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SXSW Filmmaker Spotlight: The Summer of 1985 is Alive in 'Ping Pong Summer'

It’s the summer of 1985 – when teenagers carried boom boxes on their shoulders and poured pop rocks into soft drinks. For Austin-based writer/director Michael Tully – that summer is also all about table tennis – or ping pong.

“Ping Pong Summer”premiered at Sundance this year – and has been picked up for theatrical release. But before it hits movie houses, it hits SXSW Film.

Michael Tully talked with KUT about his film:

On "Ping Pong Summer":

"What I try to describe this movie as is like a pitch between combining my own, very personal upbringing of like a middle class family, very well-adjusted into this typical "Karate Kid," 80's, coming-of-age movie."

On Filming 1985 in Ocean City, Maryland:

"At one point, the extras started blurring with the real people and I was looking around and no one had a cell phone and it looked like 1985. So, at one point I was just like, 'just start rolling because it looks like '85 here.' And that's a credit to the town where we shot. We had to bring in cars and make sure things within the frame... but that putt-putt course is the putt-putt course I went to. That dolly of the buffet, that long spread, that was not my imagination, that was where I went to eat when I was 12-years-old and 11-years-old."

On Directing Susan Sarandon:

"That first morning that Susan showed up, I will confess that I was like... but it was more that Susan Sarandon is in Ocean City, Maryland right now and there's the Maryland State Police car that I used to drive around with my dad in. So it was that kind of element that was also making things very surreal. But Susan, to her credit, to Lea (Thompson) and John (Hannah)'s credit, they just were pros. They were there for a reason. They weren't holding any grudge about 'we're the star and these kids haven't acted before.' I think they understand and they've done it enough that they, too, realize that the more comfortable everyone is, the better the performances are going to be. So there was never any sense of hierarchy in that... But it was cool, I mean, I'd never done it before. My last movie, I directed myself with a big beard. And directing Susan Sarandonis different than that. (Laughs). But, oddly, it wasn't really in that way."

On screening the film at SXSW:

"For me, it's just a real thrill to be back. And now that I live here it's really exciting because I have so many friends here who maybe aren't even in the film world, they're in the music world and stuff like that... For me, it's just, I can't complain. I feel really really lucky about everything that's happened."

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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