Angela Christine Abbott stressing out on the roof of the Mitchell Lofts building in East Dallas.
Raised on a steady diet of television and movies, A.C. Abbott is living the dream of any film school disciple. After earning an M.F.A. in Film Studies at Boston University two years ago, A.C. returned to her native state to work for Bart Weiss at the Video Association of Dallas while simultaneously pursuing a Ph.D. Her first feature film, Disowning Claire, which she directed and co-wrote, will be hitting the festival circuit right about now. Even with an insider’s knowledge of that high stakes festival world, stresses mount and sleep may be lost. Someday she might take a nap.
You basically have three hardcore jobs.
Will you teach both versions of Scarface?
so it’s taking up a lot of my time.
You were supposed to premiere it at this past Video Fest, were you not?
No, no, it wasn’t a premiere. In the festival world, you have very, very strict premiere rules. You guard your premiere with your life. There are certain festivals you definitely want to premiere at. Once you premiere, you cannot apply or be accepted to a lot of really top tier festivals.
How far were you into it when you got the funding?
Oh it was so interesting. I started a conversation with some friends of mine at Starbucks, at Frankford and Preston – my Starbucks. We were talking about politics and whatever, ex-patriot France style, and we started talking about what became the topic of the movie. My idea at the time was just to make a down and dirty, microbudget, like for a thousand dollars, with my friends, totally improved, movie. So I started making note cards based on scene ideas. I didn’t even have a story, I just knew what certain scenes would be about and I knew the topic of the film. I had probably seven to 11 note cards finished when I got funding up in Park City, Utah, where they have Sundance and Slamdance. In a hot tub, of all places, where the T had fallen off of the sign, making it the ho tub. So we got funding in early December , and when I got back to Texas in early January, in three weeks I’d written the script.
It’s based on experiences that I’ve had and that people I know have had in the realm of interracial dating. I watch a lot of movies about interracial dating, and I’m always disappointed in them. On television especially, they depict reverse racism. If we’re talking about black and white people for example, it’s the black people that are being racist and the white people are so open-minded.
In those movies, it’s always, “This girl fell in love with a guy that happened to be black.” What if that’s not the case? What if you knew in advance because that person has a preference? It’s the idea of having a preference in dating – a racial preference – and is that OK? Is that not OK? What are the politics of preference? And what do people really talk about behind closed doors?
You see preference every day, and it’s something people can talk about, but for some reason it’s not OK to talk about in movies. I wanted to talk about that and how it complicates your lifestyle choices, like your relationships with your friends and family. What do they make of your preference, especially if they’re not really OK with it?
I grew up in Vidor, Texas, so it’s not a culture where you’re going to find interracial dating acceptable. Do you not know about Vidor, Texas? Vidor, Texas, is in southeast Texas, and it’s kind of been famous – it’s been on a couple talk shows. It was a sundown town.
What is that?
A sundown town is where you have a town where black folks aren’t allowed after sundown. They had billboards for a long time that would say that. I got out of Vidor from going to pursue a degree in television writing.
I wrote a 90 page book on Saved by the Bell when I was 19, called A Generation Saved by the Bell: An In-Depth Study of a Phenomenon.
For myself. I wanted to be a scholar of TV, and a maker of TV, and I wanted to be the world’s expert on something, and I already was the world’s expert on Saved by the Bell. So I did a study on it – sexism, classism, continuity errors. Do I have a favorite episode?
That’s so much less interesting than everything you just told me. What happened to it? Did it get published?
No. It got some very kind letters. I sold quite a few of them out of the trunk of my car in Beaumont, Texas. I reread it recently, and I was just like, “genius, pure genius.” I was 18; I was so beyond my years. Somebody actually saved a copy from the hurricane and wrote me and told me about it.
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The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.