By Anna Sagatov Explore Big Sky Contributor
AUSTIN, Texas – From March 9-22, Austin, Texas attracted thousands of musicians, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, and creative types for the annual South by Southwest Music, Film, and Interactive festival (SXSW).
SXSW is the largest music festival of it’s kind in the world, and this year featured more than 2,200 official performers and brought more than 51,000 registered attendees to Austin. SXSW has been the big break for performers such as John Mayer, Katy Perry and The Strokes. The scene also drew a pair of southwest Montana artists to the event.
Bozeman filmmakers Elliot Lindsey and Eric Kucinski headed south to this creative epicenter to shoot footage for their film “The Hatter,” the second installment in a four-part series about artisans creating handcrafted goods, called “The Makers.”
The plot for “The Hatter” documentary centers around Bend, Ore.’s Cate Havstad, who made a custom Western-style hat for folk musician Shakey Graves – Linsdey and Kucinski documented this notable musician receiving and wearing his handmade hat.
“The Makers” took a circuitous route to becoming reality, evolving into a film series after several factors fell into place. Lindsey procured a high-speed camera in 2013 and decided to film a clip of his friend – “The Saddlemaker” – Brian Esslinger’s tattooed knuckles that read “HANDMADE.” A 2014 grant from the Montana Film Office turned the passion project into something serious, and “The Makers” was born.
“The Saddlemaker,” the series’ first installment, premiered at Bozeman Spirits Distillery in early March and drew a sizeable crowd that was enthralled by the visually striking footage and captivating storytelling. Havstad has a fascinating story of her own which drew the filmmakers to capture footage of her trip to Austin.
Havstad has been making hats for just two years, but has become respected, amassing a significant client list. She became interested in the process when her dog chewed up a beloved felt hat and she wanted to learn to reshape it, so she undertook a yearlong apprenticeship with a milliner. After mastering the craft, she sold a custom hat to Graves – who met her at a folk festival where she was selling her hats – and finished it in time for him to wear it at this year’s SXSW festival.
When the filmmakers arrived in Austin, they went straight to Graves’s house to film. Havstad presented Graves with his hat, and then Graves and his guitarist Patrick O’Connor played a private session for the film in the backyard of his Austin home.
After shooting the scenes with Graves, Havstad and the filmmakers escaped the suffocating festival crowds. They spent the rest of the week at a small gathering with an emphasis on Americana culture at an abandoned ghost town 15 minutes outside of Austin. Approximately 50 musicians, artists and vendors congregated there, and Havstad took down hat measurements for future clients in between rounds of poker and dancing to the live music.
The sounds of slide guitar and heavy bass drum reverberated off the walls. Men sported long hair and motorcycle jackets, and the women wore vintage blue jeans and woven blankets.
While observing this world of Americana and documenting Havstad’s story, Lindsey and Kucinski captured the beauty with their cameras. “The Hatter,” with its intriguing characters in an enchanting setting, is a film not to be missed. The filmmakers expect to release “The Hatter” this summer.
The filmmakers launched a Kickstarter campaign that ends April 22 to help fund the project. Visit kickstarter.com/projects/1993081491/the-makers-film-series to learn more or support “The Hatter.”