to Albert, the movie “really mirrors everything you saw in ‘Parasite’ if you were looking at all of those different layers that they were really talking about.”
Albert said she was drawn to the film, directed by Minji Ma, after it was noticed by a Lake Travis Film Festival judge while he was promoting his own documentary in Asia.
“Cowboys,” a documentary about modern-day cowboys from West Texas to Wyoming, will also open the festival. The movie is highlighted by beautiful vistas captured by drone footage. It’s directed by Spicewood filmmaker/cinematographer and former rodeo rider Bud Force, along with Austinite John Langmore, whose father was a 1970s photographer for coffee table books featuring cowboys, Albert said. Both Force and Langmore will attend the opening night’s events, she said.
“Love Land,” shown during the day on Friday, is a 2014 narrative film about characters with intellectual disabilities seen in a realistic light. The film won industry awards at the Cleveland International Film Festival in New Orleans, and its director is connected to the Lake Travis area, Albert said.
Table reads were selected from finalists’ scripts, with a feature-length project that was written by a local resident. Saturday’s showcase spotlights actor and film director Kevin Alejandro, who grew up in the West Texas town of Snyder.
These relationships between film artists and western Travis County surprised even Albert.
“We have all of this talent that’s right here, and I didn’t even know it,” she said.
The program has “filled a lot of hotel rooms” with festival-goers, and Albert said event producers hope the weekend is “culturally significant for the area.” However, the festival’s benefits may go even further.
“We think this is a great area to live in,” she said. “I don’t think we should have to go to the Austin Film Society every time we want to see a movie that’s not a blockbuster. I feel like that’s just the first step. We’re opening a dialogue.”
By Leslee Bassman
Courtesy of the Austin American Statesman