Flowing Wells High School and UA graduate Phillip Lybrand is well-known in local filmmaker circles for his time in Tucson as a maker of short films, having won eight competitions at the Loft Cinema. His comedy short, "Batman's Bad Day," screened at Tower Theatres before showings of "The Dark Knight" in 2008.
Now he's moved to Austin, Texas, and is putting the final touches on his first feature-length movie, which he hopes to show at the Loft, as well as at the Arizona International Film Festival.
Lybrand - he uses the stage name "Lex Lybrand" for his film work - completed the microbudget coming-of-age comedy "Summer League" with help from other Flowing Wells grads who have moved to Austin.
One of the hometown transplants is his wife, Kelli Horan, who penned the screenplay - about a college student who reconnects with her hometown by joining a beer league softball team - and another is Austin Shaffer, a cinematographer who insisted Sonoran hot dogs appear in a pool-party scene.
Lybrand, 28, maintains strong ties to the area in which he grew up, even coordinating the Class of 2002 10-year reunion in 2012. He's moving up in the film world, having already secured a spot in some film festivals, where he hopes to find a distribution deal.
He spoke with the Star about his new movie and the state of his career.
How did you come up with the stage name Lex?
My wife and I were talking about kids' names. What we would name a son if we had one.
What festivals are you trying to get into?
One we've tried hard to make it into is South by Southwest. We're hoping to get in as part of the softball tournament. That's our best shot. The programmers for that make a movie screening a part of it.
Do you plan on releasing the movie on home video?
At the very least, we can self-distribute. Getting movies on Netflix, or even on-demand with cable companies, is really easy now. We've spent so little on the movie that whatever we make back is going to be a profit. We're not aiming really high.
How does Austin compare to Tucson?
In my opinion, they're sort of creatively alike. It reminds me of Tucson. It's got my favorite parts of Tucson, magnified and multiplied.
What do you think of your movie?
I always try to rate a movie based on what it was trying to do and how well it achieved that. ... I could have done better, but even with unlimited resources it wouldn't be a perfect movie. Based on what we wanted to do, I'm pretty happy with it.
Do you hope to find a distributor that will get your movie in theaters?
That would be great, but I don't expect that. I see it as more accessible as an online streaming type of film. It would be given a better shot if somebody were to watch it on Netflix. The expectations would be a little bit different.
How was it to work with your wife on a movie?
It went way better than I thought. We don't ever work real well together creatively. She is a really good singer, and I'm not an extremely bad guitar player. We've tried to record songs together before, and it always goes terribly.
As soon as the script was done, she allowed it to become my movie. On set, she didn't want to be there watching takes. She'd want to see things in a very specific way. She just sort of let it go. She gave me notes early during production. I'd take them into consideration and held my ground sometimes. She ended up being happy with it and didn't hate me.
How often do you get back to Tucson?
I haven't been back since the reunion last year, but when I do figure out when the movie is going to play, my mom has already told me she's forcing me to come. I'll be there sometime this year.
This article also was published in Thursday's Northwest Star. Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or email@example.com