This year at SXSW, indie filmmaker Kentucker Audley pledged to take himself — and his films — less seriously. It’s quite the promise for the writer-actor-director once known for his heady Southern mumblecore films. “To be a serious indie moviemaker, it’s always academic and dry, but movies — that’s what I grew up loving. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing because I was 5 years old watching “[Sesame Streets Presents] Follow That Bird.” I’m just trying to go back to the basics.”
To that end, the SXSW darling — who has drawn raves at the festival throughout the years, perhaps most notably for his breakout role in Amy Seimetz’s “Sun Don’t Shine” in 2011 — has returned to Austin to premiere his latest film, “Sylvio,” an homage of sorts to “Teen Wolf.” The Kickstarter-funded film, based on Albert Birney’s popular Vine account, centers around a sunglasses-clad gorilla struggling with an identity crisis. “We’re trying to tap into old fantasy, surreal, highly entertaining movies rather than these serious academic movies that I’ve been making in the past,” says Audley, who also stars in the oddball film.
PROVENANCE: Memphis, Texas. “I moved [to Brooklyn] five years ago with my now-wife, and it’s quite the city. I’m still kind of in awe of living there,” says Audley, who was raised in Lexington, Ky., before moving to Memphis, where he worked in a film collective.
BIG BREAK: Audley has made a name for himself on the festival circuit over the past few years, thanks to breakout roles in indie fare including 2014’s “Christmas Again” and this year’s “L.A. Times.” He insists, “ I like being an outsider. I like being at the level I am.”
SXSW VERSUS SUNDANCE: “Sundance is exciting in its own way, and it feels like there’s electricity. There’s a possibility of real huge breakout movies, and South by Southwest is different in that it feels a bit more down-home, a little bit more relaxed. It doesn’t feel like there’s pressure to make a ton of money or sell your movie, and it’s more filmmaker-friendly in a casual way.”
UP NEXT: “We’re really trying to go back to Eighties and Nineties movies like ‘The NeverEnding Story,’ says Audley of the inspiration behind his next film, “Strawberry Mansion,” which he plans to shoot this year. Audley also sells wares under his “Movies Brand,” including hats and mugs emblazoned with the word “movies.” “It’s sort of a satirical company, but it kind of goes hand-in-hand with trying to make more fun movies and going away from the idea of films, and going more toward the idea of movies,” says the provocateur who once launched a change.org petition begging “mediocre” filmmakers to stop making indie films.