Santikos’ Riffs and Reels competition married nine San Antonio musical acts, many of whom are also being featured on NPR, with nine local filmmakers, and with incredible results. Those results were unveiled at the Palladium IMAX last month at a special all-evening event. The project orchestrated by San Antonio Sound Garden and Alamo City Studios was more than a contest, it was a step forward in legitimization of San Antonio as a recognizable music scene.
The participants reconvened Tuesday at a special session of Drop the MIC, SASG’s monthly meetup for industry professionals, to share their experiences, and to network with former competitors and curious newcomers alike.
Though the context of this meeting formed from contest, there was an overwhelming consensus in the room. Josh Glenn put that consensus into words when he said, “I’m proud of our city.”
The real winner of the competition, without a doubt, was San Antonio.
Kerry Valderrama, President of Alamo City Studios, opened the session with a message of congratulations to everyone involved and unique insight into future challenges, as well as an invitation. Alamo City Studios, which opened its doors this February, operates as a coworking space for film creatives, providing the space, tools, and professional services that would be otherwise unavailable to those without resources.
Valderrama was one of voices pushing for last year’s approval of the new local film incentive after the state cut funding from 95 to 32 million dollars. the what remains has been allocated almost exclusively to recipients in Austin’s film, leaving San Antonio and many other communities with nothing.
“Austin has them, Dallas has them, Houston has them, but San Antonio does not have them,” said Valderrama, citing the persistent dearth of public policy that lost the city its prospects of becoming a movie-industry hub at the beginning of the last century. “It is a tragedy. There‘s currently three television series and five studio pictures that all take place in San Antonio, Texas, that are being shot outside of the city right now.”
“That’s cold blooded,” one attendee reflexively interjected.
Valderrama now wants to “join forces” with local artists to further build a culture of San Antonio music video production. Alamo City Studios has already facilitated a number of these productions, he said, and described the facility as not only to physically suited for such collaboration, but spiritually as well: “We’re all doing what we do for the love of art. If you’re doing this to get rich, you’re in the wrong profession.”
The most valuable trophy of the Riffs and Reels competition might not have been the first-place prize, nor even the professional-quality public facelift of San Antonio music, but the learning experience for our local music scene to teach itself just what it is capable of.
Most widely expressed was the surprising ease of cooperation between directors and musicians. Zach Taylor of Black Market Club expressed how encouraging it felt to have professionals willingly choose to work with him. “It really made a difference to hear the film directors come up to you and say, I believe in you; let’s make a music video.”
One of the greater takeaways from the exchanges were lessons in thrift learned during the various productions. Each team’s budget was limited to whatever happened to be in their collective bank accounts— but “scrappy” is this city’s middle name. Thrift stores and pawn shops were scoured for props and wardrobe. Josh Glenn’s grand schemes had to be shelved for more practical shots. The ‘60s Bentley on loan from a friend for use in AMEA’s video broke down in the middle of shooting and was replaced with a Toyota AE86. In every story, the efforts of these San Antonio creators were in some way touched by limitation and adversity.
And the result was beauty.
Or as director Matt Buikema put it, “make it look expensive.”
You can take a look yourself, as Chris Conde has taken the initiative of putting together all of the videos here.