At 5:30 a.m. on a Tuesday in late January, pajama-clad University of Texas at Austin alumna Gigi Causey and her husband Andrew Bowler nervously scrolled through the 2012 Oscar nomination list.
“I can’t take it,” Causey said, slamming down her coffee mug in anticipation.
After learning that their film “Time Freak” had received a nomination for Best Live Action Short Film, the husband-and-wife film team screamed, jumped up and down and hugged. Their unscripted reaction, which they recorded for family and friends and uploaded to YouTube, went viral – even landing a spot on “Good Morning America’s” “Play of the Day” segment.
At the 84th Academy Awards on Feb. 26, the duo will learn the fate of “Time Freak” – one of five films and the only U.S. title – in the running for the live action short film category.
“The road to the Academy Awards has been one of the most intense periods of our lives,” Causey said. “We are trying to manage a balance between celebrating and basking in this honor with trying to generate as many professional opportunities as possible before the winner is announced. Right now, we are all nominees. But on Feb. 26, there will be only one winner in our category, and there’s an 80 percent chance that it won’t be us!”
Embracing the moment
“Time Freak” – which Causey produced and Bowler wrote and directed – is an 11-minute comedy about a time machine and the power of nagging regret. Consumed with remorse, a neurotic inventor creates a time machine and gets lost traveling in his past. The inventor becomes so consumed with perfecting every minute detail of the previous day that he is unable to realize he has the power to do great things.
“First and foremost, we want people to laugh,” Causey said. “But it would be great if they also see beyond the jokes and see a little bit of Stillman – the main character – in all of us.”
Debuting in 2010 at the American Film Institute Fest, “Time Freak” won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Short at the Seattle International Film Festival in June 2011.
The Seattle International Film Festival jury called it “… a hilarious, original take on time travel that reminds us all to embrace the moment.”
“Time Freak” also received the Audience Choice Award for Best Short Comedy at the TriMedia Festival, the Best Comedy Short award at the Route 66 Film Festival, the Jury Award for Best Short at the Stony Brook Film Festival and the Best Science Fiction award at the Poppy Jasper Film Festival.
Beginning on Feb. 10, more than 200 theaters began screening the short films nominated for Best Live Action, Best Animation and Best Documentary. For more details and a list of theaters, visit ShortsHD.
ITunes released the films in February, and they will be available through cable networks’ Movies On Demand via Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Cablevision and Cox Communications.
Twenty-one years ago, after declaring a journalism major at the College of Communication, Causey had no idea she would become a filmmaker. Set on becoming a magazine feature writer, she threw herself into her work at The Daily Texan – first as a copy editor and then as a senior reporter.
But after taking required radio-television-film electives, Causey became enchanted with the film world. Through Lindy Laub’s and Shuchi Kothari’s screenwriting classes, Causey found her voice and discipline as a writer. Through one of Professor Nancy Schiesari‘s film classes, she gained the confidence to direct.
“She is so talented and inspiring that I felt obligated to at least try to pitch my project for directing,” Causey said of Schiesari’s class. “Mine was one of the projects selected to be produced, and I believe that set the course of my career in terms of my ambition.”
Her favorite class, though, was Dean Roderick Hart’s Senior Fellows Honors Program course. At least once a year, Causey rereads an essay she wrote in that class. The essay was about “knowing time” – a central theme of Jack Kerouac’s novel, “On the Road.” Built on the notion that there is a fundamental difference between dreaming and hoping, “knowing time” is a theme in Causey’s life, as well.
“Hoping, for me, is rooted in believing that ‘someday’ will come, versus dreaming, which is absent of time; it’s about fantasy and wonderful things that may never come,” Causey said. “In a nutshell, ‘hoping’ takes courage because you have to admit that you want something badly enough to believe it could actually materialize. I like to check in with myself every now and again, making sure I keep more things in the ‘hoping’ category than in the ‘dreaming’ category.”
From New York to Los Angeles
After graduating from The University of Texas at Austin in 1995, Causey worked in the art departments of two low-budget Austin films – Bob Byington’s “Olympia” and George Ratliff’s “Purgatory County.” She also worked at a local video and film production firm, Granite House, where she honed her skills as a production manager.
In 1998 Causey moved to New York, where she took a break from production and landed a job as personal assistant to Peter Yarrow of the music group Peter, Paul & Mary. Causey worked with Yarrow for five years, helping him found and manage his nonprofit organization Operation Respect, which promotes anti-bullying programs in schools.
Pining for the film world, Causey accepted a production internship on a low-budget film. Within two years, she worked her way up to coordinating and supervising film production.
Since then, Causey has freelanced as a production supervisor and manager, while nurturing her creative producing and writing skills.
Some of her more notable freelance projects include “Safe House,” which stars Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds; “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” which stars Michael Cera and Kat Dennings; and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
In 2011 after “Time Freak” started succeeding in the film festival circuit, Causey moved with Bowler to Los Angeles so they could commit to their personal projects full time.
Between projects, Causey does not have much time for leisure travel. She has only returned to Austin twice since she left in 1998, but in keeping with the theme of “knowing time,” Causey hopes to visit soon. After all, the hopeful philosophy of “knowing time” is what helped Causey and Bowler make the an Oscar nomination of “Time Freak” a reality.