Photo Credit: Lex Rojas | Daily Texan Staff

While big-budgeted movies, such as the “The Avengers,” are expected to draw millions in box office profit, hundreds of independently produced films scramble just to make it to theaters. 

Independent films, which are movies major film studios do not produce, fight tooth and nail to reach an audience. To do this, they try to sell the film’s rights to film distribution companies. 

Major film studios normally don’t have to worry about this because they have the financial backing necessary to get their film into theaters. If the producer of an indie film fails to find a channel to release the movie, then they have no guarantee of making a profit.

Film distribution companies help movies reach mass audiences. They have the power to determine both a film’s release date and whether it’s released in theaters or through a different medium. Although a majority of distributors generally try to push the film into theaters, the growth of the video-on-demand industry creates an incentive for releasing films straight to streaming services. 

Films that stream on a video-on-demand service have a better opportunity to gain audience attention because they don’t have to compete with studio films. Distributors also provide both publicity and marketing services for a film, meaning they create posters, trailers and other forms of advertisements. 

The first step for a producer hoping to get a film distributed is to screen it everywhere. The process of finding a film distributor usually begins when an indie films premieres at a film festivals. Festivals such as South By Southwest allow directors to present their movies to hard-core film lovers and help build much-needed hype for their work. Producers pray for glowing reviews and strong word-of-mouth for their films, as these things set them apart from the competition and increase the chance of getting purchased. 

Films that fail to attract buyers at one festival move on to others until they finally attract a distributor. If a producer can’t find a buyer, then the only remaining option is self-distribution — an expensive venture. Finding a potential buyer is a harrowing task. Film news website Indiewire speculated that out of 110 feature films the 2012 Sundance Film Festival screened, only an estimated 40 films would be purchased by distributors.

A few independent films that premiered at SXSW last month managed to pick up distribution deals. Drafthouse Films bought “The Invitation,” a thriller that premiered with favorable reviews. “Manson Family Vacation,” a quirky black comedy, reached an agreement with Netflix. These acquisition deals pave the way for these films to become big hits.

Once a film has been acquired by a distributor, the marketing aspect comes into effect. HowStuffWorks columnist Jeff Tyson wrote that distributors “determine the best strategy for opening the movie” and consider factors such as target audience, star power and season. They have to do everything in their power to ensure that the indie film, on which they spent up to seven figures, generates a profit.

This isn’t the absolute way that indie films are bought and distributed. Numerous factors go into such a complex process. Independent film producers face treacherous, uncertain roads as they present their movie to the world. Some get lucky and snatch up a distribution deal after one successful run at a film festival. Others consider self-distribution or evaluate a video-on-demand release. Either way, it’s important to know that there are hundreds of small films just waiting to burst onto the scene dominated by big-budget studio films. 

Art Markman and Bob Duke, stars of KUT radio’s “Two Guys on Your Head,” and host Rachel McInroy speak on a panel at the Belo Center on Wednesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

The hosts and producer of “Two Guys on Your Head," the KUT radio show on science and the brain, discussed their show and the public understanding of science at a talk at the Belo Center for New Media on Wednesday.

Art Markman and Bob Duke, UT professors and hosts of the show, and the show’s producer, Rebecca McInroy, spoke about the establishment of “Two Guys On Your Head” and the importance of teaching this science to young students. The show features discussions on various aspects of psychology and the scientific process.  

McInroy said she invited Markman, psychology professor, to appear on the psychology episode on her radio show “Views and Brews” after receiving a call from one of his affiliates. 

“I was under the impression that we had to play music,” Markman said. “Thank goodness that wasn’t the case, but I called [Duke] up anyway to accompany me on the show.”

Duke, music and human learning professor, said he recorded two episodes with Markman before McInroy realized that she wanted to create a new show focusing on the brain. 

“We didn’t want the show to feel teach-y” Duke said. “What’s missing from science education is work on the scientific process.”

McInroy said each show is a collaborative effort. 

“I wanted people to feel like they had been to a dinner party after each episode,” McInroy said. “One thing that’s great about working with [Markman] and [Duke] is that we trust each other.”

Duke said they discuss a specific topic each episode, with an emphasis on psychology.

“Science is about a process,” Duke said. “The show works to teach the process and things that aren’t intuitive. A lot of students have the misconception that science is a group of facts. Science changes constantly.”

Markman said that a problem with the public’s understanding of science is a lack of good science teachers.

“I tell my colleagues to tithe 10 percent to the field, give 10 percent of your work time to teaching the community,” Markman said. “Luckily, a growing number of people are willing to teach the public.”

According to Duke, researcher bias creates an issue of trust between scientists and the public.

“There is no such thing as inherently dispassionate data,” Duke said. “So long as humans are involved, a bias will be present. A system was developed to thwart that bias though: That system is science.”

UT has partnered with leaders in the video game industry to start a graduate-level video game academy that will open in the fall of 2014 at the University.

The Denius-Sams Gaming Academy is being developed and led by industry veteran Warren Spector and Paul Sams, the chief operating officer of Blizzard Entertainment. Unlike other gaming institutions around the world, the UT program will offer a focus on leadership as opposed to just programming and design, Spector said.

“This is not like other programs. We’re trying to position it a little differently. What’s been lacking is a focus on creative and business leadership. There really aren’t any places that teach you how to be a game director or a producer.”  Spector said. “That understanding of art and commerce is something that I don’t think that a lot programs do very well. It is in the tension between those that great games are made.”

With Austin being one of the country’s largest contributors to the video game industry and home to several game studios, Spector said industry leaders have long felt the University needed to have a gaming program. With game development programs appearing at institutions around the world, Spector said the University wanted to build a graduate-level academy that would benefit from the input of industry leaders. After funding was secured from the Cain Foundation and the Sams family, the academy became a reality.

“We wanted to make sure that what we offered would be different. Our focus is on the collective skills that you need,” said Mike Wilson, director of the College of Communication Office of Development. “It’s a very unique program. It’s one that we think fills a void.”

After a highly competitive admissions process, the academy will accept 20 individuals each year who already possess skills in video game design and production and may already have experience in the industry. The University will pay for their tuition and give them a $10,000 stipend. They will participate in a 12-month program where they will learn to take a concept from the drawing board to the market. 

The program will be centered in the Radio-Television-Film Department in the College of Communication. However the College of Fine Arts and the Department of Computer Science will also significantly contribute to the program.

“It is going to be a cross-discipline effort,” Spector said. “Video games represent the most collaborative medium and the one that takes advantage of more disciplines than any other.”

Spector, who received his masters from UT and has worked as a producer on several video game series in his career, said he believes the program will offer students a chance get ahead in the industry faster.

“I am assuming that people are going to come in with exceptional skills and a desire to take the next step,” Spector said. “There is a dues paying period that you have to go through [in the industry]. What this program is going to do is to take people who aspire to leadership positions and shorten their dues paying period.”

The academy is not UT’s first venture into video games. There is currently an undergraduate program offered at the University called the Game Development Program.

The academy will soon begin a national search for a program director. Spector will continue to serve as a co-chair on the board of advisors and plans on teaching some classes at the academy.

Follow Jacob Kerr on Twitter @jacobrkerr.

Justin Timberlake performs with a live band at DirecTV’s Super Saturday Night. His new album The 20/20 Experience is highly anticipated after his six year break. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

First he was a child star, then the breakout singer of a multi-platinum boy band, then a solo artist, actor and entrepreneur. 

Now, in 2013, we find the 32-year-old Justin Timberlake in an R&B/pop stage, and his album The 20/20 Experience is only his third in 11 years. Though he was still at the forefront of the public consciousness, he returns to the music scene six years after FutureSex/LoveSounds with longtime producer/collaborator Timbaland at his side. 

The album begins with an orchestral crescendo in “Pusher Love Girl,” displaying a more mature start than “Señorita” off of 2002’s Justified. Through a played-out metaphor, Timberlake likens his loving affections to a drug addiction. For the first five minutes, he creates soulful harmonies and solos over himself before a bridge leads to a much more rhythmic section. 

Because of the song’s distinct parts, it could be split in two, establishing a trend that continues for the entirety of the album. Much like Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, soundscapes and vocal interludes are frequently used to combine two songs into one. 

The first single, platinum “Suit & Tie,” was released Jan. 14 and topped the charts within hours. Timberlake’s soothing falsetto makes up for one of Jay-Z’s worst rap verses to date. 

“Tunnel Vision” focuses Timberlake’s vision on a female, probably his wife, Jessica Biel, and features some of the album’s best production, with Timbaland using vocal percussion similar to “Cry Me a River.” The ending instrumentals highlight why Timbaland is one of the best producers — the music could stand alone without Timberlake’s vocal melodies and inversions. 

As the title suggests, the album’s main lyrical themes revolve around optics and perception, like the second single “Mirrors.” The song’s chorus outshines the rest of the album — it is lengthy, tender and infectious.      

The album ends with a relaxing ballad “Blue Ocean Floor,” consisting mainly of backmasked synthesizers and the orchestral melody introduced on “Pusher Love Girl,” proving that what goes around comes around.     

It’s not all incredible, though. With an average length of seven minutes, the 10 songs are full of musical twists and turns. The biggest question being: is the length necessary? Some songs like “Strawberry Bubblegum” have a less-than-subtle bridge, and what comes after it doesn’t add anything spectacular. Even the best track, “Mirrors,” falls prey to this problem, with a drawn out a cappella bridge that repeats the cheesy line “You are the love of my life.” The radio edits will undoubtedly shave off the excess minutes of many of the songs.     

It’s the record of a pop artist attempting to redefine himself through a triumphant return against grandiose expectations. It plays a little overly ambitious, but Timberlake will hopefully work the formula out, and is rumored to have plans to release a second volume of The 20/20 Experience later this year. Regardless, the album solidifies Timberlake and Timbaland’s continued domination of the modern pop scene.

“And I’ll be here till the colors fade/And I’ll be here till your dying day,” sings Casey McPherson on Bloom’s lead single “Sing Loud,” ensuring us that he will never stop making music. Austin’s own Alpha Rev lists 13 former members, but McPherson’s determination results in the band’s third alt-rock release. Caught somewhere between an unhurried Coldplay and a less mainstream Of Monsters & Men, Bloom is an atmospheric, well-produced record that Austinites can be proud of.  

Printed on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 as: Timberlake focuses musical vision 

Hip-hop duo Megz Kelli (R) and Dougie Do (L) will preform on KVRX and TSTV’s Local Live on Sunday. The pair continues to support Austin’s overlooked hip-hop scene.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Megan Tillman is soft-spoken and slight in stature; her rhymes are anything but.

Together with former St. Edwards classmate Chris Beale as disk jockey and producer, she makes up Megz Kelli and Dougie Do. The duo hopes to bring new sounds and new fans to the often overlooked Austin hip-hop scene.

The pair met up last year for St. Edwards’ event Hip Hop on the Hilltop through a mutual friend, and have been making music together ever since.

“It was awkward at first, things were kind of in shambles,” Beale said. “We had a bunch of people that wanted to go different directions, but after that first performance we knew we needed to come together.”

After their well-received Hip Hop on the Hilltop performance, Tillman and Beale decided to take the next step and start recording together.

“After that we did Creature Creative, our first mixtape,” Tillman said. “That was the first time I had an opportunity to work directly with a producer and have my own music, so I was excited to get into that. Once we released the mixtape, we got a fairly decent response and decided to keep going with it.”

Since then, the two have worked to refine and evolve their sound. Their second mixtape, Shoestring Theory, was more focused but still largely experimental for them.

“Once we released Shoestring Theory, things got better, but of course it was still a learning experience. It was still kind of all over the place and we’re still learning from it,” Tillman said.

Their backgrounds have helped to shape the unique fusion of sounds that they tout today. Their combination of jazz, hip-hop and neo-soul elements is a product of different musical upbringings. Beale’s music often carries a jazz influence, in part from his background with his early musical training and the music he frequently listens to.

“I started playing saxophone in sixth grade in band but I got kind of bored of it in high school and wanted to do more,” Beale said. “So a friend showed me how to make my own beats and that’s how I started off.”

Tillman brings her own lyrical flair through a history of writing and performing hip-hop.

“I’ve been doing music since I was about seven because my dad was really into music so growing up I was exposed to it,” Tillman said. “I started doing a little rap group with my church and I just kept going with it and eventually started writing my own rhymes.”

As the duo gains recognition, they are working on their third project, experimenting with new sounds and solidifying the direction they want to take as a group.

“Now we’re trying to find our voice and really figure out who we want to be,” Tillman said. “We actually talked about it last night and we decided that is something we need to establish. What is our sound going to be, what are people going to expect from us? That’s what we’re trying to focus on right now.”

Beale said that they hope to have the third mixtape out in time to submit it for South By Southwest. In the meantime, Megz Kelli and Dougie Do are working on gaining attention in a market heavily saturated by indie, rock and country acts.

“Now we’re trying to perform live more, we’ve been doing a lot of shows at the 512 Bar downtown, where a lot of people just end up there by chance and see us,” Beale said. “We’re excited to be doing Local Live because hopefully we’ll be able to reach a new audience. The hip-hop scene isn’t as big here and that’s been a challenge but hopefully we can bring our music to new listeners.”

Tillman said that she hopes the group’s complex sound will appeal to a broad range of tastes.

“We want to have the lyrical substance, the hip-hop roots, and a bit of the shock factor too,” she said. “We’re trying to avoid confining ourselves and our sound to this little box.”

For students who would like to join the audience for the Megz Kelli and Dougie Do on Sunday, doors open at 9:30 p.m.. The interview and performance will be from 10pm-11pm. It's free; just show up! 

Printed on Friday, November 30, 2012 as: Duo joins Austin's hip-hop crowd

Androgynous choir boy vocals backed by harp strings and electronic production, along with R&B melodies featuring a heavy bass, can only be traced back to a single artist: Pat Grossi. Recording under the name Active Child, Grossi has released two EPs and a full-length album, You Are All I See, which debuted last year. The singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles will stop by tonight for a show with English producer James Blake and the Superhumanoids.

Daily Texan: Were you ever an active child?
Pat Grossi:
I grew up playing sports, so I guess I could be an active child, yeah.

DT: Where did you come up with your name as a musician?
It came from my mom. My mom told me all these stories about when I was younger about me being obsessed with sound and music.

DT: Have you always been drawn toward R&B? What is it that made you want to mix it up with your sound?
I definitely like R&B music. I think it’s right up my alley as far as content, control and a lot of emotion put in the lyrics and melodies. When I write music I’m always interested in how to write music and so I think I just gravitated closer and closer to R&B, that soul and that music. It’s something I wanted to pursue and be surrounded by.

DT: How do you feel you’re able to reach out to an audience who wouldn’t normally listen to harp music?
I don’t really view the harp as this orchestral instrument. I see it as a string instrument that sounds amazing and beautiful. I think, initially, people are thrown off-guard. There are a lot of perceptions about who played it. There are a lot of interviews just flocking [people’s] brains about it, like it’s some sort of sorcerous woman playing it. I just think it becomes a part of a pretty melody. People are excited to see an instrument onstage and to see someone play it, even if it’s different from the classical stuff like guitar, bass and drums.

DT: Did you ever envision yourself making harp music more accessible to the masses of this generation?
[The harp] has just worked its way into my music and I hadn’t really thought about whether or not it would be accessible or not. I try not to think too much about it. I just started to write a lot of music incorporating the harp.

DT: How was the transition between singing as a choir boy and starting to make your own music?
I don’t think there was much transition to it. There were a lot of characteristics that carried over, like the melodies and the way I layer my voice. I think it’s kind of ingrained in me and it’s all very natural to me.

DT: Do you ever miss your choir boy days where you’d sing as a part of a collective instead of being solo?
Yeah, most of the time there was a certain power that was created by 100 voices on stage; it’s such a cool thing to be a part of. I’m really focused on what I’m doing right now though: write songs, travel, play music.

DT: Were you ever singled out [in choir] by your instructors because of your voice?
There were always three or four people the director would single out and tell the others to follow, and I was usually one of them.

Nicky Luna, left, and Ibrahim, top, founded hip-hop group PARKING in 2008. Their sound has been said to combine modern production techniques with an appreciation for the golden age of hip-hop.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series examining the different strategies and resources that various local musicians use to keep afloat in Austin’s legendary live music scene. This week’s installment will explore what aspiring Austin hip-hop artists need to get their careers off the ground.

Austin and hip-hop have never been fully synonymous with each other. Sure, the city pulls in hipster hip-hop acts like Odd Future, Childish Gambino and Danny Brown, but locally, hip-hop is often pushed aside. But in recent years, there has been a local hip-hop movement: Click-Clack, Phranchyze, Zeale and PARKING are all at the forefront of local hip-hop.

For those adamant about making a niche in Austin hip-hop, the first and most important thing is equipment. For PARKING beatsmith and producer Nicky Luna, an assortment of instruments including an Akai MPC 2500, a MicroKORG keyboard, two Technics 1200 turntables and a Stanton 3-Channel Mixer are essentials in his music-making process.

Each item serves a different purpose: The MicroKORG acts as both an analog synthesizer and vocoder (creating a robot-like voice effect on its user); the turntables are primarily used for DJ’ing and scratching vinyls; and the Stanton 3 provides input jacks for microphones, turntables and samplers, while simultaneously acting as an equalizer. But it’s the Akai MPC that Luna values in particular.

“I very much love, love, love the design of the Akai MPC,” Luna said. “I think of it as a blank instrument, to which you load any sound your heart desires, and you can create self-contained music on the fly.”

Akai MPCs (Music Production Centers) have multiple functions. Commonly known for their electronic drum sounds, Akai MPCs also serve as MIDI controllers (enabling digital musical instruments and computers to connect and communicate with one another) and as storage machines for housing samples and other beats.

“The [Akai] MPC 2000 is great for both hip-hop and electronic music artists,” Johnson said. “It has an assortment of pads that you can save vocals, drum parts and other sounds on.”

Instead of purchasing specific electronic instruments from the start, budding hip-hop artists short on cash can also try out computer software like Reason or Ableton Live.

“[Computer software] is the most cost-effective route,” said Luna. “Reason is the more affordable option, while still being an extremely powerful piece of software.”

Modeled on analog synthesizers, step sequencers, samplers and effects units, Reason is fully equipped to assist any aspiring producer or DJ.

“The layout for Reason is pretty cool,” said local rapper Click-Clack. “It looks like real hardware. The only problem is that I have Reason 4.0, so I can’t really record live.”

Ableton Live is a pricier alternative, but your money won’t be spent in vain. “Its capabilities are pretty impressive,” Luna said of the software. “It’s growing to be the industry standard for electronic music production.”

Designed to be an instrument for live performances, Ableton Live allows its users to create songs instantly through its composing and arranging application. It is also one of the first music applications to automatically beat match songs, meaning that if two songs are at varied tempos, the software will automatically sync them up.

“Ableton Live is the software that everyone enjoys,” said Guitar Center HiTech salesman Terrany Johnson. “That, along with a good MPC, like an [Akai] MPC 2000, and you can create some great sounds.”

But what’s the point of making music if you can’t bring it to the masses both recorded, and in person? Whether you use computer software or outboard hardware, putting on a live show to make people dance all night is possible.

“There is nothing wrong with using a laptop onstage,” Luna said. “The only problem is if your laptop happens to crash onstage. That would be a nightmare.”

It’s happened before — last year in April, renowned DJ and producer Skrillex spilled a drink over his laptop during a performance. Fortunately for him, the catastrophe occurred at the end of his set.

Two things that Luna does not suggest using during a live performance is using CDs or an iPod.

“If you’re playing your songs through an iPod onstage in a city like Austin, people expect a certain level of musicianship in live performances,” said Luna. “All your peers will clown you for rocking a show with an iPod, and you don’t want that. Also, do not use CDs live because it can get Milli Vanilli real quick.”

Local DJ Jeramy Neugent also suggests refraining from computer software live, and instead incorporating vinyl into your set.

“Get in touch with your DJ roots, and start off with vinyl,” said Neugent. “Technics makes a fine turntable, and Pioneer mixers are the bee’s knees.”

Most importantly, allow your creative juices to flow. “I recommend to be creative and check out other genres of music,” said Johnson. “Once you start listening to other sounds and ideas, you’ll begin to start forming some of your own.”

Published on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 as: Technology helps Austin hip-hop artists gain local foothold

DJ Skrillex has taken been at the forefront of the growing brostep movement, which is an off-shoot of the dubstep and is known for its loud mix of genres, like hardcore punk. (Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records)

Electronic dance music, or EDM, has emerged as the next big thing for American mainstream music. Key components include Las Vegas' Electric Daisy Carnival, a festival that has become notorious for its nocturnal DJ sets, the sea of neon-clad individuals that accompany EDM, and most recently, new kid on the block Skrillex, who won three Grammy awards on Sunday. EDM is baptizing skeptics in its synth-soaked, bass-heavy waters, and once the conversion is complete, there's no turning back.

What seems to be the case for electronic music in America is that the genre, a home to a plethora of sub-genres (downtempo, ambient, glitch, etc.), have been overshadowed by dubstep's American counterpart: “brostep.” Although the sub-genre is enjoyable, it is a momentary superficial pleasure, the feeling of euphoria leaving as quick as it comes in glitchy spurts and catastrophic bass explosions.

Originally a form of dance music that began in London, dubstep has since been distorted and disfigured from its early beginnings with the creation of brostep. The sub-genre is unlike its predecessor in that it relies on exaggerated amounts of bass wobble, resulting in a more aggressive sound.

Rusko, one of the first producers to experiment with the sub-genre, has since come to “hate” what he helped create. “Now I think it's gone too far. It's got too noisy for noisy's sake ... it's lost a little bit of feeling,” the producer said during an interview with the BBC last year. Brostep does have an aggressive undertone to it, which contributes to its appeal. As soon as it begins, you are bombarded with punch-to-the-gut cacophony, a fuzz-wobble and ground-shaking bass forcing you to move around wildly.

Music journalist Nitsuh Abebe summed up America's fascination with brostep, in his article, “Why Does America Love Skrillex?”

“For one thing, it sounds essentially like hard rock or metal — a gnarly, monumental, distorted sound that tears through the middle of the frequency spectrum,” Abebe said.

This sound is noticeable in Skrillex's music. Once the former lead-singer of post-hardcore act From First to Last, Skrillex has taken the discordance and raw energy that first made him successful, and has combined that with electronic spasms and sounds, resulting in hits such as “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” and “First of the Year.” Other electronic-labeled groups also rely on that same post-hardcore, punk energy. Death From Above 1979's performances ooze with abrasiveness; The Bloody Beetroots first became notorious for their breed of dance-punk electronic music, incorporating live instrumentation in their sets; and how can we forget Does It Offend You, Yeah?, whose performances often included stage diving and breaking their instruments.

I would argue that these groups have not triumphed like Skrillex and his peers because they're not as to the point and obvious. Brostep is not as complex as the musical styles of the aforementioned groups. Even more popular electronic acts like Justice or Daft Punk, offer a level of sophistication in their work, that brostep does not. For example, Daft Punk's “Aerodynamic” flourishes with melodies and counter-melodies, crescendoing with synth solos that have a classical feel to them. Unlike those groups that primarily rely on melody and the “tension and release” procedure common in most electronic music, brostep is straight and loud.

Producer Dubba Jonny’s “UKF Dubstep Tutorial” describes it best: start off with the kick and snare, add a few modulated bass-lines and make sure your drop, the most important part of the song, is ready to go. It's conventional, predictable and enjoyable, the three qualities necessary to make a mainstream hit. By following the commandment which is, “Thou shalt not have a popular breakdown without a bass drop,” brostep brings the weird and cohesive together in the simplest way possible, the result a sample of the best components of what electronic dance music has to offer.

Brostep is able to, as Abebe puts it, “pileup ... all the most obviously, superficially cool and high-impact parts of a dozen different genres.” Unfortunately, this “pileup” undermines the genres that brostep takes from. Its simplistic approach creates the impression that all electronic dance music is just as loud and superficial when that is not the case. Its mainstream appeal sacrifices creativity and innovation for three minutes of repetitious cacophony.

EDM should not ride on the shoulders of brostep to be successful. Like the post-hardcore scene it's derived from, the sub-genre could very well lose its importance over time. Brostep needs to return to where it belongs: at music festivals and parties, not sitting atop an electronic throne.

Academy Award winning producer Jon Landau speaks Thursday evening about his movies “Avatar” and “Titanic.” The lecture was presented by the Distinguished Speakers Committee in the Texas Union Ballroom.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Academy Award-winning film producer Jon Landau said storytelling has been the most important part in making “Titanic” and “Avatar,” the two highest-grossing films of all time.

Landau gave an in-depth perspective of both films, as well as other successes as a producer, at the Union Ballroom on Thursday evening.

Landau, a frequent collaborator with film director James Cameron, said while he cannot act or direct, his job encompasses everything necessary in the making of a film, which he said is like a “start-up company.”

Despite the mainstream financial successes of some of his films, Landau said their success was due to their ability to artistically relate to the audience and innovatively incorporate the technology used.

“‘Titanic’ was about being able to rise from a desperate situation and succeed,” Landau said. “In ‘Avatar,’ it’s the idea of ‘I see you.’ That the inside of us is more than just the outside.”

He said many filmmakers incorporate unnecessary technology in their films at the cost of degenerating the story.

Landau said many of his personal successes came from his ability to voice his opinions and articulate them into films. He said in the past the people he surrounded himself with during production of films positively taught him lessons for later productions.

Landau said after co-producing “Dick Tracy” with Warren Beatty, Beatty told him his greatest quality as a producer was that he dreamt of the film every night.

“Whatever your fields are, go out and dream,” Landau said. “And remember though — when you dream, it’s a leap of faith. When you innovate, it’s a leap of faith. Whenever a leap of faith is involved, failure has to be an option but fear cannot be.”

The Distinguished Speakers Committee hosted the event, part of a line of other famous speakers including Maya Angelou and Frank Abagnale Jr.

Government senior and first-year member of the committee Adriana Perez said the event was a great start for the year.

“I think an event like this helps draw in different crowds,” Perez said. “It’s cool to see the man behind the scenes. It gives the untold story.”

Journalism professor Regina Lawrence said that she was surprised to see Landau.

“I think films are the master narratives of our culture,” Lawrence said. “As a teacher, I was pleased to see how strongly Landau communicated his compelling lessons in the business to the audience.”

Printed on Friday, October 21, 2011 as: Landeau discusses success as producer


In terms of intellectual insight and emotional depth, Tabi Bonney’s latest album, Summer Years, is a wasteland devoid of both of those things. Summer Years, for the most part, is just a compilation of trite, marketable hip-hop songs, rather than an album conveying something deeper. Bashing Tabi Bonney or Summer Years would be too easy — in fact, despite its surface-level flaws, the album has a fair amount of merits all its own.

While the West African-born, Washington D.C.-raised Tabi Bonney is interesting within himself, the most redeeming qualities of Summer Years come predominately from producer Ski Beatz. Beatz, after a lengthy hiatus from hip-hop, got back into the game fairly recently, producing for artists such as Bonney, Murs and Curren$y. Prior to his break, Beatz had amassed an impressive resume of artists he’s collaborated with, including the likes of Lil Kim, Nas and Jay-Z.

While the majority of the album’s beats are compelling and enjoyable, Beatz fails to deliver at certain points on the record, namely on the track “Hello & Goodbye,” which is laden with irritatingly high synth lines and poorly executed subtle dubstep wobbles that don’t really make sense on the song or the record, given the lack of dubstep influences elsewhere on Summer Years. The production on “Frontin” misses the mark as well in its resemblance to a failed Soulja Boy beat.

In its entirety, Beatz does a very interesting and praise-worthy job of creating electro-infused beats that exist within a very unique space previously unoccupied by hip-hop.

For the goal he’s trying to achieve (creating an upbeat, hip-hop record with mass appeal), Bonney does a good job with the framework Beatz lays for him. Bonney makes songs that are just fun and don’t require a lot of thought, and Summer Years definitely exemplifies this. The record isn’t conscious on any level, but Bonney makes it easy to have a great time — and that, combined with Beatz’ seasoned prowess, make Summer Years a record worth streaming at the very least.

tabi Bonney – Hang Glide (Produced by Ski Beatz) by Hypetrak

Printed on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 as: ''Producer's beats fall flat''