UT alumnus Charles Mulford talks about his SXSW film premiere

Hannah Smothers

Charles Mulford is a UT radio-television-film graduate. He is at SXSW 2014 with his latest film “Two Step,” which he produced with writer-director Alex R. Johnson. The film follows a directionless college dropout who discovers his recently deceased grandmother had fallen victim to a phone scam. When the man running the scam unexpectedly arrives at the dead woman’s door step, what should have been a simple con job becomes a darkly personal tale of desperation and violence. The Daily Texan spoke with Mulford about the making of the film and his experience as a UT grad in the film industry. 

The Daily Texan: How did you first get involved with the film?

Charles Mulford: [Director] Alex Johnson found me through the Texas Film Commission website a couple of years ago when he was working on developing a different project that was going to be shot mostly in Ecuador. He’s still planning on filming that, but “Two Step” rose to the forefront. We worked together on an H-E-B commercial a couple of Novembers ago and worked really well together. When “Two Step” began to materialize, he asked me to be a part of the producing team, and I jumped at the opportunity.

DT: What first drew you to this story?

CM: I really thought the script was terrific right away. It was a simple and contained story that just really worked.  

DT: As far as locations go, how does Austin rank for you as a city to make films in?

CM: I absolutely love it here. I’ve been producing films since I was an RTF student at UT since 2005 and have never ceased being pleasantly surprised by the variety of terrains and the generosity of their inhabitants — not to mention how great the crews and vendors are here. It really is a tight-knit community of people doing it for the love of the craft, which I really love about it.

DT: What would you say makes “Two Step” stand out from the hundreds of other films screening at SXSW?

CM: I haven’t seen any of the other films yet, and they all no doubt have their unique charms. That’s what’s so great about SXSW. The films chosen all really stick out from the crowd and do something a little differently. “Two Step”’s score by Andrew Kenny is really unique and brilliant. The performances are all phenomenal. The cinematography is stellar. The production design and the way we transformed the spaces is incredible. The wardrobe design is so perfectly Texas. Everything just really came together.

DT: What was your personal favorite experience making the movie?

CM: The whole thing was a blast. I had just come off of producing a film with really long hours, and overnights. We stuck to 10 hour days on “Two Step” which is a remarkable feat with an indie film. And we assembled a really fun and talented crew, so it really wasn’t work. Every day was a blast. I really can’t isolate one experience over all the rest, but I can say that making “Two Step” has been one of my all-time favorite filmmaking experiences in my career thus far.

DT: As a UT grad yourself, how does it feel to be presenting your movie at Austin’s biggest film festival?

CM: It’s such a thrill and an honor. This is the first feature film I’ve produced to premiere at SXSW, and I’m so excited to hit the fest with it. I think I’d be floored with pride even if I wasn’t an Austin native, but making our world premiere in our hometown is going to be extra special, since our cast and crew will be able to attend the very first screenings of our film with excited audiences. What could be cooler than that? 

DT: What’s the single best advice you can give to UT film students?

CM: The best advice I can give UT film students is to take every opportunity you can to learn and grow as filmmakers. The nature of this business is such that you pay your dues for a long time. To an extent, I’m still paying my dues. Not sure if that ever goes away. You have to put your egos aside and not be afraid to work your ass off and get your hands dirty. The more experiences you have the better equipped you’ll be to handle anything that’s thrown at you. So much of filmmaking is problem solving, so the more problems you encounter the more automatic your response to future problems will be.