It takes dozens, if not hundreds of creative, talented and driven people to produce any kind of motion picture, television show or webisode. Yet, it all stems from one individual’s mind: the writer. The writer starts with an idea, an itching to tell a particular story or breathe life into an eccentric character.
Writers for the screen are rarely celebrated, but without their input there wouldn’t be much of an industry to speak of.
The Austin Film Festival & Conference shines the spotlight on the craft of writing for film television, and new media. The festival will bring Hollywood to Austin from Oct. 18 - 25, and for aspiring writers and fans of films, it’s an inspiring and overwhelming eight days of learning, partying and networking. Even if you have no aspirations of being a writer, the purchase of a conference or festival badge is admission into the industry's creative process. The conference lasts for four days, and will give you a greater appreciation of how your favorite shows or films are made.
Conference panelists know their stuff. After all, they’re working film or TV writers. It’s rare that working film industry professionals openly share their knowledge with aspiring writers. Yet, for panelists, speaking here is a privilege — almost a rite of passage. Careers have been launched due to the AFF’s Screenplay Competition, so those writers often return to share what they have learned. It’s a tough business to break into, but the working writers are proof that you can succeed.
Conference panels cover every kind of situation a writer will face. Take Finding Your Anchor, where screenwriters of Prometheus and The Incredible Hulk will discuss how to make fantastical movies relatable to audiences. Writing for Hollywood outside of Hollywood will cover the challenges of working there without living there. On the DC vs. Marvel panel, writers of films from both superhero titans will discuss the challenges of bringing these characters from the comic book pages to the big screen.
Some of the conference’s most unique panels are conversations with successful writers. Scheduled to sit down for attendees are AFF’s 2012 Outstanding Television Writer Chris Carter, the creator of the The X Files; 2012 Distinguished Screenwriter Award recipient Eric Roth, writer of Forrest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; and Damon Lindelof, co-writer of Prometheus and co-creator of Lost. (For frustrated fans of that show, now’s your chance to get your answers).
Outside of panels, one of the highlights of the conference is the annual Award Luncheon on Saturday, Oct. 20. This year, the festival is awarding its Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award to Frank Darabout. The three-time Academy Award nominee is best known for directing and adapting Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, and is credited as the creator of AMC’s The Waking Dead.
Networking plays a big part in breaking into the industry, so the conference hosts ample attempts for badge holders to chat up producers, agents and stars. The night before the conference is the Film & Food Party, a culinary showcase which benefits the AFF’s Young Filmmakers Program.
The Pitch Finale Party is where the top competitors from the conferences pitch competition spin their stories to a full house. Screenwriter John August hosts the WGA West Late Night Welcome Party at III Forks, and the Hair Of The Dog Brunch gives weary-eyed attendees a barbecue-flavored close to the conference.
While the day-to-day experience of screenwriting usually takes place alone, the community of screenwriters is outgoing and supportive. For all its pitfalls, writing for the screen is a very personal undertaking. The conference portion of the Austin Film Festival emphasize the dreams and ambitions of those that want to share their stories.
In supporting writers, the Austin Film Festival makes sure there will always be a great new film or show for us to fall in love with.
The Austin Film Festival takes place Oct. 18 - 25. Badges start at $125 and can be purchased online.