Austin Film Festival Special Feature: Kit Pongetti
The Austin Film Festival and Conference, now in it’s 19th year, takes place on October 18-25, 2012. There are eight days of film premieres with over 180 different films and a conference with over 80 inspiring and interactive panels, roundtables and meet and greets with established screenwriters and filmmakers. Kit Pongetti, writer and director of Stakeout, will be in town for the premiere of her film.
Stakeout is a short film about two nerdy teen girls in the 1980′s suburbia, who, instead of attending high school parties, choose to watch them from the comfort of their Toyota Tercel. Convinced that their “stakeouts” are an ironic criticism of their peers’ behavior, the girls are forced to view their friendship in a new light when one of them ends up outside of the car and inside a party. We had an opportunity to catch up with this new mama, who is familiar with Austin and happens to call Texas home.
LiveMom: How does it feel to have your short film Stakeout debut in your old stomping ground?
Kit: Crazy good. I really wanted to get into this festival more than any other. Ok, maybe Sundance. Those crazy southwestern kids over there… Anyway. It feels so right to screen it here first. Definitely like showing it to my big Texas family. Feels amazing.
LiveMom: You graduated from The University of Texas in 1992. Are you originally from here? If not, where do you call home?
Kit: Technically I graduated in 1993, I think. Strange I don’t remember, but I think I did the ol’ five year plan. Born in Kingsville, raised in the suburbs of Houston, which is where I still call home, even though LA’s been home for the past 17 years. I like my Texas roots.
LiveMom: When was the last time you visited Austin? Do you have plans to visit some of your old hangouts while you are here? What are some places that you are most looking forward to seeing again?
Kit: Last trip to Austin was… for a friend’s wedding? Maybe 8 years ago? Too long. I love it there so much. Definitely brings up some emotions for me. Uh-oh, here come the tears! It’s so much nostalgia. First loves, first time away from home, freedom, first band. Lots of firsts. Plan to hit Kerbey Lane, the original house on 39th, and Magnolia, and just being able to smell Salt Lick will be enough for me. I’ll drive down to Lake Travis, and past Barton Creek. Oh my, tears again! Such fun times! Hyde Park Bar and Grill, is that still there? Used to live off Duval. Love it all!
LiveMom:With Stakeout being autobiographical, which character are you, Cyd or Sarah?
Kit: Cyd. Good ol’Cyd who has potential but would rather stay in the childhood comfort of being with her best friend than go out and find her place in the real world. Funny, I still feel that way before every party I go to. For a fleeting moment only, as I don’t currently stake out things anymore. :)
LiveMom: There are many films from the 80′s that bring back that nostalgic feeling but not many films that are made now and based in the 80′s. Do you think more films that take moviegoers back in time to tight rolled jeans, big hair and leg warmers will become more popular as the children of the 80′s grow older?
Kit: Definitely 80′s themed movies are more fun for us oldy types. Popular though? Well, depends on who’s determining what popular is. And I don’t think I’m that demographic anymore. :) Shooting a short with 80′s production values was tough and I almost compromised it, but I really just wanted it to be set in a time before cell phones. Wanted it to feel more timeless.
LiveMom: You spent three weeks developing the film at the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. Was the story written long before attending the workshop?
Kit: Sort of. My friend from high school and partner in stakeout crime, Jessica Sheets and I have been working on the feature script GUY SPIES for many years. This short I wrote specifically for the workshop, and with a slightly different tone. I follow one character more and simplified the story line. Guy Spies is a romping buddy comedy with many more fun twists and turns – Wait and see! But with the short format, I just took on one moment in their relationship.
LiveMom: How did you get involved with 8 Women Making Films?
Kit: 8 Women Making Films is made up of the amazing women I did the AFI program with. We got so close through the process of making our films, and our vibe has been so supportive of one another, that we decided to bond together and create a web presence beyond the workshop. Love those ladies. It was so nice to meet powerful, sensitive, supportive women working in this industry. They’re Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin to my Jane Fonda. (speaking of 80′s movies)
LiveMom: I’m a big fan of 80′s music. Tell me about the soundtrack in Stakeout. You know, if you have a good soundtrack playing, sometimes hanging out in the car outside of the party isn’t all that bad!
Kit: Tell me about it! 80′s music is awesome. The soundtrack was so fun to assemble. We had to create every piece of music for the film bc of AFI’s rules – no outside copyrighted music allowed. So I gathered some of my old bandmates and we each contributed bits and pieces to the soundtrack. Also, my producer Sarah Jane Morris’s husband, Ned Brower (Rooney) is a killer musician and songwriter, and also generously contributed some of his 80′s sounding tunes. Mark McAdam, an old bandmate from my Sumack days, wrote a bunch of great stuff too – the Steve Miller soundalike cracks me up. Then I wrote most of the score and had Rod Sherwood and Louis Stephens help me produce it. Oh man, that was fun.
LiveMom: Would you say that writing and directing a short film has been one of the highlights of your career?
Kit: Definitely. I learned so much in such a short time, my cells regenerated so quickly, that I feel like a different person. It took me the entire year to write, shoot, edit, score and color it. I learned so much at every step. It was the most challenging thing I’ve done – until baby Gene… – And you know, the most challenging stuff is always makes you grow the most. We had a huge 50-person crew. AFI acts like a big studio, with lots of rules and paperwork and watching over you like a hawk, by the time you’re finished with this thing, it feels like you’ve made a big budget feature!
Plus, it felt like finally I was bringing together my skills for one common goal. Very satisfying in that way. Can’t wait to do it again.
LiveMom: And how about timing! You are a new mama to a little baby boy. Congratulations! Do you find it ironic that he came at such a high point in your career?
Kit: Yay Gene! Yes, I do. I waited to start a family so that my career could take off, and then when we finally started trying, it proved difficult. And my career STILL wasn’t at a place I wanted it to be. But as soon as I finished this short, and Jess and I finished the feature script, boom, here came Gene. In fact, I got the call we’d been accepted into the Austin Film Festival two days after we took him home from the hospital. Crazy.
LiveMom: How are you adjusting to being sleep deprived and on-call 24/7? Do you have help?
LiveMom: Are there any feelings that you have since becoming a mom that have taken you by surprise?
Kit: I am surprised at how fulfilled I feel. I was so worried for so long that having a baby would make me feel trapped. But I feel expanded. Like, “ahhhh, yes. Finally.” I was surprised when I got a dog – Dave, the best dog in the world? yes. – how much love I have to give. That I have that capacity rocked my world for sure. Thought I was a selfish brat.
LiveMom: Is your new little man traveling with you or will you be catching up on sleep while in town?
Kit: This was a tough call! But since we found Carmen – the best babysitter in the world? yes. – we decided to leave him here with her and my husband Mark. So, yes, sleep and I have a 3-night affair planned for this weekend.
LiveMom: Have you been asked yet about when you will have the next baby? No. Well…..
Kit: Ha! Well, only by Carmen. My parents are very hands off of such topics, so much so, it makes you think they don’t want us to have kids! Wait a minute… we have to talk.
And uh… no comment. Let’s get through the colicky days of the Gene Machine first.
LiveMom: You are not only a writer/ director but also a musician and actor. Do you see yourself slowing down at all or going full steam ahead?
Kit: I should say full steam ahead! Catch me after more hours of sleep and I would say that. But honestly, I am open to what effect being a mom has on my ambitions. who am I kidding? I’ll never stop making stuff. :)
LiveMom: Which do you enjoy the most: directing, writing, acting or playing music?
Kit: Can’t answer that! Put a bullet to my head and you may as well pull the trigger. Love em all. Minus writing.
LiveMom: Will you be shooting your next film in Austin?! Nudge nudge…..
Kit: If Salt Lick will cater.