Stories to Tell Exhibit: Gives Inside Look at Harry Ransom Center

23 Feb

The Harry Ransom Center, the world renown cultural museum, research library and archive located on the University of Texas is giving the world a rare glimpse of its vast eclectic collection with its Stories to Tell exhibit. And did we mention it’s FREE?


The exhibit has something for everyone: art lover, literary major, history buff,  film fanatic, and paranormal fans. The diverse exhibit showcases work from authors, artists, actors, a film producer, a photographer as well as a brilliant mind and their creative process.

Browse a beautiful wall of art by Matisse, get inside look at James Joyce’s thought process in composing, literary class, Ulysses; and Einstein’s discovery of the  theory of gravitational waves at the unique exhibit.

The new exhibition even features a case of selected pieces from it’s Mad Men collection. Visitors get a peek at the extreme detail producers went to make the AMC TV classic authentic from scripts to detailed ad proposals. Film fanatics can also see a special exhibit within Stories to Tell  featuring Robert De Niro’s personal collection donated to the Center.

Not only do we get insight into the creative process, but we are able to learn about history with a the Woodward & Bernstein Watergate papers and artifacts like the Gutenberg Bible.

The exhibit opened earlier this month and will run through July 16, 2017. Check it out to see all the Harry Ransom Center has to offer!

Part 2 of a 2 part series.




Ransom Center Preserves Cinematic History

6 Feb

The University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center, a world renown cultural museum, research library and archive has made considerable strides in the preservation of cinematic history. The Center hosts over 10,000 scripts and 15,000 other items from TV & film and its contributors.

Most recently, AMC’ Mad Men creator, Matthew Weiner donated 150 boxes from the iconic cable drama to the center. It will take over a year for Ransom Center curators to go through the collection, but as part of the Stories to Tell exhibit that runs February 6 – July 16, 2017, the Center has selected a few pieces as a preview of the Mad Men collection.

img_5814The selected pieces like their clever ad campaigns from Mad Men tell a story of the in depth nature that show creators and writers went into devise an authentic depiction of that period. The ad proposal is just not a shell prop, but details full ad concepts for Mad Men’s clients like Hershey’s and Philip Morris. The display is a mere snapshot of the historical archive, which includes costume, props, and other pieces from the hit drama that ended in 2015.

The Center also has an extensive archive from Woody Allen, Sunset Boulevard actress, Gloria Swanson as well as Robert Deniro and others.

img_5821Robert Deniro has contributed his life’s work to the center and they receive a box from the actor about every 2 years. His personal collection is a way he can share with his creative process with others. This year actually marks the 40th Anniversary of the Martin Scorsese film, Taxi Driver, a Best Picture nominee. As part of that celebration, the Ransom Center is showcasing a collection from the film that stars Deniro.  

img_5820While the cinematic collection is just a facet of the spectrum of works preserved by the Center, many pieces have a common underlying theme. Whether it’s James Joyce’s notes on formulating the infamous novel, Ulysses or Deniro’s notes on character development for his Oscar nominated performance in Taxi Driver or even Einstein formulas developing the gravitational wave theory, the pieces give insight into the creative processes of these brilliant cultural icons.

This is part 1 of 2 part series.


Perfect Chaos Breaks Into Austin Video Production Scene

6 Feb

Perfect Chaos Films broke into the video production scene this Summer in Austin. The company founded by Michael Mason (the love of my life) has flourished since its start this past July 2015. Perfect Chaos Films has a diversified portfolio from tech companies to non-profits.

Houston native, Michael Mason has lived in Austin, off and on for 20 years, and came to the Violet Crown for his love of film. While he left for a short bit, Austin will always be home.

His journey outside Austin led him to work for a top talent & literary agency in Los Angeles, which aided in his increased knowledge in story development. In addition to his experiences on the West Coast, Michael has worked as associate news producer, worked for a local ad & video production outfit, and has trained as a commercial actor.

What also sets him apart from the competition is his experience in working for a variety of Austin tech companies giving him the understanding of both fields tech and video.

He started the company, because he saw a spot in the marketplace where technology has made it affordable for companies to have amazing videos.

He touts offering high-quality, personable, and aesthetically pleasing videos for a competitive price, which is perfect for non-profits and start-ups.

Visit Perfect Chaos Films at

TV Hits Big Screen for ATX Fest

13 Jun

As an avid TV watcher and Netflix binger, I highly anticipated Season 2 of the ATX Television Festival this past weekend, June 6-9, 2013. The previous year, I worked behind the scenes as a volunteer of the inaugural festival seeing a small, but memorable glimpse of fest. This year, I decided to spring for a weekend badge. Why not?

It was well worth it! Stepping into the State Theatre Opening Night, I was surrounded by some my favorite TV stars from shows past and current.  Devon Gummersall of My So-Called Life, Rider Strong, Matthew Lawrence, and Ben Savage of Boy Meets World, Lacey Chabert of Party of Five; and Scott Porter and Wilson Bethel of Hart of Dixie were just a few who strutted their stuff on the Red Carpet for opening night.

Season 2 of the ATX Television Festival kicked off with a screening and a panel of one of my favorite comedies, Arrested Development. The Netflix Opening Night celebrated the re-launch of the critically acclaimed show. The fest screened the new episodes that featured the night’s two special guests, Alia Shawkat, who plays Maeby Fünke and seasoned, young actress, Mae Whitman, who plays George Michael’s often overlooked ex-girlfriend, Ann. The besties shared what it was like working with the cast after such a lengthy hiatus and their longtime friendship. As a somewhat latecomer to the series which I just discovered only a few years ago, I felt like the show took up right where it left off. Strong, poignant, and awkwardly funny!

Attendees, including myself were immersed in a world of TV culture as the fest continued through the weekend, celebrating all aspects of television: writing, directing, casting, acting, and screenings galore for fans.

Some of the screenings on the State Theatre’s and Alamo Ritz’s big screens included: AMC’s Hell on Wheels and AMC’s new drama, Low Winter Sun; Fox Comedies like New Girl, The Mindy Project and Raising Hope; My So-Called Life, Boys Meets World; Party of Five; American Dreams; Scandal; and Falling Skies.

The most memorable moment for me was the Friday Night Lights (FNL) panel; which brought tears to my eyes as Executive Producer; David Hudgins played his favorite clips from the four seasons. Hudgins was joined by Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor ) , Connie Britton (Tami Taylor), Brad Leland (Buddy Garrity), Scott Porter (Jason Street) and other FNL cast members.

I think Friday Night Lights will always hold a special place in my heart, not just because it was an excellent series, but because of its ties to Austin. I was there the day the pilot was first shot. I witnessed the series from its beginning. A fresh-faced cast just beginning its journey, and I lived the journey with them for four years through my television set. Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

This Texas girl will always have a place within her heart for Friday Night Lights and the ATX Television Festival.

Striking Matches Lights Up the Stage at SXSW

9 Apr

This past SXSW 2013, I sat down via Skype Chat with Nashville duo, Striking Matches for the Skype Events Live Nation segment 2 Things.
Check it out now.

Post Skype chat the Country twosome lit up the stage at The Belmont where they showcased their talent. The venue was fitting, because the pair met at Belmont University.

Striking Matches music was also recently covered on the ABC hit show, Nashville. They are definitely a band to watch.

Top 10 of 2012

24 Feb

By Contributing Columnist, Michael Mason @ATXMichaelMason

2012 was a great year for movies. Great award season stuff, great popcorn movies, great indie films, great genres, you name it. Cuts were tough this year but here’s my 10 faves of the year.

10. End of Watch
Um. Wow. Kinda expected a watered down Training Day for some reason but it takes about 2 minutes to figure out…this thing is for real. Some criticize the movie for being farfetched but I think it totally earns it. What makes End of Watch so great is the authentic feel of the officers. I really felt this is what many cops are actually like, with the aggressive ball-busting and the reckless adrenaline-infused approach to the job. Never seen a movie capture that quite right like this.

9. The Cabin in the Woods
Like I said, it was tough sledding making the top 10 list this year but I had to save a spot for this little gem from the spring. I’m not exactly a card-carrying member of the horror movie genre. The analogy I always make is to country music. The overwhelming majority of it is schlock for the masses but when it’s good it can BE REALLY AMAZING. Somehow this film takes a genre that I thought has already been overanalyzed and processed through the whole “Meta” thing, with your Scream films and what not, but this finds a way to spin horror films on their axis in such an inventive way. And oh my God how fun is this movie. The scene near the climax of the movie when we get to see horror movie conventions simultaneously explode on the screen is…pure movie fan bliss.

8. Jeff, Who Lives at Home
This film is my eighth favorite film of the year, but may be my sentimental favorite of the year. Maybe partly because I didn’t even especially like the film at least half way through it. It felt a little too “independent-y” for a while, which I don’t have a lot of patience for anymore, with the slow meandering story about this loveable stoner who means well. Then it starts to grow on you. Then, the climax happens and you sit there wondering how this little unassuming indie flick just ended their story in one of the most affecting emotional ways I can ever remember. Love this little damn movie.

7. Argo
Yep, it’s a fine year in film when Argo doesn’t crack your top 5. Love a great opening sequence that just grabs you and holds you down to that seat. This was certainly the case with Argo. The beginning felt so real and so damn interesting. Luckily, not being the world’s foremost expert in 70s political crisis, I didn’t actually know how this was going to end (although I had an idea). But, like most who did know the outcome, I suspect I still would have been riveted to the final second. Also, I’m a big sucker for behind-the-scenes Hollywood stuff, which all really worked well in this film.

6. Django Unchained
Nobody’s probably a bigger Tarantino homer than this kid so no real shock here. Have this one ranked 4th on my all-time QT list, albeit a distant 4th, behind Pulp, Reservoir and Bastards. Love the violence (sorry but it was awesome), as always love the Tarantino dialogue, the characters, the performances. How does he keep essentially doing the same half-tribute, half-genre thing and it still feels so new and exciting? His run is just amazing, like watching Michael Jordan put up masterpiece after masterpiece. Also I’d like to mention that as far as racial issues, thought this was 100 times more effective than some sanctimonious Amistad or The Blind Side or whatever else.

5. Lincoln
My love for Lincoln is perhaps only matched by my hatred for its trailer. What a pompous bloated ode to self-importance that thing is. So, as one may imagine, I was very worried what I was going to get from this film, one based on Team of Rivals, a book I read and really liked (and when I say I read I mean I ‘started reading it’). Lincoln was everything it should have been. I always like any biopic that takes a slice of the subject’s life, instead of the full boring video book report version of the subject’s entire life. Except for maybe the opening scene the movie is not full of itself; it’s very subtle and real. You get all the nitty gritty politics stuff as you would imagine it would have been really like, not a 3-hour love letter to a larger than life figure, even though the figure happens to be the greatest American to ever live. And…the performance. I don’t want to tell you Daniel Day-Lewis’s Lincoln is the best performance of the year because I DON’T WANT TO INSULT IT. The only arguments that we need to have on this performance sound something like, “Is this the greatest piece of acting a human on Planet Earth has ever done?” You know, stuff like that.

4. Moonrise Kingdom
So, I won’t say much on this film because I wrote all about it on this exact blog but let me at least talk about my love that it stayed with me all year long. My love for it has only grown. It redeemed a genre for me and is very close to my heart. And I can’t stop thinking about the impeccable craftsmanship that went into every scene.

3. The Dark Knight Rises
I’ve been really surprised that this film hasn’t held up throughout the year like I thought it would. If it feels a little overblown to you I won’t argue too much with you. (Maybe I would). But give it some credit, at its worst it is accomplishing so many things that almost no other movie is coming even close to. I’m not especially a Lord of the Rings guy but this big sweeping epic ending to this trilogy was everything Return of the King THOUGHT it was. Now THAT was over-bloated. This film gave us the perfect appropriate ending to the real trilogy of this generation.

2. Zero Dark Thirty
I won’t address the silly torture cloud over this film because it’s too monumentally stupid to even give justice to. Love Chastain’s performance, she is the strong female lead without ever bringing attention to the “female” part of it all. She’s just a strong lead. And she’s still feminine. It’s a tricky balance to make. The raid sequence was nothing short of amazing. A grab your throat, put you on your ass, chill you to the core sequence up there with your Saving Private Ryan Normandy invasion sequences of the world. Love that I understood a piece of recent history that I thought I knew well so much more profoundly than before.

1. Silver Linings Playbook
If I had to dissect this film it isn’t going to hold up against a Zero Dark Thirty or a Lincoln, which are nearly perfect films. I didn’t really buy how the final climax plays out. The film turns out to be a little more Hollywoodish? than maybe I thought I signed up for. So, why does it stand at the zenith of my list in such a year of studly movie after studly movie? Because…it just does. That’s why. There’s an unspeakable special feel that I get with certain films that let me know “this is the one.” This is the one that I want to think of when I think about that year in film. I don’t even get the feel every year. There are just those really special movies that give me this twinge that I can’t put my finger on but I just know…this is the one.

It’s All About the Music: A Love Reborn

9 Feb

I was introduced to music at very young age. My dad is a child of the 60’s. He practically gave me his vinyl collection before I could read. I grew up with the classics: the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Steppenwolf, and Led Zeppelin as part of my dad’s compilation of records.

My dad bought me “one” of my first 45’s, Gloria by Laura Branigan, when I was barely 5 years old. I was proud of my very own little collection as well including titles of the time: Physical by Olivia Newton John and Mickey by Tony Basil. All my 45’s have since perished a casualty of my childhood dog, a Chow-German Shepherd mix, She-Ra. Yes, like the Princess of Power.

But my favorites were always the greats like Abbey Road (my most played album), which I still have in LP collection back home.

I even went through a big Jim Morrison phase, as probably the rest of America did, when the movie, The Doors, came out. I had also just finished the book, No One Here Gets Out Alive. Between the two, it sparked an obsession. In my junior high yearbook picture, I could’ve been mistaken for Jim Morrison’s daughter, an unintentional result of my fixation.

But somewhere along the way I became somewhat music illiterate losing my passion and love of music for more than a decade. In recent years my love of music has regained momentum and 2012 it skyrocketed. I found myself at SXSW, ACL, FunFunFun Fest and many local shows.

One of my favorite parts of SXSW Music (maybe because I’ve often been wristbandless) is the KGSR morning series. Waking up before sun up, donating a few bucks to a good cause, and hearing SXSW bands play acoustic in an intimate setting, what’s not to like? There is no standing on your tip toes, bobbing of heads, or trying to push your way to the front to see. It is you and maybe 300+ SXSW goers in room listening to incredible artists like James Mercer of the Shins and Fun.

SXSW for me was once all about the parties and now it is all about the music.

The pinnacle of my music rebirth had to be at the recent Quiet Company concert at Antone’s just a couple weeks back. I went to the legendary rock joint as part of my Austin bucket list to hear one of their several last concerts before the popular music venue moved to their new home on East Riverside.

Come to discover each band of the night offered an intensity of intrigue.

But nothing prepared me for the performance given by Quiet Company. Intoxicated by the electrifying sounds, I watched, I jumped, I danced, and I listened as the Austin band brought down the house and reminded me of my lost love of music.

Now I have another vinyl to add to my collection.

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