A Salute to the Veterans Resource Center

The Place for Students Who Served

Story by: Jace Puckett

Veteran students are able to receive academic, financial, and personal assistance while enrolled at Austin Community College through a resource known as The Veterans Resource Center located at Highland Campus. 

Located in building 4000, the first thing a student will see when they walk in the center is the open lounge area for a place to engage with other Riverbats. 

“The Veterans Resource Center is a place for veteran students to connect with each other and with our VA [Veterans Affairs] staff,” said Bethann Warwick, the veterans outreach coordinator for all ACC campuses. 

“We want a safe place where students can come and study and just be who they are,” said Warwick. 

In addition to the lounge, this 4,000 square-foot-center also has rooms that can be utilized as a quiet place to study, Warwick explained. 

“We have space for students to study in a quiet conference room with desks and comfortable chairs, and we also have computer stations where individuals can do their homework or print out things they need for free.”

Veteran students who are planning on transferring to other colleges or universities can receive help from the center as well. 

“Every spring, we host a veteran transfer fair. What makes it different from the other transfer fairs is that we actually invite the VA person from other campuses and the veterans can come and meet that VA person and the recruiting officer from the institution they want to transfer to so they can find out exactly how they need to transfer their benefits over to make it a lot smoother when they transfer over.”

 Other resources the center offers include help with writing applications for colleges and universities, as well as writing resumes. Even students who are looking for textbooks or a little cash are also in luck at the center. 

“If students need assistance in finding books, or if they need a little gas money until their next paycheck, I can reach out to the community and find those services for them.”

The center even has resources for students who need counseling with their personal lives.

 “Our VITAL (Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership) coordinator, Jeff Mo, does counseling here at the center. He can do counseling with students to discuss stressors that they have day to day in their classrooms and their personal lives as well. He meets here on Wednesdays from 8:30 AM to 5 PM, and he can be seen by appointment.”

The environment at the center is warm and welcoming, according to Warwick. 

“There’s always laughter and students are always hanging out. Sometimes they bring food for each other or they help each other with certain situations.”

Laura Maldonado, a student veteran who served in the Marines, talked about how she enjoys connecting with other veterans as well as the VA staff.

 “I like how approachable everyone is. Everybody’s eager to help.” 

Army veteran Raymond Cathey mentioned how useful the center has been for veteran students like him. 

“For veterans who don’t know, there are counselors in the back who tell them about the benefits that they qualify for. One example is the Dependent Education Assistance program. If a veteran has a certain disability, they’ll get a stipend to go to school.”

 Learn more on how to get connected by visiting one of the Veteran Affairs offices located in the Highland, Northridge, Riverside, and Round Rock campuses. Or they can visit the Veterans Resource Center located in building 4000 of the Highland Campus.

ACC Encourages Students to Utilize Resources to Combat Food Insecurity

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The ACC community sheds light on the silent issue of food insecurity amongst its students.

Story and video by:  Marissa Greene

How can a house stand tall when it is built on sand? Similarly, how can a student achieve success when lacking the physiological needs such as food, shelter, and sleep? According to the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, 48% of the 86 thousand community college students who responded to the center’s survey face food insecurity. 

For 22 year old ACC student, Damienn Alcala, this is more than just a statistic; it’s a reality. Making the choice between paying for books, tuition, and transportation, housing can often appear more vital for students than a month’s  worth of groceries.

“College is so expensive, and it’s an investment,” Alcala said. “With the average college debt being so high, where does that leave money for students to buy their own groceries?” 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active and healthy life. When a student is food insecure, a number of other challenges can also cause an impact on their life. 

“When students are food insecure it’s like a ripple effect. If you’re hungry then how can you study?” says Student Life Coordinator, Jennifer Flowers. “It also has an effect on graduation rate too. So if you are missing that basic need and cannot go to class, then how can you graduate?” Flowers says.  

Students are able to utilize the food pantries in the student life lounge of every campus. The food pantries provide students with canned goods and other non-perishable items without a dollar sign associated with it.

The food pantry’s purpose is to help students during times of immediate hunger in order to better themselves when on campus. As an additional resource, student life partners up with Central Texas Food Bank on the fourth Friday of every month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Riverside campus to supply groceries to students. On that day, students are able to walk into the student life lounge at the Riverside Campus and receive a ticket. That ticket will tell them when to come out into the parking lot, where they are greeted by volunteers, reusable bags, and a line of tables with an abundance of food choices. 

As the student walks through the line,  they receive two reusable bags for their items and can pick anywhere from chicken, canned goods, fresh produce, and even bread. After their selections, these students are able to receive assistance carrying these groceries back to their car or the bus stop.

Earlier this year, Sara Goldrick-Rab, the founder of the Hope Center for College Community and Justice spoke with ACC staff and faculty about how obstacles like food insecurity plays a role within the college. According to their most recent survey, 42% of students just at ACC alone are food insecure. Which comes at second place following home insecurity, which is nearly over 50% of Riverbats. 

“We don’t do things unless we are personally affected by them,” Goldrick-Rab says. “Having a student program that students don’t know about doesn’t make it effective” 

Alcala believes that in order to get more students involved, both students and faculty must first get the conversation started about food insecurity. During the first week of each semester, Student Life organizes a welcome week where students can orient themselves within Student Life and become more aware of the resources available to them.

“When talking to students even more, when they use the food pantry, when we wheel in the carts of food at the food distribution, the students are thankful that they don’t have to worry about groceries for that month,” Flowers said. 

 With all that the food pantry and distribution has to offer, Flowers recognizes how having these conversations with each other also creates a bond between students in the community.

“This is when conversations start to open up about their own struggles,” Flowers said. “Every single staff member in our department is all about student success.”

 Flowers hopes that talking about food insecurity encourages all departments to want to get to know their students more beyond the ACCeID. 

For students like Alcala, they don’t let the statistics get in the way of striving for not only a better education, but also for the betterment of the ACC community.

“For someone who is like me, just know that it’s okay, that is why we are here at ACC,” Alcala said. “To come together and say, ‘Hey, we may not have that much money, but we have each other to help out.’ That’s what I feel is the real message of ACC.”

If you are someone you know could benefit from the Student Life food pantry or monthly food distribution, visit your campus’ Student Life lounge to learn more, or visit austincc.edu/slfoodpantry@austincc.edu

 

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ACC Implements new Payment Deadline

Story by: Nalani Nuylan

Austin Community College will implement a new tuition payment deadline in Spring 2020. This new system eliminates confusion and to help students save their money. Here is the need to know information regarding the new payment plans.  

Students registering on or after January 6 will need to pay their tuition by 11:59 p.m. on the same day the student wishes to register for classes. That means you’ll need to make your tuition payment or establish a payment plan the same day you register in order to secure your spot in the desired class. Continuing Education classes are not affected by Same Day Pay requirements. Spring 2020 payment plans are available now through January 31, 2020. Students registering after January 31 will need to pay their tuition in full on the day they register. 

If you are late on your same-day payment students will get a $20 fee for each late payment and a student hold is placed on your record until the debt is paid. Unpaid payment plan accounts may be sent to an outside collection agency. Students are responsible for any collection costs and attorney’s fees associated with the collection of the account.

Students can pay online with a credit card, debit card or e-check, in person at the Cashiers Office or by mail before the payment deadline. With mail, send a check or a money order. DO NOT send cash.

Financial aid is still available for students who submit the FAFSA. However, it is still the student’s responsibility to pay for the difference in your tuition or you may get dropped from your classes.     

This system benefits students because the first tuition deadline occurs closer to the start of the semester, so students have more time to arrange payment and/or establish an interest-free payment plan, starting with a downpayment of 34% of the student’s tuition like before. Daily – Same Day Pay – deadlines begin after the first deadline in order to eliminate the confusion of when to pay and allows students an opportunity to claim open seats in classes that would have appeared unavailable.

For more information go to ACC’s Tuition Payments and Deadline page here.

ACC Therapy Dogs

Austin Dog Alliance Brings Therapy Dogs to Help Students De-stress 

Written Story by: Marissa Greene
Video and Photo by: Alexa Smith 

One too many cups of coffee. Deciding whether or not to pull an all-nighter. Spending more time on Quizlet than you thought one human was capable of. If you got shudders from any of those sentences, you have experienced finals season.

For the busy lives of many students and professors at Austin Community College, finding healthy ways of coping with the stress final exams bring may be challenging. This fall semester, ACC was able to provide students and staff a method of alleviating the stress that was both helpful as well as adorable. 

From Dec. 2 through the 6 therapy dogs from the Austin Dog Alliance visited ACC libraries at the San Gabriel, Highland, and Riverside campus to support Riverbats through their exams. In exchange for belly rubs of course. Quintana Roo, a chocolate brown, floppy-eared therapy dog and his partner, Heather Herrick, a dog handler and member of the Board of the Directors for The Dog Alliance visited Highland Campus for Riverbats as share the value of therapy pets in one’s life. 

The Dog Alliance is a donation-supported, nonprofit organization that began in 2006 in Cedar Park, Texas. Since then, the organization has grown to have over a hundred therapy teams in addition to a wide range of programs tailored a variety of services from veteran’s assistance, visiting hospitals, and even providing an outlet to reduce stress in places of education and/or work.

“We visit 350 places and there are constant requests. So it’s actually really hard to keep up because there are so many requests and there are only so many teams,” Herrick says.

Although this may just look like a number to some, members of The Austin Dog Alliance recognize the amount of people who are in need of therapy and may not have other resources available to them for assistance. For ACC student, Emily Weller, being a double major in video game design and English can be tough during finals season. 

“Not everyone can afford to see a therapist and so it helps to be able to let out your stress with a furry animal,” Weller says. 

Weller was not the only student stopping by to see Quintana Roo and Herrick that day. Whether Riverbats planned to go or found the event as a nice surprise, students bonded over their exams, connected with the Austin Dog Alliance, and even flipped pages through Quintana Roo’s book made by Herrick herself. Sunny Cole,  general studies major with a focus in culinary arts, opened up about the importance of recognizing that it is okay to reach out for help when having feelings of stress or sadness.

“We are kind of like a white-knuckle society in the fact that we’ll try to just get through this and don’t need any help. But the thing is [that] accepting help is probably one of the most freeing things that you could do.” Cole says.  

If you would like to get involved with The Austin Dog Alliance visit https://www.thedogalliance.org/volunteer. If you are feeling stressed, depressed, or having suicidal thoughts seek assistance with an ACC counselor. For immediate help reach out to any of these hotlines below. 

    • Austin / Travis County 24 hour Crisis & Suicide hotline: 512-472-HELP (4357)
    • The Williamson County 24 hour Crisis hotline: 1-800-841-1255
    • Bastrop County Family Crisis Center hotline: 1-888-311-7755
    • Hays County 24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 1-877-466-0660
    • National Suicide Prevention Hotline:1-800-273-TALK (8255)

 

Sexual Safety at ACC

Written by: Regina Seanez

*ACCENT is not reliable for providing any medical advice to students and if they are unsure about their health they should seek a medical professional.*

Even though we’ve seen our society grow into more of a welcoming environment for tough conversations, there are still some topics that are still left in the dark.  Most college students can recall the moment their parents sat them down to have “the talk.” For a young teen going through puberty, that discussion was pretty uncomfortable and especially confusing. And for many college students today, those feelings still linger around the topic of safe sex. In addition to the impact of peers and social media influencers, many students may be left unsure of who to trust and what the real facts are about STI’s, HIV, and types of measures one can take to protect their health.  

According to HIV.gov, in 2017 1.1 million Americans were living with HIV. One in every seven of those who have been affected were unaware that they had even been infected. As this epidemic continues spreading and more and more every year the conversation about sexual safety has come to the table. Based on a press release made earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cases found for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reached a new record of 2,457,118 combined cases in 2018. 

Not all HIV diseases are spread through intercourse; it could also be through unsterile injections, the reuse of needles, blood spread, etc. With the many ways for someone to be infected with this irreversible virus, there are some serious precautions in order to prevent contact with someone who may be a carrier. 

On helpstopthevirus.com, they give four steps individuals can take in order to help prevent the spreading of STIs. First, start by getting tested. Make sure that before you partake in any sexual activity, you get yourself checked by a doctor. If you have a partner, talk to them about getting tested, or if they have gotten tested. It is important to know in order to ensure you and your partner’s safety and health.

The number of people who have been affected by HIV/STI and weren’t aware of it raised concerns of many. In turn, started the conversation between the students at Austin Community College about how can students become more aware of sexual safety? 

At the beginning of each semester at ACC, students and staff are offered free HIV/STI examinations. The Student Life teamed up with local non-profit, AIDS Services of Austin and held the fall 2019 drive during the month of October. Joshua Garcia, the student life coordinator for this event, ensured that the testing process is kept confidential by testing individuals inside the testing vans. 

“The tests are not only free, but are also conducted in a way that is culturally positive, inclusive, and educational,” Garcia said. 

Though most people would be uncomfortable talking about it, Garcia assures that they try to provide a friendly, safe open space for students who have any questions regarding HIV/STIs. 

“For many people I encountered, it was their first time being tested or having the opportunity to openly ask questions about sexual health,” Garcia mentions. 

ACC will plan to hold another event in the Spring semester, around the month of February 2020.

“Events like these promote the overall health and well-being of students,” says Garcia. “Students do not always find free access to resources on their own, so it is important for colleges to step forward.”

For more information, or you have any questions about these events, please contact Joshua Garcia at joshua.garcia@austincc.edu or Student Life. 

Things to do in Austin Over Winter Break

How to make the most of your break

Story by: Nalani Nuylan

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The gift-giving, family time and quirky traditions. With a month to ourselves over the Holiday season, here are some festive activities you and your loved ones can do in Austin over winter break. 

See ZACK Theater present the “Christmas Carol”
Nov. 20 – Dec. 29
The ZACK Theater took this holiday classic from Charles Dickens and put a twist on it. Told with Victorian-era story structure and a musical score that includes elements of a variety of genres, this family-friendly spectacular is something you can’t miss this year. 

View the Ballet of Austin’s “The Nutcracker”
Dec. 7 – 23
This performance spans almost six decades, making it a staple holiday tradition in Austin. This artistic performance is a fresh take on the iconic tale. Click on the link to get your tickets now.   

SantaCon
Dec. 14 at 12 P.M. – Dec. 15 at 2 A.M.
This charity event hosted by SantaCon Austin aims to raise money for people in need in the most absurd way possible. This event is participatory: so bring a game or two, cash, toys, stickers, and buttons. You must be 21 or older to attend, photo ID will be checked.    

Celebrate the Winter Solstice Festival
Dec. 21
Hosted by restaurant and farm Eden East, visitors can come and enjoy a high-quality farm to market family-style buffet, live music, and gifts made by local artisans. Come and enjoy the longest night of the year. Must purchase a ticket to enter. 

Get in on Free Week   
From Jan 1 through 13, downtown Austin is filled with free events you can participate in, especially with that college budget. From free live performances by indie groups, you can see all the options for live performances and get in on some VIP deals in and around Austin just by clicking the link. 

The Annual Martin Luther King March
Jan. 20, 2020
Located at the MLK statue on the University of Texas in Austin’s Campus, the march will start at 9 A.M. The festival that celebrates diversity in Austin will be from 11:15 to 3:30 P.M. Austin Community College does not have school on MLK Day and the majority of the Austin area school districts also observe the holiday, so this is a perfect opportunity to take the family to downtown Austin and celebrate.   

Is Self-Care Self-Indulgent?

When Self-Care Is Taken Too Far

Story and Video By: Jace Puckett

What comes to mind when you think of self-care? Facial masks, binging on snacks, taking a mental health spa day? While all of these things can be good in moderation, they may not be the most productive ways to actually take care of yourself.

Dr. Manuel X. Zamarripa, the associate dean of counseling in the north region of Austin Community College, commented that many students come to counseling reporting feelings of anxiety about classwork and lack of sleep. 

“Even though they’re specific issues,” he said, “They’re very much connected to stress and stress levels.” 

When asking students about the methods of self-care they use, students talked about activities such as getting adequate sleep or more sleep, using social media and listening to music. Dr. Zamarripa offered his advice on which methods of self-care were more effective and productive.

“Self-care is something you should do every day, not just when you’re stressed,” he said. “It’s true, getting enough sleep is kind of key.”

He went on to mention how exercise and healthy eating habits are two other factors students should keep in mind when seeking ways to better care for themselves. Archaeology major, Ashely Bragg, mentioned that taking walks better alleviates her feelings of stress. Engineering major, Braden Karley, said that he tries to eat healthy in addition to making sure that he is getting enough sleep at night. Other students gave their own insights on which methods were most helpful to them as well.

“I go to my therapist every three weeks,” said psychology major Hunter Hernandez. “And that helps.”

 Although Bragg and Karley have found productive methods of self-care that can be done daily, they shared some methods they thought to have fit the “self-care” category at first but found out that they better fit the “treat yourself” category even more. Bragg admitted to drinking the occasional glass of wine while taking baths, and Karley mentioned consuming sweets every now and then.

“Sometimes [I] treat myself,” Karley said. “I’ll get some ice cream or soda on the way home or Starbucks.”

As far as which methods of self-care were less effective, students also had a variety of opinions. Karley talked about “distractions” such as playing video games and watching Netflix.

“They can be good in moderation,” he said, “But if you overindulge, then that can be counterproductive.”

Hernandez talked about snacking and browsing social media on her phone, and Bragg stated that drinking a glass of wine during bath time did help, but it also prolonged her worried thoughts.

Social media was also a topic of discussion, who mentioned going on Twitter to tweet about her daily emotions. Dr. Zamarripa stated that social media wasn’t inherently evil, but it could be misused.

“It doesn’t do anything directly at the moment to harm the person,” he said, “But what it does is if you’re just out there and you’re consistently scrolling and moving. It doesn’t allow those feelings to leave you. You’re just kind of ignoring them.”

Electrical engineering major José Campuzano and Bragg both expressed their beliefs that going to parties and clubs was counterproductive. Just like social media, it can make you feel better at that moment, but it is more of a method of treating oneself and will ultimately ignore the real issue. Campuzano and Bragg have similar ideas about what self-care truly entails.

“Put yourself first before you put others,” said Campuzano. “It’s actually good to put others before yourself, but sometimes you have to worry about your personal self-care first before going to others.”

While Campuzano emphasizes taking care of yourself so that you are in a healthy state to care for others, Bragg stresses the importance of caring for yourself first and foremost.

“[Self-care is] something that’s just about you that gives you a chance to just worry about yourself,” she said. “Just think about yourself, and also remember that self-care is not selfish.”

 

SOJOURN Stands out in Stage 32 Screening at Austin Film Festival

Creativity and storytelling skills from around the country were on display in one of the many short film screenings at the Austin Film Festival

Review by: Alexa Smith

Austin Film Festival’s Stage 32 Short Film screening offered a variety of productions in varying genres. The short films originated from a contest that was hosted by Stage 32, an educational and social media platform for creatives. This is Stage 32’s 4th year hosting this contest and it is clear that they’ve found some gems even though some films struggled to match the quality of their competitors. 

The screening started with a film titled “Dolphin Girl” (director Tanya Lovrics). A rough way to start the screening as this was one of the weaker films shown. The film follows a young boy as he struggles to make friends after moving to a new town. A young girl befriends him and helps him find a way to fit in. We watch as the boy slowly figures out that the girl was actually a figment of his imagination. The plot sounds promising but ultimately fell victim to clunky dialogue and even clunkier sound design. The score is heartwarming but was overshadowed by the unbalanced sound effects and rough sound transitions. Overall, the movie is nice but lacked in production and writing quality. 

This first short left me worried about the quality of the following six films. However, the next film “Duke” (director Thiago Dadalt) assuaged my fears. Based on a true story, “Duke” is about a boy with severe autism. The film highlights the difficulties the family faces when trying to figure out how to help him. I feared the film would fall victim to stereotypes and flat characters as many stories of autistic people do, but Dadalt created a realistic picture of what it is like to live with autism. According to an interview Dadalt did with the Napa Valley Film Festival, he spent over a year with Duke’s family to really understand not just Duke but the relationship he had to his mother as well. The carefully conducted research is not where the film’s merits stop. The viewer can see how intricately this film was planned from the beautifully constructed shots and well-conducted lighting design. “Duke” had a lot of work and effort put into it and resulted in a heartfelt film. 

The following film, “The Man With a Pillow For a Face” (Director Carlos Grana) had fantastic production value and sported a gorgeous set. The lack of dialogue in the movie left the story somewhat open to interpretation but felt like a grasp for originality. This plot of a man being stuck in a repetitive rut every day and solving it with a dramatic action is nothing new. While the sight of a man’s body with a pillow head leads the viewer into an area of Uncanny Valley that is thrilling and disturbing at the same time – this film lacked the heart of the other films that not even a Black Mirror-worthy set can make up for. Despite these flaws, this film is still worth a watch for the production value and slightly terrifying ending alone. 

The next two shorts, “Dream Catcher” (Director Avery Rouda), and “Things That Fall” (Director Sy Huq) were some of the weakest ones of the bunch after “Dolphin Girl”. “Dream Catcher” is a computer-animated film that unfortunately had the quality of something from the mid-2000s. However, this did not take away from the creativity and imagination of writer/director/producer Rouda. “Dream Catcher” shows what goes on inside of a dreamcatcher in a child’s bedroom. We watch as employees in a dream factory take bad dreams and turn them into good ones. Even though the animation quality of this film put it behind the other ones, it does not take away the enjoyment and childlike wonder an audience member feels while watching it. While “Things That Fall” had fantastic sound design and impressive cinematography that featured beautiful bookshelf shots, the plot felt overdone. It was a simple meet cute with an interesting twist that was unfortunately not enough to keep it from feeling trite. “Things That Fall”  was still an enjoyable film and still has the ability to create a warm-fuzzy feeling.

The real standouts came in the form of the final two films of the screening. The final film that was shown, “Tell Him” (Director Virginia Bach) is a French film about a widowed father who is struggling with how to tell his son that his mother has passed that was created with empathy and the perfect amount of coldness. The film takes place over one day and starts in the morning with the boy asking about his mother. As the audience slowly starts to understand what is happening, we start to feel the same sense of dread the father must be feeling. This sense of dread is not just present in the actor’s performance but also in the cinematography and direction. Bach has crafted a film with extreme close ups that help us feel the stress of the father. While the trope of a dead mother can often be overused or relegated to being a simple plot point, this film takes time to watch the mourning father and for the audience to feel compelled enough to mourn along with him. The film’s excellence comes to a crescendo by ending with the son walking into the hospital room that his mother is supposed to be in. The film ends before we see the son’s reaction, showing that Bach trusted the audience enough to draw their own conclusions. 

“Tell Him” is a story told in a beautiful way. Even though “Tell Him” was the grand prize winner of the Stage 32 contest, I found the real star of the screening to be “SOJOURN: A Visual Proverb” (director Jonathan Lewis). This film exemplifies the creativity and rule-breaking that you hope to see in up and coming artists. Lewis is able to take the simple tale of returning home and turn it into so much more. The film lives up to its title of “A Visual Proverb”  by using poetic narration and artistic visuals interspersed with an African American man contemplating his place in the world on his journey back to his home. “SOJOURN” is such a great film not just because it tells a story that needs to be told but also because it is not afraid to take risks. Jonathan Lewis, who also wrote the film, says in his director’s statement on the film’s website

“I knew I had to lend my voice and story, as an aid to help young black men and others find peace within, and extend my hand to help close the gap between ignorance and understanding.” 

Lewis was able to use beauty and artistry to express issues he had dealt with and create a film that is so gorgeous you can’t look away. “SOJOURN” stood out from the crowd. 

The Stage 32 Short Film screening at the Austin Film Festival offered a wide array of points of view and stories told in 20 minutes or less. The screening as a whole helped show just how important it is to believe that your voice matters in the film industry. It also helped show why it is important to listen to the voices and stories of others. Stage 32 is doing a great job at helping bring up indie filmmakers not just through this contest but through the number of resources on their website as well. The website features a place for filmmakers to digitally network and learn more about their craft. This is a great tool to use if you are an RTF major at Austin Community College, so make sure to check them out. 

If you’re interested to learn more about any of the films mentioned, check out Stage 32’s contest page and keep an eye on the website for future screenings of the films. 

 

Clarification 11/26/19: “Dolphin Girl” was an additional screening shown at the Austin Film Festival and was not a part of the 4th Annual Stage 32 Short Film Program.

Austin Film Fest: A Patient Man Interview

The 26th Annual Austin Film Festival came to an end on Thursday, Oct. 31. As a hidden gem among the various film festivals from around the world, a variety of independent film screenings were showcased across the city. One of the screenings was “A Patient Man”, a film about a man who survives a car accident and is trying to piece his life back together. I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and interview Kevin Ward (Director), Harrison Reynolds (Producer), Rob Houle (Composer) and Jonathan Mangum (Lead Actor) about the drama thriller. 

To read the non-spoiler film review, click here.   

Interview by: Nalani Nuylan

*Interview has been edited to remove spoilers

NALANI NUYLAN: What inspired you to write the film?

KEVIN WARD: I live in LA and I had a long commute. For a while, I rode the train. It’s a weird experience: you do meet people and there are people you sit next to. I just like the idea if I were to befriend one of these people.

 

From the initial conception of the film to when you finished shooting, who long was that process?

KW: Four to four and a half years. The longest part of the process was looking for money.  

 

What inspired you guys to join the project?

ROB HOULE: I have known Kevin since college. We were in punk bands together. When I was out in LA, I knew he was making this film. I thought to myself, ‘He’s going to ask me to compose music for him, right?’ And he did.

JONATHAN MANGUM: Kevin asked my wife, who does casting, if she could help him out with the film. She gave me the script, and it’s rare to read something this good. I never get to do this kind of part, it’s always comedy. I said, ‘hey I want to do this’ and he gave me a chance to do it. 

HARRISON REYNOLDS: We started raising money for this film through crowdfunding. He had an original guy leave the day before. He called me the next day and I jumped on the project. We shot a trailer over two weeks and that’s what started this whole process.

 

I want to talk a little bit more about this role, Mr. Mangum. As you said, you are known for your comedy, so how was this role for you as an actor?

JM: It was different, yet I felt like I could relate to Tom (Mangum’s character) in a way. Comedy has some dark elements to it, but the goal is to make people laugh. Here I am making people believe that I am [justified], and that’s not easy either.

KW: I just want to say that any good actor can play a darker character, but not all actors can be comedians and make people laugh. We were truly lucky to have Jonathan.   

 

So, how much where you rewriting on set? How different does it feel from the original script?  

KW: I didn’t do much rewriting. I don’t know too much has changed between script to story. The cut I think is very different. The ending I think I monkeyed around with for a long time. This is an indie movie, this is what we got to shoot and there is no going back. The only real differences are what happened in the cut.  

 

What were the permits you needed for the film?  

KW: The only permit we bought was [for the City of Sacramento]. The interior of the train and the exterior of the train, those were the only permits we had. It was a lot of running and gunning. Every location was either borrowed or gotten off for cheap.

 

A lot of the audience members here today are writers and filmmakers, people who want to do what you did here today. Can you give some of the biggest lessons learned over the course of the project?

KW: There is a lot of things not to do, like don’t shoot on a moving train. I think the most important thing is to know that it is achievable. There is nothing mystical about making a movie. The hardest part about making this movie was finding the movie to do it, finding someone who believed in us and believed in the project. Shoot a trailer, show your friends, fail a few times, and do it again. 

JM: Don’t hold on to whatever idea you think ‘this is my big idea and it has to be perfect before I shoot it.’ Nope. Just shoot it, just get it done, and there will be more ideas. Don’t hold on to any one idea.

HR: Get a lot of feedback from your friends, family or whoever else you trust. [Have them] read your script, have them watch your cuts. Watch it with an audience: they’ll know what’s working, what’s not working, what are some of the plot holes. I think that is an important part of the process.      

 

And of course, I have to ask. We Austinites are very proud of our city. Is there a particular reason you choose to screen “A Patient Man” in Austin rather than the Toronto Film Festival or the Palm Springs Film Fest?

HR: I went to UT for my degree, so I am a little bit prideful in that sense. The main reason is that we wanted to have the experience, while the other film festivals are more glamorous.    

RH: I lived in Austin a while ago. It’s been amazing to see how much the city has changed and taken off since I left. I am glad we were able to be a part of the festival.  

JM: Austin also has this feeling about it that just makes this kind of work better. In LA, it’s more stressful while here it’s about the art of filmmaking.  

 

Lastly, is there anything that I missed which you gentlemen want to say?

HR: We just want to say a huge thanks to our volunteers in LA for making this film possible. Our whole staff and crew were volunteers. Their countless hours and work helped us make this film. We wouldn’t have done it without them.   

 

Austin Film Festival: A Patient Man Review

Independent film reflects on the condition of the human mind in drama thriller.

To read ACCENT’s interview with the filmmakers, click here.

Review by: Nalani Nuylan 

How do we know the people we choose to befriend? By proxy, how well does the audience know the character(s) they are following?  

A Patient Manis the film debut of writer/director Kevin Ward. Screened at the 2019 Austin Film Festival, this hidden gem introduces Tom (Jonathan Mangum), a man who is trying to piece his life back together after a great tragedy. On his road to recovery, he befriends a man named Aaron (Tate Ellington) who rides the same train with him. All the while answering these pivotal questions in the process.  

Told in a nonlinear plot structure, the film takes the audience on a trip to solve the mystery of what happened to our protagonist while revealing truths on how grief, guilt and revenge affect the human psyche.

The best way I can describe this trip is in the metaphor of a massive puzzle with a box that has no big picture finish. You will notice some key puzzle pieces and involuntary want to join the game. After seeing how some of the pieces of the film fit together, you will eventually begin to assume how the story will unfold in the end. Yet, as the audience puts that last piece of the film together the big picture may actually surprise you. 

That’s how this film was for me. I was already picking it apart for the sake of reviewing it. But once I saw a clue, I wanted to find more. Sure, I saw what was coming. But at the same time, I also didn’t see it in when it came to the grand view.

Ward does an amazing job of hiding the clues to the mystery while showing a very real depiction of how a person can descend into revenge because of their grief. As the old joke goes, the descent into madness is not a rapid downward spiral, but a slow progression of moments. 

Mangum, who is mostly known for his work in comedy, shines playing Tom as we see his fake smiles at his work progress into the subtle flickers of dark intentions. I have to give credibility to Mangum’s performs as an actor. 

The praises continue to Producer and Cinematographer Harrison Reynolds, who used the close-up shots and the Los Angeles sunlight to completely flip the thriller tropes on its head. Rather than installing the suspicion, the clever use of Reynold’s surroundings in combination with his camera work when characters are in a conversation to instill this sense of security to only make the ending more enjoyable.    

For his film debut, Ward did a wonderful job of cinematic storytelling. Nicely paced and ever so juicy, one can’t help but marvel at the film being made on a minuscule budget and mostly shot on a moving train. 

This film will leave you with questions and an odd sense of satisfaction. It was an enjoyable ride, and I urge you to join along. 

Update on February 24:
“A Patient Man” is available to rent or buy on  Google Play Store, iTunes, and Amazon Prime Video. If you are curious about this film in any way, I urge you to watch it for yourselves on these platforms.