RTF Alums Debut Thriller at Austin Film Festival

Update (June 4, 2012): STRINGS, which recently took Best Feature Film at the SoHo International Film Festival, is now available for purchase on iTunes, and a DVD release is planned for late September.

The 18th annual Austin Film Festival is bringing a lot to the Live Music Capital of the World starting today: mega-stars like Johnny Depp, much-anticipated movie premieres, and yes, UT alums.

Case in point: Ben Foster, BS ’09, and Mark Dennis, BS ’07, a dynamic director-screenwriter duo, will be debuting their first feature-length film in the city they both call home.

STRINGS, a 98-minute dramatic thriller, tells the story of a trouble musician who seeks the help of a therapist after the death of his daughter. When the therapist suggests he start over using a new identity, the musician quickly learns that the therapist is manipulating patients into committing crimes.

“I moved around a lot in San Antonio as a kid,” Dennis, who wrote the STRINGS script, says. “My sister and I, we reinvented ourselves each time we moved, and that’s what the main character is going through. I think we can all relate to that need to start over.”

The pair met while in a Radio-Television-Film class at UT, which led to collaboration that reached far beyond the classroom. Dennis worked at Texas Student Television, making connections that would ultimately help with the pair’s short films, including The Alternate and The Squid.

“TSTV let us take over their offices to create a time machine in-studio,” Dennis says. “Austin in general is such a big resource for Longhorns. Alums who have businesses took us seriously because we had graduated from UT.”

Burnt orange also runs in the veins of many other Austin Film Festival participants this year. In all, nine films that have been written, produced, or directed by a UT RTF alum, faculty member, or current student will be shown over the next week, in addition to STRINGS.

“UT is a school that is a source of inspiration for all of us,” Foster says.

After a three-year production process, Foster and Dennis experienced a “tiring payoff” when STRINGS hit the festival circuit – and was a hit.

“We were scared we were going to make a movie that people would walk out not liking,” Foster says. “But now, the 20-hour production days and spending every dollar we had on this film seems worth it.”

See the regional premiere of STRINGS at the Austin Film Festival on Oct. 23 at 9:45 p.m. and Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Long Center.

STRINGS still courtesy of Ben Foster.


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