We recently sat down with Carrie Cates, our new Community Director, to ask her about her life’s story, her filmmaking career, and her involvement with us at Austin School of Film.
Can you gives us a brief catch-up on your film background? How’d you get your start? What are some films you’ve produced?
Carrie: I’ve been making films since entering the Radio-TV-Film program at Indiana State. I know I was a bit of a late bloomer in comparison with many people who get the opportunity to start playing with a camera much earlier in life. This could have something to do with why as an adult, I devote so much time to trying to give filmmaking opportunities to young people through the Austin Youth Film Festival that I founded 4 years ago, and growing a film program at the middle school I taught at previously to working at ASoF.
In college, I think everyone works in a very small microcosm. Most filmmakers come out of college with a couple shorts that they wrote, produced, directed, and shot themselves. Straight away, I really took to editing. I could sit in the lab for hours and totally lose myself in it. The thing was though, I love working with people and always have. I was always trying to pull people together to shoot. I think that ended up translating so easily into me eventually becoming a producer.
When I moved to Austin, I started producing right away. My first year here, I produced my first feature length film called Summer League. It was a baseball movie with a lot of heart. Sure, we made mistakes and learned a ton while on set, but that movie had so much momentum and energy. I went on to produce my second feature the following year Wind and Rain, which was an interesting piece based on the folk song. We shot with an entirely female crew, and the film’s leading characters were women, which is pretty much unheard of. It was a fun set!
Since then, I’ve made a handful of short films in Austin and the surrounding areas; some very serious, though most are not so much. I’ve begun really being selective about the stories I choose to tell. I enjoy collaborating with new people, and enabling new directors to begin branching out and working with a full crew rather than the one-woman/man-band idea that many enter the career with.
What is it about the medium of filmmaking that attracts you to it?
C: I LOVE storytelling! Filmmaking is the ultimate in storytelling, but it’s also a way to capture life. I think what I really like best about it is not necessarily what the story is about, but what the story really tells us about the person telling it. It is one of the truest and most honest art forms, and when people are very good at it, you can almost always see a little bit of themselves reflected in the work. There’s something very beautiful and cathartic about that.
How’d you get involved with Austin School of Film?
C: As I was teaching middle school filmmaking for a couple years, and making movies in my spare time, I started collaborating on some projects with Justine Spinoza. Justine had been the Final Cut Pro teacher here at ASoF for a while, and we got into a conversation about how much fun she was having teaching here. A few days later, I got an email from her introducing me to Faiza who just happened to be looking for a Digital Filmmaking instructor. I’ve taught both the Digital Filmmaking and Production Management courses for the last 2 years until, recently, they were able to bring me on during this very exciting expansion!
Aspiring filmmakers are often encouraged to move to cities like LA or New York to start their career. What about Austin? What drew you to continue your career here?
C: When I was young, I grew up around the idea that if one wants to be a filmmaker, the first step is to move to LA, live on someone’s couch and wait tables until you either hit the lottery by somehow getting noticed, or you give up and just move back home.
I also knew I was a pretty unlucky person, as a rule. I once was stuck in an elevator after it fell 8 stories for a few hours with 10 other people. That kind of stuff literally happens to me all the time!
On the other hand, I refused to accept this depressing fate. While studying abroad in New Zealand, I saw what was happening with their film scene, my eyes were opened to the idea that it doesn’t matter where you are geographically. If you have a camera and something to point it at, you can release something world-wide through a simple upload. Amazing films worth seeing are made everywhere.
So, I took my future into my own hands. I decided that if I was going to be a filmmaker, I was going to just do it my way.
When I returned to the states, I realized that Indiana just didn’t feel like home anymore. While visiting a couple friends that relocated to ATX from the RTF program I was a part of, I very quickly realized that this was the place to be. Unlike LA and NYC, everyone is so friendly and other filmmakers aren’t so competitive. Instead, they just like to see each other succeed.
(On top of that, it’s socially acceptable to order queso with any meal and eat tacos for breakfast. Why live anywhere else?)
As Community Director, what are some cool new ideas you have for the future of Austin School of Film?
C: I know with the new space we’re moving into, there will be many more exciting opportunities for filmmakers in Austin. I hope to really help build a strong and supportive base of artist services for our community. I would really like to bring the filmmaking medium to more people that may have never had the opportunity to share their stories. I’d love to sit back and just enjoy watching movies on a deeper level with people.
Ultimately, I plan to create a great atmosphere for aspiring artists to explore more about themselves, and their artwork, in a really safe and inspiring space. I know I can’t do all this alone either. So, I welcome anyone that wants to participate in a place like this to help me make it happen.
Written by: Spencer Mirabal