Filmmaker Spotlight

Filmmaking is a family affair for Dallas actress and director Augustine Frizzell

Filmmaking is a family affair for actress/director Augustine Frizzell

Augustine Frizzell started working in Texas independent film as an actress over a decade ago, appearing in films like Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Hellion. But over the years she’s had her hand in a number of roles both on screen and behind the camera. Now she can add writer/director to that list. 

Frizzell’s short film, I Was a Teenage Girl, is included in the 2014 SXSW Texas Shorts competition, which kicks off this Friday, March 7.

“This is my fifth year to go [to South by Southwest], and it’s my absolute favorite festival,” she says. 

 Her husband is David Lowery, whose films have helped propel the Dallas film scene into the spotlight. Her daughter, Atheena, is also a writer and actress.

This year is extra special for Frizzell, not only because she’ll be premiering her own short, but it also marks the first time she’ll be attending with a film in which she’s cast in a prominent role. Frizzell stars in Dallas-based filmmaker Toby Halbrooks’ short film Dig, also included in the Texas shorts lineup.

Before directing her own films, Frizzell worked in costume design and art direction. Though these various roles, she acquainted herself with the filmmaking process and the local film community.

“You know they say everyone should wait tables at least once in their life, and I feel like it’s kind of the same with filmmaking,” she says. “I think it’s important to get a feel for everyone’s job. Like with costuming — I have been the actor where I didn't want to wear a certain outfit, so I completely understand where the actor is coming from and how to make adjustments.

“I love movies, and if I can get a job in a movie I will take it. I don’t care what it is. I just love being on set and being around the people.”

It helps that her family feels the same way about making movies. Her husband is David Lowery, whose films — most notably Ain't Them Bodies Saints — have helped propel the Dallas film scene into the spotlight. Her daughter, Atheena — a lead character in I Was a Teenage Girl — is also a writer and actress, so Frizzell has a built-in support system at home that she says extends into the local film community.

“It’s a great community,” she says. “The people really keep me here.”

Frizzell is no stranger to being surrounded by talented friends and family. Having come from a long line of singers on her dad’s side — she is the granddaughter of country music singer-songwriter Lefty Frizzell — she grew up dreaming about following in her family’s footsteps. But first she had to overcome a big obstacle: stage fright.

After high school, Frizzell decided to take an acting class in hopes of finding a cure. Not only did the class help with her stage fright, but she also landed her first acting gig.

“The guy who taught the class ran a murder mystery theater, and he ended up asking me to audition,” she says. “I got the role, and I ended up doing that for many years. It was really good practice for me, and it was fun. But it was very challenging, because it was really out of my comfort zone.”

Accepting this challenge eventually helped Frizzell discover her passion for acting.  

“When you’re acting in a situation like [the murder mystery theater], you’re very much a part of the group, having to talk with people and be social,” she says. “With film or other theater acting, you’re completely removed. You’ll do a scene, and if it goes well afterward, there’s no memory of it. It’s so strange. It’s like entering into this other dimension, and that’s a really fantastic part of the process.”

Despite the fact that she loves working as an actress, I Was a Teenage Girl is just the beginning of Frizzell’s directorial pursuits.

“I have a feature that I really want to make, but I wanted to do a short film first for practice, because you don’t really want to just jump into a feature,” she says. “Hopefully this will be exactly what I need to get my next film made, and now I have a bit of credibility.”

Augustine Frizzell
Filmmaker Augustine Frizzell's directorial debut, I Was a Teenage Girl, premieres at SXSW. Photo by Sergio Garcia
Still from "I Was a Teenage Girl"
A still from the short I Was a Teenage Girl. Photo courtesy of Augustine Frizzell
Still from "GBFF," short by Augustine's daughter and "I Was a Teenage Girl" star, Atheena Frizzell
A still from the short GBFF, directed by Frizzell's teenage daughter, Atheena. Photo courtesy of Augustine Frizzell
Ain't Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery
Local director David Lowery, a.k.a. Augustine Frizzell's husband. Photo courtesy of IFC Films