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Showcasing The Quirks Of Texas Culture – And Texas Filmmakers


by Anne Bothwell 1 Sep 2017

For 25 years, the TV show “Frame of Mind” has served up documentaries, drama and animation, all made in Texas. The show’s new season starts Thursday on KERA TV. For State of the Arts this week, I sat down with Bart Weiss, producer of “Frame of Mind” for almost two decades. He’s also a co-founder of Dallas VideoFest. We talked about the series’ silver anniversary and what’s ahead for independent filmmaking in our area.

You can click above to listen to our conversation. Here are some excerpts:

On what stood out as he compiled this season’s first episode, a retrospective of the show’s 25 years….”What I find most interesting — more than any specific piece — is the diversity of kinds of work from documentary to drama. Also, in the early days, it was a little more experimental than it is now. The show seemed a bit different. To watch it evolve in an interesting kind of way was kind of the biggest revelation to me.”

On themes that emerged…. “That Texas is a very weird place. There was always the kind of quirky look at strange things that are happening in Texas.’ The quirkiness of our culture. And of course, the people who make these in their diverse interests. We have people who make carefully, constructed narratives and people who have very loosey, experimental thinking. So, there is no such thing as a typical Texas film or typical Texas filmmaker.”

On another retrospective this season, the work of Dallas filmmakers Alan and Cynthia Salzman Mondell:  “They’ve been making very important work for a long time. It’s both very deeply, socially conscious films about women’s issues and all kinds of other political issues of the day. But, also things that are kind of more humorous. Cynthia, particularly, did a film about ladies’ rooms and the sort of discussions that women have in the ladies’ room that are very different than the discussion they would have elsewhere. That there’s something special and sacred and humorous about that space. They’re very, very well-crafted. Very meticulously thought-out. They all have an enormous heart to them.”

Bart Weiss, producer, Frame of Mind

Bart Weiss. Photo: BartWeiss.com

On how film and video from state high schools and colleges has changed… “Clearly, with access to better equipment at less expense, it’s easier to make films that look good. Twenty years ago, films from high schools and college students looked good but were not as sophisticated visually as they are now.

What’s also interesting — aside from the technology — I think that teaching, particularly at the high school level, is better. So, you have more films that deal with people’s experiences and less imitations of ‘Saturday Night Live,’ which you would have seen 20 years ago. That comes from schools dedicating quality people to teach. What you find in high schools, particularly, is some place they’ll be an English teacher and they’ll be very sort of dramatic things. Sometimes, it’s an art teacher and they’ll do animation. So, the work from these schools are really a reflection of the passions of the faculty.

On looking forward…. “I think the show and the community are sort of looking for ways to tell Texas stories. Like I said before, this is a quirky place; odd things happen here. The idea that people who live here can think about it, pick up a camera, and make something; I think it’s an important thing. So, my hope is that people watch the show and say, ‘Y’know, I’ve got an idea about this. Let me pick up a camera, and I’ll make a film. Hopefully, I’ll be on next year.'”

On his favorite moment... “There’s an incredible moment that I found that I had completely forgotten about. We did this commissioned show about death, and at the time, my mother had just passed away. I did this scroll where I dedicated it to her. Then, the very next thing was Melinda Levin doing a piece about her father who had cancer. It was just such a beautiful moment. The two of them together just sort of resonated in a really beautiful way. I cry thinking about it now.”

 

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