Beneath the wholesome surface of Will Bakke’s low-budget, faith-based movies was a filmmaker eager to explore a wilder side.
The Park Cities native’s move to Austin several years ago was an eye-opening experience, both personally and professionally. Why couldn’t he remain steadfast in his Christian beliefs while enjoying a raunchy comedy about a house party?
Bakke’s new film, a celebration of Austin nightlife called The Get Together, will premiere this weekend at the Austin Film Festival — both in-person and online — and also will show virtually as part of the Lone Star Film Festival in early November.
“You kind of come up in a culture with one specific viewpoint about life. It wasn’t until I got to Austin that I really understood other people’s experiences. It’s sharpened my own faith,” Bakke says. “There are the most interesting and diverse people here, with so many different experiences. You’re coming into contact with people all the time who are at a turning point in their lives.”
That spawned the structure of the film, which takes place entirely over one night and shifts perspective between multiple twentysomething party guests whose stories intertwine. The chapters loosely cover what it’s like to move to a new city as an outsider, relationships and commitment, leaving the college life for adulthood, and more. The ensemble cast includes Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood) and Austin musician Shakey Graves.
“We wanted to encapsulate someone’s 20s in America,” says Bakke, who doesn’t mind the inevitable comparisons to Dazed and Confused. “I feel like I’ve lived out a lot of those characters.”
The film was shot entirely in Austin, as evidenced by a handful of landmarks on screen, and was expanded from his 2015 short film of the same name, which consisted of a single 10-minute tracking shot following one character through a party.
“It wasn’t really in my wheelhouse in terms of Christian filmmaking, so I was starting over in a way,” Bakke says. “We did that to get our feet wet, to learn what works and what doesn’t.”
Bakke, 32, graduated from Highland Park High School and Baylor University, where he made the first of his two documentaries about religion. His feature debut came with the Christian satire Believe Me in 2014.
After that, Bakke and longtime collaborator Michael Allen went to Los Angeles to explore their options, but decided not to relocate in part because they wanted more artistic freedom.
That led to their screenplay for The Get Together, which Bakke hopes will secure a distribution deal and open up more opportunities — whether or not they’re in the faith-based realm.
“I put pressure on myself as to whether I should stay in that lane, but I’m free to explore these different avenues, whether my beliefs line up with my own characters or not,” Bakke says. “Christian movies are supposed to have a message, but I love hangout movies that are just a good time. I don’t want to push any kind of spiritual or political agenda, but just want people to have fun.”