Texas-based director hopes to open doors for young filmmakers

by Joey Guerra

Daily Cougar Staff

"I'm bi-emotional, and I would like the world to become bi-emotional," said writer/director/producer Steve Bilich from his hotel in Austin, referring to the inquiries he receives about his sexuality. Bilich's first feature film, Ruta Wakening (which screens this weekend at Worldfest), features a number of gay themes and characters.

"It's not a gay film, it's a film about a community, and that includes everybody," said Bilich, who admitted his main goal in making movies is to entertain and move people.

For those wondering, Ruta Wakening, which Bilich boils down to the description "love, infidelity and angels," is a stylish comedy set in Austin and shot in film noir style. It explores six relationships over a 36-hour period, all collecting in the Ruta Maya Coffehouse.

For the Ruta Wakening, cast of 65, Bilich brought in a number of professionals in all fields, with the exception of acting. Singers, artists and musicians make up part of the ensemble cast, which boasts a number of Houston natives.

Bilich is originally from New Orleans, went to high school and college in Austin and has experienced life in such faraway places as Israel and the Red Sea. He calls his opportunities "an unusual dream come true."

One of those opportunties is the International Filmmaker's Cooperative, a bold new project helmed by Bilich himself under his own SPB Films Inc. Using Austin as its world headquarters, the IFC will take young film protgs from the United States and overseas (including Australia, Germany, Peru, Mexico and Taiwan) and offer a kind of education and cultural exchange program.

"It serves many, many purposes," said Bilich, who seems excited about the project, which has garnered support from the city of Austin and the Texas Film Commission. Participants will make between four and 10 short films in the summer, with exposure to everything from script to cinematography.

One of the highlights will be a noncompetitive film festival, which Bilich is strongly in support of.

"The one thing that's bothered me most about festivals is the competitive level," he said. Bilich's own film, Ruta Wakening, is screening out of competition at Worldfest, and he looks forward to getting started on a director's cut of the film, which will differ from the "festival cut" seen this weekend.

Apple donated services for Bilich's editing purposes, and AT&T and Kodak are also possibly joining in with donations.

"My emphasis is crashing down walls of bigotry and hate," Bilich said. "I didn't make the film for a distributor, I made it for an audience."

Next up for Bilich, who cites directors like Federico Fellini, Robert Altman and Terry Gilliam as influences, is Cigarettes, Vitamins and Borrowed Time, which he describes as a John Waters-esque, road movie spoof on The Getaway. He promises fun and "more drag queens than any other movie you've ever seen in your life."

Bilich seems happy and optimistic about his future, and, if all goes well, would love to share the wealth. "When it gets this good, you can't keep it to yourself," he said.

Ruta Wakening will screen as part of Worldfest Houston at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Omni Houston Hotel, Four Riverway in the Worldfest Industry and Market Room. Call 871-8181 for more information.

Anyone interested in taking part in the International Filmmaker's Collective or working with Bilich on his next film, Cigarettes, Vitamins and Borrowed Time, is greatly encouraged to send a rsum or make an inquiry to:

SPB Films Inc.

P.O. Box 684986

Austin, Tx 78768-4986

(512) 708-8740

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