"Texas Cotton," just made its way out of the Texas Film Festival circuit and will be playing at The Spot for a limited time. The film centers around Sergeant Travis Delmore, an aging lawman, played by George Hardy, that is convinced a mysterious stranger arrested in his small town is innocent. Photos courtesy of Travis Ayers
'Texas Cotton' premiers in san Marcos
You are familiar with the old joke: Four men walk into a bar in Austin. One says to the bartender. "We are going to make a movie."
The bartender says, "About what?"
"Texas," replies a young, slightly disheveled member of the group.
In case, you missed it, that is the joke. Except, that's no joke. Four men of diverse talents and interests have made a movie about Texas.
“Texas Cotton” is a film set in LaCoste, Texas.
In the movie an aging lawman is convinced a mysterious stranger arrested in his small town is innocent and his ensuing investigation stirs up a hornet's nest that will change the town forever.
Sergeant Delmore, Deputy Alexa Boozer, played by Tiffany Shepis, Chief Terry Fellers, played by Gene Jones, and Prosecutor Cunningham, played by Judd Lormand,
After making its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival, the film is making a circuit around the country, appearing at a number of select theaters including the Spot in San Marcos from Nov. 17- 23, with four showings a day.
Tyler Russell is the young, slightly disheveled producer, director and co-writer of the film.
"How did you decide to do this particular film? And the title?" I asked.
"It presented itself," Russell responded, "and the title tells you nothing about the film. Think Chinatown. That title hardly reveals that film."
Hardly a full explanation of the motivation for doing a movie, but for Russell a fairly long conversational interlude.
"It's a mystery," he explains.
"Murder," I inquired.
"No, the mystery is what's happening in the town. That's for the audience to figure out."
"So, Coen Brothers?" I ventured, wondering if we need another quirky movie about Texas, given “Dazed and Confused,” “Boyhood,” “Bernie,” and other Linklater depictions of the great state.
"Coen Brothers, yes, that's what I have heard from other people," Russell responded.
"Texas Cotton" is a crime story set in the sparse settings of west Texas. It delves into the heart of small-town corruption and individual morality.
Sergeant Delmore and Deputy Boozer with guns drawn in a flat Texas field.
Russell got into making short films in high school because, according to him, he didn't like writing essays, so he put his essays on film.
"What got you into the film business in a serious way?" I inquired.
"After graduating from high school in Monroe, Louisiana, I went to New Orleans for college, dropped out after a year and found it easy to get work in the film business there."
Russell relates that he did whatever was necessary, props, scenery, equipment, etc. and learned a bit about the business.
"Is ‘Texas Cotton’ your first 90-minute film?"
"The first one that I'm in charge of," Russell said.
Discussing the hierarchy of a film crew in doing a feature length film, I noted that George Hardy was the star of “Texas Cotton,” but was likely down the list a ways in that hierarchy.
"Yes, but George was with us from the conception of the film. We made a short film together and decided we should make this happen," Russell said.
"What should this newspaper article say about your film?"
"Texas grown, Texas made, Texas film,” Russell said. “We simply jumped off the cliff to shoot in Texas. Other places are cheaper – New Mexico, Oklahoma – we could have received bonuses to make the film there. But it wasn't about that. It was about making the film authentic, making it Texas, making it honest and real."
So what’s your bumper sticker version of Texas?” I queried.
"People in Texas are authentic,” Russell said. “They don't worry about other people looking at them and judging them."
Hardy, star of “Texas Cotton,” is somewhat of a grizzley, gray, gonna-get-itdone kind of sheriff in the movie and he is taking orders from a 29-year-old upstart of a producer/director whose bona fides has yet to be tested in the cut-throat world of movie making. "What's that like?” I asked Hardy.
"Tyler did not know this, but I was watching him direct at a shopping center down in Mobile, Alabama," Hardy began. "And I was amazed at his talent in directing 20 or more people on the set-lighting, props, actors, the whole thing. It was something to see. I saw a talent that was in his element. He has worked in all aspects of film, photography, writing, editing, camera work. My thought was, 'I would love to work with him.'"
Delmore's investigation stirs up a hornet's nest that changes the town forever.
Hardy, an experienced actor who has worked in feature films, documentaries and many other film projects, responded, "Tyler has great room for expansion and the talent to take him there."
Given Hardy's assessment of Russell's possibilities, I was curious to know if there were any projects in the wings.
"I have a head full of them," Russell responded. "At the top of the list is Shilo Harris. He was in the army in Iraq and he was hit by an IED. His vehicle was hit and his body was shattered. He had more than 80 surgeries. And, he says he lives that day over every day of his life. But, he has taken the worst thing that's ever happened to him and made it positive. He is now a motivational speaker and travels all over the world speaking to audiences of thousands.
"We simply jumped off the cliff to shoot in Texas. Other places are cheaper – New Mexico, Oklahoma – we could have received bonuses to make the film there. But it wasn't about that. It was about making the film authentic, making it Texas, making it honest and real." - Tyler Russell
"The film will be unique in that Shilo will be playing himself through half the film. The surgeons have put him back together well and his personality shines through."
"What does filmmaking do for you?" I asked.
"It's the happiest time of my life,” Russell said. “Something is created out of thin air. It goes on video and is there forever. It outlives all of us."
Turning to Travis Ayers, marketing director of “Texas Cotton.”
“I was brought in as the marketing specialist. That entails about anything, not just the film. I work a lot with social media, Twitter, Instagram, email, Facebook, constantly updating people on the film. Progress, problems, whatever. Behind the scenes information, raw photos. You have to push so hard letting people know what's happening.
"We are now at release. So, we get out the word about where, when, tickets, showings and it is somewhat more difficult with independent films such as this one."
Ayers continued to explain that streaming films is now being adopted by theaters and unfortunately, going to the movies as most of us know it is a dying thing.
He went on to explain that movies such as “Texas Cotton” fit a smaller theater in a fairly large town, because it is not a A-list- star-packed blockbuster, but an independent movie aimed at more than selling popcorn.