A love for Austin inspires film directed by UT alumnus

Collyn Burke

The city of Austin’s character is undoubtedly distinct. Filmmaker and UT alumnus David N. Reyes knows this as much as the next Austinite and decided to cast it as a main character in his latest film, “My Ranger.”

The coming-of-age-comedy centers around an Austin teen, Woody, in his awkward yet endearing quest to woo his crush with his first car. The film, which premiered at the Austin Revolution Film Festival last month, was shot entirely in Austin and reflects the love Reyes found for Austin during his time as a UT student.

“I never left because I never wanted to,” Reyes said. “Once I came here in ‘82, I just fell in love with Austin and I refused to leave.”

Reyes said his time at UT kickstarted his career and inspired him to go into filmmaking and provided him with the chance to fall in love with the city of Austin.

“I love what I do, I love telling stories,” Reyes said. “My goal is to be able to do what I love in the city I love.”

His love for Austin has also greatly impacted his work. According to Reyes, everything from the music down to the costumes were Austin-sourced in order to preserve a sense of Austin authenticity. “My Ranger” even boasts an entirely Central Texan cast, including several past and present UT students. Journalism and anthropology senior Anna Maria plays Woody’s love interest and said that all of them having gone to UT gave them a special bond.

“It was amazing to get to work with other Longhorns,” Ward said. “We have that background of going to the same school, living in the same city and having the same interests.”

Reyes further preserved that Austin accuracy by basing many of the character relationships in the movie on his own life. The changing relationship between Woody and his father from friendship to parent-child is something Reyes said he experienced with his
own kids.

“My son, we recently went through the same thing,” Reyes said. “A lot of the scenes are drawn upon what we’ve experienced in our house.”

Apparently, the film resonated with other Austinites as well. After its premiere at Austin Revolution Film Festival, “My Ranger” was nominated for eight awards and walked away with Best Texas Feature, Audience Award for Best Feature and Best Soundtrack. Reyes’s wife and co-producer Lisa Reyes said the awards validated the work they’d put into the film.

“It’s a really great feeling to be recognized (by) your peers,” Lisa Reyes said. “To know they really, really liked your film.”

Out of all the awards, Lisa Reyes said she was most proud of the Audience Award for Best Texas Feature because it reaffirmed the audience’s positive reaction to the film.

“You’re hoping the movie affects people the way you want it to affect them,” Lisa Reyes said. “For them to actually be affected (and to) hear them laugh at moments and them getting really emotionally attached to these characters, it makes everything that we’re doing mean exactly what we want it to mean.”

In the end, Reyes said that “My Ranger” was a story about a boy finding himself and figuring out the relationships around him, and that it was something everyone could relate to.

“It is a small idea that can touch a lot of people,” Reyes said.