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SCV goes ‘South by Southwest’ times two

CalArts grads Jason Tippet and Mike Ott score screenings at the South by Southwest Film Festival

Posted: March 7, 2009 9:24 p.m.
Updated: March 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Liz Mims and Jason Tippet of "Thompson." The filmmakers, graduates of the film school at CalArts, will have their works screened March 13-21 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

 

If it's true that the world is a stage and all of its people are the players, then Mike Ott, 32, and Jason Tippet, 22, of Valencia, are its directors.

Both filmmakers will have short films screened at the prestigious South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. In a twist worthy of its own film, Ott was once Tippet's teacher at College of the Canyons and inspired the young filmmaker to pursue the craft.

Ott will be invited to show his short film "A. Effect," and Tippet will show his work "Thompson" to thousands of people on the big screen as the week-long festival kicks off March 13. Ott and Tippet are both graduates of the California Institute of the Arts film school.

"I am really excited to be there and be part of something great," Tippet said. "I'm just glad to get the opportunity." He considers this his first real film festival.

Tippet and Ott will have each of their films screened multiple times throughout the festival which runs March 13-21. The two filmmakers will be in the company of directors, agents, scouts and film enthusiasts alike, as well as the 150-200 other contestants whose films were also accepted as the "Best Independent Film" produced in the last year. Awards will be given out to the best short film in each category.

Ott, a seasoned guest of various film festivals around the world, said the event is not about the competition.

"It is about the art itself," he said.

Taking art out of life and making life into art is a skill that the two directors have mastered. Ott graduated from CalArts in 2005 and continues on in his quest to make films of "substance and untainted reality."

In "A. Effect," Ott takes the audience through a day in the life of two struggling actors in a community college drama class. Under Ott's direction, the film was loosely scripted and highly improvised by Santa Clarita Valley residents playing students.

"I wanted to show this in a real way, accentuating the criticism and negativity that artists generally go through every day," Ott said.

"But I also wanted to show that through this adversity, the true artist inside remains and no one can take that away."

The film has received much acclaim. "A. Effect" is making its fourth appearance at a film festival since last year, after being invited to screen as an official selection of notable international festivals in Vienna, Argentina and Copenhagen. Ott said he's proud of the film. "A. Effect" is also set to screen in Bucharest, Romania in April. Ott's future plans include shooting a feature film this summer.

For Jason Tippet, director of "Thompson," South by Southwest is his first high-profile film festival.

"I grew up in Valencia and after high school, I didn't really know what to do," he said. Tippet, like so many of his age today, was in a transition in his life and had to find a direction. He literally chose direction.

After enrolling in College of the Canyons and taking his seat on the first day of film class, Tippet met the man who was destined to see his potential and help him reach it. His teacher was Ott, who had started teaching film at COC after graduating from CalArts.

"He helped me so much," Tippet recalled. "I never stop learning from Mike. I really see him as a strong mentor and a good friend."

Ott helped his young student develop projects, eventually guiding Tippet through the process of applying to CalArts. Once there, Tippet began to explore his creativity and interest in life through the camera lens.

One night, however, something unusual happened that would impact the way Tippet saw film and life forever.

A high-school senior plopped down on the couch at a party being held at the Tippet's home, and randomly began acting like an invited guest.

"No one knew who he was, but he wasn't making trouble or anything and seemed pretty nice so we let him stay," Tippet said.

The senior introduced himself as Matt Thompson and continued chatting away to strangers at the party, even inviting Tippet to join him for a friendly round of archery the next day. "I thought, ‘Why not?' I was immediately intrigued by this guy and how he didn't care what people thought," Tippet said.

The interaction between Tippet and Thompson quickly went from shooting arrows to shooting film.

For the next six months, Tippet filmed Thompson, as he went about his daily life in Newhall. Tippet was intrigued by the relationship between Thompson and Thompson's close friend, Ryan Adres.

"He kept showing up in every shot so eventually I just went with it - I let him in. It's the best choice I've made so far as an artist," Tippet said.

The film documents the lives of these two senior boys in high school, who both had a hard struggle through their early years of development, but managed to find each other. Neither boy does drugs or drinks. Instead, what they like to call "fun" is going out on Thompson's wooden motorboat and discussing anything - and nothing at all.

The story is a documentary of the two boys interacting with each other - completely unscripted.

"This is the uninterrupted, reallife story of two friends about to go separate ways in their journey through life," Tippet said. The film speaks to a generation of young adults who are faced with the realization that the simple things just aren't so simple anymore.

"I wanted to show that art is in everyday life. Stories are all around us - we just need to look more closely," Tippet said.

Tippet said the film's message is: "We are all going through something, and it is important to be more tolerant of each other and not judge. It's the kids that are the outcasts that need the most support."

Tippet graduated CalArts in 2008 and is already on to his next project, co-directing a film with his friend Elizabeth Mimms, who also produced "Thompson."

"I couldn't have made this film without Elizabeth. She was invaluable every step of the way," Tippet said.

"Thompson" and "A. Effect" will have two or three showings at designated South by Southwest festival locations throughout the week.

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