Lake Travis Film Festival Creator Talks About Bringing Indie Cinema to the Hill Country

Kat Albert says she’s looking for movies with “authenticity, vision and purpose”

By Trichelle Lee
Lake Travis Film Festival
Craig Nigh, Alex Walker and Jacob Alexander Berardi from "Writer's Block," which kicks off the festival's opening night. Photograph by Ray Spivey.

Kat Albert wants to show Austinites that there’s more to the Hill Country than just scenic views. As the founder and director of the Lake Travis Film Festival (LTFF), her goal is to connect independent filmmakers and industry professionals with the surrounding community’s audience. LTFF debuts February 27 at various locations around Lake Travis. With over 200 film submissions and more than 100 volunteers in its first year, the new event has hit the ground running with no plans of slowing down. Albert, who describes herself as a late bloomer in the film industry, spoke with Tribeza about the journey of launching a festival from boarding to takeoff. With a 92-project slate that includes three features, two short documentaries as well as music videos, LTFF is the first arts and cultural festival of its kind in the Lake Travis area.

You’re an independent filmmaker yourself. Tell us about your background in film.

I started kind of late. I was in advertising for a long time and I sold my ad agency and thought I was going to write screenplays. So, I spent several years working on screenplays but then I realized that nobody in L.A. cared about stories by a middle-aged woman in Austin. I went back to school and learned how to make movies myself, so I do mostly short films and a lot of music videos.

Lake Travis Film Festival founder and director Kat Albert.

According to the LTFF site, you said there is a need for more than just “great schools and good views” in the Lake Travis area. How long have you been there? And when did you first notice that?

I moved here from Chicago in ’96 and I lived in Westlake. And then I moved to Lake Travis 12 years ago. When we lived in Westlake it was really easy to commute into Austin. Now I still go downtown but it takes 30 to 45 minutes to get there. We have this great area [in Lake Travis] and a lot of content makers live out here … Why is there nothing in this area? I think [people] were hungry for this kind of entertainment for adults.

What were some of the challenges you faced trying to start a film festival and how did you overcome them?

A lot of people out in this area don’t go to film festivals or watch a lot of independent cinema, so trying to educate them on the difference between an indie movie and a mainstream blockbuster was a challenge. We did that through having events and screenings over the last two years. Once we got our first hundred members – that was like rocket fuel for us.

A scene from “Nipponia Nippon Fukushima Rhapsody,” directed by Ryo Saitani. Photograph © Laputa Asagaya.

Filmmaking is an art and art is subjective. What went into selecting and judging the films? What is Lake Travis Film Festival looking for?

We call it the AVP – authenticity, vision and purpose. We are looking for films that are good stories that can touch people … We like to tell people that we know they’re not going to like every film but we’re bringing in the filmmakers and having Q&As, so even if you don’t agree with the film you can talk to the filmmaker and find out what their motivation was for telling that story … We’re looking for breakout talent. … We have a Japanese film [called “Nipponia Nippon Fukushima Rhapsody” by Ryo Saitani] showing on Saturday night that’s kind of eclectic. People ask us why we chose it but we liked it and we also knew that the director’s first film was well received internationally and this was his sophomoric venture out and we really thought this was a filmmaker to watch.

Speaking of Asian cinema, the South Korean film Parasite just made history with a big win at the Oscars. Did that have any influence on selecting a Korean film, Minja Ma’s “Family in the Bubble” for your festival?

No, but our documentary film judge did. He lived in Korea for a couple of years and just did a Korean documentary. We have two other people coming to the festival who have made documentaries in South Korea so it’s kind of an emerging market right now.

Kat Albert on the red carpet. Photograph by Carla Heinrich-Trautwein.

Last but not least, walk readers through what they can expect each day at the Festival.

We’re four days, seven locations and two cities. We’re going to be at the Lakeway Resort on Friday. We have a film out of Prague called “Final Generation,” which is about when [that country was] under communist rule and it was illegal to have American music. On Saturday night we’re going to be at the Sonesta Hotel in Bee Caves. They have a great rooftop so we’re going to have a party. On Sunday we’re at Star Hill Ranch … It’s going to be Industry Day and that means it’s free – anybody that wants to watch movies – there’s going to be stunt doubles, a dog trainer, special effects makeup, just kind of like all different parts of the film industry.

Badges and passes are available for the Lake Travis Film Festival and can be purchased here.


Read More From the Wellness Issue | February 2020


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