By Liz Lopez
At last year’s Austin Film Festival (AFF) a short film entitled “Texas Cotton” featured actor George Hardy as a law enforcement officer. Hardy is not a full time actor and yet, he was willing and able to be the protagonist when the opportunity for the feature arose. Directed by Tyler Russell (“Dog Years”) and written by Jameel Khaja (“A Passage to Ottawa”), this year’s AFF was host to the premiere of the feature, “Texas Cotton.” This independent movie set in small-town Texas was actually shot close to San Antonio in the community of LaCoste/Medina County. It is not a fictional place. Khaja has written characters that are quite believable (especially for those of us who are from Texas or spent any length of time in a small town in the state). There are plenty of superhero movies that come along with big budgets for everyone to see. Then there are great stories about different heroes who still try to do the right thing, not only for the community as a whole, but for the individuals and their families who are invested in their homestead, that is often a legacy from generations in the past. You won’t see capes, tights or other fantasy stories in “Texas Cotton,” but the strong convictions and actions will keep you rooting for the community as a whole.
George Hardy (“Troll 2,” “Best Worst Movie”) plays Sergeant Travis Delmore, a very kind and sincere law enforcement officer who also recognizes corruption, especially when it comes from “the top down.” When the Sergeant has to say a very sad goodbye to a local resident/farmer, things don’t seem to line up and there appears to be a trail leading to Mayor Kane (Jason Douglas, “The Walking Dead” TV Series). Even when there appears to be some evident shenanigans going on in the town, Delmore’s boss, Police Chief Fellers (Gene Jones, “The Old Man & the Gun,” “No Country for Old Men”) does not want to hear a word about anything. He wants to keep the status quo. Delmore has more of a conscience and inaction is not in his vocabulary.
Hardy holds his own as the lead, among the list of great actors he has screen time with aside from Jones. “Texas Cotton” includes Judd Lormand (“SEAL Team” TV Series, “Geostorm”) as Prosecutor Cunningham, Lew Temple (“Longmire” TV Series) plays Joe, a man that Delmore thinks needs his help, and Tiffany Shepis (“Extremity,” “Ouija House”) plays Deputy Alexa Boozer who supports Delmore’s efforts to make things right in the community.
If you did not have the opportunity to view the film during the Austin Film Festival, “Texas Cotton” will have a theatrical release and can be viewed in various venues. The following list is for the upcoming Central and South Texas screenings: Saturday, November 10th in San Antonio at the Tobin Center; Sunday, November 11th in Hondo, at the Raye Theater and from November 16th – 23rd in San Marcos at The Spot Cinema (the EVO Entertainment Group). For complete details and other cities/states, visit https://www.texascottonmovie.com/see-the-film/
INTERVIEW with TYLER RUSSELL, GEORGE HARDY and JUDD LORMAND during the Austin Film Festival
Q – What was the reason behind creating this film?
Tyler Russell – I love small towns. They are authentic, fun and funny because of the people. I thought about what it would be to have a small town conspiracy. Lots of people don’t talk to farmers. They work night/day and they often have a small crew, mostly family. It becomes something that goes from generation to generation. There are lots of crops here; as well as the pesticides and chemicals. I talked to some (farmers) from small towns.
When we went to LaCoste, TX, we met with George Salzman, the City Administrator. He asked if this was based on their city, as it was a real story. It had happened there. Farmers had lots of land problems there.
Q – Can you describe something about your experience in this film?
George Hardy [actor] – Personal growth. I did work in the short and then this feature. I had many mentors. I am a part time actor and learned from Judd (Lormand). It was a segue into the feature. It takes lots of discipline – keeping the integrity of the character.
GH– We (Judd and I) were in the short together and Judd couldn’t be in the feature initially, because of his other work. When I heard we were shooting over the Thanksgiving weekend, I thought maybe Judd would be able to shoot the lawyer scene and texted Judd about it. It would be a different character, as in the short, he was the Mayor’s security guard.
Judd Lormand – I had a vested interest. I was bummed that I had to say “no” to be in the feature, but I was working in “Seal Team.” A few weeks later, George texted me about shooting over the Thanksgiving weekend and I thought I could make it. I was off from shooting the other show and was going to visit family in the South. It came through and I was a prosecutor. I just wanted to be in it– anything.
From Day 1 while doing the short, I was all in and ready to go (2014). I told him I would do any work in Texas, especially Austin – I’m in! So he had me at “Texas.” I’d worked with Tyler before. I saw how the short was done; 2 ½ days with a small crew and is amazingly good.
Tyler – (Laughing) I didn’t want him as a cop again! I added more dialogue for the prosecutor’s part. I already had a long day to shoot. In some magical way it happened. The sun went down and it was over.
Tyler – We have to give thanks to many individuals who without their work, the film could not be made. People wanted to be a part of the film. People gave us cars, locations and more to use. George added that they rented a dove hunting lodge for accommodations while they were there.