Built around one of the most prestigious screenwriting contests in the country, the Conference attracts groundbreaking producers, agents, managers, and development execs, as well as countless working screenwriters and filmmakers.
Austin Film Festival & Conference didn’t attract such a fierce and faithful following by accident. Hitting its 20th anniversary this year, AFF is as devoted as ever to nurturing creativity in a rough-and-tumble business, serving as a greenhouse for projects and a clubhouse for the most discussed, prolific, outlaw, and legendary filmmakers and screenwriters in entertainment. This 20th Annual Festival & Conference will be historic. You don’t want to miss it.
Founded in 1993 as the only organization of its kind to celebrate and investigate the writer’s role in filmmaking, AFF is famous for stirring up interaction between icons and newcomers-including producers, agents, managers, development executives, filmmakers, screenwriters, and registrants. Practically every first-time AFF participant has walked away saying: That’s unlike anything I’ve experienced or heard about.
Many conferences are footnotes to festivals; the AFF Conference is worth the trip alone. The lineup is interactive, raw, and fun – you’re destined to leave with a notebook full of strategies. For the first time ever, this year’s Conference will feature additional panels, case studies, and workshops spread throughout the whole week. On top of that, panelists and awardees will serve as guest film programmers, sharing insight on films that have inspired them and helped shape their careers.
The Conference covers basics like: researching and editing your story, creating and funding your film while somehow paying the rent, working with a writing partner, facing a blank page on a bad day, or risking a new direction after established success. Newcomers learn from veterans, and professionals trade war stories and get rejuvenated by fresh thinking. You’ll go from writing workshops led by your creative heroes during the day to late nights at the Driskill Bar where you’ll drink and eat side by side with those same panelists, the conversation practically uninterrupted.
Party Like It’s 1993!
It’s been a wild ride! Since 1993, AFF has been ahead of the game, presciently including television writers in the roster since day one, spotlighting pioneers and screenwriters, and building an idea-exchange refuge in a commercial industry. As writers and creators become more visible now, AFF – who supported them from the beginning – has the most loyal and generous panelist roster of any festival or conference.
When Executive Director Barbara Morgan co-founded AFF, uncertain the mission would catch fire, it was Frank Pierson who reassured her that Austin Film Festival was filling a crucial gap. Ever since, AFF has grown exponentially, continuing to serve and champion the screenwriter. Participants have included this era’s most important thinkers and artists, including Sydney Pollack, Joel and Ethan Coen, Horton Foote. Jr., Robert Altman David Simon, Steven Zaillian, Caroline Thompson, Lawrence Kasdan, Buck Henry, Robert Rodriguez, Ron Howard, John Lasseter, and David Chase.
Austin Film Festival & Conference is like its host city, with a kinetic culture, big heart and no pretensions. The week is packed full of BBQ-and-champagne parties and a deliberate lack of velvet rope. Panelists have called it a vacation for writers, a place to let loose and celebrate the imagination.
Born and raised for festivity, Austin is home to many huge cultural events. The city has the grand venues for premieres, intimate spaces for indie films, and ballrooms and backyards where you can drink margaritas and shoot the breeze with legends and rising stars and film lovers. This round-the-clock party inevitably leads to projects, alliances, and
possibilities. If you’re a writer, filmmaker, or fan, expect a transformative experience at Austin Film Festival & Conference.
It’s never too early to start planning. Visit our Travel & Lodging page to book your trip to Austin in October!
Ah, the best laid plans …
I was going to try and be very clever with this letter. I wanted to be impressive and sound worldly and slam other film festivals I’ve attended, making them all sound terrible. But they weren’t. Many of them were pretty nice. Some were not. One in particular was so terrible I vowed to never attend another festival after it and didn’t for many years.
But not Austin Film Festival.
To be honest, I find the term “film festival” to be an underachiever. Sure, films at AFF are shown in a festival-like manner, with independent and studio movies alike sharing the screen with short subjects, experimental films and documentaries. Which I guess makes the term “film festival” pretty accurate. Oh well, so much for that clever way into this letter.
Cripes, why did I agree to write this?
I’m pretty sure Terry Rossio was available.
Okay, bear with me. I have a point, I swear. The reason I don’t like calling Austin a “Film Festival” is because films are only a part of it. They’re an important part, granted, but even though there’s a lot to be learned from sitting and watching other people’s movies (and there’s probably the most to be learned by sitting and watching your own film with an audience – “Oh, god, why didn’t I cut when he got out of the car and not let him walk all the way across the lawn to the front door!”), there’s nothing more educational than the good ol’ act of talking to and interacting with other filmmakers. (Especially if you booze us up.)
Austin Film Festival gets it. They figured out 20 years ago that discussing writing with working writers and talking about directing with working directors and asking about production with real producers is as good as any film school. Reading books about these skills is fine but you can’t ask a book questions and you can’t have a dialogue with a book and you can’t tell a book you think it’s full of shit. I mean, I guess you can, but the people around you will just look at you weird and there’s always the threat of arrest. But to sit in a room with people who are making their livings doing what you hope to do one day is inspiring. It makes everything real. And it shows you it can be done, even if it’s occasionally through the realization of “Wow, if those idiots can make movies, I sure as hell can.”
Uh oh. Personal anecdote alert. Be warned.
When I was fresh out of film school and living in Los Angeles, I worked as a script reader for the producer Michael Phillips, who produced Taxi Driver and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. My job was to read about 15-20 scripts a week from the top writers in Hollywood. A lot of these scripts were terrible. A few were great. Many were just okay. But I learned from them all. And then I learned more when I would discuss these scripts with Michael and the other producers in his company to hear which ones they thought worked and which ones didn’t. I started to befriend people in the industry and would hang out in coffee shops with them, peppering them with questions and hearing their experiences and taking their advice. And by doing this, I learned more than I ever learned in film school.
So why do I bother you with this personal tale from a hundred years ago?
Because AFF is those coffee shops. It’s that job with Michael Phillips. It’s those late night cigarette and booze-fueled discussions, sometimes enlightening, sometimes insufferable, but seldom without worth. It’s high-level meetings you couldn’t normally get into. It’s show biz dinners you normally wouldn’t be invited to, and it’s Hollywood cocktail parties you might normally get thrown out of. (I still do but that may have something to do with gin martinis and cheap red wine.) AFF is there for you to use and abuse and squeeze the juice out of and learn from and engage with. It’s put together by people who love film, and peopled by professionals who are there because they want to tell you things. We enjoy it, those of us in the film industry who aren’t total assholes. You put up with our stories, the ones our spouses and families have forbidden us from telling anymore because they’ve heard them way too many times. You sit and indulge us and wait patiently for our one or two kernels of wisdom. And you make us feel great, even though we probably think we gave you more meaningful advice than we actually did. But we tried, and you took what you needed, and we all felt good enough to share a drink at the Driskill bar afterwards and trash the latest batch of Oscar contenders that we in the entertainment business resent every year even though we all wish we had made them.
No, friends, Austin Film Festival is the best, hands down. I’m honored to have shown films here, I’m honored to have spoken on its panels, and I’m honored to have let it put me up in the city’s finest hotels. The movie business is a collaboration, whether the auteurs among us want to admit it or not. And AFF realizes that. Which is why they bring us all together every year. To learn, to share, and to hopefully enjoy each other’s company.
Looking forward to seeing you all soon …
Paul Feig Director BRIDESMAIDS, THE HEAT, The Office, Arrested Development, Creator Freaks and Geeks
*Important: Badge holders and Film Pass holders MUST be in line no later than 25 minutes prior to scheduled start time. Priority admission is given to all Badge holders. Film Pass holders will be seated after all Badge holders have entered the theater. Once General Admission tickets have gone on sale, Badge holders and Film Pass holders will no longer have priority admittance. Neither Badge holders nor Film Pass holders are guaranteed a seat in a particular theater, only admission up to capacity. General Admission tickets will go on sale 25 minutes prior to each screening. Badge holders and Film Pass holders arriving AFTER the 25 minute mark must go to the back of the General Admission line. ALL theater seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. No one will be admitted to the theater 15 minutes after start time. Thank you for your cooperation. **All speakers and events are based on permitting schedules and subject to change and/or cancellation without notice. ***Special events may require purchase of a separate ticket for entry. If you have any questions about the Festival or your membership or badge purchases, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-310-3378. Austin Film Festival strives to be accessible to all patrons of the arts. While all of our Conference and Festival venues are wheelchair accessible, it is important to request accessible seating for a particular screening at least one day before the screening. As there are a limited number of available seats, waiting until walk-up or the day of the screening does not guarantee an accessible seat will be available. These requests can be made by calling Austin Film Festival at 1-800-310-FEST(3378). Sign language interpreters can be made available for the Conference. Interpreted panels are subject to the availability of an interpreter. Please call Austin Film Festival at 1-800-310-FEST(3378) to request.