Interview: Anthony Pedone on An American In Texas and spending his formative years as a foreigner in his own country

When Anthony Pedone took that twenty-hour flight from Texas to Sydney, he wasn’t making a galvanic trip to Australia’s east coast. He’d spent the past decade salvaging his life from a heinous past, with filmmaking becoming primary in his reformation. After producing more than twenty films and directing and writing three, Anthony was invited to premiere at a festival he’d been seeking to enter for years, the Byron Bay Film Festival. We took this chance to catch up with Anthony and try to understand a little more about his latest work An American In Texas.

You’ve chosen to premiere your film here in Byron Bay, I know you were invited to premiere here but I imagine you were invited to premiere in other places as well, what drove your decision?

Well I was set to world premiere in Austin at the Austin Film Festival, which we were really excited about, but years ago I read about this festival and the very first film I made when I first got out of prison, it was an experimental film and I was reading about all these festivals and I read about this festival (Byron Bay Film Festival) and I thought man that sounds like a really cool place.

This place has always been stuck in my head as a place I’d really like to go and we have an Aussie Actress in the film, Charlotte Best, so I really wanted to try and hit an Australian festival and so I contacted Austin (film festival) and said ‘hey we have this opportunity’ and Fraser who is the programmer for the festival said you have to do that, don’t worry about us, we’ll do North American Premiere.

And you got here by a GoFundMe?

Yeah that’s right. Three-years ago we raised $50,000 to start developing the film. Social Media is just amazing, you’re able to build these online communities and keep them engaged and make them feel like they’re a part of the project along the way. We started writing as early as 2009 but in 2012/2013 we really started engaging the online community to be a part of the process. So they’ve really been with us the whole way.

When I got this opportunity 30-days out I was like I can’t afford to go, we’re broke, the production spent all the money and it just wasn’t on the cards to come, I thought I’ll just try one more Crowdfund campaign. In the first day we raised $1200. It’s insane, we were able to raise $3200 in 20 days and I was able to come. I even had people come to me and offer to give me the money directly so the Crowdfunding company wouldn’t take the 8%. It’s very humbling.

You seem to be entrenched in your local film industry. Aside from producing and directing, you also run a short film festival in the region too?

It’s called the Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival. I also ran a festival for seven-years simultaneously with SXSW for those people who didn’t get into SXSW. In 2009 I didn’t get in to SXSW so I thought I’m still going to screen no matter what. A friend of mine was a booze distributor and got us this bar that had this giant screen and outdoor patio. He got us the space right after this big party for Samuel L Jackson and Ludacris, so there were like three-hundred people there and as soon as it was over they were like ‘oh, there’s a movie on’. After that my friends that didn’t get in to SXSW kept asking me if I was going to run it again so I did, for the next seven years. At its biggest point we were showing 130 films that didn’t get in to SXSW.

Let’s talk a bit about the film. The title An American in Texas, kind of sets the film up as a pastiche of an American in Paris, you’ve also got the two guys falling for the same girl, was this your intention?

The title came from our friend Chris Petkus, who is really close with the co-writer Stephen Floyd. He was consulting with us on the script and for us, as Texans, we’re Texans before we’re Americans. At the time in the 1990’s there was all this patriotism being manufactured in the lead up to the Gulf War, advertisements were showing that emphasised the importance of being an American. But as Texans, we’re Texans first. The media was pushing on to us that we had to be Americans and go spread democracy and save Kuwait. But Texans are super proud to just be Texans.

So, growing up in America you kind of felt foreign as a Texan?

We felt foreign in that we couldn’t identify with the Gulf War. For us the initial reports were that Kuwait was stealing oil from Iraq, but we were drilling there, we were stealing the oil from Iraq. It became this thing were Iraq is taking advantage of this tiny little country and we have to invade them, Saddam has to get out. But we gave them the guns. We’ve empowered these foreign governments and sold rebels weapons … Reagan traded guns for cocaine and brought the cocaine to the ghettos of Los Angeles.

“For years we’ve taken advantage of smaller nations to get control of their natural resources and we just saw this as another situation like that. We felt like if that’s what it was like being an American, then we don’t want any part of it.” Anthony Pedone

For years we’ve taken advantage of smaller nations to get control of their natural resources and we just saw this as another situation like that. We felt like if that’s what it was like being an American, then we don’t want any part of it. And at nineteen-years old nobody really hears you when you tell your parents you don’t think the war is about democracy, they won’t listen. War remains a huge component of the American economy.

Throughout the 1970’s onwards a lot of prolific films were made with the Vietnam War as a backdrop to the narrative. It doesn’t seem like the Gulf War has played an equally significant role in American cinema, was this something that influenced you when you were writing?

Well Apocalypse Now is one of my favourite films of all time. It’s one of the greatest war movies of all time and it’s not even that much about the war. It’s about the psychology behind war, how power effects people, how it makes them insane. I haven’t seen too many films on the Gulf War, I mean we have the Hurt Locker, but we haven’t seen the war from the perspective of these kids. Our perception, from our generation, has always been that the war was about oil and I still believe that.

An American in Texas screened at the Byron Bay Film Festival. For more details about the film, head HERE. And to learn more about the festival, head HERE.