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Hyperreal Film Club Lights Up Austin’s Indie Film Scene

The local film club is cultivating community and redefining the movie-going experience through weekly cult classic screenings, pop-ups, and more

(Left to right) David McMichael, Jenni Kaye, and Tanner Hadfield (photo by Renee Dominguez).

In the heart of Austin, a film-loving community is flourishing, bringing together enthusiasts, filmmakers and movie lovers alike. The Hyperreal Film Club, a nonprofit organization founded in 2016, has become a vibrant hub for showcasing local talent and celebrating independent cinema.

Co-founded by Tanner Hadfield, Jenni Kaye, and David McMichael, this group has evolved from its humble beginnings screening movies in the “spooky basement” of the now demolished Co-Lab Projects on Congress Avenue to now becoming Austin’s go-to destination for unique cinematic experiences.

The Hyperreal Film Club transcends the conventional film screening group — it’s a community-driven initiative dedicated to supporting local filmmakers and nurturing a passion for independent cinema. Emerging talents find a platform here, where weekly in-person events begin with a short film, music video, or video art submitted by a local filmmaker. The commitment to showcasing local creatives extends beyond live events, with original limited series podcasts, film reviews, and a digital zine that serves as an accessible archive on their website.

The Hyperreal Film Club and the Paramount Classic Film Series, with an introduction by Robert Rodriguez on October 22, 2023, at the Paramount Theatre. (Photo by Rachel Parker)

Fostering emerging talent and cult cinema

“We envision this as a place where young up-and-coming filmmakers and exciting voices can kind of get their start and get a lot of support at the very beginning of their filmmaking journey,” said McMichael.

Securing a residency at East Austin’s Hotel Vegas, the club presents weekly cult classics like “Crime Wave,” “Splendor,” and “Miracle Mile.” The experience includes engaging trivia, intermissions for refreshments and conversations, and the assurance that at least one of the founders will be present. The club has also graced prestigious venues such as the Paramount Theatre, Elisabet Ney Museum, and Austin Film Festival, and has hosted various pop-up events.

“We’ve done 310 shows over the past seven-and-a-half years and had 30,000 people come out to screenings that we’ve put on during that time,” stated McMichael. “It’s wild to think about that many people being excited to come out to see some weird movies from the place where we started… showing movies in a basement.”

Hyperreal Film Club screening at Elisabet Ney Museum (photo by Dawson Turner).

Preserving Austin’s creative essence

Looking ahead, Kaye shared that the organization has ambitious plans to open a microcinema in Austin this year, in an effort to take the same energy they bring to their events to a more permanent space as they engage with their community in Austin.

As Austin continues to grow, the Hyperreal Film Club sees its role as a crucial one in preserving the city’s unique creative spirit.

“So many creative filmmakers have come out of this city, and as Austin continues to grow, we need to make sure that we still have structures in place to support new voices and keep them creating in Austin so we don’t lose the specialness of why so many people have moved here,” explained Kaye.

There’s just no real on-ramp for getting your work seen by an engaged audience who’s there to see it and is going to participate and give you feedback live,” said Hadfield, echoing this commitment to supporting emerging voices. “It’s almost impossible these days so that’s really cool to provide for people.”

While Hyperreal Film Club welcomes everyone to their screenings, typically priced at $5 to $10, they also extend membership perks to those seeking discounts on screenings and access to their Discord server. Embodying a mission that champions the strength of community, the club is dedicated to nurturing creativity, uplifting local talent, and safeguarding the essence of independent cinema within Austin’s dynamic landscape. As they continue to carve their path, the club remains a beacon for filmmakers seeking a supportive community and audiences eager to explore the diverse world of cinema within the city.