SxSW 2021 Interview – HOLOGRAPHIC DREAMS & A REALLY DARK COMEDY writer Jackson Coates

HOLOGRAPHIC DREAMS, which is about a teenage boy goes on an exploration of his own fears about death, religion, and sin is celebrating its Texas Premiere, and A REALLY DARK COMEDY is having its world premiere at SxSW Online; In a frantic rush to ask his crush out to prom, Gus and his friend Elliot speed to her house, unbeknownst to the horrors that lie on the road. We spoke to writer and actor Jackson Coates who worked on both films! 

Welcome to SxSW and congratulations! Tell me about your history with the festival. 

I visited SXSW in 2019, but this is my first time participating in the festival. Our crew submitted to the Texas High School Shorts category before, but this was our first time getting into the festival and we happened to get two films into the 2021 festival.

How did you first hear about SxSW and wishing to send your project into the festival?

Born in a suburb in the DFW area, SXSW was the largest and closest film festival in Texas. It has always been one of my dreams to participate in, so when I heard they had a High School category I was excited to submit. 

Tell me about the idea behind both of these movies! 

HOLOGRAPHIC DREAMS was my first experimental film so I had a lot of interesting elements I wanted to put into a video that I couldn’t in our narrative films. Our crew was mostly interested in really messing with the experimental format. 

A REALLY DARK COMEDY was a script I wrote around Junior year of High School and it sat in that way until my friend Manasi Ughadmathe, who directed it, brought it to life. Our crew was really interested in making something like this because it seemed like a film only we could make. 

Who are some of your creative inspirations? Any particular filmmaking talent or older movies that inspired your work? 

Although I don’t really cite one specific filmmaker, I really enjoy American cinema in the 70’s and filmmakers like Lynne Ramsey, David Lynch, Jacques Demy, and many others. I often have trouble directly labeling my inspirations since they differ from project to project.  

How did you put this together from a technical viewpoint? What sort of cameras/lenses did you use and/or did you have any creative challenges in making it?

We were lucky to be able to work with the Ursa Mini Pro 4.6k throughout our films. I believe we mostly just used 35mm and 50mm prime lenses. Although it wasn’t a technical challenge, the weather during the shoot was near 100 and with the shoot being mostly outside it became taxing as the shoot continued.

Being all virtual this year, what do you hope to get out of the virtual SxSW experience? And where is your project going next?

Mostly I am just excited to show our films to a much larger range of people than we could normally show it to. As for our projects next step, we plan to submit A REALLY DARK COMEDY to the All American High School Film Festival later this year. 

What would you suggest to film festivals as a way to show more short films or make them more accessible to audiences across the country?

I think some of the best ways to get your short seen across the country would be to premiere on websites such as Vimeo or noBudge. Virtual film festivals also do a terrific job at expanding the accessibility of a short’s audience. 

If you had one piece of advice to offer someone to get their start as a creator or filmmaker in the industry, what would you suggest?

A great piece of advice that remains universal for filmmakers is to just watch more films. Expanding your horizons as a filmmaker is one of the most important things filmmakers starting out can do. 

And finally, what is your favourite short film of all time?

I am a big fan of Denis Villeneuve and his short film “Next Floor” is probably one of my favorite shorts of all time.

This film and many others like it will be showing at the virtual South By Southwest taking place March 16-20th. For more information and to register for the festival, point your browser to!

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