03.07.14 | Nan Foley 2013′s Pitch Competition winner (and 2014 Second Rounder) Deborah Swisher during her winning pitch! How many times has someone asked, “What’s your story about?” While you verbally circle the globe and not yet into the second act, your listener has lost interest. Or, you use the abbreviated version, “It’s like The English Patient, but on Mars”. Your friend then replies with …
03.07.14 | Nan Foley
How many times has someone asked, “What’s your story about?” While you verbally circle the globe and not yet into the second act, your listener has lost interest. Or, you use the abbreviated version, “It’s like The English Patient, but on Mars”. Your friend then replies with a vague, “Cool.” Did he/she have a clue about your heroine’s objective or conflict? Did you interest them enough to ask how it turns out? Would you use either approach when pitching to an industry professional? If so, don’t hope they will ask to read your work.
You arrive at a Film Festival feeling confident. You’re pumped and ready to pitch your project to an industry pro. No one knows your story better than you and you’re convinced no one has a plot quite like yours. But, can you deliver the essence of your project in a 90 second pitch? Does it include what professionals look for? Going to the marketplace without a polished pitch will result in missed opportunities.
Austin Film Festival strives to give writers the skills to realize their goals. Eleven years ago, we began a Pitch Competition and it quickly became a Festival favorite, selling out every year. This success can be attributed to two factors- the caliber of industry judges and the need to hone this crucial skill.
Last year I heard many good pitches, but four of them have stayed with me. I was quickly absorbed in their stories, and, because of their ability to pitch them, I wasn’t distracted with questions on what was missing. Instead, I was engrossed as the visual rapidly unfolded in my mind. More importantly, I could also see that recognition in the judges. The clock no longer mattered, the judges were engaged with the writer and that’s when magic happened. The conversation changed.
Magnanimous with their experience, gracious with honest critique, our judges are sincere in their objective, our objective at AFF, to raise your pitch to the professional level. Ask yourself, how many chances would you have to practice your pitch to an industry professional that is on par with the decision makers that can determine your career?
Nerves are part of it, but when the key elements are there, believe in your story and yourself. Then practice as if your grandmother was listening.
The Pitch Competition sells out every year so don’t wait too long to buy your badge and pitch tickets.
See you in October!
-Nan Foley, Pitch Competition Coordinator
Staff Blog: Liz Mims on the AFF Dell Children’s Blood and Cancer Center Spring Break Claymation Camp
03.05.14 | Liz Mims As a relatively new staff member at Austin Film Festival, it wasn’t clear to me how important an AFF program could be until I visited Dell Children’s Blood and Cancer Center a couple of weeks ago to do a test run for our upcoming Spring Break Claymation Camp. While Executive Director Barbara Morgan has had a relationship with Dell’s Children Center …
03.05.14 | Liz Mims
As a relatively new staff member at Austin Film Festival, it wasn’t clear to me how important an AFF program could be until I visited Dell Children’s Blood and Cancer Center a couple of weeks ago to do a test run for our upcoming Spring Break Claymation Camp. While Executive Director Barbara Morgan has had a relationship with Dell’s Children Center for many years, the direct impact wasn’t clear to me until now. A young girl waiting for blood work results watched us as we set up our materials. We asked her if she wanted to work with us on a flip book and she eagerly agreed. Watching her eyes light up reminded me of the excitement I felt the first time I made a film. I showed her a finished flip book and explained how to make a character look like they are moving. I asked her what she wanted to draw. She started with an arrow. I recommended that it should hit something but what would that be? She decided on a heart and started quickly. We flipped through her first few drawings and the movement was already there. She jumped up and down to get her mom’s attention. She proudly flipped through her first animation. Her mother smiled and said, “Thank you guys for being here, you rock.” My thoughts were about how brave they were to be there, but we graciously accepted the praise.
I am thrilled Austin Film Festival has made this partnership such a huge priority for our community. As we gear up for participation in the Amplify Austin “I Live Here, I Give Here” campaign, I am reminded that support for these programs is crucial to kids who may not otherwise have a chance to express their creativity during such a difficult time.
During the Spring Break camp on-site at the CBCC, AFF will provide materials, equipment, resources and filmmakers to make this creative world accessible to the cancer patients. will be teaching a free mobile claymation workshop for patients in treatment at Dell’s Children Center. Filmmakers from Austin Film Festival will guide kids through creating their own stop motion characters and short films. Our goal is to bring these young minds to a different place of imagination and creation.
I am personally very thankful to be a part of this program and hope you will support us during Amplify Austin, March 20th – 21st!
02.26.14 | Barbara Morgan In the mid 80’s when I was living another life in Austin, I discovered Children’s Hospital. At that time, it was in Brackenridge Hospital on 15th and I-35. I wanted to volunteer for something in the community and I decided that would be a good place to start. As a volunteer I was assigned the day surgery area and scheduled to …
02.26.14 | Barbara Morgan
In the mid 80’s when I was living another life in Austin, I discovered Children’s Hospital. At that time, it was in Brackenridge Hospital on 15th and I-35. I wanted to volunteer for something in the community and I decided that would be a good place to start. As a volunteer I was assigned the day surgery area and scheduled to be there in the wee hours of the morning. In those days, it was way too easy to stay out past the witching hour at Antone’s or the Continental Club and my weekly volunteer stint was certainly helpful in the transition to a better time management skill set. Never a morning person, it was hard at the start to awake at such an early hour, but I loved the hospital staff and being able to comfort the children before and after they went in for surgery. Because of this, the grogginess wore off quickly. After a year, I became occupied with other endeavors and had to quit my volunteerism for a while. I spent a lot of years investing my energies on the Festival and my family, but I always thought about Children’s Hospital. One day, a dear friend, Mary Margaret Farabee, invited me to coffee to meet a friend of hers. It turned out to be Mary Frasher from Children’s Blood and Cancer Center at Dell Children’s Hospital In a recent staff meeting we had been talking about reaching out to Dell Children’s, it felt like kismet.
In 2007 Dell Children’s Medical Center opened its doors and we were honored to be able to sponsor the Teen infusion room in the Children’s Blood and Cancer Center. They sponsor a group called the Hungry Bunch, the members of which are children who have come through the clinic and are either in treatment or survivors. We went with them to camp over Labor Day in 2007 and 2008 and made films. One year America Ferrera and director Ryan Williams came with our Festival crew to participate in the filmmaking. It was a blast. The films we made were wonderful and the experience was thrilling and exhausting . What fun we had!
We continue to sponsor the Infusion Room and this spring break we will be hosting a claymation camp in the clinic. Our relationship with Children’s Blood and Cancer Center is an excellent opportunity to unite the film community with Austin’s healthcare network and facilitate a creative outlet to children who are enveloped in their treatment programs. We hope you will join us March 20th and 21st in donating to this incredibly worthy cause.
02.26.14 | Matt Dy A Look at the Oscar-Nominated Screenplays And the Oscar goes to… me? I guarantee there is not a single aspiring screenwriter who hasn’t fantasized at least once about winning an Academy Award. Don’t lie. You know you’ve secretly played out the scenario in the shower while clutching on to a shampoo bottle. It’s the pinnacle of achievement for any screenwriter …
02.26.14 | Matt Dy
A Look at the Oscar-Nominated Screenplays
And the Oscar goes to… me? I guarantee there is not a single aspiring screenwriter who hasn’t fantasized at least once about winning an Academy Award. Don’t lie. You know you’ve secretly played out the scenario in the shower while clutching on to a shampoo bottle. It’s the pinnacle of achievement for any screenwriter and who wouldn’t want that? It’s always fun to jump the gun and imagine what the end game is. When the Oscars are presented this Sunday, there will be many writers who will be vicariously living the experiences of the winners in the screenplay categories. While you may have seen all the films, you probably haven’t read all the scripts. For some inspiration for writing your next awards-worthy script, I’ve included the PDFs for all of this year’s screenplay nominees (sorry, no Captain Phillips or Blue Jasmine) and an analysis of what I think will win.
Best Original Screenplay
Blue Jasmine: Woody Allen
Predicted Winner: American Hustle
While Her embodies the most original script, American Hustle has the most overall support. Plus, David O. Russell will garner many votes from the largest branch in the Academy: the actors. This is the second year in a row that a David O. Russell film has received nominations in all four acting categories. Actors love a writer who can win them awards.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Captain Phillips: Billy Ray
Predicted Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Continuing a tradition of winners that previously screened at AFF, I fully expect 12 Years a Slave to win this hands down. The other nominees are worthy but no film in this category was as emotional and important as John Ridley’s adaptation.
We often look to the Oscars for setting the standard of what good screenwriting should be but it’s important to not be too distracted by that handsome, shiny golden guy. Focus on the story you absolutely have to tell. Follow your passion and in time you’ll reap awards in your own way. But yes, an Oscar would be nice.
And just because I’m obsessed with the Oscars, here are my full predictions in all 24 categories:
Best Picture: Gravity
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity
Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley – 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay: Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell – American Hustle
Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Best Costume Design: The Great Gatsby
Best Hair & Makeup: Dallas Buyers Club
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
Best Editing: Captain Phillips
Best Sound Mixing: Gravity
Best Sound Editing: Gravity
Best Original Score: Gravity
Best Original Song: “Let It Go” – Frozen
Best Animated Feature: Frozen
Best Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom
Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty
Best Live Action Short: The Voorman Problem
Best Animated Short: Room on the Broom
Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6
If you think you have what it takes to correctly predict the Oscar winners, take a chance on our Oscars Prediction Contest and you could win a Lone Star Badge to the 2014 Austin Film Festival! For more information, click here.
–Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director