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In Memoriam: Paul Mazursky

We were very saddened to lose industry great Paul Mazursky last week. Mazursky’s career spanned more than 50 years with over two hundred film credits. He was a five time Academy Award® Nominee including once for Best Picture in 1978 for his film, An Unmarried Woman, which he wrote and directed. We were fortunate to have him at the 7th annual Austin Film Festival and Conference in 2000 to …

We were very saddened to lose industry great Paul Mazursky last week. Mazursky’s career spanned more than 50 years with over two hundred film credits. He was a five time Academy Award® Nominee including once for Best Picture in 1978 for his film, An Unmarried Woman, which he wrote and directed. We were fortunate to have him at the 7th annual Austin Film Festival and Conference in 2000 to present him the Distinguished Screenwriter Award. That year he sat down with Steve Zaillian for a panel on the pleasures and perils of writing and directing. This week’s On Story podcast features audio from that panel.

Listen as Mazursky and Zaillian describe their respective writing processes, thoughts on structure, casting, and their experiences in the ever-changing landscape of Hollywood filmmaking.

To listen to this week’s On Story Podcast, visit our onstory.tv podcast page or subscribe on iTunes.

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AFF Guest Blog: When the Day Job is Making a Meatball Talk

Independent film makers still need to pay the bills. In Atlanta, I found a career editing for Turner Broadcasting and that lead to working in animation. Cartoon Network was one of the few places doing original production, and Adult Swim is where I edited for 12 years.

I’ve since edited for the biggest animation company in the world (Disney) and probably the smallest-budgeted animation for broadcast anywhere (Adult Swim). People want to know: What’s it like? That must be a lot of fun! Here’s my experiences with both.

Jay Wade Edwards | 07.02.2014

Jay Wade Edwards

Ideally we (indie film makers) would make our living on our film making.  When that doesn’t happen, what’s the day job? For me, it’s making a meatball talk.

I fell in love with editing in college and quickly decided that’s what I wanted to do for a living.  I started my career at Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta doing promos, commercials, and the occasional documentary.  Cartoon Network was one of the few places doing original production and I naturally gravitated toward that.  My first project was an episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast (Carrot Top was the guest).  That lead to working for Adult Swim, where I edited for 12 years.

I’ve since edited for the biggest animation company in the world (Disney) and probably the smallest-budgeted animation for broadcast anywhere (Adult Swim).  People often ask:  What’s it like?  That must be a lot of fun!  Here’s my experiences with both.

On Adult Swim animated shows (at least Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies, both done in Atlanta), the entire crew is maybe 10 people (compared to a Disney show were dozens of people are employed, just in the story board/background/art department):  Two writer/directors, two editors (working in Adobe Premiere), two or three After Effects (or Flash) animators, one character animator (for any new guest characters), one background artist, and one audio mixer.  That’s it.  Doing original production outside of Los Angeles or New York, we had to make-up our own production process that fit the small budgets of these shows.

The scrips for these adult swim shows are looser than most.  Not that they’re not well-written, they just leave plenty of room for the voice talent to play around with the lines.  And why not, when you have really talented voices?  A typical scene is often a Header (INT. House – Day) and then 3 pages of dialog, no action descriptions at all.  This is a challenge at times, but most of the crew has been on the show for many years, so everybody is on the same page with minimal explanations needed.  Also, Adult Swim shows tend to be dialog-driven, as opposed to kid shows that are more action-oriented and visually driven.

Voice talent for each character is recorded separately, supervised by the writer/directors.  Often the script is essentially re-written in the voice over session. Entire conversations are improvised.  The editors will get a dozen or so reads for every line in the episode.  Sometimes they match, sometimes they don’t.  It’s the editor’s job to sort through the chaos and put together a show that feels natural and delivers the jokes.

There are no director or storyboard artists on these Adult Swim shows.  The editor works in Premiere (formerly Final Cut Pro) using photoshop backgrounds (episodes tend to take place in the same environments) and QT movies of generic character animation to edit a rough cut of the  show.  The result is a fairly-detailed, moving storyboard.  Excepting for a new location or guest character, no new drawings are made for new episodes.  It’s all recycling.  For example, Master Shake has three eye positions (neutral, surprise, and angry) and two mouths (smile and frown).  Those six combinations are essentially the entirely of animation ever done for the character.  In 14 seasons on the air.  That’s a tribute to the quality of writing, voice acting and, ahem… editing.

Because the show is put together this way (and often the voices are done by the writer/producers), new jokes, new conversations, whole new scenes can be constructed fairly easily.  Once again, the show gets re-written, this time in the edit. Often re-written several times over.  In this process, the editor is a lynch-pin in how the story is told, another writer in the room.

Once the show is locked, a QT (and any new BGs, new character animations, etc) is send to the animation company, who builds the show in After Effects.  Explosions, bodily fluids, and lip sync are done at this stage.  Often new jokes are crafted here.  The rewriting never stops.  The best idea, the better joke, the weirdest gag, always wins.  Even into the audio mix, jokes are added, emphasized, or tweaked.

Each of these stages– the editing,  the animation/compositing, the sound mix– take a matter of weeks.  The crew is small, the budgets are small, so the schedule can be more fluid.  But when necessary, a show can go from recording to final mix in 6-8 weeks.

At Disney (at least in my experience at TV Animation on Gravity Falls and Wander Over Yonder), the process is very different.  Scripts tend to be very detailed, with action precisely spelled out.  These are kid shows to there’s considerably more action, chase scenes, and visual gags.

To illustrate the vast difference in production processes, on some shows at Disney, the voice actors are recorded and the selected takes chosen in the VO session.  The selected lines are given to the directors and storyboard artist for reference during the boarding process. The editor then will get only the one read for each line of dialog in the script.

Before the editor ever starts, the story is hammered out to an exacting place.  Hundreds (sometimes up to 2,000) storyboards are created for a quarter-hour show (with commercial breaks, opening and closing credits, the run-time is closer to 10 minutes).  The editor’s job in this scenario is more assembly, but no less labor intensive.  There’s less story-telling involved for the editor, all those decisions have already been made.

Editors that have worked in both live-action and animation often say that animation is much more difficult.  With live action, the sound is at least married to the picture.  If someone delivers a speech on screen, that’s one edit.  With animation there’s an edit with every emotion, every gesture, that has to be timed.  Also with animation, every sound — dialog, sound effects, ambiance, music– has to be selected and placed.  It can be a laborious process, especially with an action-oriented show.

The extensive storyboarding and animatic editing process still allows for tweaks and changes to be made, but much less so compared to the adult swim process.  Once this animatic is locked, it is sent to an animation company (usually overseas) where many, many hands go to work.  The entire process here takes 6 to 9 months, from head to tail.

Both styles of production make for detailed, exacting work that requires technical skill, but also the ability to step back and execute a joke so it lands properly. I contribute my success to watching many hours of classic TV (the Dick Van Dyke Show comes to mind).  I also think like a writer or a direction when I’m editing.  My indie film making experience is a big part of this.

 

Hear more from Jay Wade Edwards at the 2014 Austin Film Festival and Conference where he is a confirmed panelist speaker. Don’t have your badge yet? Click here for more information and to purchase.

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MATTHEW WEINER TO RECEIVE “OUTSTANDING TELEVISION WRITER” AWARD AT 2014 AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL & SCREENWRITERS CONFERENCE

Austin Film Festival (AFF), the premier film festival that recognizes the writers’ and filmmakers’ impact on film, television, and new media, is thrilled to announce accomplished creator, Executive Producer, writer and director of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, as the 2014 recipient of the “Outstanding Television Writer” Award. In addition to his television credits, Weiner has written and directed the feature film, Are You Here, which will be open in theaters later this summer. Starring Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler, the film is an unexpected story about friendship and the people who keep us afloat while facing the compromises of life. The film will open in theaters on Friday, August 22.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

MATTHEW WEINER TO RECEIVE “OUTSTANDING TELEVISION WRITER” AWARD AT 2014 AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL & SCREENWRITERS CONFERENCE

 

“The Writers Festival” announces Panelists for 21st Anniversary, featuring Neil LaBute, Terry George, Cary Fukunaga, William Broyles, Whit Stillman, Michelle Ashford, and more

 

AFF Film and Screenplay Competitions to include jurors hailing from AMC, Darkwoods Productions, The Black List, The Weinstein Company, FilmBuff, P.O.V., Sundance Institute, and Oscilloscope

Austin, TX – June 3, 2014 – Austin Film Festival (AFF), the premier film festival that recognizes the writers’ and filmmakers’ impact on film, television, and new media, is thrilled to announce accomplished creator, Executive Producer, writer and director of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, as the 2014 recipient of the “Outstanding Television Writer” Award.  In addition to his television credits, Weiner has written and directed the feature film, Are You Here, which will be open in theaters later this summer.  Starring Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler, the film is an unexpected story about friendship and the people who keep us afloat while facing the compromises of life.  The film will open in theaters on Friday, August 22.

Weiner has been nominated for a total of 11 Emmys for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.  He won the award for the series pilot, as well as for the Second Season episode, “Meditations in an Emergency,” with Kater Gordon, and for the Third Season episode, “Shut the Door. Have a Seat.” with Erin Levy.  Most recently, Weiner won the WGA Award for Best Episodic for the Season Five episode, “The Other Woman,” with Semi Chellas. He also received Directors Guild nominations for his efforts behind the camera on “Meditations in an Emergency” in Season Two and the Season Three finale, “Shut the Door. Have a Seat.”  Weiner’s additional credits include serving as an Executive Producer and writer on The Sopranos, and writer on various television comedy series including The Naked Truth, Becker, and Andy Richter Controls the Universe.

Austin Film Festival annually recognizes an Outstanding Television Writer for their collective body of work that has elevated and heavily contributed to the culture of television. Previous Award recipients include Vince Gilligan, David Simon, Chris Carter, David Milch, Mike Judge, Garry Shandling, David Chase, and Mitch Hurwitz, among others.

Weiner joins Distinguished Screenwriter honoree, Jim Sheridan, along with a strong roundup of Panelists confirmed to speak at the 21st annual Austin Film Festival & Screenwriters Conference such as Neil LaBute (writer/director The Shape of Things), Terry George (writer/director Hotel Rwanda), Whit Stillman (writer/director Metropolitan), Richard Kelly (writer/director Donnie Darko), Emma Tillinger Koskoff (President of Production at Sikelia Productions), Cary Fukunaga (director True Detective), screenwriters behind American Hustle, The Fault in Their Stars, Saving Mr. Banks, and the creators of Fargo, Masters of Sex, Halt and Catch Fire, TURN, and Better Call Saul.

Additional Conference participants will include select jurors hailing from AFF’s Film, Screenplay, and Teleplay Competitions. Jurors include representatives from Mad Men’s home network AMC, The Weinstein Company, Sundance Institute, FilmBuff, Oscilloscope, The Black List, Gravitas Ventures, POV, and Frank Darabont’s production company, Darkwoods Productions.

For a list of confirmed 2014 AFF Panelists, visit www.austinfilmfestval.com. Join them at the 21st Annual Austin Film Festival and Conference, taking place October 23rd through 30th, 2014. Badges and Passes are available for purchase online 24 hours a day at www.austinfilmfestival.com or at 1-800-310-FEST from 10am to 6pm CST.

 

ABOUT AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL:

Austin Film Festival is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the art, craft, and business of filmmakers and screenwriters and is funded and supported in part by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts, City of Austin Economic Growth & Redevelopment Services Office/Cultural Arts Division believing an investment in the Arts is an investment in Austin’s future.

Click here to purchase your badge to the 2014 Festival and Conference.

 

 

 

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AFF Guest Blog: Shane McCabe on How AFF Gave Him the Shot in The Arm He needed

In 2009 more people were shot, beaten or knifed to death in Guatemala City on a daily basis than in the entire Iraqi conflict. This seems a strange statistic on which to base a film script, but Rodrigo Rosenberg’s death in 2009 was not just another statistic when a DVD emerged at his funeral in which he laid the blame for his death squarely at the feet of the President, the President’s wife, and the Attorney General and sparked an international incident that changed the course of his country’s history forever. You see, not only had Rodrigo Rosenberg foretold his own murder he had actually put out a contract on his own life.

5.27.14 | Shane McCabe

In 2009 more people were shot, beaten or knifed to death in Guatemala City on a daily basis than in the entire Iraqi conflict.  This seems a strange statistic on which to base a film script, but Rodrigo Rosenberg’s death in 2009 was not just another statistic when a DVD emerged at his funeral in which he laid the blame for his death squarely at the feet of the President, the President’s wife, and the Attorney General and sparked an international incident that changed the course of his country’s history forever.  You see, not only had Rodrigo Rosenberg foretold his own murder he had actually put out a contract on his own life.

This seemingly insane action was the basis for our feature script, Red Tag, a real time psychological thriller about a decorated US Marine who is murdered in a Dublin warehouse and whose death creates an incident which strikes at the very heart of the military industry complex.  The script was a 2013 Austin Second Rounder and is now close to being green lit here in Ireland with me on board to direct and my co-writer, Jordan-Lee set to produce…

But let me back up a moment.  In 2010, before we had the idea for Red Tag, my script, Probable Cause was announced as an Austin Finalist in two categories and I took a long trip from Rathfarnham Village in Dublin Ireland, to Austin, Texas to be part of what I can only describe as one of the best experiences of my life.  I still count people I met in Austin over that six day period as really good friends.  Austin proved to be even more than I had anticipated.  Being a Finalist certainly opened doors and although I didn’t win, it was such a shot in the arm for me as a writer.  Meeting my heroes like Shane Black, Randall Wallace and David Peoples, (Twelve Monkeys is one of my all-time favourite movies), attending the various round tables and parties in a relaxed and chilled atmosphere just inspired me to continue in my craft.

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