Friday, February 25, 2011

Alma Kuttruff shares life advice

Last Thursday’s Reel Women Students meeting featured Alma Kuttruff, a relatively quiet, little woman who claimed to be intimidated by following Beth Sepko, our previous guest speaker. She need not have worried; Alma had some amazing, worthwhile things to say that translated well to almost anyone going in to any field.

Alma, who always loved film, never intended to really have a career in it. She started out with a secretarial job at Texas Film Commission that lasted about three years, to which she wisely advised us all, “don’t dismiss the office.” She emphasized how much one can learn from seeing, hearing and reading all that passes through offices. She got a job working on the Coen brother's first film, Blood Simple, as production office coordinator.

After some freelance work and a job at KLRU, a friend asked her to work as a production manager on a low-budget film that would soon be a classic—Raising Arizona. Alma claimed that this project required a lot of team effort. “We were all PAs,” she said. She then shared all the dirt you’d ever want to know about the Coen brothers. (Not really.) Apparently, they are super nice guys who are really organized and believe in “long, leisurely prep.” This makes things run smoothly when shooting begins…a glaring contrast to many larger studio films.

Following her work with the Coen brothers, she served as UPM, or Unit Production Manager, for Dazed and Confused, which got her foot in the door with Universal. After that, she was pretty much the go-to girl for movies made in the south.

As a UPM, Alma says one does not deal with the actors as much, and is not on set all the time. For her, she said, it’s mostly about talking to department heads, opening and closing the set, (occasionally staying to make herself sick with worry while watching a dangerous stunt that is scheduled for filming that day) and doing a lot of prep work for the next day.

Alma calls the early part of her career “a series of very lucky breaks.” But based on her credits and her stories, anyone can tell it’s more than just luck she’s running on. For someone who never intended to go into the film industry, Alma seems to have come a long way. Though she says that this industry is a referral business, my guess is Alma got all those referrals and so-called “lucky breaks” because she stands by the traits, values and mantras that would make anyone successful. When asked what the biggest lesson she’s learned over the years is, Alma surprised everyone by saying, “Always respect transportation.” 

Think about it. How’s the work going to get done if the camera car driver doesn’t show? This just goes to show that everything is truly a collaborative effort, and to make a movie, everybody counts. Everybody.

So in case you missed it the meeting, kids, I’ll recap Alma’s nuggets of wisdom:
1. “'No' is not a solution.”—She insists that you have to work together and be resourceful.
2. “Don’t dismiss the office.”—Hey, that’s where Alma got her start.
3. “Respect every single job.”—You respect your crew and you get back respect. Remember peoples’ names; it goes a long way.
4. “I’m very organized and resourceful…and I don’t quit.”—…where hard work meets opportunity.
5. “Always respect transportation.”—Remember: Everybody counts.

Last Night's Meeting

Thank you all for coming last night! That was such an amazing meeting. Thank you, to Ivete Lucas (in picture right), MFA film graduate second year, who shared her short, La Lupita with us. If anyone would like to bring a film they made to a meeting, please do. It's a great opportunity to get feedback and share your work. Carlyn, Reel Women Students President, did a wonderful job interviewing our guest speaker, producer, Alma Kuttruff, who was such an inspiration. We were all very thankful she could come and share her time and life lessons with us. 

Reminders for up coming events...
As always Reel Women Students is always welcomed at REEL WOMEN events.
Monday March 7 - 6:00pm
First Monday Mega Mixer at Stompin' Grounds, 3801 S. Congress

Thursday March 10 - 7:00pm
Reel Women Students work-shopping Meeting - CANCELED

Saturday March 12 - 6:00pm
RTF SXSW Party at Progress Coffee
This party is only for RTF students, faculty, staff and alumni. FREE! No badge needed!

Saturday March 12 - 9:00pm
The Atherton Group (TAG Talent) Unofficial SXSW PARTY at Karma Lounge to benefit REEL WOMEN & Animal Trustees of Austin.  Tickets available in advance and at the door.

Monday March 14 - 12:00pm 
SXSW REEL WOMEN Showcase of Short Films by RW Members at the Rollins Theater at the Long Center. Tickets available at the door.

Wednesday March 16 - 7:00pm 
REEL DIALOGUE: Film Festival Edition at the Picture Box Studio; Panel with Jane Schoettle of Toronto International Film Festival, Jen Wilson of Film Independent/Los Angeles Film Festival; Tamir Muhammad of Tribeca All-Access; Janet Grillo (and others) of the film "Fly Away", exec produced by Catherine Hardwicke.  FREE.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Workshopping Meeting Recap

Hey crazy kids, we missed some of your pretty faces last night at our first screening and script reading. 
Here’s what you missed: three short films by Gabbie Burns, Kelsey Coggin and Elizabeth “Lizzy” Walker, and a reading of Haley Anderson’s narrative script. If there had been a round table, we would have had nice round table discussions…As it were, we had two stools and some auditorium-style seats. We still had very constructive and friendly chats concerning our thoughts on the girls’ shorts and Haley’s script.

We started out with Gabbie’s short documentary on the Austin Memory Project which dealt with racial minorities getting left behind in the digital age, and included a lovely song with fantastic stop-motion action that I still can’t seem to get out of my head. (I’m not mad about it.) Next up was Kelsey’s short, “Paint by Numbers”--a poignant story of a young girl and her mother dealing with the death their beloved father and husband. Our last short was Lizzy’s documentary, “The Dispatchers.” Lizzy’s film showcased the hard, day-to-day work of a family-owned (and often publicly disdained) business of a towing company. 

Our final “round table discussion” was over Haley Anderson’s script that told the story of a small-town girl bogged down by self-doubt who then gets pregnant by immaculate conception and has her world rocked. 
Overall, the screenings and reading went really well and the girls got some great feedback. There seems to be a general consensus that our Reel Women Students meetings have a really supportive and caring atmosphere (which is obviously the whole point.) You RTF’ers even manage to make this PR major feel at home... 

So if you want in on some of this magic and wish to have a nice, quasi-roundtable discussion on your work, don’t be shy! Contact Melodie, at She’s the gal in charge of scheduling these…

Next up: Reel Women Students meeting with special guest Alma Kuttruff, Thursday, 7:00-9:00 pm, CMB Studio 4D.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gabbie's Review of the Reel Dialogue with Christy Pipkin

The Reel Women meeting, now called a Reel Dialogue with Christy Pipkin left us with a glimmer of hope and a glance into the life of a dedicated producer, film maker, mother and cancer survivor. Some might know her as the gorgeous blond on Night Court, but after building a career in commercial advertising, she has turned towards humanitarian film making to document the work of others.

Some of her previous projects include, One Peace at a Time and Nobelity.
You can view Nobelity on watch instant on Netflix at:
Or type in Nobelity in the watch instant search bar (must be a subscriber to Netflix to watch).

One question that she was asked was something like this.. " When was it, that you decided you wanted to work on humanitarian film, other than commercial production?"
In sum, she said she was on the set of a spaghetti commercial, some one was shellacking the spaghetti and there was a mime in the back round, she questioned why she was there and took a step back to look at the world. This happened around 911, when she had been going through cancer treatment, and said " I just got fearless".

She has worked with many brilliant scholars, to name a few;
Greenbelt Movement founder, Wangari Maathai, noted economist Amartya Sen and 1984 Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. She has also worked with talented musicians such as Willy Nelson and many more.

The latest film produced by Christy Pipkin is called Building Hope, which will have it's world premier at South by South West (SXSW) 2011 on Saturday March 12 2pm at Rollins Theater, and on Thursday March 17 7pm at Arbor Theater. Please view the trailer for Building Hope at

A great big THANK YOU to Christy Pipkin for taking the time to meet with us, and inspire us to get active in the film world!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A couple reminders

Recently Reel Women has restructured their business model and renamed their monthly meetings to the Reel Women's Reel Dialogue. These Reel Dialogues will still be free and be the third Wednesday of the month, just like the old RW Meetings.


WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 16th from 7:00-9:00pm at Picture Box Studios - Join us for a REEL DIALOGUE, an evening with filmmaking and humanitarian Christy Pipkins. As the Executive Director of The Nobelity Project, Christy Pipkin works to bring the non-profit’s initiatives to fruition— creating motivating documentaries and short films, helming educational outreach in the US and abroad, and maintaining oversight on development projects around the world. Read More here...

ALSO This Friday is the deadline for the Reel Women SXSW Showcase.


RECEIVE BY DEADLINE FRIDAY FEBRUARY 18th at 5:00pm – REEL WOMEN would like to make a call for short films for the REEL WOMEN SXSW SHOWCASE. In the past, SXSW has given REEL WOMEN two screenings during the film festival where we made one showcase program and screened those films twice. Last year we got so many films that we made two different showcases. We are aiming for two different showcases this year. The REEL WOMEN SXSW SHOWCASE is included in the Film Festival program booklet and schedule. This is a great opportunity to be a part of the SXSW Film Festival 2011.

Short Film Criteria:

  • Must be submitted on DVD with the application form
  • No longer than 14 minutes. Films longer than 14 minutes will be accepted but have a lesser chance of being picked.
  • All genres are welcomed. Preferably “women subject matter” and/or show women in a positive light or role but not required.
And of course next Thursday will be the Reel Women Students Meeting

Next Reel Women Students Meeting and Guest Series with Alma Kuttruff

Thursday, February 24th, 7pm-9pm, CMB Building, Studio 4D - Join us for an evening with guest speaker ALMA KUTTRUFF (Unit Production Manager and Co-Producer of Friday the 13th, The Hitcher and Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes. Starting out as a production office coordinator on Blood Simple, she continued to work with the Coen Brothers as the production manager on Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing and Hudsucker Proxy. More recently she’s been a UPM on Glory Road, US Marshalls and The Cat in the Hat)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Getting Organized

With all the hustle and bustle of the semester in full swing, our student chapter of Reel Women is finally close to being done with the rigorous UT Student Organization registration process. If you don't know, the University of Texas has a lot of rules about becoming a registered student organization. In short, you need, 3 people and ten dollars to make a club. However on top of that you also have to go through meetings, do a ton of paper work, jump through some hoops, etc. Even though we haven't been official, this hasn't stopped us from having a couple of well attended meetings and has a successful production, camera/lighting workshop.

If you don't know, Kat Candler (teacher, filmmaker, Reel Women Board Member) started this group as a way to help encourage more females to continue with film production. She noticed that her Advanced Narrative Production class always has tragically more males than females. When she did her research, she noticed that in the beginning level film production class, Introduction to Image and Sound, there are equal male to female ratios and began to wonder what happens. The Student Chapter of Reel Women was a way to help create a support system for the college students and help correct the gender gap.

Today has bee a productive day. Sarah and Amanda have made a twitter (they tried to get RWstudents, plural, but it was already taken by a religious student organization by the Faith Church. Just know that our group is, singular) and a facebook. Kat and Carlyn organized the officers and positions within our organization. Here's roughly what they came up with

President (Carlyn Hudson)
--Attend Reel Women Board Meetings
--Organize Major Events/Guest Speakers
--Help Organize Thursday Screenings
    •    Find Films or Scripts
    •    Possibly Screening Bigger Films (i.e. Old Kathryn Bigelow Films)
--Organize Major Events/Guest Speakers
--Follow Up with Emails
--Correspondence and Administrative with UT Student Organization

Vice-Presidents (Melodie Irvin and Kelsey Coggins)
(in training to take over next semester as President)

--Organize Thursday Screenings
    •    Find Films or Scripts
    •    Possibly Screening Bigger Films (i.e. Old Kathryn Bigelow Films)
--Help organize Major Events/Guest Speakers
--Mentorship (VP)

Secretary/Membership (Sarah Deuel)
--Take notes at meetings
    •    Produce “Meeting Notes” and Send out to Officers
--Log in new members into the Spreadsheet
--Follow Up with People to Pay Dues
--Keep Email Contact List Up to Date

Treasurer (Jordan Harrison)

--Open Bank Account, UFCU
--Manage Money
--Create and Keep a Ledger
--Cut Checks

PR / Marketing (Amanda Brand)

--Take notes at meetings
--Create and Maintain the Blog Site
--Correspond with Sarah Gonzalez about Reel Women events and the Reel Women website
--Send out Email Newsletters
--Create and Hang Fliers for Activities
--Social Media Networking, ie Twitter and Facebook

if you would like to be involved with Reel Women Students, please email us at

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lights, Camera, Sound Workshop

Yesterday was the first Reel Women Students workshop held at the Reel Women headquarters, Picture Box Studios. There to teach were Marshall Rimmer to talk cameras, Renee Stairs covering all things audio and Clay Liford to discuss how to light properly and creatively. In total, there were about 20 gals in attendance, plus our fearless leader Kat Candler and special guest Sherry Mills, Executive Director of Reel Women, who brought provisions (i.e. Subway and cupcakes.)

To begin the morning, we were divided into groups based on previous knowledge and experience. “OK, who here thinks they would be in the beginner group,” asked Kat. I raised my hand high. Considering I’m a Public Relations major, I was fully confident in my ignorance.

So we were divided up, sent to different stations and given the opportunity to ask all sorts of questions and actually try out the equipment. The ready, willing and able team very effectively covered tons of stuff, from the basics to the “okay, that’s the 46th term I haven’t heard before but I’ll add it to my vocabulary list”-type information. I can’t give specifics concerning what went on in the more advanced groups, but I’m guessing they didn’t go over what a Boom mic is. (Baby steps, people.)

Overall, the workshop was pretty darn fantastic, the beauty of it being that Renee, Clay and Marshall seemed genuinely interested in teaching all of us and enabling us to walk away with a truly hands-on experience. There was extensive note-taking, some general bonding happening between attendees, me learning what a C-stand is…oh, and some of the girls scored some awesome internships. How’s that for success?

What’s Next--1st Reel Women Students' Screening Night
Thursday, February 10th, 7pm-9pm, CMB Building, Studio 4D