8 days of panels and workshops.
8 nights of films and parties.

2014 Panels

Austin Film Festival’s Screenwriters Conference boasts over 175 panels, roundtables, pitch sessions, and workshops, covering every nook and cranny of the art, craft and business of storytelling through film, television, and online platforms. By making the pure art of storytelling its compass, AFF has kept a true path, serving as a creative greenhouse for conversations, ideas, and projects by this era’s greats screenwriters and filmmakers.  Industry icons, inventive executives, and indie breakouts will disclose seasoned tips and techniques in what Vince Gilligan coined “a haven for storytellers”, or what Jonathan Demme called “a sprawling but intimate movie party where writers are the honored guests and the magic of storytelling is the name of the game.”

A sampling of the panels already planned for the Conference…


On Story Conversations

These one-on-one panel discussions will cover their experiences in the industry and storytelling secrets, later to be featured as part of the On Story® Project.  You can say you saw it first! This year’s On Story conversations will feature luminaries such as:

  • Michelle Ashford
  • Cary Fukunaga
  • Susannah Grant
  • Lawrence Kasdan
  • Neil LaBute
  • John Patrick Shanley
  • Jim Sheridan
  • Randall Wallace
  • Matthew Weiner
  • and more!
Deconstructing Groundhog Day

Join Danny Rubin, co-writer of the beloved classic, Groundhog Day, for a panel deconstructing the screenplay.  Rubin will discuss how Groundhog Day has become a significant staple and reference for screenwriters in the comedy world, as well as utilizing specific examples from his experiences writing the film with the late Harold Ramis.

Full Theme Ahead

Screenplays must combine many disparate elements in order to tell one cohesive story. Premise, plot, character, dialogue, and structure are just a few. But there’s one element that can inform the rest and help screenwriters when they get stuck. Panelists will discuss considering your films from a thematic standpoint first and letting this subsequently define and tighten a story, while also resonating on multiple levels.

Getting Away With Murder

In a society where violence is increasingly intertwined into multiple forms of storytelling, writers should still take heed when employing it in their screenplay. There is a clear distinction between meaningless and meaningful brutality, and the attention to its impact on a story makes all the difference. Panelists will peacefully discuss using violence as a powerful tool to enhance conflict, raise the stakes, and drive the action forward – without mutilating the story.

Marketing Yourself and Your Script

The film industry is a tricky and fickle one, often based on first impressions and building relationships.  In this panel, writers will share everything from how to respond to script notes you totally disagree with, to being overlooked for a project, to what to expect from development meetings, and more.  Join us for a conversation on how to best market your script – and yourself as a writer – while successfully navigating your way through the ups and downs of the business.

Playwrights and Screenwriters

Though the differences between playwriting and screenwriting are vast, there are a number of dramatic elements and storytelling tools that lend themselves to both mediums. Hear from masters of both the stage and screen regarding how one can inform the other and, ultimately, help you improve your writing.

Revising Your Script on Set

The revision process happens at all stages of creation: from the second draft to the editing room.  Being true to your vision while also being creatively flexible along the way can be quite the balancing act – especially when asked to rewrite while in production. Whether it’s in compliance with budgetary restrictions, the director’s vision, actor’s requests, or simply for the sake of continuity, revising on set requires quick thinking, resourcefulness, and imagination.  Panelists who have mastered this skill will share their own tips on how to make prompt changes to your work without sacrificing your original intent.

Science Fiction vs. Science Fact

A lot of the allure of science fiction storytelling lies in the excitement of its outlandish worlds and imaginative circumstances. But there’s also a part where audiences can’t help but wonder: could this really happen? Between mass zombie outbreaks to intricate time travel to adventures through space, writers need to know where to pull from scientific fact, and where to bend the truth.  Join this discussion on balancing fiction with fact and what’s required for viewers to truly suspend their disbelief so that the appearance of truth is always at arm’s reach. After all, the science fiction of today could very well be the science fact of tomorrow.

Supporting Characters

Developing a cast of strong supporting characters should have a greater purpose than simply filling space on the page and the screen.  These characters should function in some way to – wait for it –support the narrative, whether they act as a sounding board, serve as a foil, or benchmark growth and change.  Hear from screenwriters who have conceived and constructed supporting characters who are memorable, essential, and purposeful to the story as a whole.

The Anatomy of the Writers' Room

The writers’ room can be a mysterious place for someone trying to break into television. It’s the place where good ideas, contentious debate, and an endless supply of snacks mix together to create all of your favorite TV shows. But how does it work? What’s the etiquette expected? What are some of the most common issues that occur? What’s the difference between a Writer’s Assistant and Staff Writer? Story Editor and Executive Story Editor? Different producing roles and the role of the Showrunner? Perhaps more importantly, how does one work their way up the chain of command? Panelists will provide a glimpse inside these closed doors, offering secrets, anecdotes, strategies, to-do’s and not-to-do’s.

The Ten Hour Movie

With the rise of binge watching and new media platforms, anthology series are at the helm of revolutionizing storytelling through television.  The strong embodiment of a three-act structure over the course of one-season narratives lends itself to new viewing patterns and the potential to attract high profile talent. Panelists hailing from such shows as Fargo and True Detective will discuss how to package an anthology that is not only compelling on a season-to-season basis, but also how to keep audiences engaged throughout the evolution of an entire series.

The Ticking Time Bomb

A ticking time bomb in your script – be it literal or figurative – can help elevate a story’s tension and momentum.  Used in all types of genres and mediums, this plot device raises the stakes by implementing time dependent crises. Panelists will only have 75 minutes to unlock the secrets of accentuating conflict, suspense and urgency in your screenplay.  Let the countdown begin!

Transitioning Between Film and Television

This panel will cover the demands and benefits of writing for both film and television, the differences between the two mediums, and how to navigate the transition from one to the other. Feature screenwriters and successful television writers will discuss the art, craft, and business of their diverse careers, with a specific focus on how they have been affected by the changing landscape of television.

All speakers and events are based on permitting schedules and subject to change and/or cancellation without notice.