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Meet a Fantastic Fest DIE HARD: Shauna Leveille

Shauna Leveille - A Die Hard at Fantastic Fest!
by Jason Whyte

Oh I’m not done with you, Fantastic Fest. This wonderful festival in Austin is chugging right along, and today we’re talking with Austin local Shauna Leveille who shares with us her Die Hard experiences.

“I've lived all over the country, from California to Conneticut, from Michigan to Arizona, and finally to Texas. I currently work for the State Government in a job where I provide direct assistance to people. I live and work in downtown Austin. I don't have a car so I use public transportation and I was a vegetarian for 24 years (I eat meat now.) I enjoy Asian, Mediterranian and TexMex food and my favorite cheese is Feta. I actively follow Local, State and Federal politics and I vote in most elections.

I volunteer for charity events when I can and I give money when I can not spare the time. I've also volunteered for SXSW for 15 years and I've spent most of that time with SXSW Film. I used to manage the Paramount Theater, but now I'm one of a few people that schedule the 550+ volunteers and the 25 Theater Managers. I've met a lot of great people through my SXSW connections and that is partially what brought me to Fantastic Fest.

I came to Austin to attend UT in 1991 and my dorm was across the street from the building where the Film department had it's editing bays. I had a few friends in the Film production track who would sometimes call me in a panic to help them finish projects since I was willing to work all hours of the day and night. I ended up changing my major from Mechanical Engeneering to Communications because I realized that that's what I was doing with my spare time. I've worked on at least 39 films doing everything from acting, voiceover, stop-motion animation, production assistant, stand-in, emergency grip (when no one else was available), I even have my own light meter.” Shauna Leville, wonderfully explaining her Austin based story with

What makes you a Fantastic Fest DIE HARD?

I was one of three volunteers that worked the very first little Fantastic Fest before it became the powerhouse it is now. The second year I volunteered again but I had so much fun when I was off, I decided to buy a badge for year three. I still wanted to volunteer the third year, but just handing out registration packets for the first few days so I could see who was attending and give them a Fantastic greeting.

Now I just buy a VIP badge when I can, and I'll take a regular badge if I have to. I get to the theater early every morning and I attend the event/debate/karaoke party every evening. I hang out on the patio talking to other film lovers between films or I'll check out new games at the Fantastic Arcade. I consider Fantastic Fest to be my annual vacation from work; I don't take off time for Thanksgiving,/Christmas, New Year's or even my December birthday just to make sure I can take off every day of Fantastic Fest.

How do you explain Fantastic Fest to someone who is not familiar with the film festival? What would you do or say to get them to attend the following fest?

It's summer camp for film geeks. You take a bunch of people who may not know anyone at the beginning of the fest and you fill their days and nights with varied activities and shared experiences. Since we are all in the same place everyday doing the same things, it makes it easy to strike up a conversation with new people. Maybe you stood stand-by with someone and neither one of you got in to your first choice movie, so you check out another film together. Or maybe you need someone to share those fresh baked chocolate chip cookies with you. Or maybe you found the perfect seat and you need someone to watch it while you step outside for a phone call. By the end of the week you will have several new buddies and probably a friend or two. Just like camp.

Oh yeah, and you will see some amazing films, engaging Q&As, mind-blowing Secret Screenings and awesome parties.

Every attendee experiences Fantastic Fest differently, so I'm curious as to what a day is like for you at the festival.

I mostly attend film screenings. I do try to attend one event at the end of everyday, but it's mostly about the movies. I try to eat at least one meal away from the Alamo every other day, but there are quite a few places within walking distance. I live here in Austin, so Texas BBQ is always available to me, and it's easy to check out the Arcade when I'm between flicks.

#5. Overall, what are you looking forward to the most at Fantastic Fest, 2011 edition?

A Boy and his Samurai. Fish Story was a sweet treat and Golden Slumber was one of my favorite films ever, so Director Yoshihiro Nakamura's new film is a must see for me. We get to see several new flicks but Yoshihiro Nakamura is one of the most promising new directors in the Fantastic Fest Family.

Would you say that you have a particluar genre or filmmaker that you follow at the festival every year?

I have loved Nacho Vigolando ever since Timecrimes. Los Cronocrímenes was the best film that Fantastic Fest showed during 2007 in my opinion and Nacho is always fun to be around. I also love to see the shorts programs and animated films.

What is your favorite food/drink combo at the festival's key venue, the Alamo Drafthouse? Better yet, do you have any favorite area places to get food and/or drink inbetween films?

At the Alamo Drafthouse, The Once Upon A Time In Mexico salad is great with steak and the Puerco Guisada makes a good meal. The Bacon Cheddar scones are great for brunch and the Chocolate Chip cookies are a nice dessert. If you leave the theater I would suggest checking out the various food trailers around the area - there are a bunch of them and some have amazing food.

What has been your favorite non-film related event of past editions of the fest?

The 2010 closing party was totally awesome but I really enjoy the Fantastic Feud as well.

Looking to the future, Is there anything you wish the festival would try out for the 2012 edition?

I would like to figure out a convenient way to pay one price for unlimited soda/ ice tea for the whole week. And I'd like to see more animated films; it's nice to see them on a big screen.

What has been your favorite moment or experience at any previous FF that you have attended?

It's hard to pick just one moment, but getting to sit at a table with Paul Thomas Anderson and watch Uncle's Paradise at Tim & Karrie's house was pretty cool.

What is the single, greatest movie that you have seen at any Fantastic Fest?

There have been some great mainstream films that have played at the festival (There Will Be Blood, Buried, A Serious Man and so forth) but I don't think of them as Fantastic Fest films. The movie that made me the happiest was Golden Slumber and I don't think I would see that film at any other festival.

And finally, what is your all time favorite movie and why?

It may sound cheesy, but I really think Finding Nemo is my favorite movie. It tells a great story, the pacing is tight, the animation is engaging and the acting is top notch.

Be sure to follow Shauna’s Twitter feed for her perspective on this year’s Fantastic Fest.

For more information on Fantastic Fest including programming, ticketing information and updates, point your browser to

Be sure to follow my updates on Fantastic Fest via my Twitter page which can be found HERE.

Jason Whyte –

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originally posted: 09/28/11 23:56:46
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