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AFF 2014 Short Film Announcements

Are you keeping up with our Short Film Announcements on twitter? If not, be sure to follow us @austinfilmfest every Friday and Monday leading up to the Festival where we’ll announce short films playing this year’s Festival using the hashtags #FilmFridays and #MovieMondays. Here’s a roundup of what we’ve announced so far:

09.02.2014

Are you keeping up with our Short Film Announcements on twitter? If not, be sure to follow us @austinfilmfest every Friday and Monday leading up to the Festival where we’ll announce short films playing this year’s Festival using the hashtags #FilmFridays and #MovieMondays. Here’s a roundup of what we’ve announced so far:

1946
Writer/Director: Robert Ford

A Day in Eden (@ADayInEden)
Writer/Director: Assal Ghawami (@AssalG)
Website: adayineden.com
Trailer: A Day in Eden

A Late Man
Writer/Director: Fidel Ruiz-Healy

Bunion
Writer: Avi Rothman
Director: Jessica Sanders (@jessicafilm)
Website: facebook.com/bunionfilm
Trailer: Bunion

dawn.
Writer/Director: Ya’Ke Smith

Detour
Writer/Director: Michael Kam
Website: facebook.com/detour.sg
Trailer: Detour

Dishes
Director: Billy Kirland & Peter Rosemeyer (@RoselandTrio)
Writer: Peter Rosemeyer

Door God
Writer/Director: Yulin Liu

Eleven
Director: Abigail Greenwood
Writer: Kate Prior

Entrain
Writer: Adrien Benson (@entrainthemovie)

Fitted
Writer/Director: Auriel Rudnick (@aurielrudnick)
Trailer: Fitted

Full-Windsor
Writer/Director: Faraday Okoro
Website: facebook.com/full.windsor.film
Trailer: Full-Windsor

Green Thumb
Writer/Director: Phil Lorin & Kiel Murray

How I Didn’t Become A Piano Player (@PianoPlayerFilm)
Writer/Director: Tommaso Pitta (@tommipitta)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pianoplayerfilm
Trailer: How I Didn’t Become A Piano Player

I Don’t Care
Writer/Director: Carolina Giammetta (@carolinagiammet)
Website: facebook.com/idcfilm
Trailer: I Don’t Care

In The Clouds
Writer/Director: Marcelo Mitnik

Juan Y La Nube
Director: Giovanni Maccelli (@madridencorto)
Writer: Susana Lopez Rubio

La Carnada
Writer/Director: Josh Soskin (@josh_soskin)
Website: facebook.com/LaCarnadaShortFilm
Trailer: La Carnada

Lightning In The Hand
Director: Joey Grossfield
Writer: Andrew Reuland & Joey Grossfield

LUKE
Writer/Director: Conor Hamill

Mend and Make Do
Writer/Director: Bexie Bush (@bexie_bush)
Website: mendandmakedo.co.uk/
Trailer: Mend and Make Do

NENA
Writer/Director: Aluda Ruiz de Azúa (@offecam) 

Once Again
Writer/Director: John Moore (@jumpupfilms)
Website: facebook.com/onceagaindoc

One Afternoon in Summer
Writer/Director: Lilli Tautfest

Please Hand Stamp
Director: Jeff Jenkins
Writer: Lauren Pence & Jeff Jenkins
Website: Please Hand Stamp

Redaction
Writer/Director: Tim Sanger
Trailer: Redaction

Ruslan
Writer/Director: Taisia Deeva

Seventh Grade
Writer/Director: Stefani Saintonge (@steffi_says)
Website: Seventh Grade

Simon Says
Director: Jamie Sterba
Writer: Steve Storm

Siren
Writer/Director: Alex Clark

SKUNK
Writer/Director: Annie Silverstein

THE CHICKEN
Writer/Director: Una Gunjak (thechicken_film)

The Last Night
Writer/Director: David Strong (@craftincfilm)

The Last Resort
Director: Stephanie Blakey (@manifestephanie)
Writer: Gillian Park (@MsGillianPark)
Website: facebook.com/TheLastResortFilm
Trailer: The Last Resort

The Next Part
Director: Erin Sanger

The Polterman
Writer/Director: Shane Ware (@ShaneW21)

The Way of Tea (Les frémissements du thé)
Writer/Director: Marc Fouchard

This Is Normal (@ThisIsNormalMOV)
Writer/Director: Ryan Welsh (@RyanWelsh25) & Justin Giddings (@justingiddings)
Website: This Is Normal
Trailer: This Is Normal

This Way Up
Writer/Director: Jeremy Cloe

Are you as pumped as we are for these amazing films yet?! Stay in the know every Monday and Friday to see what other Short Films will be shown during this year’s Austin Film Festival by following @austinfilmfest on twitter! Each week this list will be updated on the AFF website as well as here on the blog. Start checking out those trailers and let us know which films you’re looking forward to with the hashtag #AFF2014!

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#AFF2014 Short Film Announcements, Back by Popular Demand!

We’re nearing September here at AFF and that means the craziest and most exciting time of the year is upon us! We’re finishing up programming what may be AFF’s strongest and most diverse film slate yet. We’ve discovered so many great films that we can’t wait to share with everyone, and we’re counting down the days until we can spread the big news. We’ve already offered a sneak peek into ten of the feature films that will be featured in this year’s program, and we have a lot more coming. We can’t wait until the 12th for the official announcement, so back by popular demand, we will be rolling out early announcements for our stellar shorts program on Twitter!

Harrison Glaser | 08.27.2014

We’re nearing September here at AFF and that means the craziest and most exciting time of the year is upon us! We’re finishing up programming what may be AFF’s strongest and most diverse film slate yet. We’ve discovered so many great films that we can’t wait to share with everyone, and we’re counting down the days until we can spread the big news. We’ve already offered a sneak peek into ten of the feature films that will be featured in this year’s program, and we have a lot more coming. We can’t wait until the 12th for the official announcement, so back by popular demand, we will be rolling out early announcements for our stellar shorts program on Twitter!

Every year, AFF’s Short Film program serves as the beating heart of the Festival, offering countless stories and eliciting every emotion on the spectrum from the audience. As a Festival rooted in the art and craft of storytelling, our selected short films represent the purest, most diverse and least filtered version of this art form. Clocking in at less than forty minutes, each short film uses the most of its limited runtime to tell a strong narrative and move the audience. It’s no small feat, and it’s something we at AFF like to celebrate.

Therefore, every Monday and Friday, starting this Friday, August 29, we will be announcing a handful of our confirmed short films through Twitter. Use this opportunity to begin your research and get a head start on planning your must-watch priority list. It’s going to be tough because (spoiler alert) they’re all fantastic, but you might as well prepare for that now. How do you get the news? Follow @austinfilmfest on twitter and look for the hashtags #MovieMonday and #FilmFriday, these hashtags will accompany our short film announcements!

So get ready! Make sure to follow us by Friday, August 29th and every following Monday and Friday, and keep on clicking that refresh button. Good news will be start popping up in no time. We’ll keep a running page on our website as well that will have all of the short films listed here. We can’t wait to share these films with you!

 

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AFF Alumni Roundup: The Emmys Edition

Congratulations to all of the 2014 Primetime Emmy Award winners! We are especially thrilled for all of the AFF alumni who were nominated for awards as well as those who won! Those who took home trophies Monday night include:

08.28.2014

Congratulations to all of the 2014 Primetime Emmy Award winners! We are especially thrilled for all of the AFF alumni who were nominated for awards as well as those who won! Those who took home trophies Monday night include:

Outstanding Drama Series: Breaking Bad created by AFF 2013 Outstanding Television Writer Award winner Vince Gilligan

Outstanding Director for a Drama Series: True Detective – Who Goes There – Directed by 2014 AFF Confirmed Panelist Cary Joji Fukunaga

Outstanding Miniseries: Fargo created by 2014 AFF Confirmed Panelist Noah Hawley

Outstanding Animated Program: Bob’s Burgers with AFF Alum Jim Dauterive as Executive Producer

See Emmy winners Noah Hawley and Cari Fukunaga at this year’s Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference! See the full list of panelists here.

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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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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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AFF Guestblog: Harrison Cummins and AFF’s Summer Film Camp

05.14.2014 | Harrison Cummins Our 2014 Events Coordinator Harrison Cummins has been with the Festival for a year now, beginning as an intern for the AFF Executive Department and working his way up to the AFF Events Coordinator. However, interning for our Executive Department was not Harrison’s first time being involved with the Festival. We discovered that Harrison had participated in AFF’s Summer Film Camp …

05.14.2014 | Harrison Cummins

Our 2014 Events Coordinator Harrison Cummins has been with the Festival for a year now, beginning as an intern for the AFF Executive Department and working his way up to the AFF Events Coordinator. However, interning for our Executive Department was not Harrison’s first time being involved with the Festival. We discovered that Harrison had participated in AFF’s Summer Film Camp when we was an aspiring young filmmaker in elementary school. We asked him to write about his experience and how it’s shaped his love for film:

At the early age of 8, I developed a taste for filmmaking. After 2nd grade, I signed up for an all-day Claymation class as part of the Austin Film Festival’s Summer Film Camp. Chicken Run was the newest animation film at the time and James and the Giant Peach was already an all-time favorite. Young and imaginable, I had feature length ideas before class even started and I was eager to create the next Wallace & Gromit. All of my classmates were equally excited about making a film together, I fondly remember working with a few interesting characters. Throughout the camp, I learned a valuable lesson in production in that it is hard to rush your creation. The full production of my idea didn’t fit the weeklong timeframe and I was pushed to creatively redefine my vision. I remember all of my classmates were in awe to learn how much time and effort went into a Claymation film. But inch by inch, my team and I were able to collaborate and develop a screenplay with a protagonist. Our film was named “Mr. Big Head”, written, directed, and edited equally amongst my team. At the end of the camp, I was proud of our project and of my team for the job well done. The Summer Film Camp was not only a tool to exercise my young talent but also feed my curiosity in the process.

If you or someone you know is interested in enrolling a budding young filmmaker in our Summer Film Camp, click here.

14camp comm 30sec from AFF on Vimeo.

 

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AFF Interview: Kevin Harrigan, writer, The Golden Scallop

05.07.2014 | Liz Mims For this week’s AFF Interview, our Senior Film Programmer, Liz Mims, posed a series of questions to Kevin Harrigan, the writer of the AFF 2013 Audience Award Winning Film The Golden Scallop! The Golden Scallop was a festival favorite in 2013 due to its Christopher Guest-ian wit and rhetoric. AFF is hosting an encore screening of The Golden Scallop Wednesday, May …

05.07.2014 | Liz Mims

For this week’s AFF Interview, our Senior Film Programmer, Liz Mims, posed a series of questions to Kevin Harrigan, the writer of the AFF 2013 Audience Award Winning Film The Golden Scallop! The Golden Scallop was a festival favorite in 2013 due to its Christopher Guest-ian wit and rhetoric. AFF is hosting an encore screening of The Golden Scallop Wednesday, May 14th as a part of our Audience Award Series at the Alamo Drafthouse Village! General Admission tickets are only $5 and can be purchased here. Join AFF and The Golden Scallop Producer Michael Boisvert for the screening!

The Golden Scallop Trailer from Grandview Productions on Vimeo.

Austin Film Festival: How did you manage to weave your stories together to make a cohesive film?

Kevin Harrigan: Initially the film was going to just follow around one restaurant (The Happy Hooker) and when I finished the first draft of the script we realized that we had less a comedy and more of a bad sports movie. No disrespect to bad sports movies (big shout out to Air Bud 2!) but that wasn’t my intent.  We decided to split the characters from the initial restaurant into three different places.  That really broadened the world and made it much easier to explore the weirder elements of the fried seafood industry.  From there it was creating a timeline of the events, so we started with the selection in into The Golden Scallop Championship, then dealing with the pressures of that go along with being invited to such a prestigious fictional tournament and then the actual championship itself.  The beauty of the mockumentary and really ensemble pieces in general  is that you get to just kind of drop in at random moments and give the audience a look into what the characters are up to.

AFF: Who are your influences/who do you look up to as a filmmaker?

KH: We’re really all over the place in terms of what we like, I’m a pretty big serialized television fan so of course you look at the David Chase and David Simon as these sort of writing demigods who are able to give so much life to so many characters.  In general I’m attracted to stories that don’t make judgments on the characters in them, people who are bad human beings are rarely aware that they are bad humans.  In fact, most people that do mean spirited or irresponsible things are doing them because of something that was pressed upon them.  Obviously Breaking Bad is amazing at this with Walt but what Vince Gilligan also manages to do is bring this incredible depth to ancillary characters that a lesser writer would make one dimensional and really just living conduits to moving the plot.

AFF: What sparked the first idea for this film?

KH: I personally have worked in the restaurant world on Cape Cod since I’ve been old enough to be employed. Joseph Laraja, the Director and Michael Boisvert, the Producer were also sweating away in the kitchen since they were 14 so it was a world we were really familiar with.  When we were 21, we had been making shorts and other stuff that wasn’t very good, with each other for a few years and that summer we were all employed by the same wonderful place, The Friendly Fisherman.  Remarkably, it is still in business.  We started talking a lot about how weird people were about their fried food, that the establishments were more like sports teams, it was tribal.  If you went to one, you couldn’t frequent another one because it was seen as being disloyal which was bizarre but one of those things that you never think of being strange because you’re living it.  Which is a really good place to set a comedy because the funniest situations are usually the ones that people take the most seriously.  After we made a few more shorts and started getting a bit better and more experienced we decided that we wanted to make a feature.  We had a couple other things that I had written but they were a bit more ambitious in terms of money so we started hashing out how we would do a movie about the Cape Cod food industry.  We had all the advantages to making it, my father is a CPA, Joe’s dad a lawyer and Mike’s dad owns a bait and tackle shop so between the three of them we could get about any location and we could house most of the cast and crew on sweetheart deals from local homeowners.  So the idea was born out of this pragmatism and appreciation for a world that we knew.  In retrospect it was an especially good call because we did the whole project on our own, meaning that we had no idea the scope of making something like this.  Had we not been on our home turf with a subject matter that we were really familiar with we would have been in some big trouble.

AFF: How much did the Golden Scallop change from script to screen?

KH: The most frustrating thing about screenwriting  as I was starting out was that the great idea I had in my head lost so much by the time its put on paper and then even more as it goes to production then more in the editing room.  I fortunately have this tremendous opportunity where I was able to write so many things and have them made by the same core team holding the same exact roles.  That allowed us to grow together, specialize in what we do and start to make stuff that we actually liked.  The Golden Scallop was the first project that I ever wrote where the script was better than the initial idea, what was even cooler was that Mike has turned into the type of producer where he just finds a way to get whatever we need and in the rare instance he can’t, he figures out a solution that’s better than what we initially wanted. Also, Joseph has become such a great director and editor that I knew they would be able to make it better than what was on the pages.  The real unknown for us was the acting,  on one hand it was wonderful because we finally had enough money to actually pay actors, on the other hand we had never had the money before and didn’t know anything about casting. In fact at the time we really had no idea what the purpose of a Casting Director was and so we decided to do it on our own.  It was an incredibly exhaustive process, we combed through about 10,000 online submissions, called almost every agency and management company in LA and New York, got a bunch of no’s but we’re good with rejection so that wasn’t an issue.  We whittled it down to about 140 people and rented space in New York and Los Angeles and held castings.  That was when things started getting really exciting because we were all like, “Man, these guys are good.”  Our Co-Producer and one of the lead actors, Joshua Koopman, was integral in this process because many of the people that wound up being in the cast were people that he had pre existing relationships with.  We realized that a couple of the actors that were auditioning for the same parts were too good to not use so we rewrote the script to accommodate the best available talent to us. Then we got lucky with one of the management companies and were able to get James Cosmo to sign on to play the Judge, which for a bunch of 25 year old guys that have watched Braveheart 100 times, an amazing surreal experience.  When we finally got to set and started filming we were all blown away by the talent that we surrounded ourselves with.  Our Camera team (Urban Mouse Productions) were just amazing, we never thought we would be able to have something look that good for the amount of money we had.  The actors were so diligent and prepared for the project that they all brought their own strengths to the characters.  Joseph did a really phenomenal job of connecting with them beforehand and forging a relationship before they stepped on set which is so important in creating a working environment where they feel comfortable being vulnerable and weird in front of strangers.  Some of the actors were more comfortable doing improvisation then others, George Kareman and David Neal Levin are both really accomplished improvisers so we turned them loose whenever we could.  Joseph would always get a few takes all on book and then we’d mess around a bit more and try to come up with some good stuff.  As long as the actors had a strong sense of character and the plot of the film we would encourage them to do whatever they thought best.  So to provide some last second brevity to this rambling answer, the film changed a bunch and it was certainly for the better.

AFF: What are you working on now?

KH: Currently we’re working on making our second feature film, “The Working World”.  It’s a comedy about the working in the afterlife and how it intersects with the living.  Richard has been working as a semi-omniscient narrator for the living for almost 200 years and believes that by telling the most exciting story he can finally move on to the next world.  Unfortunately for Richard his story is Derek, a very nice but very boring 28 year old who works in the not so exciting world of setting up book tours.  Just when Richard has resigned himself to at least another life time of monotony, Richard takes matters into his own hands, thrusting Derek into an adventure that could land him his dream girl, his ideal job and in the process, uncover the greatest plagiarism scandal the world has ever seen if he can survive his own story.  We’re in the casting process now and this time,  we hired a very good Casting Director, JC Cantu.  So we’re in the process of attaching names and financing the film with the hope to film in fall of 2014.  We actually shot a concept teaser for The Working World (which you can watch here)  Big thanks to the staff of Austin Film Festival for the opportunity to talk about all this stuff and for promoting all the quality independent film that is out there these days.

Join us for the encore screening of The Golden Scallop Wednesday, May 14th at 7:00pm. Get your tickets here!

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Guest Blog: Blood Punch Writer and Co-Executive Producer Eddie Guzelian

04.30.14 | Eddie Guzelia This week’s AFF Guestblog comes from the writer and co-executive producer of 2013 Dark Matters Audience Award winner Blood Punch, Eddie Guzelian! Blood Punch was a hit with AFF audiences in 2013 and we asked Guzelian to chronicle his Festival experiences and why he loves competition categories such as AFF’s “Dark Matters” Category. Do you have a film to submit to …

04.30.14 | Eddie Guzelia

This week’s AFF Guestblog comes from the writer and co-executive producer of 2013 Dark Matters Audience Award winner Blood Punch, Eddie Guzelian! Blood Punch was a hit with AFF audiences in 2013 and we asked Guzelian to chronicle his Festival experiences and why he loves competition categories such as AFF’s “Dark Matters” Category. Do you have a film to submit to our film competition? The first deadline for submissions is April 30th, 2014 with the final film deadline being July 15th, 2014. Click here for more information and to submit your film!

Last October, the Austin Film Festival hosted the world premiere of our low-budget horror feature, BLOOD PUNCH, as an official selection in the festival’s ‘Dark Matters’ lineup.  It was the first time we screened the movie for an audience and the place was packed.  It was literally standing room only–with people lining the aisles and stacked up against the back wall of the theater.  I had long ago given up my own seat.  As the lights dimmed, I was sweating bullets and pacing over the little floor space that was left.

For myself and the rest of the movie’s principal cast and crew, the stakes and the tension felt sky-high.  We had all devoted years of our lives to making BLOOD PUNCH–and now, for the first time, we were about to watch the end result of all of our hopes, dreams, and hard work get put to the final test in front of a rowdy crowd.

About ten minutes into the movie, I stumbled out towards the lobby, my head spinning.  A passing usher smiled.  Having no idea I was connected to the movie playing inside, he nodded back towards the theater—“So how’s the movie?  Scary stuff?” I stared back, swallowing hard. “Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but let me tell you–I’m definitely shitting my pants right now.”

Fortunately for us, that night’s screening ended with lots of cheering and applause.  In fact, our entire experience with the Austin Film Festival, from start to finish, was pretty much a dream come true.

BLOOD PUNCH went on to win the Audience Award in the festival’s ‘Dark Matters’ section.  And just in case we weren’t already feeling humbled and honored enough, AFF generously invited us to return this year for a special encore screening of the movie as part of its Audience Award Series, again as a representative of the festival’s ‘Dark Matters’ category.

It’s no accident that I keep mentioning ‘Dark Matters’ when I talk about the amazing experience we had screening BLOOD PUNCH at Austin.  Not only am I incredibly grateful that the Austin Film Festival features and celebrates this category as a major part of their programming schedule, I’m actually especially proud that BLOOD PUNCH was specifically selected to screen in the festival as a ‘Dark Matters’ film.

Now I know what some of you are thinking—“Well, sure—those kind of horror/sci-fi/genre movies that are selected and shown in festival sections like ‘Dark Matters’—I mean, they’re a lot of fun and everything—but they’re there more as guilty pleasures, right?  I mean, no one takes them seriously as films—or as art, right?” You’re thinking—“Come on, be honest now–generally speaking, those movies do not receive the same amount of creative and artistic respect as other film festival movies, do they?”

The answer is no.  Generally speaking, they do not.  And generally speaking, I don’t give a fuck.

Film festival categories like ‘Dark Matters’ and the movies that play in them are all kinds of awesome anyway.  And just off the top of my head, here are three quick reasons why—

1.  Categories like ‘Dark Matters’ aren’t just a genre in a festival.  They’re actually a secret code between film festival programmers and filmmakers.

This is how the Austin Film Festival’s website describes the criteria for movies eligible for their ‘Dark Matters’ category–“Films should be easily identified as belonging to the horror genre or a particularly dark suspense, thriller or sci-fi film.”  O.k.  I think I see what they mean–but how dark is “particularly dark”?  And does this apply to all sci-fi movies or just “particularly dark” ones?

The Toronto International Film Festival describes its’ ‘Midnight Madness’ section as—“The wild side: midnight screenings of the best in action, horror, shock and fantasy cinema.” Right.  I get it.  But that’s pretty vague, too, isn’t it?  And why do they use the term “best” here?  Are they not showing the “best” in the festival’s other categories?  That’s kind of weird…

And here’s how the Sundance Film Festival describes its’ ‘Park City At Midnight” selections—“From horror flicks to comedies to works that defy any genre, these unruly films will keep you edge-seated and wide awake.” Wait a second—“comedies”? “Works that defy any genre”?  And what’s that part about keeping you “wide awake”?  Jesus, now I am confused.

Like I said before—it’s all just part of a secret code.  The actual wording for describing the categories in each of these festivals may be different, but they are all saying exactly the same thing.  If you’re someone who is passionate about making certain kinds of movies, you can see it as plain as day.  Here is a translation, totally decoded, of what each and every one of these film festival category descriptions is REALLY saying—

“LISTEN UP, PEOPLE!  WE WANT THE KIND OF MOVIES THAT TRADITIONALLY GET NO CREATIVE OR ARTISTIC RESPECT FROM THE CONVENTIONAL FILM ESTABLISHMENT, BUT WE REALLY DIG THEM!  AND WE SECRETLY KNOW THAT THEY ACTUALLY HAVE PLENTY OF ARTISTIC MERIT–WE JUST CAN’T COME OUT AND SAY SO (THAT’S WHY WE’RE TALKING TO YOU IN THIS SECRET CODE)!”

I’m actually not joking here.  This is exactly what all of these film festivals are saying when they’re describing those genre categories.  And you know what?  It’s a fucking beautiful thing.  Because it means that the people who are running and programming these festivals genuinely love movies of all kinds.  They care enough to establish these specific categories as “back doors”–a way to sneak brilliant movies into their festivals that normally might be considered too weird or lowbrow or “out there” and give them a chance to be seen and recognized by an audience.

2.  Film festival screeners, programmers, and volunteers love these categories and love these kinds of movies.

The traditional film establishment and conventional ways of thinking may not give these kind of genre movies much creative respect, but film festival people—the ones who actually program and run the festivals—are psyched for these movies.

When we brought BLOOD PUNCH to Austin, we were enthusiastically welcomed with open arms by everyone involved with the festival.  Far from feeling like we were overlooked or unappreciated for being a ‘Dark Matters’ movie, I got the impression that the people working at the festival were genuinely excited and appreciated both us and our low-budget horror movie.

3.   A lot of the most interesting, innovative, ambitious, and ground-breaking filmmaking, particularly low-budget, is happening in movies that would qualify as ‘Dark Matters’ selections.

Maybe one day these movies will get the kind of creative and artistic recognition they deserve.  Or maybe they won’t.  Who gives a fuck?  One of the best things about these movies and the people who make them is that they don’t really seem too concerned with being recognized by the traditional film establishment.  They’re too busy kicking ass and blowing people’s minds.

My hope is to continue in that tradition.
Eddie Guzelian

 

 

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AFF Interview: John Sheehan, Writer/Director For Serious

In anticipation of next week’s Austin Premieres screening of For Serious, we sat down with Writer/Director John Sheehan to get a sneak peek of the film. Join us Wednesday, April 30th for the Austin Premiere at the Galaxy Highland theatre at 7:00pm. Click here for tickets.

04.23.2014 | Harrison Glaser

In anticipation of next week’s Austin Premieres screening of For Serious, we sat down with Writer/Director John Sheehan to get a sneak peek of the film. Join us Wednesday, April 30th for the Austin Premiere at the Galaxy Highland theatre at 7:00pm. Click here for tickets.

AFF: What are some advantages of shooting a film in a place like Austin?

John Sheehan: The biggest resource would be the local film community.  As a first-time filmmaker, I had many questions and little practical knowledge when I began.  Through the various existing organizations, I met so many people who were friendly, knowledgeable, and extremely giving.  Without the advice, insight, and support of various other filmmakers who’d been through it before, the movie simply would not have happened.

AFF: In building your crew, how much did you pull from the local Austin film community?

JS: Our crew was entirely from the Austin community.  I met fellow producer/assistant director Zack Parker in improv classes at Coldtowne Theater (sidebar – Austin’s standup/improv community is another extraordinary resource for filmmakers).  Zack in turn brought in our DP, Robert Calder, with whom he had worked on another film project.  I met our sound guy Ryan Mozek through the Austin Film Meet Up organization.  Other members of the crew I met through the filmmaker collaborative Arts + Labor or through referrals from other filmmaker friends.

AFF: How did you balance your vision with your budget? Did you write the film around resources you knew you had access to?

JS: The film, which plays with the ideas of no-budget filmmaking, was always intended to be made for very little money.  As much as possible, I wrote the script around locations and things that I knew I would have access to.  In those rare instances where I didn’t, those ideas usually ended up not being filmed (i.e., a fire-dancing sequence, which would have been visually stunning if we could have found a fire dancer).  In retropsect, there were ways the script could have been tweaked to better accomodate our budget (i.e. cut down locations).

AFF:  What’s the most important lesson about low-budget independent filmmaking that you learned from this experience?

JS: Film is an intensely collaborative medium.  When you’re working in the realm of no- to low-budget, most people are either not getting paid, or paid very little.  Accordingly, people show up because they are personally invested and passionate about the project.  That should be valued and respected at all times.

AFF: What part of For Serious are you most proud of?

JS: I would say the performances.  Our actors took the words on the page and brought wrinkles and shades to the characters that I didn’t necessarily see while writing them.  I felt very fortunate to get such a good cast of mostly Austin-based actors.

AFF:  Who do you look to for filmmaking inspiration?

JS: A wide variety of sources. For this movie’s tone, Office Space and Bottle Rocket were big inspirations, while its subject matter plays off some of the mumblecore films of the mid-to-late ’00s.  Oddly, in preparing to make the movie, I was greatly inspired by two documentaries on the Z-grade filmmakers Ray Dennis Steckler and Don Dohler.  I would not describe myself as a fan of either of their works, but I admired their unflagging passion to make movies, despite all evidence suggesting they should probably not be making movies.

AFF: What are you working on now?

JS: I shifted gears pretty dramatically and wrote a big budget sci-fi movie, “Detroit Nuke City.” Not sure how we can film that. I’m hoping to get back into the saddle with a short film soon.  In the meantime, I’m focusing on family a bit as my wife and I recently had our first child.

Join us Wednesday April 30th for this special screening of For Serious! Click here to get your tickets.

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Guest Blog: Brian Jun – How AFF Started my Career and Why I’m Struggling to Keep it Going

“Your life will never be the same,” were the words I heard when my film Steel City premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. The exact time and place evade me at this moment, but I will never forget the series of events before and after that experience.

The script for Steel City was a Finalist at Austin Film Festival’s Screenplay Competition. It was the first time my writing was recognized in any fashion, and the first film festival that included my work, albeit a screenplay. It was a badge of validation that I wore proudly, and always mentioned the honor during the two year struggle to get the film financed. Steel City would go on to screen at AFF in 2006, and my career was suddenly started.

04.16.14 | Brian Jun

In preparation for our first deadline for the screenplay and film competitions we reached out to past entrants to find out how AFF has impacted their writing careers. This week Brian Jun, a former AFF Screenplay Finalist and  Filmmaker tells us of his trajectory through submitting and attending AFF as a writer and filmmaker, and what he’s up to now. Ready to submit your film or script? Submit before April 30th, 2014 and take advantage of our early bird pricing. Click here for more information.

“Your life will never be the same,” were the words I heard when my film Steel City premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.  The exact time and place evade me at this moment, but I will never forget the series of events before and after that experience.

The script for Steel City was a Finalist at Austin Film Festival’s Screenplay Competition.  It was the first time my writing was recognized in any fashion, and the first film festival that included my work, albeit a screenplay.  It was a badge of validation that I wore proudly, and always mentioned the honor during the two year struggle to get the film financed.  Steel City would go on to screen at AFF in 2006, and my career was suddenly started.

I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, just outside St. Louis.  I was a regular kid – played sports, navigated through the woods, snuck out as a teenager, and had crushes on girls that would never give me a second look.  However, something changed when I began to realize that I had an intuition and desire to communicate ideas.  I began reading plays and became interested in acting to escape the inadequacy I felt as an adolescent.  My regime was to study as many playwrights, filmmakers and painters I could get my hands on.  It became very evident that filmmaking entered my life with a vengeance.

After my early success with Steel City, I went onto field numerous opportunities; most of them were mishandled due to my inexperience, others due to not having the proper support system in the industry.  Whatever the reason, opportunities began slipping away.  I still managed to find work, doing a few gigs for hire – my second feature The Coverup premiered at AFF in 2008 – and I found other various writing assignments.  However, I struggled to hold onto my identity as a filmmaker, sold a script that never got made, and reverted back to working odd jobs to pay the rent.  I began to see many of my filmmaking peers achieve great things, get studio opportunities and all of a sudden, I wasn’t invited to the party.  I was the kid from the Midwest who made Steel City, yet failed to live up to his potential.

Even though my career slowed down, I continued to grow as a filmmaker, but more importantly, I grew as a person and really learned what perseverance is all about.  I promised myself that every day I would do something positive towards my career, or helping others with their career.  There is a notion that we all can do it on our own, and I am here to say, we all need help.  We all need a boost from time to time, and ‘what comes around goes around.’

When one dedicates their life to a particular profession they become involved in a community of like-minded individuals that can identify with their struggle and success.  Film Festivals around the world foster this in the most altruistic fashion by showcasing and supporting independent films, great performances, and daring, bold new artists.  AFF has been vital to my early development as a filmmaker, simply because somebody took the time to read a script.

The main dilemma that many filmmakers face is visibility.  Making a film used to be a privilege before it became so ‘en vogue.’  Film cameras and film stock were an essential and expensive endeavor and took a great deal of discipline.  The digital revolution has changed the way we make and watch movies.  This enables so many more people to express themselves visually which is fantastic.  The other side to this equation is exactly that – so many films are getting made, the divide between commercial studio fare and micro-budget features continues to grow.  So, how does one gain visibility in a vast sea of content?

I have made four feature films and have been blessed to work with many great actors; many newcomers and many veterans.  I have made the most of the opportunities I could grasp and have been grateful for every one of them.  I consider myself one of the lucky ones.  I consider every ounce of my success earned; I also earned all my failures, which is a strange thing to say.  Opportunities, success and failure is very elusive in this industry.  Ask those at the “top” why they are successful; it’s usually due to a mixture of work ethic and a defined break or opportunity, or being in the right place at the right time.  They’ve also endured a lot of failure.

To conclude, did my life really change after my early success?  My life is my life.  It’s unique to me and nobody else.  With the current climate of independent film, I have gone to Indiegogo to fund my next project – a low budget feature called In The Buck.  Despite the struggles and financial hardships I’ve endured, I continue to surround myself with other passionate people, and I’ve never felt more excited about what my future holds.  However, I still need help – and for those that support indie film to support me with my next endeavor.  And if Hollywood ever comes calling, I won’t be difficult to find.

Brian Jun
Brianjunco@hotmail.com

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7 Reasons to Submit Your Film to AFF

To complement last week’s blog post from Chris Lowell and Mo Narag and their seven lessons for up-and-coming filmmakers, the film department has assembled an additional seven reasons to submit your film to this year’s competition. Creative Director, Erin Hallagan, Senior Programmer, Liz Mims, and Film Program Coordinator, Harrison Glaser, share just some of what makes AFF a unique and valuable experience for any filmmaker. Be sure to submit during this Early Bird period before entry fees go up on May 1st!

04.16.14 | Liz, Erin, Harrison

To complement last week’s blog post from Chris Lowell and Mo Narag and their seven lessons for up-and-coming filmmakers, the film department has assembled an additional seven reasons to submit your film to this year’s competition.  Creative Director, Erin Hallagan, Senior Programmer, Liz Mims, and Film Program Coordinator, Harrison Glaser, share just some of what makes AFF a unique and valuable experience for any filmmaker.  Be sure to submit during this Early Bird period before entry fees go up on May 1st

 

1.  A Modest Entry Fee Packed with Worth.

Yes, an entry fee is required to submit your film, but it’s worth it. But don’t just take it from us. This year Moviemaker Magazine named us one of the Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee. Not only that, but until May 1, you can  submit your film for our Early Bird price—just $50.  And then you can take an EXTRA five dollars off of that by submitting directly through our website. We hope you can find it in your budget to share your film with us.

 

2. Sweet, Southern Hospitality.

One of the most imaginative and fresh-thinking cities in the United States, Austin has a booming film community whose energy infuses AFF.  Perhaps one of the only cities where you can eat authentic BBQ, go to chicken shit bingo and try vegan ice cream in the same night, it is rich with culture and renowned for its hospitality. Austin is also the live music capital of the world, so in-between events and films you can catch great music any night of the week. Jump into Barton Springs to experience the cheapest thrill in town or howl at the moon with night swimmers. The fun and lively spirit of Austin is something that everyone should experience. If you submit, you might have a darn good reason to visit.

As a filmmaker you would join the ranks of the close knit family that is Austin Film Festival. While some festivals have VIP parties, green rooms, and exclusive events, we consider all guests worthy of having a great time.

 

3. I get to screen my film where???

The Festival & Conference takes place downtown in grand historic buildings and hip new spaces, and the city’s personality enhances AFF. If your film is selected into our program, don’t expect it to screen in an impromptu convention center room. Just like our city and our Festival, our theaters are weird, awesome, and majestic. Your film could screen at the famous Paramount Theatre, a gorgeous venue built in 1915, complete with box seats and ceiling murals.  You can almost taste the history. Or maybe your film will screen at the world renowned Alamo Drafthouse, a pride and joy of Austinites and movie-lovers alike. We can guarantee that your screening will be even more fun when everyone in the audience is enjoying a cold beer. And don’t forget our IMAX theater. Can you imagine your film playing in high definition on a 62 foot tall screen? It’s a sight to behold, we assure you.

No matter where your film plays at our Festival, we try to make sure the location is just as memorable as the experience.

 

4. We treat every film like an event

This year, the creative programming from both the Conference and Film Departments has been combined in hopes to produce an even stronger platform for great storytelling.  The inviting, inspirational, and organic atmosphere of the Screenwriters Conference will continue to be implemented in the post-screening Q&A’s, with carefully selected moderators that share our passion for the stories behind the stories.  Each film is treated like an event at Austin Film Festival, and the opportunity to explore the filmmakers journey a staple to the Festival experience.

 

5. Panels, Parties, and Unrivaled Industry Networking

The Screenwriters Conference is truly one-of-a-kind.  Because AFF is so interactive, the incoming screenwriters and filmmakers are not just names on a list but artists you get to know during the week. From a script-revising workshop in the morning to an industry-packed BBQ Supper party in the evening, this Festival is designed for contact, for catalyzing ideas, and collaboration.  AFF is continuing the highly-popular guest-programmed Retrospectives Screenings, like 2013’s screenings of The French Connection presented by Vince Gilligan, or My Man Godfrey presented by Shane Black.  There will be more independent filmmaking panels, featuring filmmakers from this year’s competition dissecting their own learned experiences on and off set – including everything from assembling your crew to navigating the Festival circuit.  Sit down to have your indie film questions answered, and then see films helmed by the very panelists later that day.

Parties are a cornerstone to Austin Film Festival & Conference, from the Late Night Welcome Party to the Hair of the Dog Brunch and the Film Texas BBQ Supper. These laidback yet boisterous get-togethers allow newcomers, veterans, film lovers and icons to talk shop over brisket and margaritas. Think of these festivities as an antidote to the high walls and velvet ropes of Hollywood.

 

6. When you win here, you really win

Our competition is about much more than the cash prize.  Not only do you get our unique and beautiful bronze typewriter statue—five pounds of prestige you can hold in your hands—but you also get to win it alongside some legendary and influential figures in film and television as part of our annual Awards Luncheon ceremony. Last year, our winning filmmakers received their awards next to Jonathan Demme, Vince Gilligan, Callie Khouri and Susan Sarandon. Expect more of the same this year.

In case that’s not enough, also keep in mind that the Jury Award winners of our Narrative, Documentary and Animated Short categories officially qualify for an Academy Award. In 2012 our awards sent Timothy Reckart, Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, Bryan Buckley and Mina Jarjoura to the Oscars when their films Head over Heels and Asad were nominated. And in 2011 our Animated Short Jury Award winner The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore actually won the Oscar.

With big name Jurors attached to the competition, your films are given the attention, consideration, and deliberation they deserve.

Big things happen when you win our bronze typewriter, but if you want to win, you have to submit first!

 

7. Life after Austin Film Festival

We work actively to stay in constant touch with our alumni.  It is our goal not only to support their film, but also their place as a filmmaker in the industry.

Every year, the number and caliber of film submissions rises, pushing AFF further into the center of the ring for film festivals. Our 2013 festival featured 28 world premieres and several US premieres, and included narrative, documentary, and animated films, running the spectrum from low-budget stunners to Hollywood breakouts.  Five of our features were picked up for distribution during the week of the festival and many others have been picked up since.

And again, the Jury Award winners for Narrative Shorts, Animated Shorts and Documentary Shorts are eligible to be nominated for an Academy Award®.  Additionally, short films have the opportunity to be included in our television show, On Story, a half-hour PBS-affiliated series that features a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of the most beloved movies and television shows, comprised of past AFF panels and screenings coupled with a short film that screened during the Festival.

So what are you waiting for?  Submit today before the prices go up on May 1st!

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AFF Interview: Screenplay Alumni Andrew Lanham and Troy Miller

04.09.14 | Matt Dy AFF is coming to LA this Saturday, April 12th to join forces with The Writers Guild Foundation on From First Draft To Feature, a full day of panels and workshops dedicated to taking your script and turning it into a finished product. In anticipation of the event, we interviewed two of the panelists that will be included in our Final Draft …

04.09.14 | Matt Dy

AFF is coming to LA this Saturday, April 12th to join forces with The Writers Guild Foundation on From First Draft To Feature, a full day of panels and workshops dedicated to taking your script and turning it into a finished product. In anticipation of the event, we interviewed two of the panelists that will be included in our Final Draft to Competitions panel discussion.  The two writers included in the interview are AFF alums Andrew Lanham, 2010 AFF Drama Screenplay Winner and 2010 Nicholl Fellow, and Troy Miller, 2013 AFF Horror Screenplay Winner. Do you have a screenplay or teleplay you are looking to submit in the 2014 Competition? What are you waiting for? Submit your script here. Not ready to submit your script yet? Get notes and advice from our Coverage Program.

AFF: What is your writing process?

ANDREW: I write long hand, starting early in the morning. I type up and revise heading into the afternoon. The long hand is the most important part for me. It makes me feel like there is much less pressure than a blank screen, and by the time I’m typing up I’m already on a sort of second draft.

TROY: Research, Outline, Explore. In order to get into the world of the story, I need to understand it, so if any aspect of it is foreign to me, I do a lot of research—online, books, interviews, you name it.  Then I outline the story. Huge proponent of outlining. What are the major beats, especially the “turn”, the thing that drives the protagonist full force into destiny. Sometimes I note card. But really, once I have the beats, I explore. I imagine the scene before me, then I walk through it with the characters. I ask “what comes next?”—an improvised storytelling technique—and see how far I can heighten that moment until it nearly breaks.

 

AFF: What drew you to submit your script to AFF?

ANDREW: I was in the MFA Screenwriting program at the University of Texas, Austin when I submitted to AFF. There’s a great relationship between AFF and the university, so trying to have something to submit was a goal for all of the graduate students.

TROY: I’ve submitted to AFF probably half a dozen times, but never with anything that I felt was “as good as it can be for now” — a hard place for me to be willing to get to. This one took three drafts before I allowed myself to even think it. And AFF is the cream of the crop. Having been a reader for the fest for years and had a film there before, I knew first hand. It’s a place where doing well really means something.

 

AFF: What was your experience like attending AFF with a script in the competition?

ANDREW: It was amazing! I was a graduate student, living in the city across town, so attending AFF while in competition was a surreal and wonderful dream come true. It’s such an amazing festival – I treasured every minute of it then, and I still do today.

TROY: The great thing about AFF is that, generally speaking, it doesn’t matter if you have a script or not. The festival is what you, the creative and engaging individual you are, make of it. This was the first year I had a script in competition, but I’ve been coming for a decade. The people you meet ultimately want to know and like you first as a human being. Having a script is simply a bonus –and a great conversation starter.

 

AFF: What happened after AFF?

ANDREW: I won the Nicholl Fellowship soon after AFF. I finished the MFA program in Austin over the next year. I moved to Los Angeles about a year after that, when I was hired for my first paid writing job.

TROY: A very cool thing. Darkwoods Productions, who gave me the award, told me they were interested in optioning the script. We’re talking Frank Darabont’s company. I couldn’t really even process it for a long time. As of this writing, nothing’s final, but that’s simply because nothing moves too quickly in Hollywood (as I’ve learned). They’ve been great, are enthusiastic supporters of the work, and I honestly can’t think of anyone more suited to try to bring this story to life.

Editor’s note: Darkwoods Productions is BACK as a sponsor of the 2014 Horror and Sci-Fi Categories

AFF:  What advice would you give writers hoping to break in?

ANDREW: Write what you are passionate about, not just what you know. Be careful with your work, take the time to know your script is a good read. Listen to feedback (and get lots of it). Allow the notes you receive to take the work to new and exciting places. Print to proofread. Revise, revise, revise.

TROY: Submit to festivals like AFF. I mean, do your research. Pick a handful that have some juice. AFF and Nicholl are top. But anyone who tells you they are a waste of time hasn’t won or done well at one. Your script will get read, and if it does well, it could get read by someone who connects to the material and can do something about it. What happened to me is a perfect example.

 

AFF: What are you currently working on?

ANDREW: I’m adapting The Glass Castle with Destin Daniel Cretton, and working on a project about Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid for Vincent D’Onofrio.

TROY: A few things. A time travel thriller for one. Another is a kind of western meets serial killer movie, based on true events (that happened right here in Austin!). And I’m developing a pilot for an episodic series that updates the strange case of Jekyll and Hyde. At the moment, though, I’m mostly working on being married (March 23rd). It’s a feel-good story with a happy ending — Hollywood loves those, yeah?

For more information and to purchase tickets for From First Draft To Feature, click here.

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Guest Blog: Chris Lowell & Mohit Narang – 7 Lessons for Filmmakers

04.09.14 | Chris Lowell & Mo Narang Beside Still Waters, written by Chris Lowell & Mohit (Mo) Narang, and directed by Lowell, swept AFF’s Narrative Feature Awards in 2013, winning both the Jury and Audience Award. We hosted an encore screening of Beside Still Waters in March as a part of our Audience Award Series, and hosted a script reading of their second feature Isolation/Tribes

04.09.14 | Chris Lowell & Mo Narang

Beside Still Waters, written by Chris Lowell & Mohit (Mo) Narang, and directed by Lowell, swept AFF’s Narrative Feature Awards in 2013, winning both the Jury and Audience Award. We hosted an encore screening of Beside Still Waters in March as a part of our Audience Award Series, and hosted a script reading of their second feature Isolation/Tribes as well. They will be back to speak at the 2014 Conference (to see them this fall, get your badge here) but in the meantime, we asked them to guest blog for us on the trials and tribulations of being first time filmmakers, completing a film from start to finish, and to tell us what it was like working the festival circuit for the first time. They’ve come back with a list of 7 lessons for filmmakers. Thanks to Chris and Mo for the blog and we look forward to seeing you in October!

Are you a filmmaker with a newly completed film? If so, submit to our competition! You can’t win if you don’t enter, click here to submit today!

Chris Lowell & Mo Narang: Beside Still Waters Filmmakers

We should start with a disclaimer: the only thing we know for certain about filmmaking is how little we knew when we started writing Beside Still Waters. That said, here’s what we’ve learned:

LESSON 1: WRITING IS HARD

The two of us began working on Beside Still Waters in the summer of 2010. Back then, it was just a few bullet points jotted in a little green notebook. That fall, we began writing in earnest. Our process is unusual: After outlining the story together, we both write a completely separate full-length screenplay. We exchange scripts, mash them together into a Frankenstein draft, then cut it down. That entire process is one draft.
By all reasonable accounts, our process shouldn’t work BUT it does for us, and that’s the rub – writing is hard, so finding whatever method (no matter how absurd) to put words-to-page is itself an achievement.
Over the course of the next year and half, we went through at least twelve drafts of BSW. We took notes, made edits, cut and added major themes (the title is actually a vestige of a long-abandoned subplot). Our characters and our world began to take form.

LESSON 2: EVERYONE HITS ROADBLOCKS

At the end of 2011, we found producers interested in the film, and were off to the races. 2012 was a sprint – January was producers meetings, February and March were fundraising, April was casting, and May: pre-production. We shot the film over three exhausting yet incredible weeks in June. The fall was spent editing. We had a charmed production; we were one of the lucky ones. We locked picture in November and began applying to festivals, with every hope that our streak of good fortune would continue.
January and February were filled with very polite rejections from every festival we applied to. We told ourselves (rightly) that festivals are competitive, and we’d find our way in soon enough. In March and April the rejections piled up. All the little doubts that accompany any creative endeavor began to creep forward, and what had been an enthusiastic labor of love suddenly elicited a bitter taste.
We couldn’t have known it then, but those months were pivotal to us as young filmmakers. We learned a very valuable lesson: although rejection may feel like the end of the world, it’s anything but. In retrospect, those rejections were small stumbles in a much bigger journey.

LESSON 3: FINDING THE RIGHT FIT

We premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October 2013, and played at the Austin Film Festival two weeks later. Prior to actually educating ourselves, it was easy to overlook any festival that didn’t have the splash and luster of Cannes or Sundance, but Mill Valley and Austin were amazing fits for our film.
Both festivals pride themselves on the discovery and support of new talent. The programming teams genuinely loved the film, and were enthusiastic with their support. The crowds were also incredible. At Austin, we won the Audience Award along with the Jury Prize, and received our first distribution offer.

LESSON 4: PROGRAMMERS ARE HUGE FILM GEEKS (SEE: WONDERFUL)

At Austin and Mill Valley, we had a chance to actually sit down and talk film with some of the festival programmers. We can’t stress this next point enough: These. People. Love. Film. They love filmmakers. Months prior, when all we were hearing was No, we had developed a very adversarial mindset toward programmers. However, once we began talking to them, we realized how hard it would be to find bigger fans of film. They take so much joy in elevating new talent, and struggle pretty deeply with the unenviable task of selecting the lucky few. Bottom line: programmers and filmmakers are on the same team. It may be hard to remember that when you’re getting rejection emails, but it’s true.

LESSON 5: FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

SUBMIT. YOUR. FILM. None of this can happen if you don’t submit your film. Having gone to festivals and met other filmmakers, we can say this with some certainty: the race doesn’t go to the wealthiest, or the most connected, and it often doesn’t go to the most talented – it goes to the people who do the work. We’ll pilfer some Honest Abe to cement the point: “Things may come to those who wait, but only things left by those who hustled.”

LESSON 6: IT DOESN’T END THERE

So we got our first distribution offer at Austin, and we were off to the races, right? Wrong. The road is long. Both Mill Valley and Austin have been incredible to us in the months following the festivals. AFF just held an encore screening of our film, AND went out of their way to arrange a public reading of our second script! Both events were really well promoted and attended, and awesome opportunities for us to drum up some more support around our young filmmaking careers.
We hope these experiences have just been the start of a long partnership – we’ve already booked our tickets to come back to Austin for this year’s fest!

LESSON 7: THERE IS NO LESSON SEVEN

Seriously. We don’t have a seventh lesson – we’re probably learning it as you read this. Hopefully the other six weren’t a complete waste of your time. If you’ve got a film you’re thinking of submitting, do it. For us, it was the beginning of an amazing journey.

UPDATE: There was no Lesson Seven. We wrote the above a few days before launching a Kickstarter campaign, and we can safely say we’ve found our seventh. We’d set out to raise $63,000 in thirty-seven days – a very ambitious goal for us. We surpassed that goal within two days, and we’re still going! The support we’ve been shown – from family, friends, old co-workers, teachers, strangers, you name it – has been incredible, and humbling, and truly, deeply touching. We’re still struggling to wrap our heads around this, but we think the lesson is this: there is a vocal, energetic, committed group of people out there hungry to support independent cinema in a grassroots way. We’ll refer you back to Lesson Five if you’re considering reaching out into the world, but please know – these people are out there, and they’re amazing.

Good luck, and thanks for listening to us ramble!

- Chris & Mo

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Staff Blog: Liz Mims & Claymation Camp for Dell Children’s Blood and Cancer Center

Liz Mims | 03.12.14 During spring break we created a mobile stop motion site for patients at the Dell’s Children center. I was reminded that support for programs such as this is crucial to kids who may not otherwise have a chance to express their creativity during such a difficult time. Zane, a current patient charmed us with his enthusiasm for our instruction. He patiently waited …

Liz Mims | 03.12.14

During spring break we created a mobile stop motion site for patients at the Dell’s Children center. I was reminded that support for programs such as this is crucial to kids who may not otherwise have a chance to express their creativity during such a difficult time.

Zane, a current patient charmed us with his enthusiasm for our instruction. He patiently waited for the nurse to finish drawing blood. He entertained us with jokes as if he knew we needed to be distracted more than he did. He eyed the clay that we had out on the table. We discussed his favorite movies and his eyes lit up as he described the characters in the Lion King. The nurse suggested that he should use one arm to start building.  Zane quickly understood the concept of moving the characters inch by inch to create movement. He chugged gadorade and calmly answered the nurse as she asked if he could still feel his fingers. We were so happy to be there as a slight distraction from his pain. Kids trickled in and out of the treatment facility and together we created all kinds of characters. We put together the above short video chronicling the workshop!

My hope is that with the help of the community our “I Live Here, I Give Here” campaign will boost our efforts in creating the best possible environment for patients at Dell’s Children Center.

 

 

To support Dell Children’s Blood and Cancer Center, make a donation on our Amplify Austin Page.

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Introducing AFF’s Creative Director and Film Team

03.11.14 Over the past two decades, the film competition has grown to be a centerpiece in the industry, featuring some of the top examples of indie filmmaking and championing the writer’s role in the process.  Along with the increase in Festival attendance, submission entries continue to surpass our goals each year.  In order to best cultivate this progress, the creative programming from both the Conference …

03.11.14

Over the past two decades, the film competition has grown to be a centerpiece in the industry, featuring some of the top examples of indie filmmaking and championing the writer’s role in the process.  Along with the increase in Festival attendance, submission entries continue to surpass our goals each year.  In order to best cultivate this progress, the creative programming from both the Conference and Film departments will be combined in hopes to produce an even stronger platform for great storytelling.

We have realigned our team in response to the evolution of the Festival and in order to maintain the quality of our filmmakers’ experiences.   Former Conference Director and Competition Programmer, Erin Hallagan, will now serve as the Festival’s Creative Director, overseeing both the Film and Conference planning.  Erin will continue to program the annual Screenwriters Conference, including guest speakers, honorees, panels and workshops, as well as coordinating the year-round On Story®: Conversations in Film series.  She looks forward to further integrating the Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference and advancing the resources available to writers and filmmakers at the Festival.

We hope you’ll join us in welcoming our film team, Elizabeth Mims and Harrison Glaser.  Both advocates for our mission, they have worked within the Festival in a variety of capacities.  Along with the Creative Director, they will work in tandem to plan, promote and implement the film program.

Senior Film Programmer, Elizabeth Mims, originally joined Austin Film Festival as the Director of the Young Filmmakers Program.  She grew up in Austin, Texas and graduated with a BFA from CalArts. Her 2012 film Only The Young was theatrically released by Oscilloscope and won numerous awards including the Silverdoc’s Sterling Silver Award for best US documentary and the American Film Institute Audience Award, as well as being nominated for a Spirit Award.

Harrison Glaser joins the film department as the Film Program Coordinator. After graduating from Southwestern University, he began working for Austin Film Festival as an intern in the Conference department. He went on to serve as the Festival’s Conference Assistant, and is now thrilled to apply his passion for the Festival’s mission to the film program.

For over 20 years, we have valued the talented artists that have brought their work to Austin, as well as the importance of maintaining relationships beyond their time at the Festival.  This restructuring reflects Austin Film Festival’s progression as an emerging voice in the industry – one that has remained dedicated to its mission to support narrative storytelling.

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Guest Blog: Nan Foley – It All Starts With the Pitch

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

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 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

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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!

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AFF and Dell Children’s Blood and Cancer Center, a History

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.

 

To support Dell Children’s Blood and Cancer Center, make a donation on our Amplify Austin Page.

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A Look at the 2014 Oscar Nominated Screenplays

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

American Hustle: Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell

Blue Jasmine: Woody Allen

Her: Spike Jonze

Nebraska: Bob Nelson

Dallas Buyers Club: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

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

Before Midnight: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Captain Phillips: Billy Ray

Philomena: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope

12 Years A Slave: John Ridley

Wolf of Wall Street: Terence Winter

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

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In Memoriam: Harold Ramis

Since we recently celebrated our 20th anniversary at AFF I have spent a lot of the last year cataloging my trove of memories. There have been many of note, but 2005 was a particularly memorable year. My daughter Hannah was born 6 weeks before the Festival which added a mix of frenzy and trepidation to the invariably overcharged atmosphere; it was also the year that Harold Ramis accepted our invitation to honor his career.

02.25.14 | Barbara Morgan

Buck Henry, Judd Apatow, Harold Ramis, and Barry Josephson at the 2005 Austin Film Festival & Conference

 

Since we recently celebrated our 20th anniversary at AFF I have spent a lot of the last year cataloging my trove of memories.  There have been many of note, but 2005 was a particularly memorable year.  My daughter Hannah was born 6 weeks before the Festival which added a mix of frenzy and trepidation to the invariably overcharged atmosphere; it was also the year that Harold Ramis accepted our invitation to honor his career.

There is little about the 80’s that I relish; how does one fondly memorialize a decade that introduced outsized shoulder pads and glorified Madonna?  The 80’s, however, gave our culture a series of films which helped us laugh off the ridiculousness of the decade and, with the emergence of Harold Ramis, brilliantly birthed a comic everyman.  He was the whole package. He was a triple threat: he wrote funny, he directed funny, he produced funny.

Caddyshack was a force of its own.  In college, I watched it time and again on my VCR in successful avoidance of my studies.  I knew every word.  How could anyone top it?  But sure enough, then came Stripes and Ghostbusters, each embodiments of fresh comedic genius.  It was Groundhog Day that convinced me that Harold Ramis was the comedic talent out there, merging entertainment, engagement and humor with every move he made.  The film was not just a comedy, but a parable about the hidden value in the simplicities of our lives, in the elegance of repetition, the perseverance in trying to get “it” right, and, of course, in faith.  Aided by Danny Rubin’s written word, it was a tome on how to approach living life, and never without laughter.  I cannot begin to count how many times I have ingested these films in whole and in part and how often disappointment or heartbreak was righted for just a bit by one of Ramis’ glib comedies.

So what great fortune that in an incredibly momentous year I should be doubly blessed to have Mr. Ramis’ participation.  He came to be honored with our Extraordinary Contribution to Film Award and to present Ghostbusters along with Ernie Hudson.  This I was looking forward to with an eagerness I hadn’t felt since college.  When those lights went down at the Paramount Theatre and the movie began playing I realized that moments like that were what the Festival was all about.  There was a point in the screening when the crowd was so engaged and the laughter so raucous that I felt the floor shake.  We have put on many amazing events at the Paramount over the years, but that night for me was truly magic.  The Q&A with Ernie Hudson and Ramis afterwards was no less astounding.

Mr. Ramis maximized his time at Austin Film Festival.  He spoke on panels, he conversed with registrants, he joined the masses in celebrating the power of comedy.   He joined Buck Henry and Judd Apatow to share stories about writing and directing.   I have listened to that panel many times and it is now fortunately memorialized in our archive.

So what a heartbreak to hear that Mr. Ramis has passed on.  The world will be mourning this great loss for a long time to come.  But beyond the grief, Ramis has bestowed upon us a parting gift: a respite to our troubles; a place where the craft of comedy is rich and, in fact, eternal.  Harold Ramis will live on in our fondest cinematic memories, our deepest belly laughs, and the hidden value of the simplicities of our lives.  How fortunate are we to have a collection of his work to not only appreciate for the craft but to also take away the weight of the world?

Thank you, Mr. Ramis! And may you revel in the laughter of the angels you are surely entertaining right now.

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AFF Staff Blog: Ryan Darbonne on AFF at The Academy Awards®

04.19.14 | Ryan Darbonne   When I was tasked to write about the Oscar® nominated films that played AFF in 2013 I jumped at the opportunity. I love the Oscars®. I love all things Oscar. Oscar Wilde, Oscar Meyer, Oscar Micheaux…you get the idea. As a kid I was enamored with the glitz, glamour and whole gaudy shebang of the Academy Awards®. As an adult, …

04.19.14 | Ryan Darbonne

 

When I was tasked to write about the Oscar® nominated films that played AFF in 2013 I jumped at the opportunity. I love the Oscars®. I love all things Oscar. Oscar Wilde, Oscar Meyer, Oscar Micheaux…you get the idea. As a kid I was enamored with the glitz, glamour and whole gaudy shebang of the Academy Awards®. As an adult, the experience of watching the event with a room full of like minded cinephiles (i.e. nerds) is both frustrating and fun. We laugh. We argue. We cheer when our favorite films win and cry when they don’t. It’s our Super Bowl. The cinematic equivalent of the World Cup. It’s a communal experience serving as a microcosmic reflection of the art form we love.

This year marks the 86th Academy Awards® and I was honored to have had the chance to program a handful of the nominees for the 2013 Austin Film Festival. From soul crushing dramas like 12 YEARS A SLAVE to comedic odysseys like NEBRASKA these films represent our dedication to the art and craft of narrative storytelling. If you haven’t seen the following films I suggest you watch them now. Trust me…you won’t be disappointed.

 

12 Years a Slave

Nominated for Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Directing, Film Editing Costume Design, Production Design, and Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Adapted for the screen by John Ridley and directed by Steve McQueen, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a heartbreaking depiction of the American south pre-emancipation. The film follows Solomon Northup (Oscar® nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor): A free black man who is drugged, abducted and sold into slavery. McQueen’s uncompromising imagery and refusal to fall victim to flashy Hollywood tropes give the film a brutal honesty destined to spark much needed conversation.  Coupled with incredible performances by Michael Fassbinder, Lupita Nyong’o  and Paul Dano (to name a few) the film is bound to take home a few awards.

 

August: Osage County

Nominated for Actress in a Leading Role and Actress in a Supporting Role

After the disappearance of Beverly Weston the family matriarch, Violet Weston (Meryl Streep), calls upon her family for support.  However, her constant verbal abuse leaves a wake of emotional destruction in its path. As the family goes through a series of  ups and downs (mostly downs) throughout the film the ensemble cast display an antagonistic chemistry that resonates throughout each scene. Every actor in the film feeds off one another effortlessly. Writer Tracy Letts (who adapted the story from his Tony and Pulitzer prize winning play of the same name) and director John Wells manage to bring a balance to the slew of  award worthy performances resulting in a darkly comic portrait of an all American family.

 

Dallas Buyers Club

Nominated for Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling and Writing (Original Screenplay)

Hometown hero, Matthew McConaughey is on a winning streak. With TRUE DECTIVE currently airing on HBO and the new Christopher Nolan film on the way the world has gone McConaughcrazy! (I know…I know…). His performance in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB  is a far cry from the glory days of DAZED AND CONFUSED. Based on a true story, McConaughey plays a homophobic good ol’ boy by the name of Ron Woodroof who is diagnosed with AIDS. Told he only has 30 days to live, Woodroof does anything he can to combat his illness which includes a trip to Mexico to score drugs not approved by the US. As his health regenerates, he gets the idea to sell the drugs and starts a Dallas buyers club charging a fee for a monthly membership. Parenting with a transgendered juggernaut (Jared Leto) the two provide an ample supply of non-approved drugs to the needy (much to the chagrin of the FDA). The film features two incredible performances from its male leads making it a strong contender for this year’s awards.

 

Inside Llewyn Davis

Cinematography and Sound Mixing

As an undisturbed fan man of the Coen Brothers I was happy to see INSIDE LLEYWN go above and beyond my expectations. Replete with their trademark wit and penchant for crafting strong dialogue, the film is a love letter to the Greenwich folk scene of the early 60’s. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a talented musician whose self-absorption and nomadic lifestyle teeter on the verge of being sad. Oscar Isaac, in a testament to his talents, recorded all the music live on set. The film’s production design and attention to detail help create an incredible glimpse of days past.

 

Nebraska

Nominated for Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Directing, Cinematography, Writing (Original Screenplay)

Alexander Payne’s NEBRASKA is a flawless film. Shot in beautiful black and white, the film is about the complex relationship between fathers and sons. Bruce Dern and Will Forté travel across a desolate Midwest landscape in order to collect a million-dollar prize package from a generic sweepstakes. The results are funny, heartbreaking and always on point. Writer Bob Nelson does an incredible job at never undermining or condescending to the people of Nebraska. Instead, he presents the audience with an honest insight into those that inhabit the state.

 

Philomena

Nominated for Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role, Music (Original Score) and Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Adapted for the screen by Steve Coogan and directed by British auteur Stephen Frears, PHILOMENA is a true story about a woman’s attempts to find a child she was forced to give up for adoption. Featuring two pitch-perfect performances from dynamic duo Coogan and Judi Dench, the film tackles sociopolitical issues never coming across as didactic or preachy. Funny, sad and incredibly charming PHILOMENA is a fantastic look at two people who bond over the injustices of the world.

 

Throughout the years, AFF has showcased a wide variety of Oscar® contenders alongside smaller independent films. I’m excited to see what 2014 brings and I hope to see you there! Our 2014 Film Pass is currently only $50. That’s 8 days of film, including future Oscar contenders for only $50! Join us this October, get yours here.

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Enter AFF’s 2014 Oscar Prediction Contest!

04.17.14 You’ve seen the films, you’ve picked your favorites, and now you’re ready to make your predictions. Try your luck at predicting the 86th Annual Academy Award® winners with AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest! Austin Film Festival is the place to get your Oscars fix in October. If you attended the 20th Anniversary Festival and Conference in 2013, you had a chance to see six of …

04.17.14

You’ve seen the films, you’ve picked your favorites, and now you’re ready to make your predictions.

Try your luck at predicting the 86th Annual Academy Award® winners with AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest! Austin Film Festival is the place to get your Oscars fix in October. If you attended the 20th Anniversary Festival and Conference in 2013, you had a chance to see six of the nominees before anyone else! AFF Marquee Film nominations include 12 Years a Slave, August, Osage County, Dallas Buyers Club, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska and Philomena!

The top five entrants who most closely predict the winners of the categories below will each win one Lone Star Badge to the 2014 Austin Film Festival and Conference.  The contest is open as of Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 and will close at the start of the Academy Awards® telecast on March 2nd at 7pm eastern time | 4pm pacific time.  Ballots limited to one entry per person, many will enter, five will win, see below for full rules and regulations.

 

All AFF Member seats have been filled, to be put on the waiting list, please email rsvp@austinfilmfestival.com or click the link above to purchase $5 tickets. Thank you!

 

No purchase necessary to enter or win AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest. Entry into this Contest constitutes your acceptance of these Official Rules:

 

Contest start date and time and end date and time as outlined in AFF Blog post “Enter AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest!”
Contest is open worldwide to anyone with a valid email address. When entering the Contest, an opportunity to sign up to receive follow-up information from Austin Film Festival may be available. Entrants subject to all notices posted online including but not limited to Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Employees or those living in the same household of Austin Film Festival and their respective parents, affiliates, prize suppliers, and advertising and promotion agencies are not eligible to enter or win. Entrants may need to provide further contact information upon request.
To enter, entrants must fill out entire ballot as provided above along with first and last name, email address, and agree to Austin Film Festivals Terms and Condition as outlined here. All entries must be received by date and time outlined in “Enter AFf’s Oscar Prediction Contest!”. For purposes of these Official Rules, “receipt” of Entry occurs when Austin Film Festival’s servers record the Entry information resulting from contestants’ entry being received in the inbox area. Any automated computer receipt (such as one confirming delivery of email) does not constitute proof of actual receipt by Austin Film Festival for purposes of these Official Rules.
Austin Film Festival reserves the right to disqualify any Entry for any reason, in its sole and absolute discretion.
Top 5 Entries will be judged based on proximity to actual 85th Academy Awards® winners. The top scoring Entries will be declared the Contest winner (“Winner”)Grand Prize winner will be judged based on randomly generated calculation. All Entrants are eligible for Grand Prize.Only one entry per person, duplicate entries will not be counted. In the event of a tie for the Top 5 Entries, winners will be chosen based on timing of entry.
Winners will be determined after the Contest’s end date and will be notified by email. Winners will be required to provide mailing address which will be used to fulfill the prize. At the discretion of the Austin Film Festival, Winner may be disqualified for any of the following reasons: not eligible based on the eligibility requirements set forth above. In the event it is determined within the specified time period, has made false statements or a prize notification is returned as undeliverable, then the Winner will be disqualified at Austin Film Festival’s sole discretion, the Entry with the next highest score may then be declared the alternate Winner.
The Number of prize winners is as listed above. Winner is solely responsible for all expenses, costs or fees associated with transportation and acceptance and/or use of the prize not specified herein as being awarded, including without limitation, and and all taxes (if any). Winner is not a recipient of a prize until they have been verified as the Winner by the Austin Film Festival. Upon fulfilling prize, Austin Film Festival will be deemed to have awarded the prize to the Winners and such Winners assume full responsibility for the prize. All prize details are at Austin Film Festival’s discretion.
Entrants acknowledge that transportation, if applicable, is not included in the prize and that any events are beyond the control of Austin Film Festival and are subject to being rescheduled, modified, or cancelled. In that event, Austin Film Festival reserves the right to, at its discretion, reschedule the events, cancel the Contest, or cancel the awarding of the prizes. Prizes are not redeemable for cash or any other value. Upgrades for Film Pass prizes are available at the cost of the Winner.
Winning constitutes permission (except where prohibited by law) to use Winner’s name, images, hometown, likeness, prize won, and photograph (all at Austin Film Festival’s discretion) for future advertising, publicity in any and all media now or hereafter devised throughout the world in perpetuity, without additional compensation notification or permission. Contest Parties and their respective officers, directors, agents, representatives, and employees (collectively, “Released Parties”) are not responsible for lost, late, misdirected, damaged, stolen, altered, garbled, incorrect, incomplete or delayed Entries; all of which will be void. Released Parties are also not responsible for for problems related to technical malfunctions of electronic equipment, computer online systems, servers, or providers, computer hardware or software failures, phone lines, failure of any Entry to be received by Sponsor on account of technical problems, traffic, congestion on the internet or the website, or for any other technical problems including telecommunication, miscommunication or failure, and failed, lost, delayed, incomplete, garbled, or misdirected communications which may limit a contestant’s ability to participate in this Contest. Released Parties are not responsible for any other errors or malfunctions of any kind, whether network, printing, typographical, human or otherwise relating to or in connection with the Contest, including, without limitation, errors or malfunctions with may occur in connection with the administration of the Contest, the processing or judging of Entries, the announcement of the prize or in any Contest-related materials. Mass entries generated by a script, macro or use of automated devices will be disqualified. Austin Film Festival reserves the right to modify, suspend or terminate the Contest in the event it becomes infected by a computer virus or is otherwise technically impaired, and to cancel or suspend the Contest in its entirety should tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures or other causes corrupt the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper play of the Contest and, if terminated, at Austin Film Festival’s discretion, determine the Winner using all non-suspect, eligible entries received up to time of cancellation using the judging procedure outlined above. In the event of a dispute regarding entries received from multiple users having the same email account, the authorized subscriber of the email account at the time of Entry will be deemed to be the contestant and must comply with these Official Rules. Authorized subscriber is the natural person who is assigned the email address by the Internet Service Provider (ISP), online service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning email addresses. Austin Film Festival reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual (and void his/her Entries)) it finds to be tampering with the Entry process or the operation of this Contest or website, intending to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other contestant, Sponsor, or any of its representatives or to otherwise be acting in violation of these Official Rules. CAUTION: Any attempt by a contestant to deliberately damage any website or undermine the legitimate operations of the Contest is a violation of criminal and civil laws. Should such an attempt be made, the Austin Film Festival reserves the right to seek damages from any such contestant to the fullest extent permitted by the law and to disqualify such contestant from the Contest.
Failure to comply with these Official Rules may result in disqualification from the Contest. Austin Film Festival reserves the right to permanently disqualify any person it believes has intentionally violated these Official Rules. Contest subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited by law.
Winner(s) will be announced in a website blog posting.
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AFF Guest Blog – Travis Neely: AFF Summer Film Camp Alum and Executive Department Apprentice

02.05.2014 | Travis Neely For two weeks in June, 2012 I was a student in the class Filmmaking 101, just one among many classes that are part of Austin Film Festival’s Summer Film Camp. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to grasp basic filmmaking concepts and would be a terrible student, but lo and behold, I learned substantially more about storytelling, cinematography, sound …

02.05.2014 | Travis Neely

For two weeks in June, 2012 I was a student in the class Filmmaking 101, just one among many classes that are part of Austin Film Festival’s Summer Film Camp. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to grasp basic filmmaking concepts and would be a terrible student, but lo and behold, I learned substantially more about storytelling, cinematography, sound design, editing, and the general process of filmmaking just by going to class for 4 hours a day for 10 days. I even had my story chosen as 1 of the 4 that would be turned into short movies. The kids who helped turn my story into a movie were all genuinely interested in cinema and storytelling, and were entirely devoted to the task of making a 5-minute film. Everybody in my group had a chance to do anything they wanted in making the film; write, edit, act, photograph, or direct. Most of us did a little bit of everything, as we were all interested in the filmmaking process and wanted to get a taste of each aspect that went into it. By the time the class was over, I felt infinitely more confident in my ability to make movies, and overall, they were the two best weeks I had that summer.

 

Does your child dream of becoming a filmmaker? Register for our 2014 Summer Film Camp classes today, now with full days of camp! Discounts available for AFF Summer Film Camp Alumni, Whole Foods Market Employees, and AFF Members.  Not yet a member? Click here to see Member benefits and join today. Call 512-478-4795 for discounted pricing. Click here to register online for Summer Film Camp!

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10 Questions With SOMBRAS DE AZUL Writer/Director Kelly Daniella Norris

01.14.14 On January 20th, Austin Film Festival will kick off the Capital One Bank Audience Award Series with SOMBRAS DE AZUL, a beautiful film by Austin writer/director Kelly Daniella Norris.  The visually arresting film follows the grieving Maribel as she escapes to Cuba, the country her recently deceased brother had always wanted to visit.  Once there, she quickly discovers that she has no idea what …

01.14.14

On January 20th, Austin Film Festival will kick off the Capital One Bank Audience Award Series with SOMBRAS DE AZUL, a beautiful film by Austin writer/director Kelly Daniella Norris.  The visually arresting film follows the grieving Maribel as she escapes to Cuba, the country her recently deceased brother had always wanted to visit.  Once there, she quickly discovers that she has no idea what she is truly searching for, but she seems to find it anyway.  Sombras de Azul World Premiered at AFF where it also won the Texas Independents Audience Award.  Read 10 questions in with Kelly around her busy schedule – after her premiere at AFF she left for a project in Ghana. Join us Monday, January 20th at the Alamo Drafthouse Village for this encore screening of SOMBRAS DE AZUL! Tickets are only $5, click here to get yours!

SOMBRAS DE AZUL actress Adelaida Borges Fernandez & Writer/Director Kelly Daniella Norris at the 20th Annual Austin Film Festival

1.       Sombras de Azul is a very personal story for you.  Can you tell us a little bit about what lead you to write the film?

It came to me following a decision to postpone another larger-scaled project that I had been working on while living in Los Angeles. I awoke to that unsettling feeling that, despite progress made, the script was still beyond my resources. Even more unsettling, I was in a position of watching others determine the fate of a project I was very passionate about on a given whim. As a result, I went from being consumed and narrowly driven by that one goal to, all of a sudden, entering this open space. This also coincided with the 4-year anniversary of my brother’s passing, which put me in a very reflective place. I had previously dealt with his death – a source of unspeakable pain for me – by diving deeper into my work. So, there I was, and I felt ready to write.

2.       What was it like to shoot the film in Cuba?

Exhilarating and exhausting. Cuba is such a fascinating place that’s teeming with all kinds of energy, which inspirited us throughout the 19-day shoot. There was also the layered thrill of being Americans on forbidden soil. But, at the same time, our focus was so constricted and our time so short that it was manic up to the very end, with little time to take it all in. We had to be quiet and inconspicuous with our equipment (a production that could not look like a production) for fear of being shutdown, which meant we were at the mercy of whatever each location had to offer. In those scattered moments when we were able to stop and admire our surroundings, it felt like a fever dream.

3.       Were there any moments in the film that came about once you started shooting?  Anything from being in that place at that time you decided you had to add to the film?

The majority of the written scenes were faithful to the script and shotlist. The montages, on the other hand, were spontaneous concoctions. I believe the shotlist read, “Umm? We’ll see.” The most specific on-the-spot alteration relates to the ending. As Bob, my DP, and I were running around Old Havana’s Iglesia de la Merced catching “Day of Mercies” festival footage, I looked over and saw Seedne leaning against a wall. That observation rewrote the ending in my mind. Guess I should leave it at that.

4.       What did you most want to capture about Cuba in your film and why?

Aside from its vibrant culture and colorful landscape, I wanted to capture its national paradoxes – as a symbol of isolation and connectedness, as a place of timelessness and nostalgia that is on the verge of change. Emotionally, Maribel shares a similar state of mind, locked in the past while trying to move forward.

5.       One of the things I love so much about the film is how much of the story is told visually, without long sequences of dialogue, but just experienced, with your lead character.  Can you tell us a little bit about writing in that manner and planning for these beautiful pictures?

Thank you. There was definitely a vagueness in what to expect. I wrote those sequences in the script in the form of brief tonal descriptions, and then matched each with a song to reflect the mood I hoped to achieve. I needed to draw moments where the outside world would remove us from Maribel, when Maribel would distance us from the outside world, and moments when they would harmonize. We returned with 26 hours of footage, and half of that was for montages.

6.       What sort of conversations did you have with your lead actress about her performance?  It is very understated at times, but still full of emotion.  At other times, it’s so fresh and rough.  It’s a really lovely performance.

She’s unreal. That entirely speaks to her ability to emote without fear of being judged. We spoke about trying to portray real emotions, their quietness and smallness – not movie emotions, which are often amplified copies of real emotions. After that, my goal was to not get in the way when her instincts were in control.

7.       I love the way there are these other characters in the world, but we only get to see what Maribel sees of them.  How much of their world (outside of the story) did you set and how much of was left to our (and the actor’s) imaginations?

Though I have my own opinions on the fringe characters’ backstories, I definitely wanted to leave it to the actors and eventually the audience to fill in the remaining pieces. For me, one of the beauties of travel is that experience of riding on the surface, gleaning what you can from ephemeral impressions, and then, when lucky, forming deeper connections despite it.

8.       This was your first feature film.  What was the most difficult part of the process for you?

The most difficult yet rewarding part of the process for me was finding the intersection between what I imagined for a scene and what was actually possible. Whether it was rewriting a line for heightened naturalism, creating a last minute costume using crew members’ clothes, or changing a location because of who-knows-why – poor light, crowds, noise, security reasons – it’s high-energy problem-solving, which requires quick decisions, intense collaboration, and breakthroughs in vision. I hope to get better with each attempt.

9.       Your film was the Audience Award winning film in our Texas Independents category.  Did you get a chance to speak with audiences at the 2013 Festival?  Was there anything about their responses or questions that surprised you?

World premiering at AFF changed my entire relationship with the film, and mainly because of the conversations I had with audience members. Before, I had no delusions about who I made the film for. It was solipsistic, and I was okay with that because it felt necessary for healing. The goal was to move on, so once the film was complete, I began to feel far away from it. However, after the screening, parents, siblings, and friends who’ve lost loved ones to suicide would approach me to share their own experience of bereavement. There was a mutual vulnerability made possible because of the confessional nature of the film. I had no idea others would find a catharsis through the film or, even better, give me the opportunity to find catharsis through their stories.

10.   You’ve been shooting in Ghana recently.  Can you tell us about your next project?

The story is called NAKOM, and it’s about a Ghanaian student living in the country’s most bustling city and attending a top university who must return to his home village, Nakom, following his father’s death to manage the household and prevent it from falling apart. Through the microcosm of Awinzor family, it explores larger dilemmas facing the country: How will the younger generations reconcile the traditional lifestyle of their parents, especially those who come from subsistence farming communities, with their ambitions to move on? How will modern-day resources and technologies shape the future where old practices still dominate? What is gained and what is lost on the path towards Westernization, and so-called development? I’m co-directing the film with Travis Pittman, my partner-in-art-and-figurative-crime, who wrote the script after living in Nakom for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. We’re finally back after nearly 4 months, and plan on editing as soon as we raise the funding to get us through post. For more information about our SOMBRAS DE AZUL screening, click here.

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AFF’s 12 Days of Sales!

We here in Austin know a thing or two about how to warm up the holiday season. Twelve days out from Christmas, we will be launching a special promotion for our 21st annual Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference, offering can’t-be-beat deals and perfect holiday gifts for your loved ones. From December 13th (that’s THIS Friday!) through December 24, stay tuned for a few sporadic …

We here in Austin know a thing or two about how to warm up the holiday season. Twelve days out from Christmas, we will be launching a special promotion for our 21st annual Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference, offering can’t-be-beat deals and perfect holiday gifts for your loved ones.

From December 13th (that’s THIS Friday!) through December 24, stay tuned for a few sporadic “snowflake sales”: no two are alike and there’s no telling when they will begin or end! Keep a keen eye on your inbox, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as they are sprinkled with generous holiday discounts throughout these 12 Days of Christmas.
Aside from being downright exciting, here are 12 more reasons to look forward to AFF’s 12 Days of Christmas:

1. Because a badge is something you can wear year-long (if you want…)!The cynicism-free enthusiasm of AFF was so inspiring. Just when I was thinking that it was a lost art, reassurance came in droves. There was so much talent and passion buzzing through The Driskill that back in LA, I felt like leaving my AFF badge on.
-Peter Mehlman, writer/co-executive producer, Seinfeld

2. You are alone in your madness if you do not attend AFF.
The Austin Conference is a rare chance for professionals to educate, inspire and even protect the next generation of screenwriters. What’s more, we get out of our rooms, away from our screens… and we meet each other. Working writers, aspiring writers… it doesn’t matter. Finding out you’re not alone in your madness… that’s half of what makes the weekend worthwhile.
- Craig Mazin, writer IDENTITY THIEF, co-host Scriptnotes

3. Rock Around that Christmas Tree with some rocking things planned for the New Year!
For writers, Austin is the Woodstock of film festivals, a gathering of scribes, pro and non-pro rubbing elbows, breaking down the craft in a casual, but electric atmosphere. In a word: Rocking!
- Scott Meyers, host Go Into The Story

4. Because the Festival, like your winter holiday, should be an annual tradition.
Austin Film festival is nothing short of a cultural event — Every time I go, I meet fascinating people whose talent is nothing short of inspiring. I can’t imagine not returning year after year.
- Damon Lindelof, writer PROMETHEUS, Lost, writer/producer STAR TREK sequel

5. AFF is #trending
Austin Film Festival is a wonderful community building event. Not only did I have the chance to share tips on crowdfunding for indie film, but I met amazing media makers – and was exposed the latest trends in the indie film landscape
- Brian Meece, CEO RocketHub
6. What better time than the holidays for personal reflection…
Being questioned about my craft was like chewing gum for the brain — the panels got me thinking long and hard about what I do and why I do it. Am so grateful to have been challenged and to have helped aspiring writers in any way.
- Kelly Marcel, writer SAVING MR. BANKS

7. As far as fun goes, after winter vacation comes spring break, then summer camp. And after summer camp comes Austin Film Festival. Naturally.
There are other screenwriting conferences, but Austin is the grandaddy, the taproot, the source. That’s why big names keep coming back every year. It’s like heading off to summer camp: checking in with old friends and meeting new ones.
- John August, CORPSE BRIDE, BIG FISH, GO, co-host ScriptNotes

8. Getting a badge is equivalent to getting a time machine.
It started as a getaway weekend for great barbecue, and has become a pilgrimage. Going to the Austin conference is like stepping into a time machine and returning to that day, that moment in time when you fell in love with movies and the idea of making them. And living a whole five days feeling that feeling.
- Terry Rossio, writer, SHREK, ALADDIN, the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise

9. Because the badges in Texas mean bigger possibilities
I was completely surprised by the scale of AFF. Apparently, everything is bigger in Texas, including the hospitality. If you’ve never been Austin it’s a great time to go. One of the best film festivals you’ll ever experience.
- Chris Carter, creator The X-Files, The Lone Gunmen

10. Austin > North Pole.
Screenwriters all live in Los Angeles, but they only seem to meet in Austin
- Michael Green, writer THE GREEN LANTERN, Kings, Heroes, Smallville

11. Baby, it may be cold outside, but there’s “snow” excuse to miss this sale.
Still the best fest and brain blizzard forum in filmdom.
- Jim Hart, writer HOOK, BRAM STOKER’s DRACULA, CONTACT, TUCK EVERLASTING

12. The “One Upon a Time” Factor: Once upon a time, you did not have a badge, and it was sad. But then you took part in one of AFF’s Snowflake Sales and lived happily ever after.
Most of us live in a world of “Thou Shalt Not” — a world of rules and restrictions that limit how we think, behave, and even write. What AFF represents is the world of “Once Upon A Time — a world devoted to the endlessly liberating possibilities of storytelling. They should drape a banner above the lobby in the Driskill that proclaims: “It’s About The Story, Not The Glory”.
- Herschel Weingrod, writer TRADING PLACES, BREWSTER’S MILLIONS, TWINS, KINDERGARTEN COP

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your AFF emails and take advantage of our Snowflake Sales!

We here in Austin know a thing or two about how to warm up the holiday season. Twelve days out from Christmas, we will be launching a special promotion for our 21st annual Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference, offering can’t-be-beat deals and perfect holiday gifts for your loved ones. 

From December 13th (that’s THIS Friday!) through December 24, stay tuned for a few sporadic “snowflake sales“: no two are alike and there’s no telling when they will begin or end! Keep a keen eye on your inbox, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as they are sprinkled with generous holiday discounts throughout these 12 Days of Christmas.

Aside from being downright exciting, here are 12 more reasons to look forward to AFF’s 12 Days of Christmas:

 

1. Because a badge is something you can wear year-long (if you want…)!

The cynicism-free enthusiasm of AFF was so inspiring. Just when I was thinking that it was a lost art, reassurance came in droves. There was so much talent and passion buzzing through The Driskill that back in LA, I felt like leaving my AFF badge on. 

-Peter Mehlman, writer/co-executive producer, Seinfeld

 

Craig Mazin

Craig Mazin

2. You are alone in your madness if you do not attend AFF. 

The Austin Conference is a rare chance for professionals to educate, inspire and even protect the next generation of screenwriters. What’s more, we get out of our rooms, away from our screens… and we meet each other. Working writers, aspiring writers… it doesn’t matter. Finding out you’re not alone in your madness… that’s half of what makes the weekend worthwhile.

- Craig Mazin, writer IDENTITY THIEF, co-host Scriptnotes

3. Rock Around that Christmas Tree with some rocking things planned for the New Year!

For writers, Austin is the Woodstock of film festivals, a gathering of scribes, pro and non-pro rubbing elbows, breaking down the craft in a casual, but electric atmosphere. In a word: Rocking!

- Scott Meyers, host Go Into The Story

 

Damon Lindelof

Damon Lindelof

4. Because the Festival, like your winter holiday, should be an annual tradition. 

Austin Film festival is nothing short of a cultural event — Every time I go, I meet fascinating people whose talent is nothing short of inspiring. I can’t imagine not returning year after year. 

- Damon Lindelof, writer PROMETHEUS, Lost, writer/producer STAR TREK sequel

5. AFF is #trending

Austin Film Festival is a wonderful community building event. Not only did I have the chance to share tips on crowdfunding for indie film, but I met amazing media makers – and was exposed the latest trends in the indie film landscape

- Brian Meece, CEO RocketHub

6. What better time than the holidays for personal reflection…

Being questioned about my craft was like chewing gum for the brain — the panels got me thinking long and hard about what I do and why I do it. Am so grateful to have been challenged and to have helped aspiring writers in any way. 

- Kelly Marcel, writer SAVING MR. BANKS

 

Kelly Marcel

Kelly Marcel

7. As far as fun goes, after winter vacation comes spring break, then summer camp. And after summer camp comes Austin Film Festival. Naturally.

There are other screenwriting conferences, but Austin is the grandaddy, the taproot, the source. That’s why big names keep coming back every year. It’s like heading off to summer camp: checking in with old friends and meeting new ones. 

- John August, CORPSE BRIDE, BIG FISH, GO, co-host ScriptNotes

8. Getting a badge is equivalent to getting a time machine.

It started as a getaway weekend for great barbecue, and has become a pilgrimage. Going to the Austin conference is like stepping into a time machine and returning to that day, that moment in time when you fell in love with movies and the idea of making them. And living a whole five days feeling that feeling.

- Terry Rossio, writer, SHREK, ALADDIN, the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise

9. Because the badges in Texas mean bigger possibilities

I was completely surprised by the scale of AFF. Apparently, everything is bigger in Texas, including the hospitality. If you’ve never been Austin it’s a great time to go. One of the best film festivals you’ll ever experience. 

- Chris Carter, creator The X-Files, The Lone Gunmen

 

chris carter

AFF 2012 Outstanding Television Writer Awardee Chris Carter

10. Austin > North Pole.

Screenwriters all live in Los Angeles, but they only seem to meet in Austin

- Michael Green, writer THE GREEN LANTERN, Kings, Heroes, Smallville

11. Baby, it may be cold outside, but there’s “snow” excuse to miss this sale.

Still the best fest and brain blizzard forum in filmdom.

- Jim Hart, writer HOOK, BRAM STOKER’s DRACULA, CONTACT, TUCK EVERLASTING

12. The “One Upon a Time” Factor: Once upon a time, you did not have a badge, and it was sad. But then you took part in one of AFF’s Snowflake Sales and lived happily ever after.

Most of us live in a world of “Thou Shalt Not” — a world of rules and restrictions that limit how we think, behave, and even write. What AFF represents is the world of “Once Upon A Time — a world devoted to the endlessly liberating possibilities of storytelling. They should drape a banner above the lobby in the Driskill that proclaims: “It’s About The Story, Not The Glory”.

- Herschel Weingrod, writer TRADING PLACES, BREWSTER’S MILLIONS, TWINS, KINDERGARTEN COP

 

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your AFF emails and take advantage of our Snowflake Sales!

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#AFF20th 8 Days and Nights of Romance

10.23.13 | FannyVernaud Fanny is an intern in the Film Department who came to us for the last few months from France.  We asked her to give us a preview of the Romantic films playing this year’s festival without realizing we would be tapping into some strong feelings she has.   The dream of my life will be to be able to spend my days …

10.23.13 | FannyVernaud

Fanny is an intern in the Film Department who came to us for the last few months from France.  We asked her to give us a preview of the Romantic films playing this year’s festival without realizing we would be tapping into some strong feelings she has.

 

The dream of my life will be to be able to spend my days on the couch, watching Sixteen Candles while eating cookie ice cream. While I recently realized that 1) I was a cliché and 2)I should have a job to be able to finance the ice cream, I started an Internship at the Austin Film Festival, that require – real talk – to work during the festival. But it’s not because I’ll be working that I won’t find the time to enjoy the diversity of the film selection. The list of films I want to see is really huge and unrealistic, from Political Bodies to Crackheads, and I’m not even talking about the shorts films (I just want to watch them all).

However we are not here to talk about political issues or drug comedies, and because we are not shallow people, I’d like to take some time to talk about my personal fighting. Yes, I’m a French girl who fights for her freedom to watch romantic comedies that are not stupid and meaningless. Being a girl and enjoying romantic comedies can easily lead to losing your credibility in the beautiful world of Cinema. Fortunately, it seems like the two film directors of Austin Film Festival enjoy Cinema in all its angles, and allow you to attend screenings that will permit you to cry, laugh or just get laid.

My festival will start on Thursday with Jack, Jules, Esther and Me* at the Rollins Theatre, because every film that celebrates the awkwardness of being 17 should be seen by everybody. In the manner of a Salinger book, teenage movies are not only for 15 years old girls and this World Premiere should be one of the highlights of the festival.

Another World Premiere on Friday with Light Years* at the IMAX, Maggie Kiley’s first narrative feature. After breaking Jesse Eisenberg’s heart in her last short film, it’s now Chris Lowell’s turn to experience love, hopefully helped by the awesome Allison Janney.

If you still don’t know who Chris Lowell is, my advice is to google him before you read this paragraph (right now, for example). Okay? His first narrative feature is playing at the Texas State on Saturday. Beside Still Waters* tells the story of a group of childhood friends reunited for the last time in their lake house. It’s definitely the kind of movie you want to see with your friends to avoid ending up at the bar by yourself after, drunkenly texting your best friends. The film is in competition this year, and remember that you are at a festival, so it’s always good to see the films in competition to be able to criticize the juror’s choice after without having to pretend that you know what you are talking about.

On Sunday, you should go to the State Theatre (or just sleep there the day before if you follow my schedule), to watch Girl on Bicycle*, because you know, Keep Austin Cycling. It’s also the story of a boy falling in love with a French girl and it sounds like a good idea everyone should follow. Furthermore, Jeremy Leven, the director who will be in attendance, wrote 11 screenplays including The Notebook, so I believe in his ability to write good romantic comedies more than anything.

On Monday, everyone will rush to the Paramount to watch the new Cohen Brothers movie. Right, okay, I understand, I love the Cohen Brothers too. But because you are smarter than everybody else and you can wait until Christmas, let’s watch The Pretty One, an indie movie with the brilliant Zoe Kazan who plays twin sisters. I have to say that I’m really excited about this movie, because since the success of Ruby Sparks last year (she played the lead role, produced and wrote the film), I really believe she’s is desired by a lot of filmmakers and I’m impatient to see her career’s choices.
I will think about you with my beer at the Alamo Drafthouse, you Paramount gang.

Tuesday is time to prove that American people can actually watch a movie with subtitles. I’m Dating You Not* is a real Spanish movie with a fake English name where people speak fast, scream and have sex. The film is presented for the first time in America at the Galaxy Highland Theatre, and the conclusion of the comedy could be that no matter in what side of the Atlantic Ocean you live, relationships are always way too complicated.

I never really go to see the blockbusters during festivals, but this year is going to be an exception, and Jason Reitman is the reason why. To say that I appreciate his work would be a big euphemism, and I feel like Austin Film Festival agrees with me. Indeed, the festival is one of the first who rewarded him, back in 2000 and Up in the Air has been the film of the closing ceremony in 2009. Also in this film, Kate Winslet is playing a misunderstood housewife, because she is so versatile (don’t get me wrong, I love her, this is pure simplistic jealousy).

Remember that you are fluent in Spanish since Tuesday? Now you need to practice by watching La Navaja de Don Juan* at the IMAX on Thursday. I think there is no better way to end a festival than to go to a World Premiere with all the cast in attendance.

3 world Premieres, 1 US Premiere, 1 blockbuster released in December,  1 film in competition, 2 indie films, a lot of feelings and a lot of laugh, this is what you can do with this schedule. But no matter what you choose to see (even Inside Llewyn Davies, I promise), enjoy your festival and don’t be scared to go to the Theatre you’ve never been to or to see a film with no famous actor. You are supposed to keep it weird, right?

*: Director, writer or actors in attendance. So you can ask questions, you know, like in a festival.

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THE CONFERENCE: Choose Your Own Adventure: What’s Your Track?

Continuing the Conference’s “choose your own adventure”, we have assembled a handful of different tracks to explore during the Conference. From a series of discussions focusing on the world of television, to case-study panels, to conversations on how to break into the business, there is no shortage of options of how to spend your time….

Erin Hallagan | 10.16.13

Continuing the Conference’s “choose your own adventure”, we have assembled a handful of different tracks to explore during the Conference.  From a series of discussions focusing on the world of television, to case-study panels, to conversations on how to break into the business, there is no shortage of options of how to spend your time….

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Often writers forget one of those most important characters when setting out to write their screenplay: their audience!  Your audience is a vital participant in your script and should be factored into the seams of the story.  Check out these panels to learn how to foster this relationship with the viewers (and readers!) when crafting and selling your screenplay.

See the Track: KnowYourAudience Track

BREAKING INTO THE BUSINESS
There’s no question that this industry is cut-throat and seemingly impossible to penetrate.  Setting yourself up for success is a refined skill that is essential to hone.   There is no one way to break in, and it is a feat that can take many years to accomplish.  Take part in these discussions on how to polish your skills both on the page, in a networking setting, and in a pitch room.

See the Track: BREAKING INTO THE BUSINESS Track

CASE-STUDY PANELS
Join these case-study talks that dive into how various works of film and television found success. From script-to-screen discussions detailing the process of taking an idea and turning it into a film – to deconstructing classics – to using a screenplay competition to launch your career – to the creative evolution of a project across a variety of mediums, there is no shortage of inspiration and knowledge in these sessions that can be used to create your own film or screenplay.

See the Track: Case Study Track

TELEVISION
Television is widely known as the writer’s medium.  These panels will explore in-depth answers to any questions about the craft and business of television from the perspective of writers, showrunners, directors, executives and producers.

See the Track: TELEVISION TRACK

ELEMENTS
Let’s face it: even if you have an incredible idea for a story, putting it on paper is challenging.  From a script’s structure to the elements of storytelling, the job of a writer requires a nurturing relationship with one’s characters, theme, tone, scene construction, dialogue, plot, exposition…..  and when it’s okay to break the structural and mechanical rules.  The pros of the particulars will dive into how best to approach these considerable tasks.

See the Track: TELEVISION ELEMENTS

INDIE
In an ever-changing industry, the independent filmmaker is required to concurrently adapt and change. Of course, with change comes opportunity, and between the rise of fundraising outlets, digital filmmaking, and innovative distribution models, indie cinema has become a creative forum in more ways than one.  Sit in on this track of indie filmmaking sessions as panelists discuss their roles and responsibilities as independent filmmakers.

See the Track: INDIE TRACK

GENRE
Comedy is the hardest genre.  No, sci-fi is.  No wait… romance is.  Okay, okay!- they are all difficult to compose!  Writing within a genre requires much research, knowledge of its parameters, what the rules of the world are, and when to disregard them.  This track of panels explores all corners of the genre world and how incorporate corresponding elements, moods, motifs and tropes within your screenplay.

See the Track: GENRE TRACK

CONVERSATIONS
As part of Austin Film Festival’s continuing “Conversation with” series, don’t miss these in-depth one-on-one conversations between top filmmaking veterans and carefully selected moderators as they illuminate their philosophy on storytelling, specific examples from their own work, and their experiences in the industry.

See the Track: CONVERSATIONS TRACK

THE BUSINESS SIDE
Many writers choose their profession due to the love of their craft.  But often the glorious relationship between pen and page neglects to consider one of the most important aspects of this job: the business side!  These panels will offer access to executives, studio reps, producers, attorneys, managers, agents, and producers as they disclose what to expect and what to prepare for in order to truly cultivate your writing career.

See the Track: THE BUSINESS SIDE TRACK

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AFF Guest Blog: Nancy Foley

The 20th Anniversary Austin Film Festival will be Nan’s eighth: twice as an attendee, six as a volunteer. There is nowhere else she would rather be in October.

Nancy Foley | 10.16.13

The 20th Anniversary Austin Film Festival will be Nan’s eighth: twice as an attendee, six as a volunteer.  There is nowhere else she would rather be in October.

Numbers, it’s all about the numbers.  A writer would argue, no, words; it’s all about the words. But let’s consider how significant numbers are to that same writer. Let’s start with the number one.  One writer behind a computer finishes one script, then one more and so on.  For this purpose, let’s take Susie Screenwriter.  Susie reads books, takes courses and has a body of work.  Our Susie believes she is ready to market herself.  How should she go about it?  She can enter one screenplay contest at a time, or, she can try to secure representation, one agent at a time.  She can also query producers, production companies and so on, one at a time.  But worst of all, Susie could be going about it all wrong.

She doesn’t really know.  What she does know is no one will read her work.  This learning curve will take Susie a very long time, probably years.

Or, our Susie can go to the Austin Film Festival and immerse herself in an accelerated learning environment that addresses all aspects of the creative and business sides of writing for the film and television industries.  What will set her work apart, how can she market herself, but most of all, are you listening Susie, connect with hundreds, no thousands of other writers, filmmakers, A-list industry professionals, volunteers, popcorn loving, film obsessed, chip crunching television fanatics in one adrenal explosion of how it all works from those who really do know.  When could she ever go to more than one film, every day, listen to the filmmaker live and party afterward with the same people?  This one extended weekend will change Susie’s life.  Nothing can stop her now, unless she doesn’t go.

Don’t stay home, Susie.  Come to the One and Only Austin Film Festival!  Yes, it’s all about the numbers… the sheer number of opportunities.

THANK YOU, AFF, for 20 memory making, life altering years!!

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THE CONFERENCE: Choose Your Own Adventure – Adam Goetz

The best thing about Austin Film Festival is the lack of separation between the invited filmmakers and the festival attendees. Now I’ve only been working here since June, so I’m not sure how this dynamic came to be, but I think I have a pretty good idea (or at least a bad idea that will allow me to say some nice things about the festival). Austin Film Festival has managed to construct an environment that is so enjoyable, that panelists would rather mingle at The Driskill Bar than retreat to their swanky hotel rooms. The filmmakers party like attendees, and the attendees are treated like filmmakers. There’s a mutual respect in the air that isn’t seen at other film festivals. Austin Film Festival brings people together, rather than highlighting their differences with a velvet rope.

Adam Goetz | 10.02.12

The best thing about Austin Film Festival is the lack of separation between the invited filmmakers and the festival attendees. Now I’ve only been working here since June, so I’m not sure how this dynamic came to be, but I think I have a pretty good idea (or at least a bad idea that will allow me to say some nice things about the festival).  Austin Film Festival has managed to construct an environment that is so enjoyable, that panelists would rather mingle at The Driskill Bar than retreat to their swanky hotel rooms. The filmmakers party like attendees, and the attendees are treated like filmmakers. There’s a mutual respect in the air that isn’t seen at other film festivals. Austin Film Festival brings people together, rather than highlighting their differences with a velvet rope.

I guess all of this goes to say, the filmmakers are here to help you. They’re excited to teach you things. And there’s no better way to learn from them than to attend a whole bunch of panels. So where do you begin?

My recommendation: Keeping Time on Your Side: Temporal Elements and Your Screenplay. This panel features two of the most unique screenwriters working today. On one hand, you’ve got David Lowery. Add to Lowery’s fantastic writing and directing talents a long career as an editor, and you’ve got somebody with a very interesting and well-rounded perspective on how to maneuver through time in film. On the other hand, you’ve got Scott Neustadter, who wrote 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, a movie in which (please excuse the enormous cliché) the passing of time is itself a character. This panel affords badgeholders (Conference and Producers) the opportunity to hear two towering talents speak on a topic that I feel is often neglected when it comes to discussing screenwriting. And if there were anybody that you’d want to hear discuss it, it would be these two. You’ll have the time of your life. (I promise David Lowery and Scott Neustadter won’t be using my puns.)

My second recommendation is Taking a Write Out of Crime, which, for me, is an obvious pick. I mean, everybody loves a good crime-drama, right? This panel features three writers that I am so excited to have at the festival. Peter Craig wrote THE TOWN, which is fantastic and one of my favorite modern crime films. George Pelecanos wrote some of my absolute favorite episodes of The Wire, which is of course the best crime show ever on television. And Rian Johnson wrote and directed the amazing teenage-crime-noir BRICK, in addition to having directed Ozymandias, probably the best ever episode of Breaking Bad, which…is also the best crime show ever on television. Think about it. These are some of the best minds working in this genre. When you leave this panel, the stuff that’s in their brains will now also be in your brain. It’s like magic.

The 5 panelists that I’ve written about are all people that I sincerely look up to as a writer. These are people that have written movies and television that have reshaped, or are currently reshaping, their respective mediums. You can listen to them speak, you can ask them questions; you can maybe even awkwardly approach them at a bar or party. Anything is possible!

Adam Goetz is a senior at Texas State University, majoring in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. He started his experience at Austin Film Festival last year as a volunteer, but has since seen a meteoric rise to the rank of Conference intern.

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THE CONFERENCE: Choose Your Own Adventure – Sonja Luther

Have you ever noticed that when you check out a movie on the Netflix website, you get lots of information about the movie but nowhere does it tell you who wrote it? This is actually very typical of how the screenwriter is usually treated by the media and as a result often by the audience as well. I was guilty of it, too, until I started my apprenticeship with the Austin Film Festival & Conference. Of course, I knew quite a few screenwriters and their work when I started, but, honestly, most of those screenwriters were also directors, and being not only a writer but also a director usually gives writers an immediate popularity boost. Fortunately I can say that after working with AFF and particularly our conference director, Erin Hallagan, I am no longer ignorant of the great writers without whom we would not have all of the incredible movies and shows we love so much and would not want to miss.

Sonja Luther | 10.02.13

Have you ever noticed that when you check out a movie on the Netflix website, you get lots of information about the movie but nowhere does it tell you who wrote it? This is actually very typical of how the screenwriter is usually treated by the media and as a result often by the audience as well. I was guilty of it, too, until I started my apprenticeship with the Austin Film Festival & Conference. Of course, I knew quite a few screenwriters and their work when I started, but, honestly, most of those screenwriters were also directors, and being not only a writer but also a director usually gives writers an immediate popularity boost. Fortunately I can say that after working with AFF and particularly our conference director, Erin Hallagan, I am no longer ignorant of the great writers without whom we would not have all of the incredible movies and shows we love so much and would not want to miss.

The Austin Film Festival & Conference does an amazing job for every screenwriter out there. It promotes the already established writers by giving them the much deserved recognition they should be getting everywhere but don’t, and it helps the aspiring writers to get all the vital information about the industry by letting them learn from the best. The Austin Film Festival & Conference is all about sharing: the sharing of knowledge, the sharing of experiences, the sharing of ideas, and anything else you would like to share. This reminds me of something Shane Black said about writers groups in general at one of AFF’s conferences: “You share your misery, you share your joy, and eventually you share your women.” Well, I’m sure Shane Black knows what he’s talking about. By the way, he will be back this year to share more of his holy wisdom with us, and I can’t wait to hear it!

I look forward to all the exciting, informative, and inspiring panels that will be happening at this year’s Conference. I can’t wait to hear Robert Rodriguez and Roberto Orci talk about their recent collaboration on El Rey, a cable TV network that will be targeting Latin American audiences, or hear Callie Khouri and Jenji Kohan talk about the heroine’s journey. What’s so great about these panels is the super friendly atmosphere. At the end you can even get answers to those of your questions that are still left unanswered, and what’s even better is that the conversation doesn’t end once you leave the room but continues, often at the bar over a drink or two. Can you imagine yourself sitting at a bar with Vince Gilligan, talking about the purity of Heisenberg’s meth? Well, it could happen. But, first of all, you need to get yourself a badge if you haven’t already!

After having been an apprentice with the Austin Film Festival for the past nine months, I can’t wait for the Conference to finally get here. Throughout my apprenticeship I got to experience the entire development process of this year’s Festival & Conference right from the start and because of that I know that it’s going to be fantastic, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I hope I will see you all there so that we can all share this great experience together!

Sonja, who was born and raised in Germany but is now a happy Austinite, is also a Ph.D. Candidate in English at The University of Southern Mississippi. Even though her degree in English suggests a career in academia, Sonja’s first and foremost passion is film, and that’s why she’s decided to leave the world of academia to pursue her real dream.

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Guest Blog: Olga Campos, Former News Anchor, AFF Board Member and Film Fan

This week’s Austin Film Festival Guest Blog comes from a long-time friend of the Festival, Olga Campos. Olga is one of the most honored television news anchors ever to grace the Texas airwaves. After stepping down from the anchor desk, Olga became Community Relations Director for businessman and philanthropist Milton Verret. She has worked on various fundraising projects with Mr. Verret for Dell Children’s Medical Center; The Texas Hall of Fame Awards and American YouthWorks. The Austin Business Journal recently named Olga a 2013 Profiles in Power winner. When Olga gets a few hours of free time she enjoys seeing films with her husband Kevin Benz, of 25 years. This week she’s guest blogging for AFF about why she doesn’t mind waiting in AFF’s film lines year after year…

09.10.13 | Olga Campos

This week’s Austin Film Festival Guest Blog comes from a long-time friend of the Festival, Olga Campos. Olga is one of the most honored television news anchors ever to grace the Texas airwaves. After stepping down from the anchor desk, Olga became Community Relations Director for businessman and philanthropist Milton Verret. She has worked on various fundraising projects with Mr. Verret for Dell Children’s Medical Center; The Texas Hall of Fame Awards and American YouthWorks. The Austin Business Journal recently named Olga a 2013 Profiles in Power winner. She currently serves on the the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, the Developing Committee of the Austin Film Society, the Luncheon Committee of Austin Gives and our very own Austin Film Festival Board. When Olga gets a few hours of free time she enjoys seeing films with her husband Kevin Benz, of 25 years. This week she’s guest blogging for AFF about why she doesn’t mind waiting in AFF’s film lines year after year…

It’s estimated that on average a person spends anywhere from 45 to 62 minutes every day waiting. We wait for the traffic light to change, for the washing machine cycle to end, the coffee to percolate, the voice mail message to finish and we wait for the dreaded tv commercials to be over – if we forgot to set our DVR’s.

But there is one “wait” that I look forward to every year. It’s the wait in line for entry to an Austin Film Festival screening. My husband, Kevin Benz, and I are film fans who know the best way to see great films is to purchase AFF badges.

The best in documentaries, shorts, narratives and feature films are screened at the Paramount and other easily accessible theaters around town.

Waiting in line has become an entertaining preview of what’s to come once the lights dim. Kevin and I look forward to meeting people from all over the world who travel to Austin for the AFF. We share celebrity sightings (James Franco and Billy Bob Thornton are so handsome in person!). We offer impromptu reviews of films (everybody has a valued opinion) and we compare notes about the Q&A’s that follow films (my favorite was Sydney Pollock after a screening of TOOTSIE several years ago).

We joke about how lines always look soooooooo long no matter how early we arrive for a screening, but we have never not managed to snag a great seat!

And we are happy to wait in line to get into the fabulous parties (Film & Food, Hair of the Dog, etc). Lifelong friendships with creative types have been forged at AFF parties.

Take it from this humble film fan, this year AFF’s 20th anniversary (October 24-31) will be well worth the wait in line. I can’t think of a better way to spend 45 to 62 minutes of my day!

- Olga Campos

Join us at for the 20th Anniversary Austin Film Festival and get  your film pass here. Want to upgrade to the Badge line for priority access? Get your Badge here.

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An Update for 2013 Screenplay Competition Entrants

After receiving a record number of entries, we have completed the reading process and have started mailing out notification letters. By the end of the week, letters will be sent out to all entrants and Semifinalists will receive a personal phone call from Matt Dy, Screenplay Competition Director. Within the next week, we will be sending out email notifications to all entrants to ensure everyone has received communication. Please give some time to receive your letter and e-mail before inquiring about the status of your script. The full results for the Second Round and Semifinalist scripts will be posted by mid September. Good luck to all of our 2013 entrants!

09.04.2013 | Matt Dy

After receiving a record number of entries, we have completed the reading process and have started mailing out notification letters. By the end of the week, letters will be sent out to all entrants and Semifinalists will receive a personal phone call from Matt Dy, Screenplay Competition Director. Within the next week, we will be sending out email notifications to all entrants to ensure everyone has received communication. Please give some time to receive your letter and e-mail before inquiring about the status of your script. The full results for the Second Round and Semifinalist scripts will be posted by mid September. Good luck to all of our 2013 entrants!

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AFF Guest Blog: Todd Linden, 2006 Comedy Teleplay Winner

In 2006 I won the AFF comedy teleplay competition with a My Name is Earl spec. It was by far the biggest accomplishment yet in my young career (unless you consider carrying 30 lunches at once as a television PA an accomplishment), and I hoped and believed the next step would be finding representation from this victory that could then lead to staffing on a show soon thereafter. Well, these aspirational timelines rarely work out the way we want…

09.04.2013 | Todd Linden

In 2006 I won the AFF comedy teleplay competition with a My Name is Earl spec.  It was by far the biggest accomplishment yet in my young career (unless you consider carrying 30 lunches at once as a television PA an accomplishment), and I hoped and believed the next step would be finding representation from this victory that could then lead to staffing on a show soon thereafter.  Well, these aspirational timelines rarely work out the way we want…

I met with several agents and managers following my AFF victory, including Dianne Fraser at Industry Entertainment (note that for later).  But nothing led to representation at the time.  It was a disheartening result for this naïve Connecticut soul who had moved to California with the assumption things were going to work out (mostly because I was too afraid to think about the alternative).  So I continued on with my climbing of the Hollywood assistant ladder.  I could give you a longwinded, YA novel account of my years as an assistant and my struggles to break through.  In fact, I started to write that, and then I deleted it, because all of us who have spent years trying to break in have had similar enough troubles.

Suffice it to say, over the years, I continued to write and write, and would show scripts to agents that I had crossed paths with through my various jobs, but would be told time and time again that while my scripts were good, they’d “have too many unemployed clients as it is and can’t take on another.” (Feel free to insert any other agent-y excuses you’ve been given here.)  It felt like nothing was honest about this industry, and how long was I willing to play that game?  And, of course, there were those dark days in which I questioned my abilities as a writer and whether I should find a new career (that continues to this day), but there was just nothing else I wanted to do.  This all led to a spec pilot I wrote in 2011 about a couple who were lucky to have each other, but neither could seem to catch a break in the pursuits of their respective careers.  It was truly my life at the time, and while part of writing that pilot was therapeutic, it also came from a very real place and people responded to that.

Most notably, I gave the script to a non-writing producer who I had befriended while working across the hall from him on the Disney lot when I was assisting a writer.  I was simply hoping to get his notes, but he came back to me with a passion for the script and the desire to try to get it produced.  Using his interest, I decided to go back to a couple of the agents and managers I had met with in the past to tell them of this recent development.  I even took a big swing by contacting Dianne Fraser (I hadn’t seen her since the post-AFF meeting we had a half decade earlier).  But when I reminded her who I was, where I was at in my career, and this pilot I had written that a producer wanted to take out, she agreed to read the script, and she responded highly to it.  Ultimately it led to an agreement that she would team up with the other producer and after developing it a little further with me, we would try to sell it.  While we never were quite able to get that project off the ground, Dianne was impressed enough by my abilities through the process that she took me on as a client, which was thrilling in its own right.

At the same time this was going on, I was a script coordinator on the ABC show, Happy Endings.  And in its second season, I was given the opportunity to write a freelance episode for the show (it was called “The Kerkovich Way”, feel free to check it out!).  It felt like the stars were finally beginning to align for me.  And while there was no opportunity to get staffed at Happy Endings, I now had a manager and a produced script to my name.  In the spring of 2012, I went out for staffing season, and got my first staff writing job on another ABC show called Family Tools.  My dream of staffing had finally been realized.

The main point to take from all this, is that you never know what might lead to your big break, or more importantly, when it might happen.  If I hadn’t won the AFF teleplay completion in 2006, I would’ve never met Dianne Fraser.  If I hadn’t met Dianne, I wouldn’t have been able to reconnect with her in 2011 when I had a “hot” pilot to show, and I wouldn’t have found representation by the time I got a freelance episode of a comedy on TV.  And if I hadn’t had that representation, I wouldn’t have been able to be officially submitted to shows for staffing consideration.  And then I would have never met the creator of Family Tools who ended up giving me my big break.  So while it may have taken a little longer than I had hoped, I can look back at AFF as a direct correlation to my success in television.  (There were obviously many other variables that factored in to all of this along the way, but these were key things to even give me a fighting chance at success.)

Of course, the brutality of this industry doesn’t change after you’ve staffed (or sold that first screenplay).  I’m currently living proof of that as well.  Family Tools had the unfortunate fate of many first year shows and was quickly canceled, and I’m again an unemployed writer looking and fighting for the next break.  Certainly not the best-case scenario when you’re a world-class pessimist like myself.  But what I must remind myself is what I just told you: that my AFF-to-staffing story is proof that we never know what from our past might lead to our big breaks in the future.  That unpredictability is a stressful truth and one of the worst parts of this industry. But it’s also one of the best.  Because it gives us the best medicine to forge on: hope.

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Announcing the 2013 First Round of Films

We’re delighted to announce the first 10 films in the 20th Anniversary Festival Lineup! From World Premieres, to anticipated films that will compete for Oscars, these first 10 films are a great sampling of things to come!

We are delighted to announce the first round of  films in the 20th Anniversary Festival Lineup! From World Premieres, to anticipated films that will compete for Oscars, these early films are a great sampling of things to come! Join us for a 8 days of film by getting your Film Pass here. Don’t want to wait in the film pass line? Upgrade to a Festival & Conference Badge!

First Round of Films

  • COFFEE, KILL BOSS (World Premiere)

Director: Nathan Marshall
Writer: Sigurd Ueland
The first feature film from director Nathan Marshall, follows ten
executives who secretly meet to sell off their company but instead become victims of an outrageous
murder scheme. The script, written by Sigurd Ueland — a 2010 Austin Film Festival Screenplay
Competition Semifinalist — is a dark comic romp through the halls of corporate America.

  • INNOCENCE (World Premiere)

Writer/Director: Hilary Brougher
Producer: Christine Vachone
INNOCENCE follows a young woman who discovers that her elite private school harbors a dark secret. This suspenseful horror film, based on Jane Medelsohn’s 2000 novel, explores themes of loss, love, and the supernatural. Innocence will screen as a part of AFF’s Dark Matters Category.

 

 

  • MOM, DAD, I’M MUSLIM (US Premiere)

Writer/Director: Anat Tel Mendelovich
A documentary film, written and directed by Anat Tel Mendelovich and distributed by Seventh Art Releasing, examines the trials of May Davidovich, a 22- year old devout Muslim searching for equilibrium between her belief in Islam and her parents’ devotion to Judaism. The religious conflict between May and her parents makes for a fascinating case study on the balance between pursuing spiritual fulfillment and inherent family expectations.

  • NEBRASKA (Regional Premiere)

Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Bob Nelson
After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, a cantankerous father (Bruce Dern) thinks he’s struck it rich, and wrangles his son (Will Forte) into taking a road trip to claim the fortune. Shot in black and white across four states,
Nebraska tells the stories of family life in the heartland of America.

 

  • THE ODD WAY HOME (World Premiere)

Director: Rajeev Nirmalakhandan
Writer: Rajeev Nirmalakhandan and Peter Touche
THE ODD WAY HOME film follows Maya (Rumer Willis), the product of a neglected childhood, and Duncan (Chris Marquette), a slave to his obsessions of order and pattern, as they journey through the American Southwest, finding
happiness in the unlikeliest of places.

 

 

  • SIREN (North American Premiere)

Writer/Director: Jesse Peyronel
Television writer Jesse Peyronel’s feature script directorial debut. Starring Vinessa Shaw (3:10 to Yuma, The Hills Have Eyes) and Rob Kazinsky (Pacific Rim), Siren is a dark fairytale about a woman with an unusual curse: an alluring scent. She is irresistible to every man she meets, but when confronted with a man immune to her power, she is presented with the possibility of real love.

  • SOMBRAS DE AZUL (World Premiere)

Writer/Director: Kelly Daniela Norris
The Spanish-language feature film debut of local Austin writer/director, Kelly Daniela Norris, who re-imagines her own experience of bereavement following the death of her brother by weaving together real memory and personal reflection
through the sights and sounds of Cuba.

 

  • SPEAK NOW (World Premiere)

Director: Noah Harald
Writer: Erin Cardillo
Speak Now is a Romantic Dramedy following high school friends reuniting for a wedding. Old offenses and newly
mounting scandal plunge the group back into a pool of high-school drama. Entirely improvised from an outline and character studies, the whole feature was shot in three days. Speak Now will screen as part of Austin Film Festival’s new WRITE/REC Series, focusing on the best in low-budget storytelling.

  • TAKE AWAY ONE (World Premiere)

Writer/Director: William Lorton
The first feature film written and directed by seasoned tv editor William Lorton (Face Off, Bridezillas), this documentary film follows Lorton’s aunt, Mary Baratta-Lorton, and her mysterious unsolved murder. Mary, in her short 38 years, rose from obscurity to become one of the most famous teachers in the US. Personally inept with math, yet placed as a UC
Berkeley student-teacher in one of the roughest inner-city classrooms of the San Francisco Bay Area – Mary’s intuitive strategy of teaching arithmetic with hands-on manipulative materials quickly blossomed into a nation-wide career as an author, lecturer, and movement leader.

Join us for the 20th Anniversary Austin Film Festival by purchasing your Film Pass today! Click here for more information.

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Guest Blog: AFF Intern Mason Kerwick

Do you remember that moment in THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS where Jack Skellington is wandering through the woods and stumbles upon the Holiday Doors? In case you haven’t seen that scene, it features a collection of unique doors leading towards magical worlds worth exploring. Applying to intern at the Austin Film Festival was similar to this experience in that I was able to choose which department I wanted to work with over the coming months.

Do you remember that moment in THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS where Jack Skellington is wandering through the woods and stumbles upon the Holiday Doors? In case you haven’t seen that scene, it features a collection of unique doors leading towards magical worlds worth exploring. Applying to intern at the Austin Film Festival was similar to this experience in that I was able to choose which department I wanted to work with over the coming months.

In my case, I ended up applying for the Executive Department, meaning that if hired I could assist the Executive Director, Barbara Morgan, and her Executive Assistant, Linzy Beltran, with running the daily operations of the festival. An interview later and I had accepted a summer internship at AFF. Over the past few months I have enjoyed working under Barb and Linzy, who is kind of like a singing teddy bear, and have happily assisted with their reasonable demands.

There are many wonderful aspects about interning with Austin Film Festival that are not included in the job description, namely the educational benefits that result from being placed in the midst of the bustling film community, even if it’s only for a few hours a week. I grew up in the Austin film community, but working for AFF indicated there was still an abundance of information to be gleaned from films and those who make them.

From the instant I walked into the office, it was evident Barb was the female version of Rambo. Authoritative and direct, over the past 20 years she has cultivated a series of vast and influential connections within the film industry. While films are not created here in the office, nearly all of the staff members have connections to the industry, whether as producers, writers, directors or editors. As a result of these collective life experiences, the office has really cultivated an inclusive and exciting environment and I felt a member of the AFF family by the end of my first week.

The amazing thing about AFF is that interns are not confined to the department they are originally assigned. Although I reported to Linzy every time I went into the office, on several occasions I assisted with the development of marketing materials for the festival’s upcoming 20th anniversary and had the chance to read a few scripts. I even assisted with instructing campers through the Austin Film Festival Summer Film Camps.

On top of working within the office, interns and apprentices are required to assist with three events; this actually ended up being one of the most brag worthy elements of my job. I was able to see The Heat and, ironically enough, The Internship before they were released theatrically. After watching an advanced screening of The To Do List, I worked the check-in desk for an intimate conversation with the film’s writer and director, Maggie Carey. Ms. Carey even complimented the shirt I was wearing that day, so we’re clearly BFFs now.

Alas, even though my internship with AFF is coming to its close, my relationship with the festival is only starting. And with the fall semester about to begin, I know AFF is looking for several new interns. So pick which department might be the best fit for you and maybe you’ll get the chance to experience the magical world within AFF. I know I have enjoyed my tenure here.

Interested in interning at AFF? Click here for all opportunities!

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AFF Interview: SECONDHAND LIONS Writer / Director Tim McCanlies

07.24.13 | Erin Hallagan Austin Film Festival (AFF): How did you come into screenwriting?  What has been one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in this trade? Tim McCanlies: I’ve always loved books and movies, and always wanted to be a writer; I read voraciously, watched films incessantly, and tried to write fiction from an early age.  I made films in high school, went …

07.24.13 | Erin Hallagan

Austin Film Festival (AFF): How did you come into screenwriting?  What has been one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in this trade?

Tim McCanlies: I’ve always loved books and movies, and always wanted to be a writer; I read voraciously, watched films incessantly, and tried to write fiction from an early age.  I made films in high school, went to film school, and finally went out to LA many years ago, in the early 80′s.  After a number of years of struggling, I finally got a few spec scripts optioned; these scripts attracted the attention of the folks at Disney, and that’s where my real education began.  There, I learned the most valuable lesson I’ve learned in the screenwriting trade: I’d written a first draft of an original idea, by all accounts a “terrific first draft”, and everyone loved it, EVERYONE, to the point in which I was getting notes from a dozen junior executives and the three major studio head execs.  I was swimming in “notes”, many if not most confusing and even contradictory.  After several drafts, the script had become a Frankenstein’s monster of patchwork ideas/notes/themes, reflecting everyone’s “input”.  In a post-mortem “what happened?” meeting, I told my execs that I’d did everything they’d asked, taken every note… and this was the first time I’d ever seen a studio exec “crack”… he said “We don’t know what we’re doing!  If we did, we’d be writers!  You’re not supposed to take our notes literally, slavish follow our directions… YOU are the writer.  You have to be smarter than us.”  So, from that moment on, I took his advice, and never let the studio become the writer, I never abdicated the authority or the responsibility for my writing to be GOOD.  It helped me stay sane in this crazy business for many years.

 

AFF: You’re the proof that it is not necessary to live in LA to work in the film industry. What have been some of the benefits and challenges of working for Hollywood in Texas?

McCanlies: BENEFITS: I live in the real world, where The Business is not the most important thing in the world, and I think that gives me some much-needed perspective on many, many things in life.  It’s cheaper here in Texas… but most importantly, Texas is where I’m from, where I belong.  Also, the time difference, being two hours later, helps me keep my morning to myself, for writing, before the phone starts ringing.

DRAWBACKS: There are many projects that, over the years, I’m sure I’ve not gotten because I wasn’t around, close at hand.  Sometimes they need a guy NOW, especially on big production emergency re-writes, and so I never really worked much in that side of the business.  I’m sure there’s many contacts I didn’t make, connections I missed, because I didn’t (and still don’t) live out there.

I did live out in LA for the first five years of my writing career, and I would still recommend it to any young writer, starting out, whose life and commitments allow him or her to do so.  You can “get up to speed” far more quickly out there… much of this depends on what kind of writing you want to do.  The film side of the business isn’t nearly as active as it was during much of my time out there; the television side of the business is very exciting now, it’s something I never really explored and wish I had.  But to make one’s way in Television, even these days, you’d have to live out there, get on a staff, learn that side of the business.

 

AFF: You were at the inaugural Austin Film Festival and Conference in 1993 and since then you’ve been to the Festival and Conference eight times. From your perspective has the festival changed over the past twenty years?

McCanlies: It’s certainly grown far larger, more well-attended, and more influential every year.  But I like to think that the core remains the same, year after year: to show young writers that they CAN indeed succeed, and help them find the tools and courage they need to do so.

 

AFF: In your opinion, what makes this Festival and Conference so valuable for aspiring and for working screenwriters?

McCanlies: This festival is still uniquely about the writer; while there have since been other attempts at writers’ festivals, this festival remains the primary festival for aspiring writers to learn their craft.  On top of that, the script contest is one of the best opportunities for a new writer’s main problem: to get his script read.  And now, the “On Story” television episodes on PBS are a terrific resource for everyone.

 

AFF: What has been your most memorable moment at the Conference?

McCanlies: There’s been so many: getting to meet so many writers who are heroes of mine is always a high light.  One highlight I fondly remember: before/after a panel on animation, swapping stories about Brad Bird with Andrew Stanton.

 

AFF: How did you come up with the story for SECONDHAND LIONS?  What were some of the significant changes that happened from conception through creation and why?

McCanlies: I had an idea to explore “What happens to a guy like Indiana Jones when he’s ‘Old, Pissed, and Fixin’ to Die?’” (an early title).  And early on, a theme emerged: I’d seen documentaries on how 99% of prison inmates had no real father, no man in their life, to adult male role model, and so I wondered, “What is it that men teach boys?  What are those lessons?”  And so, that became what the film “was about”.  And once I knew that, I knew what I need to know to write it.  And strangely, perhaps because the writer also became the director, not a lot of changes happened to the script.  Changes that were made were mostly for timing, as my first cut was far too long; so some sub-plots went away (but they’re all on the DVD).  Translating that script to the screen was a huge learning experience for me.

 

AFF: As a film that speaks to viewers of all ages and backgrounds, what do you hope that audiences take away from watching SECONDHAND LIONS?

McCanlies: Well, I suppose it’s the lessons that the Uncles teach the boy: what’s truly important, that courage and honor are everything, worth doing for their own sake.

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A Look at the Emmy Nominees for Writing

The Emmy nominations were announced last week and since there hasn’t been much coverage on the lesser-appreciated writing categories, it seemed appropriate to highlight them here. And the nominees are…

07.24.13 | Matt Dy

The Emmy nominations were announced last week and since there hasn’t been much  coverage on the lesser-appreciated writing categories, it seemed appropriate to highlight them here.  And the nominees are…

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” by George Mastras
Breaking Bad – “Say My Name” by Thomas Schnauz
Downton Abbey – “Episode 4” by Julian Fellowes
Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castamere” by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Homeland – “Q&A” by Henry Bromell

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

30 Rock – “Hogcock!” by Jack Burditt and Robert Carlock
30 Rock – “Last Lunch” by Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield
Episodes – “Episode 209” by David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik
Louie – “Daddy’s Girlfriend (Part 1)” by Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon
The Office – “Finale” by Greg Daniels

While I haven’t seen all of the nominated episodes, this still looks like a pretty solid list of nominees.  The Drama category includes Breaking Bad’s first two nominations for writing, that infamous episode of Game of Thrones, and the interrogation episode of Homeland where Brody gets stabbed in the hand.  The Comedy category includes the finales for 30 Rock (two parts) and The Office,  and more self-deprecating episodes of Episodes and Louie.   Sadly, no pilots were nominated this year.  Sorely overlooked shows for writing include House of Cards (although nominated in other categories), Bates Motel, Hannibal, The Americans, and the most disappointing snub, Orphan Black which was the best new show this year (don’t get me started on Tatiana Maslany’s snub for Best Actress).   My early predictions are that one of the Breaking Bad episodes will win for Drama writing and 30 Rock will win for Comedy writing for its swan song episode, “Last Lunch”.

If you’re writing a TV spec for an existing show or a pilot, the Emmy nominations are always a good place to look for examples of quality writing.  PDFs for this year’s nominees are hard to find but you can easily view each episode through various on demand services.  Several Emmy winning and nominated episodes from previous years are easier to find.  I’ve included a few PDFs of those below including Homeland, last year’s winner for Drama writing.

Homeland Pilot Episode

GIRLS

Modern Family Pilot

Pushing Daisies

 

This year’s Emmy winners will be announced on September 22nd.  Catch up on the nominated episodes before then and decide for yourself which ones should win.

 

–Matt Dy, AFF Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director

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Top 10 Tips for Submitting Your Film to a Film Festival

07.10.13 | Top 10 Tips for Submitting Your Film to a Film Festival (unrelated to whether or not your film is actually good) The Film Competition deadline is July 15th, and instead of wasting one of my ten pieces of advice on something so easy, I’ll just explain: that’s a POSTMARK ON OR BEFORE deadline.  You can send a film from Antarctica where it takes …

07.10.13 |

Top 10 Tips for Submitting Your Film to a Film Festival (unrelated to whether or not your film is actually good)

The Film Competition deadline is July 15th, and instead of wasting one of my ten pieces of advice on something so easy, I’ll just explain: that’s a POSTMARK ON OR BEFORE deadline.  You can send a film from Antarctica where it takes 4 weeks to arrive, as long as it’s postmarked in Antarctica on July 15th (we’d love more submissions from Antartica!). If you have a film ready to go, click here to submit today!

Films come into our office in all manner of packaging and processing.  Of course, the best films always rise to the top.  But there are always more films that we want to play than we have space to play.  By now, it’s probably too late to do much to change the quality of the film you are submitting, but you can affect the overall impression your film makes when it arrives.  I’ve put together a list of easy fixes or warnings to keep in mind when you send your film to a festival.  Some of these suggestions are obvious, but in many cases, they may actually be counterintuitive. Despite this being written for Austin Film Festival’s final deadline, a majority of these hints are just as true for other festivals – always check with the festival’s website (especially their FAQ).  Here are some simple tips for getting your film out the door.

1)      Set up your DVD to first play your film.  There is nothing more tiresome than a ‘splash’ screen announcing your film title on a cartoon marquee or giving the viewer the choice between watching the trailer or the film.  You would rather have us watch your film than your trailer.  Don’t even distract us by having to click PLAY on a menu screen to start the film. All DVD burning software should have the option of making the actual film file, the DVD’s first play.  If you’d like to include a trailer or cast list, you can always have the disk set-up to go to the menu after the film finishes.

2)      Don’t waste money or packaging space (and thus increased postage) on sending a lot of additional material with your film.  Most festivals will not have time to read your past reviews, director’s statement, bios of your gaffer etc.  If they’ve asked for it specifically then sure, but most of the time, all that paperwork will be tossed aside. If you are entering through Withoutabox, that information is included automatically anyway in your online press kit for a festival to look if they so choose.

3)      Do, however, send a cover letter.  There is a chance that no one will read this of course, but this is your one chance to let someone know something about your film that isn’t obvious without watching it (or even after).  Sub-thoughts about the cover letter:

  • It should be short.  Think one paragraph, 4-6 lines total (not sentences).  The length of the letter is inversely proportional to the chance it will be read (i.e. long letters hurt my eyes.)
  • Do address someone by name (do your research, find an actual person at the festival to send the letter to – even if the package is opened by an intern, they may think you know that person.  Certainly it looks better than ‘Dear Film Festival Programmer.’)
  • If you are a festival alumni – put that in there.  Seriously.  You would not believe the number of people who forget to alert a festival to the fact that they’ve already screened there.
  • If you are local to the festival, let us know.  Every festival wants filmmakers to come and present their films, and if you are more likely to do so, they want to know it.  Some festivals have specific programming sections for local or state films, and may even receive grant money based on how many of those films they program.  Of course, don’t lie.  Also, only include your local status if you actually live there.  Also, no extra points are given if your key grip is local.
  • If your film was shot locally, include that information.  This can be in connection with the above, but not always.
  • If your film would be a World Premiere, put that in there.  Some festivals care about that sort of thing.  Sometimes it matters more for features than shorts.
  • If your film played a Major Festival, put that in.  Major festivals are things like Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW, Toronto, Berlin, Hotdocs, Cleveland, San Francisco, and, well, Austin Film Festival.
  • That’s it. You shouldn’t have to explain why/how you came up with the idea, or what it all means, we should realize the message of your film from watching it.

4)      Please don’t send the Programming Team an overload of emails.  A majority of the questions we receive have very simple answers that can be found on the FAQ on our website.  Questions like ‘when is your final deadline’ have answers posted several places on our website, on Withoutabox and on several other websites.  Looking at our FAQ will save you some time.

5)      I know that there is a temptation to email every other festival every time your film gets accepted somewhere – don’t do it.  Unless your film was a potential World Premiere and now is not, letting us know might not help you.  Every festival wants to discover new talent and be an important stop on a filmmaker/film’s journey.  Major festivals might not be interested in your film if it has already played a number of small ones.

6)      Choose your World Premiere carefully.  It may not be in your best interest to play the first festival that accepts you.  You only get to World Premiere once.  If you get an offer from one festival but would really rather play another (and later) festival, contact the festival you want to play.  The worst thing they can tell you is they are not ready to make decisions.  If anything, it might make them watch your film faster and make a quicker decision.  When your film plays a large festival, it can lead to invitations (and even waivers) from other festivals.

7)      Don’t distract the viewer with over-whelming watermarks.  You want a screener/judge to get lost in your film, not constantly be reminded that it is ‘Property of.’  If you feel you have to use a watermark, make it small and in the bottom corner and only come up for thirty seconds every ten minutes.  Anything longer might make you seem like an overly paranoid filmmaker.

8)      If you are sending a “work-in-progress,” let the viewer know.  It may have been in your cover letter, but often those are separated from the film before the screener/judge receives it.  Put it on a title card right at the open of the film, let the viewer know what work is left to be done.

9)      Don’t use fiber-filled envelopes.  They are messy and get all over the office.  They are impossible to open and may even end up all over your DVD.

10)   Finally, send a DVD if at all possible.  Even better, if the festival will take it, send a Blu Ray (we don’t take Blu Ray… this year… stay tuned).  Withoutabox and Vimeo and all sorts of video sharing sites have made it very easy for filmmakers to mass-enter film festivals, but consider the quality of the file you upload to these sites.  Is it really capturing your film the way you want it to be seen?  More importantly, a film that is available online can really be watched two ways, by a person sitting at a desk at a computer monitor, or by a person with a lap top (or tablet) on their lap.   Again, is that how you want your film viewed?  If you send a DVD or Blu Ray, it might be watched on 52” TV, sitting on a couch with a bowl of popcorn.

If you have already sent your film to us or another festival and broke some of these guidelines, don’t worry about it.  Remember, the main thing is your film should be good.  These other tips merely help a programmer to be rooting for you before the film even starts – because we all want every film to be the greatest film we’ve gotten that year.  We all want to play your film.  We want to be the ones to discover a brave new talent that will come back to the festival year after year with new projects and build an audience.

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AFF 2013 Panelists on What They Look Forward to Most

Summer is in full swing deep in the heart of Texas. But that’s not stopping us form working through the heat to get ready for our favorite time of year: October! We polled some of this year’s panelists to find out what they are most looking forward to about coming (or returning!) to Austin and the Conference, here’s what they had to say:

07.10.13 | Erin Hallagan

Summer is in full swing deep in the heart of Texas. But that’s not stopping us form working through the heat to get ready for our favorite time of year: October! We polled some of this year’s panelists to find out what they are most looking forward to about coming (or returning!) to Austin and the Conference, here’s what they had to say:

CRAIG MAZIN: For a few days, Austin turns into an alt universe where screenwriters and screenwriting get the appreciation they deserve.
HERSCHEL WEINGROD: Its continued and unswerving dedication, against all odds, to celebrating and furthering the craft of screenwriting.
DAN PETRIE, JR AND RICK DUGDALE: Networking at the cocktail parties.
LESLIE DIXON: Seeing if anyone will play Texas Swing music with me.  (I’d settle for fiddle tunes.)
ED SOLOMON: I always have great AFF memories.  Mostly just hanging in the bar talking with and meeting other writers – and meeting the folks who come to the festival who are interested in writing.
LINDSAY DORAN: A young man sent me a card after the conference last year saying that, in his film school, Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino are regarded as gods (which he agreed with).  But, he continued, he’d been afraid to say out loud that he thought the best movie ever made was “Back to the Future.”  He said that after hearing my talk he now had the courage to not only say those words out loud but to continue to make films that aspire to make people (and himself) happy.
To read more about what Panelists love about AFF, click here.
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Guest Blog: HOLY HELL – Get to Know Your Ensemble

07.03.13 | Lowell Bartholomee and Rafael Ruiz At last count, HOLY HELL features about 100 speaking roles.  No one in their right mind would ever set out to make their first feature on a tiny budget with such a large cast.  Fortunately for us we were making this in Austin and had several years of local theater and voice-over experience under our belts.  Finding brilliantly …

07.03.13 | Lowell Bartholomee and Rafael Ruiz

At last count, HOLY HELL features about 100 speaking roles.  No one in their right mind would ever set out to make their first feature on a tiny budget with such a large cast.  Fortunately for us we were making this in Austin and had several years of local theater and voice-over experience under our belts.  Finding brilliantly talented people to fill the roles wasn’t going to be hard.  It was really the best asset we had.  Here’s just a tenth of how lucky we are.

KEN EDWARDS (Lane)

Ironically, Ken is one of the few actors we didn’t know through theater or voice work.  Ken is an honest-to-God working actor and you’ve seen him in several things on the big and small screen.  We met him through Shiraz Jafri (who also has a cameo in the movie), an Austin filmmaker and all-around awesome guy.  Shiraz created “That Banned Show”, a very irreverent sketch show that Raf worked on and Lowell appeared in.  In fact, Lowell played the same character as Ken in one sketch and you’d have to see it to make that make sense (which it does).  Ken had also starred in a low budget horror film that Shiraz had a small role in.  (So you can start to see how this sort of thing works in Austin.)  Lane was one of the roles we took a lot of time to cast, not just because he’s so central to the film, but because we had a tricky time matching an actor to the part.  Once those roads led us to Ken, we didn’t look any farther.  We got him a script and he agreed to do it based solely on the material and our mutual connections.  Ken was one of the few actors we met and got to know while making the film and we couldn’t be happier with how it worked out.

KENNETH WAYNE BRADLEY (Pardo)

The other half of what we regularly referred to as “The Kens.”  Lowell knew Ken from as far back as 1997 or so through theater and film work and had been present at several cast parties where Ken had sworn to quit acting and start getting into “real life.”  We see how well that worked out and the world is a better place for it.  It turns out that Raf had worked on a production of TALK RADIO that Ken had been in at Hyde Park Theatre back in 1995, but neither of them realized this until almost the end of the shoot.  We really lucked out when Ken agreed to play Pardo.  It helps that he’s one of the kindest and most generous people you could hope to know and throws himself into his work with more enthusiasm than anyone else on the set.  (Those who have seen him get zotzed by William Fichtner in DRIVE ANGRY can attest to that.)  What Ken may not know is that he was also cast because he’s married to Cathy, who is without debate his “better half.”  We figured if Ken was in the movie then Cathy would get to hang out with us, too.  Keep that a secret because it’s good for him to think he won the role on talent alone.

ELLIE McBRIDE (Claudia)

The role of Claudia was written for Ellie.  She also has the extremely mixed blessing of being Lowell’s then-girlfriend (now wife).  These life choices resulted in her house (the central location in the film) being invaded by what served as production offices, storage, Raf’s living quarters, and the bulk of the shooting schedule.  Ellie managed to work a full-time job throughout the production and never once murdered anyone after months of having people show up early in the morning and late at night to make a movie.  (A lot of that goes to explain the “now wife” part.)  Her performance speaks to how much better prepared she was than even the filmmakers when it came time to shoot.  During production, Ellie had to go to Smithville to shoot a scene with Brad Pitt in TREE OF LIFE, directed by Terrence Malick and shot by Emmanuel Lubezki.  She came home to talk about working with Brad and Terry and “Chito.”  (“Who’s Chito?”  “The cinematographer.”  “You mean Emmanuel Lubezki?”  “His friends call him Chito.”  She was now on a nickname basis with a couple of living geniuses.)  We had to remind her that when she was done goofing around with cinematic man-gods, she needed to come home and do pick-ups on our little church-horror comedy.  Despite that, she still said “yes” when Lowell popped the question at the end of the year.  There’s really no explaining that.

EDWIN NEAL (Bolton)

Ultimately, HOLY HELL was inspired by a deep love of horror movies, particularly the ragged grindhouse flavored ones from the 70s.  Lowell was lucky to have met and become friends with Ed over several years of running an anime dubbing studio in Austin.  Ed was one of those actors you could bring in and throw any manner of roles at and he would do something special with it.  Added to which, he’s a riot to hang out with.  That he also played The Hitchhiker in crown-jewel-of-the-70s-horror-pantheon THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE only added an extra bit of perfect detail to him being in our movie.  It also allowed our cast-many of whom were acting in their first movie- to gain one degree of separation from Kevin Bacon since Ed was in JFK.  Our biggest regret is that we were so tightly scheduled that we didn’t have time to just run a camera on Ed and get him to tell us stories of his life and career.  There’s a seriously hilarious documentary to be made there.  (Feel free to steal that idea because we’d love to see that movie.)

TIGER DARROW (Brooke)

Lowell met Tiger when she literally didn’t come up to much higher than his knee in 2000 when he managed to act in three shows with her mother Peyton Haylsip (also in the movie).  At the time, Tiger would camp out under the dressing room table with her books and whatever else sparked her preternaturally advanced imagination.  He still has a drawing she made of him somewhere in the archives.  Since then she’s gotten a lot taller and her talent has grown even more.  She’s currently in New York studying music at NYU and is already earning awards for her stunning songwriting skills.  (NYU Steinhardt Songwriter Scholar Award for Excellence in Songwriting from the Songwriters Hall of Fame!)  Which probably means we were able to work with her right before she became too famous to show up on weekends to dork around with us.  Tiger and Peyton lived in Dallas at the time and would arrange a handful of days they could come and work on the movie.  Needless to say, Tiger was never not ready for anything.  Which teaches us that you should always look under the table because there might be a brilliant artist making pictures there.

DAVID WALTER (Aaron)

We had written a number of young roles into the movie and while Austin theater boasts of a great number of fine actors, it can be difficult to find the pre-college kinds.  Raf went to Austin High and had remained friends with Billy Dragoo, who runs the theater department there and is something of an Austin legend/guru/helper in the larger community.  We were able to set up auditions in the theater at the school where we met a number of really capable, very young actors.  We threw them improv ideas and tried a few different scenes to see who could do what.  David was one of those kids who you knew had to be in the movie.  To be so young and to have that kind of presence and timing is remarkable.  We cast three or four of the kids, but David was probably the one who had to be on set the most.  He was a joy to work with except for maybe the time he cut most of his hair off after we’d only shot about a third of his scenes.  If you watch the movie and wonder why that one character seems to wear a lot of different hats in various scenes, well there you go.  Mystery solved.  We had an idea that there was going to be a lot more improv in the film than there ended up being.  We can chalk that up to thinking something’s a good idea because Judd Apatow does it (it was 2008) and then realizing that takes certain skills that need developing over time.

NATALIE GEORGE (“Rose”)

Natalie is currently one of the three people who runs the internationally renowned Fusebox Festival every spring in Austin.  In 2008, she was a technical wizard and performer who could often be found in the rafters or guts of a theater making a show possible or a theater viable.  Lowell had never worked with her as an actor, but luckily ran into her at a party thrown by Cyndi Williams (also in the movie) a week before they shot the fake movie scenes.  It seemed like a good idea to ask Natalie to jump into the mix and she agreed to do it.  We had no idea what magic she was going to bring.  She clicked with the cheap horror movie aesthetic immediately and delivered some of our favorite line deliveries in the entire film.  And she was willing to jump into hastily written scenes and throw on a red sequined dress for no discernible reason and deliver the goods.  In a just world, we would build a really great horror movie around the actors who starred in our fake horror movie and give them a chance to really shine.  Maybe on the next film.

BARBARA CHISHOLM (Annie Linford)

There are actors and there are forces of nature and Barbara is definitely the latter.  For years she’s been one of those people who takes the stage and you have to be on your game just to hold your own on it with her.  This was another case of having an actor in the film whose talent and accomplishments were well beyond our pay grade.  But as with many actors in the film, years of doing theater together and dubbing anime gave us access to talent we probably otherwise would not have had.  Barbara is one of those people who you can call and ask, “Do you want to come out on Saturday and play an insane religious zealot and yell at some of your best friends?” and she will say, “Where and what time?”  Barbara’s character represented the kind of person in the real world who just makes it harder on the rest of us.  A person who is willing to gum up the works at a moment’s notice because they don’t understand something and are afraid of what they don’t know.  Pretty much the exact opposite of Barbara.  I think it was a sign of how even-handed we tried to be that we cast someone with so much charisma to take on this role.  In the time since the movie was shot, the world has given us Palins and Bachmans and in retrospect we should have been a lot harder on these people.  (Hey, we thought after eight years of Bush II that people would be tired of being crazy.  Our mistake.)  We would still ask Barbara to play the role, though.  Because if you can have Barbara Chisholm in your play or movie, have Barbara Chisholm in your play or movie.  To do otherwise would just be insane.

TRAVIS & MELANIE DEAN (Daniel & Linda Potter)

Lowell met Travis and Melanie in 1998 on a production of MACBETH in which they played the most notorious murderous bastards in all of Western drama.  In the time since, they had many opportunities to work together: both of them appearing in a production of Kirk Lynn’s THE JINN for Lowell and Ellie’s theater company the dirigo group and Travis had starred (with Peyton Hayslip) in Lowell’s first full-length play THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.  In addition, they had voiced several characters over the years at the anime studio.  So when it came time to cast the pinnacle of grandiose religious villainy, there was really only one way to go.  Both of them are seriously accomplished actors who are maybe never better than when they’re acting together.  Since the Potters only appear on television, their schedule was fairly light: one afternoon in front of a greenscreen representing everything that can and does go wrong in modern media.  But in a couple of short hours they masterfully created the perfect Big Evils around which everything else spun.  Interestingly, Travis probably has one of the most extensive film resumes of anyone involved in the film, having built sets for Rodriguez, the Coens, and many others.  But it doesn’t take long once you’ve heard either of them to know that there’s no better place for the Deans than to have them up there turning dialogue into gold.

DOUGLAS TAYLOR (Terry)

Doug is a mainstay of Austin theater.  Lowell met him on one of the first shows he did in 1997 when Doug jumped in at the last minute to replace an actor who apparently would rather have died than do the show.  Talking to Doug backstage, he quickly became aware of Doug’s sharp wit and his extreme unwillingness to put up with nonsense.  So, they became fast friends and have collaborated on a number of projects since, including Lowell’s first foray into writing and directing at Frontera Fest in 2000.  Doug was asked to join HOLY HELL for a truly thankless role.  It only had three lines and the character was there only to show that there were more people involved in our central church than our core characters.  After so many years of working together, it should have been apparent that you don’t bring Doug in to take up space in the background.  After his first of what was supposed to be two shooting days, it was clear that Doug was going to be in the movie a whole lot more.  We never wrote him any more lines.  We didn’t have to, because when Doug is dropped onto your deserted island of a project, he will soon figure out how to build a fire, put up a hut, and before long open his own resort casino.

RUPERT REYES (Hispanic Preacher)

Rupert Reyes is a pillar of Austin theater.  He’s a co-founder of the Latino Comedy Project and currently runs Teatro Vivo, one of the leading theaters in the city, with his brilliant wife Jo Ann.  He’s worked with a number of companies and is one of the primary forces in the propagation of bilingual theater in the States.  He’s an accomplished playwright (PETRA’S PECADO), actor, and storyteller.  Beyond that, he is one of the sweetest, most generous, kindest people you could ever hope to meet.  (And if you meet him, let him tell some stories because the man can really tell a story.)  Lowell was fortunate to meet Rupert while shooting a video piece for “Krypton is Doomed!” by internationally renowned playwright Kirk Lynn (also in the movie).  Rupert is in HOLY HELL for about four seconds during the opening credits.  We’re pretty sure his life accomplishments to screen time ratio is so misbalanced that it sets some sort of record.  Considering that our opening credits contain one of the country’s best improv artists, a stunning Shakespearian actor, one of Austin’s best actors and directors, a person who could honestly be considered the heart and soul of Austin theater, and one of the founders of an internationally adored theater companies there’s a lot of competition for that title.  In short, there’s no logical reason why someone like Rupert is in a first feature for a short period of time except that that’s how the Austin theater scene works.  And the list of favors we owe to an enormous number of actors will never truly be checked off.

There’s a reason Austin works the way it works, both in general and in the theater community in particular.  A local actor said that it has to do with no one protecting their turf and everyone willing to jump in if it makes it easier to put up a production or run box office or get someone’s medical bills paid off.  There’s a lot of truth to that.  We’ve seen the community come together for reasons large and small, for the ridiculous and the sublime.  In the end, it does rely on a spirit of cooperation and collaboration that few cities can boast.  In the larger media centers of the country there is often a spirit of “if they get that job, it means I don’t get that job, and what can I do to make sure that doesn’t happen.”  The Austin art scene seems to thrive on an attitude of “if they get to do that I’ll get to see it” and that has given way to a massive number of projects both on stage and on film (or its digital equivalent).  From the outside this can be seen as precious, insulated, or- as Austin is often thought of- as just more of that hippie-dippy bullshit.  Sometimes, maybe that’s true.  From the inside it’s something else, particularly if you have a project you’re trying to take from wild idea to finished product.  A friend of ours once asked, when talking about the Austin theater scene, if this was a cult.  Well, it actually sort of is.  But if all cults acted like the Austin arts community acted the world would be a different place.  And there would be less reasons to skewer them with movies like HOLY HELL.

Join Austin Film Festival at the Made In Texas Film Series Screening of HOLY HELL Wednesday, July 10th at 7:00pm at the Texas Spirit theatre at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. For more information on the screening, click here.

 

Austin Film Festival’s Made in Texas Series is presented in partnership with the Texas Film Commission and The Bullock Texas State History Museum.

 

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AFF Welcomes Ann Richards School Students as Interns for a Week

06.05.13 | Stacy Brick Last week four young women in the Media Tech program at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders joined Austin Film Festival for a week long internship.  The week consisted of the students each writing and editing original screenplays and shadowing the Conference and Film departments. The girls shadowed Film Competition Director Bears Fonté and screened some of the films …

06.05.13 | Stacy Brick

Last week four young women in the Media Tech program at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders joined Austin Film Festival for a week long internship.  The week consisted of the students each writing and editing original screenplays and shadowing the Conference and Film departments.

The girls shadowed Film Competition Director Bears Fonté and screened some of the films submitted to the Young Filmmakers Competition to get a firsthand look at what young filmmakers are producing today. While the The Young Filmmaker Competition accepts film submissions from students ages 13 – 18 from around the world. Submissions are free and the winning filmmakers receive two Weekend Badges to the 2013 Festival and Conference. They also screened episodes of On Story and a few films produced by Garza High School through AFF’s Digital Storytelling program.

Conference Director Erin Hallagan mentored the ladies on what it takes to produce a Conference: creating and scheduling panels, researching trends in the industry and tracking established and up an coming screenwriters. Working with Matt Dy, AFF’s Screenplay Competition Director, the girls developed and perfected their screenplays for a table read on Friday. Their screenplays all involved young people but were extremely diverse. Themes ranged from a story of a bus ride home gone wrong, an imaginary friend, a friendship unraveling and a precocious child inquiring about where babies come from.

The students, AFF staff and a few Ann Richards School teachers participated in the table read of the screenplays. A couple of the girls talked about the possibility of continuing work on their scripts and even filming them. Marlene, Hannah, Nia and Sid were all a welcome presence in the AFF office – diligently working away on their laptops, picking the staff’s brain for advice and inspiration. The AFF staff was impressed by their professionalism and enthusiasm and we look forward to following their progress.

For more information on AFF’s Young Filmmakers Program, click here.

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AFF Guest Blog: My Life as an Astros Fan — A Tragedy by Don Elfant

06.04.13 | Don Elfant In honor of next weeks Made in Texas Film Series screening of RESURRECTION: THE J.R. RICHARD STORY on Wednesday, June 12th, we knew AFF Screenplay Competition reader and Houston Astros afficionado Don Elfant would have something to say on the matter. Below he chronicles how J.R. Richard’s story is a perfect metaphor for Houston’s major league baseball team. For more information …

06.04.13 | Don Elfant

In honor of next weeks Made in Texas Film Series screening of RESURRECTION: THE J.R. RICHARD STORY on Wednesday, June 12th, we knew AFF Screenplay Competition reader and Houston Astros afficionado Don Elfant would have something to say on the matter. Below he chronicles how J.R. Richard’s story is a perfect metaphor for Houston’s major league baseball team. For more information on RESURRECTION: THE J.R. RICHARD STORY, click here.

My Life as an Astros Fan — A Tragedy

When one thinks of the Houston Astros (it happens!) the moments that typically stand out are tragedies.  And I’m not talking about their infamous rainbow uniforms.  The sad tale of J.R. Richard is the perfect metaphor for the Astros – full of potential, on the verge of greatness, then bitter disappointment.  My personal memory bank for the ‘Stros includes heartbreak, humiliation, maiming, even murder.  And J.R.

 

James Rodney Richard was drafted the year I was born, and by 1980 he was the premier pitcher in the National League.  Shortly after starting the All-Star Game, J.R. complained of a “dead arm.”  Considered a malingerer by many in the organization, his complaints were ignored.  Well, he showed them… by having a major stroke and never pitching in the majors again.

 

Five Outs Away…

That turned out to be the year the Astros made the playoffs for the first time in team history.  With Nolan Ryan on the hill, we were five outs away from going to the World Series, only to lose an epic series to the Phillies.  Would J.R. have made the difference?  It’s the kind of question Astros fans regularly ask themselves.

What if we hadn’t traded Joe Morgan?  What if Jeff Bagwell stayed healthy?  What if Dickie Thon hadn’t been beaned in the eye?  Thon was an emerging superstar in 1984.  He was a slick-fielding shortstop who hit for average and power.  And he was a great guy, a fan favorite.  So, naturally, he was hit in the head with a fastball and was never the same again.

 

That Was Tragic, But Nobody Died

The same can’t be said with respect to my childhood hero – Cesar Cedeno.  A phenom with a rare combination of power and speed, Cedeno was favorably compared to a young Willie Mays.  In the 70’s, the Astros had a promotion called the “Astros Buddies Club.”  Cedeno, being my favorite player, was my “buddy.”  Among other things, that meant I got to go on the field and meet him.  It was the highlight of my young life.

That was years before I found out that Cedeno had killed his girlfriend in the Dominican Republic.  The details were always hazy, but somehow his gun went off, and she ended up dead.  He was charged with voluntary manslaughter and ultimately was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.  He was fined $100.

 

Game 6

By now you’re probably getting the impression that the Astros are cursed or, at least, not blessed.  But there have been some good times.  However, being an Astros fan means that even the glorious victories are wrapped in inevitable defeat.

Take Game 6 of the 1986 National League Championship Series.  It was the subject of a book called, “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”  Guess who lost.  My brother and I were there for all 16 nerve-racking, soul-crushing innings.  We left the game numb, knowing we were a part of history – the part in which the Astros steal defeat from the jaws of victory.

 

My Defection (or How I Learned to Love the Rangers)

You may wonder if I’m a glutton for punishment.  After the 1988 season I asked myself the same question.  My latest hero was Nolan Ryan, a living legend who threw his record fifth no-hitter for the Astros in 1981.  In ’87 he was still going strong, leading the league in ERA and strikeouts.  But his record for the hapless Astros was 8-16.  A year later the owner, John McMullen, offered Ryan an ultimatum – take a big pay cut or hit the road.  He hit the road.

I could take no more.  I guess my loyalty to Ryan was greater than my loyalty to the Astros.  In the following years I watched as Ryan threw two more no-hitters (and entered the Hall of Fame) as a Texas Ranger.  I boycotted the Astros until McMullen sold the team in 1993.  For four blissful, if empty, years I experienced no catastrophes.

 

The Big Show!

In 2004, after 42 years of trying, the Astros finally won a playoff series.  The next year they were one strike away from going to their first World Series.  I was on the phone with my brother for the final inning.  Earlier in the year we lost our Dad, who taught us both how to be baseball fans in general and Astros fans in particular.  We watched as the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols hit a ball that some people swear is still flying.

That crushing defeat felt familiar.  It is more than a footnote that the ‘Stros won the next game and did make it to their first World Series (only to be swept by the White Sox).  But for whatever reason, that Pujols homer is more a part of my fragile sports psyche than the next game’s more important win.

 

And the Hits Keep Coming…

Since then the Astros have settled nicely into their role as the worst team in baseball.  But the ultimate indignation came, not on the field, but from the front office.  After 51 years in the National League, the Astros were forced this year to move to the American League.  It’s as if Major League Baseball figured the Astros didn’t have any real tradition anyway.  But we do.  And it’s rich.  It just happens to be tragic.

As for me, I’m still a fan.  What would be the point of quitting now?  I’ve already walked through the valley of darkness.  I’ll just continue to wait for that mountaintop view.  I can’t imagine not being there when the Astros finally win it all.  Will it make up for all the years of anguish?  Sadly, I think it will.

 

 

Austin Film Festival’s Made in Texas Series is presented in partnership with the Texas Film Commission and The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

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Highlights from the “Launching Your Writing Career” panel in LA

05.30.13 | Matt Dy On March 30th, three of the most prestigious organizations centered around championing the screenwriter partnered to present Launching Your Writing Career, a special panel sponsored in part and hosted by the Los Angeles Film School.  Austin Film Festival’s Screenplay Director, Matt Dy, the Director of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, Greg Beal, and the founder of The Black List, Franklin …

05.30.13 | Matt Dy

On March 30th, three of the most prestigious organizations centered around championing the screenwriter partnered to present Launching Your Writing Career, a special panel sponsored in part and hosted by the Los Angeles Film School.  Austin Film Festival’s Screenplay Director, Matt Dy, the Director of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, Greg Beal, and the founder of The Black List, Franklin Leonard disclosed how these organizations have yielded countless success stories and how writing competitions are progressively becoming the most lucrative venue to break into the industry.  Also included in the panel discussion were Jason Micallef, 2008 Nicholl Fellow for “Butter” which also made The Black List the same year and was produced by The Weinstein Company and De Luca Productions in 2011, and Pamela Ribon, Executive Story Editor on Samantha Who? and former AFF Teleplay Finalist and Screenplay Semifinalist.  The discussion was led by moderator Daniel Petrie, Jr (Oscar® nominated screenwriter and 2013 Morgan Cox WGAW Award recipient).

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Matt Dy’s Screenplay Competition FAQ: Frantically Asked Questions

05.29.13 | Matt Dy With the final deadline for screenplays and teleplays approaching this Saturday, June 1st, I can already feel the anxiety many of you are currently experiencing if you are planning on submitting.  It is a huge step for a writer at any level to share his/her work with others.  Rest assured your script is in good hands and we want to make …

05.29.13 | Matt Dy

With the final deadline for screenplays and teleplays approaching this Saturday, June 1st, I can already feel the anxiety many of you are currently experiencing if you are planning on submitting.  It is a huge step for a writer at any level to share his/her work with others.  Rest assured your script is in good hands and we want to make the submission process as easy as possible for you.  Lately, we’ve been receiving several calls and e-mails regarding the same questions.  I’ve made a short list of frequently (and sometimes frantically) asked questions that may help make your submission process much easier (and less stressful for us!).

Q:  I entered my information in the online entry form and uploaded my script, but I wasn’t redirected to pay through PayPal.  What should I do?

A: After you fill out the online entry form and upload your script, you should be redirected to PayPal to pay with a credit card or PayPal account.  If this doesn’t happen, you likely have pop-ups disabled in your browser.  You will need to resubmit your information and script in the online entry form but make sure to enable pop-ups. If you continue to have problems, try another web browser (Firefox or Explorer) or try submitting from a different computer. Double-check that your file is in a .pdf format and under 5MB. If you still cannot submit, contact the Screenplay Competition Director at screenplaydirector@austinfilmfestival.com or call the office at 512-478-4795.

 

Q: Did you receive my submission?

A: As long as you paid through PayPal and have an e-mail receipt, then we have received your online entry form, script PDF, and payment. A separate e-mail confirmation from AFF is sent out within 5 business days (might be a little longer after the final deadline).  If you submitted through the mail, you will only receive confirmation if you included a SASE which we will send back to you.

 

Q: When is the final deadline date?

A: Postmarked or submitted online by Saturday, June 1st 11:59PM PST ($50 for screenplay entries and $30 for teleplay entries).

Read through the entire FAQ page if you have questions.  If you don’t find the answer you are looking for, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at matt@austinfilmfestival.com or call our office at 512-478-4795.

 

Q: Do I retain my rights when I submit?

A: When you submit your script to AFF, you retain all the rights that you have secured prior to submitting.  You are not bound to any exclusivity agreement with AFF if your script advances or wins.  You should always copyright any script you’ve written prior to submitting it anywhere.

 

Q: Do you accept international submissions?

A:  Yes we do!  Each year we receive many submissions internationally including ones from Canada, Japan, and Ireland.  Submissions, of course, must be written in the English language.

 

Q: Do you accept scripts for animated features and television shows?

A:  Yes we do!  Any teleplays for animated shows should be for primetime (i.e. The Simpsons, Family Guy, etc.)

 

For a full list of our Frequently Asked Questions, please visit our FAQ page here.

 

If you’re submitting this year, you are taking a brave step in growing as a writer.  You only have a few days left to submit your script for the 2013 competition.  Are you ready?

 

Good luck!

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AFF Interview: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee Director of ELEMENTAL

05.29.13 | Next Monday, June 3rd, 2013, Austin Film Festival and the Stateside Theatre presents a screening of ELEMENTAL. A 2012 Official Documentary Feature selection, ELEMENTAL follows three individuals, united by their deep connection with nature as they confront some of the most pressing ecological challenges of our time. Separated by continents, each flawed, postmodern hero stands on the front line — watching as …

05.29.13 |

Next Monday, June 3rd, 2013, Austin Film Festival and the Stateside Theatre presents a screening of ELEMENTAL. A 2012 Official Documentary Feature selection, ELEMENTAL follows three individuals, united by their deep connection with nature as they confront some of the most pressing ecological challenges of our time. Separated by continents, each flawed, postmodern hero stands on the front line — watching as their hopes for stemming the tide of environmental destruction fade in and out of view – part mirage, part miracle. We sat down with co-director Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee to discuss the film and the intricacies of documentary features. For more information about the screening, and for tickets, click here.

Austin Film Festival: You have three very distinct characters and storylines from all over the world, how did you find them?

Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee: We started out with a distinct set of criteria for the subjects we wanted to follow and feature.  We wanted to follow subjects who had a deep personal connection to the natural world, were “outsiders” or “outliers” (as described by Malcolm Gladwell), were connected through their issues (water, climate change and energy), offered a diverse look at how people are trying to respond to the ecological crisis (technology, activism etc), and had a story we could follow over a year or two.  We spent six months researching and meeting with potential subjects before settling on our three protagonists.

AFF: How much did you know going into this project, and what were you surprised to find?

EVL: Although we had done a lot of research – both about our subjects and the issues they were involved with – it really wasn’t until we spent a great deal of time with them that we started to really understand the worlds they live in.  The issues that I had read about and thought I understood suddenly became more real, more alive.  I guess I was surprised by how little I really knew until we’d experienced the issues through their eyes and gotten to see first hand how connected our subjects were to the issues that drive them in their lives and work.

 

AFF: Shooting a documentary always involves collecting far more film than you could ever use to catch the right moments.  Was there anything you left out of the final edit of the film that you found to be really interesting?  In the end, why did you cut it?

EVL: We shot a lot of footage for ELEMENTAL – close to 400 hours.  I think we had enough footage to make three feature films.  Because we had to edit together these three stories we had some tough choices to make about what to include and what to cut and had some great sequences / scenes that never made it to the film.  Some of these were tender and intimate moments we captured with our subjects and their families.  We included some of these in the film, but had to leave many out as they weren’t plot points and we needed to keep the story moving forward.  Luckily these scenes have a new life as special features on our upcoming DVD release.

 

AFF: Many people have said the documentary films are more popular now than ever before.  Do you think that’s true?  Why or why not?

EVL: I think we are seeing more docs made than ever before.  And because of the new digital platforms more people can find ways to watch docs.  Those two facts alone are changing the game for doc filmmaking.  I also think people are interested in real stories about what’s happening in our world today.  Docs offer audiences a chance to experience people, places and issues in a quick and powerful way.

 

AFF: Our film competition is running right now, with a late deadline of July 15th.  There are probably many doc and doc short filmmakers putting the final touches on their film right now.  Any advice for them?

EVL: Visual storytelling, breath, sound and music.  Use visual storytelling whenever you can.  Film is a visual medium and when you don’t need to use verbal content don’t. Make sure you take the needed time to add space and breath into your film.  No matter how great your film looks, or how powerful the story is, if it doesn’t sound good people won’t be able to watch it.  I find that docs especially don’t pay enough attention to sound – both in production and post.  Music is such a huge component to making your film work.  That doesn’t mean you have to have lots of music, but choose it carefully and give it the weight it deserves.  Don’t wait to the last minute to find the music you need and don’t get too attached to your temp music, as in most cases it will be too expensive to license!

 

Tickets for Elemental are on sale now here. AFF Members will receive the Paramount’s “Film Fan” discount at the box office. For questions, call 512-478-4795.

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2013 Austin Youth Film Festival Winners Announced!

05.24.13 | Stacy Brick Last weekend, students with a passion for  filmmaking came together at the Alamo Ritz for the inaugural Austin Youth Film Festival. The event was created by The Khabele School and co-sponsored by Austin Film Festival, Rawson Saunders School and Brokedown Films. Hosted by students from the Khabele School and Rawson Saunders, the sell-out crowd watched 25 films by finalists from high …

05.24.13 | Stacy Brick

Last weekend, students with a passion for  filmmaking came together at the Alamo Ritz for the inaugural Austin Youth Film Festival. The event was created by The Khabele School and co-sponsored by Austin Film Festival, Rawson Saunders School and Brokedown Films. Hosted by students from the Khabele School and Rawson Saunders, the sell-out crowd watched 25 films by finalists from high schools and middle schools all over Austin. It was great to watch students from different schools discussing the specifics of filmmaking with each other. “What kind of camera did you use?” and “How many days did you shoot?” were among the questions you could hear circulating in the lobby post screening.

Ten films were selected as winners with seven categories and three special prizes. The panel of guest judges consisted of local filmmakers including Richard Linklater as an honorary judge in the Narrative Comedy, Elizabeth Avellan (producer, SPY KIDS, SIN CITY), Ya’Ke Smith (writer/director, HOPE’S WAR), Bryan Poyser (writer/director, THE BOUNCEBACK), Emily Hagins (writer/director, MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE), Jason Wehling (producer, THE HAPPY POET), PJ Raval (cinematographer/director, THE BOUNCEBACK), Hanan Townshend (composer, THE TREE OF LIFE), Robin Schwarz (producer, editor, actor, AMERICA’S PARKING LOT), and Heather Kafka (actress, Friday Night Lights).

Congratulations to the winners:

Best Screenplay – Quentin Easterwood-Livingston – Garza HS – DOORS
Narrative Drama – Vivienne Miller – Garza HS -DINNER WITH THE CROCKERS
Narrative Comedy – Alli Clarke – Garza HS- HAROLD GORDON AND THE QUICKSILVER CONUNDRUM
Short Short – Eve Pearson – Rawson Saunders – BREYER
Documentary – Roselyn Gray – The Khabele School – ART IS LIFE
Music Video – Maia Madel & Gemma Smith -The Khabele School – WELCOME HOME
Experimental – Ruth Black, Ruan Visser, Emmett Griffin-Baldwin, Luke Ferony and Faith Brasher – Rawson Saunders – FOUR CLASSROOMS
Best Actor – Nick Vincent – Garza HS – HAROLD GORDON AND THE QUICKSILVER CONUNDRUM
Best Cinematography – Skye Alexander – Garza HS – DINNER WITH THE CROCKERS
Best Use of Music – Jackson Barnes – The Khabele School – SCHOOL SUX

The films produced by Garza High School are the product of AFF’s Digital Storytelling program. The program aims to improve students’ reading, writing, communication, media technology and idea-expression skills through hands-on screenwriting and filmmaking.

Thanks to all the filmmakers who submitted to and attended the AYFF, we look forward to seeing your work next year.

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AFF Interview: AMERICAN MILKSHAKE

In 2005, Austin Film Festival world-premiered a brilliant short THE BRAGGART by filmmaker David Andalman (which you can see in its entirety here: https://vimeo.com/22129360).  Now, seven years later we are excited to host the Texas premiere of AMERICAN MILKSHAKE, a film he wrote, directed and produced with Mariko Munro and which premiered at Sundance this last year.  David and Mariko just landed in Cannes with …

In 2005, Austin Film Festival world-premiered a brilliant short THE BRAGGART by filmmaker David Andalman (which you can see in its entirety here: https://vimeo.com/22129360).  Now, seven years later we are excited to host the Texas premiere of AMERICAN MILKSHAKE, a film he wrote, directed and produced with Mariko Munro and which premiered at Sundance this last year.  David and Mariko just landed in Cannes with their AMERICAN MILKSHAKE foreign sales agent, and preparing for the Producer’s Network to pitch their next project.  They took some time out of their busy schedule to answer a few questions from Director of Programming Bears Fonté about their debut feature.

AFF : Where did the inspiration for AMERICAN MILKSHAKE come from, and was there anything that came to you right away that ended up virtually untouched in the final version?

AMERICAN MILKSHAKE was inspired by our collective youth – Mariko and I that is. That time in childhood when it first dawns on you that race, sex, and class play a big role in your life – in the cards you’re dealt. And you’re first starting to realize life’s not fair. It can create rifts in friendships and between children and parents, and in relationships.

AFF: This is a dark, dark comedy.  Were you ever worried about going too far?  How did you give yourself the courage to carry on?

The beauty of indie is that you don’t have to play by the usual Hollywood rules. We weren’t so worried about going too far, but we did want to be very careful to accurately portray the characters. Nothing is dark just to be dark.

AFF: Every writing partnership works differently.  How did you two collaborate on American Milkshake?

In this instance David wrote the first draft, and from then on out we poured over the script together, re-shaping, rewriting, punching up jokes, etc. Really working side by side at the keyboard. On the next project LIBBY AT THE DOOR – a New York Club comedy, Mariko is writing the first draft, and bouncing the pages off David along the way for feedback. In the second pass we’ll probably sit down side by side again.

AFF: Were there ever moments where you two as the ‘director’ were a little frustrated with you two as ‘the writers?’

It’s always a process. There’s always room for improvement in rehearsal and shooting. But in comedy, when the writing is very tight and particular it almost always works best if actors stick to the page. We were very happy with the script.

AFF: Our film competition accepts entries until July 15th.  As a veteran of the film festival circuit, what advice can you give filmmakers about getting the most out of their festival experiences?

Have a good time. Meet people you want to work with in the future, and enjoy learning from others who have gone through it. It’s all a blast.

AMERICAN MILKSHAKE plays Monday, May 20th at 7 pm in the Texas Spirit Theater at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

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AFF Interview: David Magee on Breaking In and Taking Chances

05.08.13 | Erin Hallagan Wednesday, May 22nd, join Austin Film Festival for A Conversation with David Magee, writer of LIFE OF PI and FINDING NEVERLAND. The conversation will focus on adaptation, writing for imaginative worlds, and using language to articulate enchanting stories that have been so beautifully translated to the screen. Following the conversation will be a retrospective screening of FINDING NEVERLAND and post-screening Q&A. …

05.08.13 | Erin Hallagan

Wednesday, May 22nd, join Austin Film Festival for A Conversation with David Magee, writer of LIFE OF PI and FINDING NEVERLAND. The conversation will focus on adaptation, writing for imaginative worlds, and using language to articulate enchanting stories that have been so beautifully translated to the screen. Following the conversation will be a retrospective screening of FINDING NEVERLAND and post-screening Q&A. We sat down with Magee beforehand for a pre-interview about how he broke into the industry and his advice to screenwriting students. To hear more from David Magee and to join us May 22nd, click here.

AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL (AFF):  What did you do professionally before you became a screenwriter and how did you break into the film industry?

MAGEE: I started as a theatre actor, having a great time and earning no money, and I supported myself by doing voiceover. I narrated several audiobooks, which are usually recorded in full length and abridged versions. One day I went in to a recording studio with an abridgment of a novel that was horribly done – it was unfair to the original writer to record it – and I said to the producer offhandedly that I could have done a better job abridging it. She asked if I wanted to give it a try. It turned out that abridging was a perfect job for an actor who needed time to go to auditions and to regional theatres, and in the next five years I wrote abridgments of 85 books. Without intending it, I got incredible training in story structure. Toward the end of that period I began writing for the stage, which led to my opportunity to write FINDING NEVERLAND.

 

AFF:  How does your experience as a theatre actor influence your writing style?

 MAGEE:  When I write dialogue, I am essentially performing the characters in my head, and thanks to my acting background, I know when a bit of dialogue gives an actor something they can sink their teeth into and when something sounds good on paper but can’t be said with a straight face.

 

AFF: On LIFE OF PI, what was your collaboration with Ang Lee like? How closely was he involved in the adaptation/writing process?

 MAGEE:  I worked very closely with Ang throughout the writing process. In the initial stages, I would write notes, sketch scenes, and so on. Once a week or so send what I had over to Ang and then join him in New York for lunch and an afternoon of throwing ideas around, then I’d head back home for another week of writing. Once we had a first draft, Ang began working with computer animators to plan out the filming of the sea adventure, essentially designing the film shot by shot. As I watched his visual ideas unfold, I revised the script to reflect what he was doing, and he changed the animation as the script evolved as well. I was in Taiwan for all of pre-production. Once the filming began I headed home – the script didn’t change at all during filming, which was a highly technical process that took place primarily in a wave tank – but when the editing process began, Ang invited me back regularly to tweak voiceovers and throw in my two cents worth on the process.

 

AFF:  Initially you thought the novel was not filmmable. How did you make it work and how much research did you do?

 MAGEE:  Well, all of us made it work. Ten years ago, when the book came out, I couldn’t imagine how you could possibly film a real tiger and animals in a boat with a teenager, and the technology to create such amazing visual effects simply didn’t exist. I also didn’t imagine a studio would have had the guts to take on what I knew would have been an expensive and difficult film to make with no stars and an ambiguous ending. And if Ang hadn’t been directing, I don’t think I would have ever taken on the project myself four years ago – without a director of his caliber I don’t think it would have mattered what I wrote. My challenge was to tell a story about religious and philosophical issues that took place primarily in the mind of a teenage boy as he floated across the ocean in a lifeboat, and finding the actions that made his internal struggle visible onscreen, and the short answer to how I made my part of the process work was through a lot of trial and error, constant rewrites and input from a team of incredibly talented filmmakers.

Research was an essential part of the writing process. When I began I knew next to nothing about India, Hinduism, and even lifeboats for that matter. Early on, Ang and I met with Steven Callahan, a sailor who wrote a book called “Adrift” about his real life experience floating across the Atlantic in a five-foot round inflatable lifeboat. His stories about the ways in which the journey changed him physically and emotionally became an essential part of the story, and in fact Steve became our Survival Expert on the film, charting the exact journey through the ocean Pi would have taken, where he would have landed on the beach, where the island would have been located and so on. We also traveled through India to all the locations in the book before I had begun writing, and one of our associate producers, Jean Castelli, became our research expert on religious issues, prayers, different forms of Indian dance and the like. In a film with so many wondrous elements, you have to fully ground your story in the real to make the journey believable.

 

AFF:  How did you decide what went into the film’s interpretation of the open-ended conclusion?

 MAGEE:  From the very beginning of the writing process, Ang and I saw this film not so much about religion as being about how different narratives help us get through the ordeals of our lives. A Hindu, a Christian, and an atheist can watch the same events unfold and come to different conclusions about the hidden forces at work beneath it all – but they all rely on a narrative to understand what they’ve witnessed. We didn’t want to force any one conclusion upon our audience, we simply wanted them to see the ways in which different views of the same story can add up to a larger view of our journey through life. Ideally, you own interpretation of what really happened to Pi on that boat says more about your world view than it says about what conclusions we wanted you to take from the ending.

 

AFF:  Who are some of your favorite playwrights or screenwriters?

MAGEE:  I’m going to stick with dead writers, because while I love a lot of writers working today, I also know a lot of them, and I don’t want to forget anyone or offend someone by not mentioning them. So… Shakespeare, Harold Pinter, Arthur Miller, Joe Mankiewicz, Billy Wilder, Ernest Lehman, Preston Sturges, Philip Barry, Tennessee Williams, Frank Capra, Frank Pierson and while he wasn’t a screenwriter, exactly, Buster Keaton. And I still feel bad that I left dozens of others off the list.

 

AFF:  What do you find yourself telling your screenwriting students most?  Any advice for up-and-coming writers?

MAGEE:  The number one bit of advice I have is that if you keep showing up, if you keep working at your craft, if you always do just a little more than you’re asked and take your work far more seriously than you take yourself, eventually you will get your chance. It may be a small chance, and it may take many more chances along the way to get to your ultimate goal, but a door will crack open somewhere, and all that matters then is whether or not you’re prepared to step through it.

 

 

Austin Film Festival’s “Conversations in Film” program was created in 2007 and is sponsored by The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences®.  It is a year-round series of film seminars and script readings that provide the public with the unique experience to meet and work with local and visiting filmmakers.

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AFF Guest Blog: Director Alex Holdridge on The 2001 Making of WRONG NUMBERS and the Landscape of Filmmaking in Austin

05.01.13 | Alex Holdridge Next Wednesday, May 8th at 7:00pm AFF’s Made in Texas series kicks off  with a retrospective screening of WRONG NUMBERS. WRONG NUMBERS was a 2001 Austin Film Festival Audience Award Winner, directed by native Texan Alex Holdridge and launched the careers of comedian and radio personality Matt Bearden and actor Scoot McNairy (ARGO, KILLING THEM SOFTLY). Alex, Matt and Scoot will …

05.01.13 | Alex Holdridge

Next Wednesday, May 8th at 7:00pm AFF’s Made in Texas series kicks off  with a retrospective screening of WRONG NUMBERS. WRONG NUMBERS was a 2001 Austin Film Festival Audience Award Winner, directed by native Texan Alex Holdridge and launched the careers of comedian and radio personality Matt Bearden and actor Scoot McNairy (ARGO, KILLING THEM SOFTLY). Alex, Matt and Scoot will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. Alex Holdridge sat down to pen what he remembers of filmmaking in Austin in 2001 when the Alamo Drafthouse was a one room entity, and late nights at Kerbey Lane was payment for the crew. For more information about the screening, and for tickets, click here.

What I remember about Austin in 2001 was shooting anytime we had cash (waiting tables at Hickory Street/working at Precision camera) to buy more DV tapes.  That meant late nights with friends that were as obsessed about films as you were.  There was no money for any of us, so payment was often pancakes at Kerbey Lane after shooting all night, exhausted.  It was the end of an era when people could still smoke at Starseeds, and online editing at home was financially out of reach unless you braved hacked Adobe Premiere software and reconfigured your computer endlessly so it could play back without a hiccup (which we eventually did).  It was the era of cutting, exporting back to DV tape “lossless,” and that made it possible to shoot way too many takes.  It was the beginning of the end of 16 mm for low-budget films.  We began WRONG NUMBERS shooting a 16 mm trailer to raise money when the three chip DV cameras started to become a viable means of shooting, and we took the chance to actually make the film rather than waiting around failing to raise money.  It was the time when the Alamo Drafthouse was a one room affair, and they introduced us to a whole slew of great films that we watched while we actually drank beer, completely new for us.  The drafthouse even showed Wrong Numbers for what eventually lasted for three solid weeks of screenings.  Tim and Carrie are forever appreciated for that.

The Chronicle was kind and to my surprise actually took the time to write about our tiny film.  JB and Sandy became friends after JB strolled into an Alamo screening one night and liked the film.  They talked it up for us on their show, and made us feel special and got people to the Drafthouse.  I was blown away because the film took us four years to make.  We were all working full-time or going to school, so we shot part-time and had to figure out how to edit it.  Along the way we changed a lot and learned what we were doing.  The mistakes I made as a director are endless in this one, but the actors are absolutely phenomenal, and that made all the difference.  I knew there was something special in each of those guys Scoot McNairy, Matt Bearden, Matt Pulliam, Brian McGuire, Robert Murphy.  All still good friends.  I continued making films with many of these guys for the next decade.

A decade later Scoot is in the best picture winner.  That was a special little crew, and I love all those people for diving in like that.

Before we showed it, however, I was certain it was going to be a failure.  The night of the AFF premiere, I slunk into the theater convinced this was going to be the most embarrassing night of my life.  My friends were expecting Titanic after four years of working on the same film, and it was a tiny comedy about two underage friends trying to buy a six pack on a Friday night.  Given I was learning what I was doing, I figured people had way too high expectations.  You know what it’s like when people ask, what’s up and you say you’re working on the film.  And they say, “The same one?!”  When that goes on for years, you start to feel nervous.  That tiny premiere in the Driskill was something I’ll never forget.

It’ll be fun to be back in Austin with the old crew to kick off the AFF screenings.  It’s an honor.

 

For more information on WRONG NUMBERS and to attend the screening (Tickets are $5 General Admission / Free for AFF and Bullock State History Museum Members), click here.

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Staff Picks: TV Pilots – Kristen Washington and GLEE

04.19.13 | Kristen Washington Today’s Staff Pick Blog comes from AFF Office Manager Kristen Washington. Kristen has been a GLEE fan from the beginning and has stuck with the show through its ups and downs, twists and turns, and the coming and going of cast members. Today she explains why the High School Musical is still relevant. When the staff decided to write about their …

04.19.13 | Kristen Washington

Today’s Staff Pick Blog comes from AFF Office Manager Kristen Washington. Kristen has been a GLEE fan from the beginning and has stuck with the show through its ups and downs, twists and turns, and the coming and going of cast members. Today she explains why the High School Musical is still relevant.

When the staff decided to write about their favorite TV pilots, I’m sure no one was surprised that I picked Glee (and if they were, they obviously haven’t heard me fangirl about the latest episode or furthermore heard my monthly High School Musical reference). Nowadays, Glee’s become less about the characters and more about the actors who play them, fandom, and controversial storylines about gay teens and school shootings. But, before all that, Glee was about something much simpler. A fun show about kids in a showchoir.

Will Schuester, played by Matthew Morrison, is an uninspired, rundown high school Spanish teacher, who takes over the school’s Glee Club determined to restore it to its former glory. Although the ragtag group is on the verge of collapse before it even properly takes off, it’s not for lack of talent.

Each character brings something unique to the table. You have Rachel with her gold stars and broadway ballads, Tina with an edgy rocker mentality, Kurt who is the definition of sass, wheelchair bound Artie, I-would-listen-to-you-sing-the-phonebook Mercedes, and finally, Finn, the clueless football player who’s had a secret love for singing since childhood (cue Journey’s Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ sang by an 8 year old) but is skeptical of what his popular friends will think.

Like any high school television show, there are stereotypical teenage characters: the jock, the cheerleader, the nerd, the outcast, etc. And, spoiler alert, they don’t all get along with each other.

Show creator Ryan Murphy gives a good balance of quick comedic gems –  pretty much anything that comes out of Jane Lynch’s mouth (“ You think this is hard? Try being water boarded, that’s hard!”), and sincere moments of story – Will’s dilemma with continuing to work at McKinley versus getting a job that financially allows him to support his growing family.

I also love that Murphy recognizes that this show wouldn’t be a hit with all audiences and took the opportunity to make fun of it before the cynics could (haters to the left). The comedic and sarcastic  tone of the show is brilliant, a prime example is when Berry scolding her fellow teammates by telling them “there’s nothing ironic about show choir” after they’d just given the lead to Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat to a kid in a wheelchair.

Rachel Berry is the voice of a generation founded on the principles that fame is an ultimate goal to have a successful life. In the era of ‘YouTube Famous’, and having your social status measured in views and likes and shares, Berry hits home with the line “Being anonymous is worst than being poor!” even though she apparently didn’t get the memo that MySpace was dead by 2009. Regardless of that, it captures the message of being seen and heard, preferably louder than the person next to you, to be taken seriously in this world.

Somewhere in between the realistic and unrealistic pursuit for fame and glory, Glee is the ultimate root-for-the-underdog, feel good story that literally had me at hello.  The pilot successfully navigated this vulnerable new world of teenage dream, delusion and zeal needed to survive any high school hallway.

I’m so over trying to convince people why Glee is still a great show. It’s still funny, it still has good characters, it’s still has some kickass song covers that I have shamelessly downloaded to my iPod. But overall, Glee is downright fun. Just like it was always meant to be.

 

Interested in checking out our staff picks for yourself? Head over to Vulcan Video where you can find all of our picks labeled as AFF Staff Picks. Go to vulcanvideo.com for location and catalogue information.

To keep up with the latest AFF News and all Staff Picks blogs, subscribe to our RSS Feed.

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Staff Picks: TV Pilots Throwback Thursday – Rachel Malish and Veronica Mars

04.18.13 | Rachel Malish For today’s Throwback Thursday Staff Pick TV Pilot post we reached out to former Development Director Rachel Malish because of her famed love for Veronica Mars. Currently Rachel is the Austin Media and Community Relations Coordinator for Whole Foods Market. The Pilot episode of Veronica Mars – they don’t get much better than this, folks! It’s a pilot episode and it …

04.18.13 | Rachel Malish

For today’s Throwback Thursday Staff Pick TV Pilot post we reached out to former Development Director Rachel Malish because of her famed love for Veronica Mars. Currently Rachel is the Austin Media and Community Relations Coordinator for Whole Foods Market.

The Pilot episode of Veronica Mars – they don’t get much better than this, folks! It’s a pilot episode and it does what it has to do: introduces you to your main players, fills you in on what you’ve missed (after all, these characters didn’t just start living and breathing when you came along), and sets the tone for the entire show – this will determine if and why you’ll continue to watch.

I’ll preface this by saying that I am a huge fan of Veronica Mars. I’m elated at the success of the Kickstarter campaign started by Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell. In the beginning, it was the Pilot episode that got me hooked. What I learned about the show in that short amount of time was a structure – the structure – that maintained throughout multiple seasons.

Every episode of Veronica Mars has legs and can stand alone. You don’t need to have watched every episode to enjoy one, but you enjoy them even more as an entire season. That’s when you put the puzzle pieces together and witness that master plan. Rob Thomas gives you a beginning, middle, and end in every episode. A viewer never feels cheated at the end of an episode. Viewers aren’t concerned that they didn’t get a 10 minute catch-up with each character in each episode; they’re leaving fulfilled every time. Each episode becomes its own mini-movie with its own problem to be solved, all while there looms, however subtly, a haunting backstory – a key driver of the overarching plot. While you can’t necessarily tell from a pilot episode what the structure for an entire season will look like, you can with Veronica Mars.

When you’re watching Veronica Mars for the first time, you may not appreciate the structure as much as you will eventually through 3 seasons. What you will appreciate is the show’s namesake: Veronica Mars. She’s the show, and here’s what Rob Thomas tells you about her in the first episode that gets you hooked:

She’s a pessimist. As she sits outside the Camelot Hotel waiting to snap a picture of a nameless adulterer for one of her father’s clients, she shares her shattered views of love. You realize in this first scene that she’s not your average teen scorned by one too many jocks, she’s got some very adult views of the world and is balancing a very adult career with high school calculus exams.

She’s an underdog. She hasn’t always been the low man on the totem pole, but she’s there now and so is her dad. Her hometown of Neptune is made up of “haves” and “have-nots” and once her dad’s Sheriff title is stripped, her billionaire boyfriend dumps her, and rumors of a promiscuous lifestyle fly, her former friends aren’t exactly banging down the door.

She’s distant. Veronica is lost in thought throughout much of her day. This is how we get to know her. She reflects on her life before the murder of her best friend, Lily (the sister of her billionaire ex-boyfriend), and her dad’s failure on the case follows her in her daily activities. As she falls asleep in class or zones out while gazing as a table full of old friends, we get a peek into the life of a more carefree Veronica, a less jaded version of her present day self, and a glimpse at how much change has taken place in less than a year of her life.

She’s got a cool dad. They’re in this together. Keith Mars is now a private investigator of Mar’s Investigation, and when he’s not on the case, Veronica is. He trusts her. He leaves her home alone for days at a time while he’s chasing bail dodgers. They have great banter. Like all father-daughter relationships, she thinks he’s a dork, but also finds it endearing. She’s hurt in this first episode by her father lying about a case involving Lily’s father and her own mother who left Veronica months before (no one said it wasn’t complicated). Even with her confusion about this, she admits that he must be protecting her. We can all tell he’s loving and kind. Dear old dad.

She’s got a conscience, and connections. She’s so smart! She uses her street smarts in the very first episode. We get to see Veronica at work. Not the kind of work she does specifically for Mars Investigation, the work we’ll see her do the rest of the season: helping out her peers at Neptune High. New kid Wallace is introduced and quickly becomes Veronica’s only friend. She uses her friends in high places (the fire chief still loves her dad) and low places (the pot head in pottery class) to get a new friend out of trouble. While she claims this is for self-serving reasons, Wallace knows she needs a friend. A beautiful friendship blooms right before your eyes, as well as a few new allies and enemies…

There’s more! She’s tough (and she’s got Backup!), she’s sharp tongued (her comments are biting, Kristen Bell says she’s not a comedic actress, but her delivery of the Veronica zingers are right on target), and she’s on a mission (she’s getting to the bottom of her families break up, and she’s scratching the surface on her dad’s secret investigation of Lily’s murder).

Watch the Pilot episode of Veronica Mars and prepare to keep watching.  And don’t be intimidated by her harsh exterior. You know what the fans say: “Veronica Mars, she’s a marshmallow.”

 

Interested in checking out our staff picks for yourself? Head over to Vulcan Video where you can find all of our picks labeled as AFF Staff Picks. Go to vulcanvideo.com for location and catalogue information.

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AFF Interview: Lee Shipman and Brian McGreevy discuss their new Netflix Original Series: Hemlock Grove

04.17.13 | Erin Hallagan This week AFF has been bringing you our favorite TV pilots and how they’ve impacted our love for television. In today’s AFF Interview, we sit down with AFF Alum Lee Shipman and Brian McGreevy to discuss their new Netflix Original Series Hemlock Grove and the shift they see in the future of television. AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL (AFF): What was your relationship …

04.17.13 | Erin Hallagan

This week AFF has been bringing you our favorite TV pilots and how they’ve impacted our love for television. In today’s AFF Interview, we sit down with AFF Alum Lee Shipman and Brian McGreevy to discuss their new Netflix Original Series Hemlock Grove and the shift they see in the future of television.

AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL (AFF): What was your relationship before you started working on this project? When did you start collaborating?  What is your process like as writing partners?

SHIPMAN: Brian and I started writing together after meeting in graduate school in Austin in 2004 and discovering we shared the same peculiar, often downright deviant, sensibilities. Finding the right writing partner is as difficult and rare as finding the right romantic partner, especially one into all that dirty business.

MCGREEVY: We were in the same graduate program (the Michener Center for Writers) and fast friends. We became screenwriting partners out of both mutual respect and mutual laziness: it was half the work!

 AFF:  Brian, the show is based on your novel. Did you always intend to turn it into a script, and if so, how did this affect the writing style in your novel? How did you both approach the adaption process and how much does the show diverge from the novel?

MCGREEVY: The novel, during the writing, was its own beast. Naturally I would daydream to some extent what an adaptation would look like, but as someone who works in different media I’m an advocate of focus: concentrate on the step you’re currently taking, not the one five down the line.

AFF:  What makes Hemlock Grove different from other supernatural shows?

SHIPMAN:  As much as we love the genre, we consider ourselves drama writers not horror writers. There is a supernatural element to our show, but to quote Joseph Conrad, “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; Man alone is quite capable of every wickedness.” It’s a theme that runs through a lot of our work: the more civilized we think we are, the more we forget we’re all just animals — and will be grimly reminded of that.

Preparatory to shooting, our producing-director Deran Sarafian hosted weekly screenings of our favorites in the genre, and invariably they fell under the largely gore-free sub-genre of Psychological Horror: Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy, etc. It’s what we’re interested in and the only real way to sustain a series like this. That said, we don’t give a fuck who we kill.

AFF: How did Eli Roth become involved with this project?  What was it like working with him?

MCGREEVY: We interviewed potential producers in the spring of 2011, and really connected with Eric Newman, who is Eli’s producing partner. Everyone agreed on the best direction to take the material, and by the end of the year the deal was in place.

AFF: All 13 episodes will be released at once on Netflix.  Did this affect the way you designed/organized your first season? Does it make the writing process more exciting or frustrating?  How do you anticipate this release platform affecting the future of television?

MCGREEVY: It is the future of television.

SHIPMAN:  One of the more remarkable and atypical advantages of the full series order and our schedule of production was that we were able to write almost the entire season before we shot a single frame. Rather than scrambling week to week, we had the rare opportunity to take our time and craft this story into what can almost be looked at as a 13 hour movie. For two guys coming out of the features world, it was an intuitive model and quite forward-thinking on the part of Netflix.

I think what they’re doing is the future of TV. Just as we were looking to get into that world we saw the House of Cards announcement and knew immediately we wanted to jump in bed with them.

AFF:  What are some advantages with Netflix releasing all 13 episodes all at once?  Disadvantages?

MCGREEVY: I see no disadvantages, frankly. Traditional television holds no interest for me, and the direction things are going is being dictated by the audience, myself included. I haven’t personally owned a TV since 2008.

SHIPMAN: I haven’t had a TV in a while, so almost exclusively binge watch on a laptop. The traditional model will only continue to fracture and evolve, and as both a writer and viewer I toast it.

Watch the latest trailer for Hemlock Grove here: (warning, NSFW)

 

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Staff Picks: TV Pilots – Erin Hallagan and Friday Night Lights

04.17.2013 | Erin Hallagan Continuing our week of Staff Picks is Conference Director Erin Hallagan’s take on Friday Night Lights and how it helped reshape her image of Texas from a land of cowboy hats and red meat to a place she now calls home.   I first made the announcement that I was moving to Texas at a random family dinner – mostly …

04.17.2013 | Erin Hallagan

Continuing our week of Staff Picks is Conference Director Erin Hallagan’s take on Friday Night Lights and how it helped reshape her image of Texas from a land of cowboy hats and red meat to a place she now calls home.

 

I first made the announcement that I was moving to Texas at a random family dinner – mostly to just say it out loud – to convince myself it was the right thing to do – to gage reaction – to be set in motion.  I was as shocked as my parents when I heard the words escape my lips.  But then, all of a sudden it was reality.

Austin was always an obvious fit for me, but definitely not the rest of the Lone Star state. In my mind, Texas was a desert of cowboy hats, come-to-Jesus churches, red meat, red blood, and of course football.

This is precisely the reason I did not want to watch Friday Night Lights. That, and I am absolutely, positively NOT a sports person.  I’m repeatedly corrected on how it’s not “the second act” but second quarter of the game, how they’re not “characters” but players, it’s not “intermission” but halftime.  Can you tell I’m more of a theatre person?

It started when I was just a girl, growing up in – to put it kindly – a rough part of Maryland.  My father was outraged there were no girl sports in our county.  Teams were only just beginning to accept co-ed rosters.  So I was signed up for soccer.

Luckily for me, even though I didn’t have an athletic bone in my body, the other players found creative ways to welcome me aboard.  My dad would repeatedly find me on the sidelines after practice, out-of-commission with a bloody nose. Apparently it was a running joke to see how many times my teammates could kick the ball square between my eyes.  I remember laughing real hard after I had to get surgery years later to fix the broken vessels in my nose.  On second thought, perhaps that was the laughing gas….

Then there was basketball.  After finally being put into the game, and thrilled by the sudden attention the coach was giving me, I stopped in my tracks – ball in hand – to ask him if he liked my new shoes.  He and my father ended up in the parking lot to exchange a bit more than words.

Baseball was my own damn fault.  There are some lessons you only need to learn once.  For instance, throwing the ball into the air, looking up to catch it only to find the blinding sun staring back, and then going home two-teeth-shorter than you arrived.

Needless to say, I went into the arts and never looked back.  That is, until I moved here.

I chose to give Friday Night Lights a chance with the same enthusiasm I gave soccer and basketball.  I thoroughly expressed my distaste for sports shows, and for angsty high school shows, and especially for the combination of the two.

Boy, was I surprised when the first episode came to an end that I had tears in my eyes and remote-in-hand, already going in for seconds.  Even though the show was absolutely about football and teenagers, there were things that were even more absolute: it was raw, honest, painful, spiritual, hopeful, confrontational and I CONNECTED to it…

It was damn good writing, is what it was.

A pilot episode – or rather, a GOOD pilot  – is a form of art.  Opposed to establishing a laundry list of who and what we need to know, it will create a world-in-motion through unobtrusive introductions that need to immediately spark an audience’s interest, a narrative that immediately engages an audience’s attention, and a level of anticipation that immediately asks the audience to stay along for the journey.

At first glance, everything about Friday Night Lights screamed cliché.  Yet, all in the sum of 45 minutes, the pilot locked me in for the remaining five seasons.  Beyond that, I overcame some of my own stereotypes.  Gradually, Texas was more than just cowboy hats, come-to-Jesus churches, red meat and red blood.  It was a vast new world that was home to those with the same vulnerabilities I had out there on the soccer field.  The same life-changing decisions I made at my family’s dinner table.  The same pivotal feelings of community, humanity, acceptance, victory and loss that I finally felt in the arts.  All of a sudden, Texas was home to me.  Texas was about cowboy hats and mohawks, barbeque joints and vegan paradises, Sunday church bells and Sunday Chicken Shit Bingo.

That, and of course football.

 

Interested in checking out our staff picks for yourself? Head over to Vulcan Video where you can find all of our picks labeled as AFF Staff Picks. Go to vulcanvideo.com for location and catalogue information.

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Staff Picks: TV Pilots – Brian Ramos and The Sopranos

04.16.13 | Brian Ramos For today’s staff pick, producer, editor, and voice of Austin Film Festival’s On Story Podcast, Brian Ramos talks about his introduction to The Sopranos and how it taught him that it was the little things that made life worth living. For more information on our On Story Podcasts, click here. Life’s simple pleasures link the divine to the mundane, offering up …

04.16.13 | Brian Ramos

For today’s staff pick, producer, editor, and voice of Austin Film Festival’s On Story Podcast, Brian Ramos talks about his introduction to The Sopranos and how it taught him that it was the little things that made life worth living. For more information on our On Story Podcasts, click here.

Life’s simple pleasures link the divine to the mundane, offering up comforting magic tricks in the face of every semi-conscious minute we spend marching toward our own inevitable oblivion. Through technology we’ve gifted ourselves with every convenience and pastime in order to take our minds off of our own mortality. Although I was raised Catholic, the closest thing to God in my upbringing was television. When The Sopranos premiered in January 1999, I had lost my faith. TV was out and obscure foreign cinema at the Dobie Theatre was in. The majority of my fellow Gen Xers, at least those in my immediate circle of friends, didn’t even own television sets. Too broke for cable. No Internet at home. No smart phones because they hadn’t been invented yet, and few, if any, cell phones. To settle a bet you had to go to the library…and I don’t mean the one in your Macbook that contains all of your mp3’s…I mean the one with the books in it. So it wasn’t a blog, Netflix streaming, or Itunes that hipped me to Tony Soprano and crew. My source for good new TV then and, I confess, even now?

My mother.

After catching up for a few hours on a weekend visit with mom a few months before the turn of the millennium, she looked at me and said:

“Mi’jito, I know you don’t like to watch TV anymore, but there’s a show that I think you’ll reeeeealy like….”

My father cracked the seal on a can of Coca-Cola Classic, and looked down at his shoes while nodding his head in affirmation. In went the VHS dub, on went the massive stereo my father had hooked up to the TV, and out went my high-minded sensibilities.

From the title sequence with its unforgettable Woke Up This Morning soundtrack, to the opening scene where we were introduced to Tony Soprano’s iconic heavy breathing juxtaposed against the stormy calm of Lorraine Brocco’s portrayal of Dr. Melfi, I was all at once lost in the bridge and tunnel universe of the show.

We all seem to have a quiet obsession with the charming violence depicted in mobster narratives. David Chase’s The Sopranos handled the tropes made famous by Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese in such a way as to make them even more irresistible. We might not see ourselves in the shoes of these anti-heroes, but somehow we can relate. Tony and his crew are constantly looking to the past, and the pilot explores the feelings of lament at the loss of tradition that these baby boomers experience as they come to affluent middle age.

David Chase offers insight into the creation of the show, and especially the pilot, in episode 1304 of the On Story Podcast, describing it more as a semi-biographical portrait about his mother who had a notoriously difficult personality. A week before shooting the pilot, and after seeing hundreds of women for the part, “Nancy Marchand came up to the casting office, all out of breath…this waspy, regal woman…and just channeled that thing, and there was no discussion.”

The question of casting The Sopranos comes up whenever my friends and I discuss the characters. Although many of these actors popped up in other mob stories on the big screen and small, the contrast between typecast actors and fresh faces gave the show a sweet familiarity while keeping it from feeling recycled in the way of other films of the era, (I’m looking at you, A Bronx Tale).

Any show that – in it’s first few minutes – depicts its protagonist running down a terrified debtor with his nephew’s car and then punching the man in his broken leg while Dion and the Belmonts plays in the background would have to qualify as junk food for the mind. But the production value, outstanding writing and terrific performances made this groundbreaking cable TV serial into junk food of the very highest quality.

Drama, violence, comedy and ducks…for me, this was a show about weathering the storm and holding on to the little things that make life worth living.

Thanks mom.

 

Interested in checking out our staff picks for yourself? Head over to Vulcan Video where you can find all of our picks labeled as AFF Staff Picks. Go to vulcanvideo.com for location and catalogue information.

 

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Staff Picks: TV Pilots – Patrick Pryor on Twin Peaks and the Rise of the TV Renaissance

4.15.13 | Patrick Pryor This week at AFF we’re all about television. Season 3 of On Story premiers this Saturday, April 20th on Austin’s KLRU Q at 7:30pm. Tune in to watch a Conversation with Chris Carter, Creator of the X-Files. To celebrate, this week the AFF Staff got together to discuss our favorite TV Series, episodes, and how the pilots originally hooked us. Today, …

4.15.13 | Patrick Pryor

This week at AFF we’re all about television. Season 3 of On Story premiers this Saturday, April 20th on Austin’s KLRU Q at 7:30pm. Tune in to watch a Conversation with Chris Carter, Creator of the X-Files. To celebrate, this week the AFF Staff got together to discuss our favorite TV Series, episodes, and how the pilots originally hooked us. Today, Young Filmmaker Program Director Patric Pryor kicks us off with a look at the early 90′s series Twin Peaks.

 

Forget about all the hoopla surrounding the HBO renaissance.  Twin Peaks really gave television the artistic kick in the keister it needed way back in the early 90’s.  The program marked a feature film director (David Lynch) turning his attention to the idiot box and squeezing out something substantial, strange, and new.  After Twin Peaks, television became a viable medium for top tier talent to explore.   A-list actors crossed over into TV land, and more film directors staked out their own series.  Some shows have tried to copy the Twin Peaks formula (Lost, anyone?) but none have come close to creating such an endearing and eclectic cast of characters you enjoy revisiting again and again.

Like all great pilots, the first episode of Twin Peaks introduces a memorable cast and hooks you in with a strong central conflict, “Who killed Laura Palmer?”  I love the synth-drenched score by Angelo Badalamenti.  Each character has a distinct theme that burrows its way into your skull and keeps you swaying for weeks.  From the dreamy swirl of the opening credits, to Audrey Horne’s finger snapping theme, to the sinister dirge of Laura Palmer’s tune — each piece is a killer. One of my favorite moments in the pilot features Julee Cruise crooning Lynch lyrics in a biker bar.  Many other idiosyncrasies make the pilot stand out as a classic: doughnuts stacked two in a row across a police station table, Laura Palmer’s corpse wrapped in plastic, deputy Andy crying at crime scenes, James pouting on his motorcycle, and Agent Dale Cooper catching a whiff of Douglas Firs.  I’m such a Twin Peaks head that I even own a cassette tape of all of Coop’s recordings for Diane.   On especially rainy days, I like to pop it in my rusted jalopy and dream of slow motion waterfalls and abusive ponytailed boyfriends.

Although I adore Twin Peaks, I have to admit I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with David Lynch.  I had the misfortune of watching the patience-draining Inland Empire in a theater with a clock on the wall, and I almost fell asleep during Lynch’s lecture on transcendental meditation.  However, Twin Peaks will always have a special place in my heart.  Even today, I think it hands-down surpasses most series on television in terms of writing, directing, and acting.  So do yourself a favor. Grab a cup of damn good coffee, nestle into your couch, and visit (or revisit) that small town in the Pacific Northwest crawling with deep, dark secrets.

 

Interested in checking out our staff picks for yourself? Head over to Vulcan Video where you can find all of our picks labeled as AFF Staff Picks. Go to vulcanvideo.com for location and catalogue information.

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AFF Interview: Brian Helgeland

04.03.2013 | Erin Hallagan In anticipation for our Wednesday, April 10th Conversation with Brian Helgeland and Advance Screening of his new film 42, Austin Film Festival sat down with Brian for a sneak peak on his thoughts on screenwriting, filmmaking, and his research and process. Joins us Wendesday for a Conversation with Brian Helgeland where we will discuss his career, inspirations, and advice for writers, …

04.03.2013 | Erin Hallagan

In anticipation for our Wednesday, April 10th Conversation with Brian Helgeland and Advance Screening of his new film 42, Austin Film Festival sat down with Brian for a sneak peak on his thoughts on screenwriting, filmmaking, and his research and process. Joins us Wendesday for a Conversation with Brian Helgeland where we will discuss his career, inspirations, and advice for writers, particularly sharing his experience on directing his own scripts. For more information on the Conversation, and for tickets, click here.

AFF: You are originally from the Northeast and were a fisherman before you became a screenwriter and filmmaker. What made you decide to start writing screenplays?

Brian Helgeland: I was in a bookstore in between fishing trips in 1984 looking for something to read on the boat. I have been reading voraciously since I can remember. I had graduated a year before from college with a degree in English. I couldn’t find a job and as the only male member of my family who had never been to sea… I went to sea.  Browsing through the store, a ‘Guide to Film School’ book caught my eye. I loved movies, but I literally had no idea you could go to school to learn how to make them. My second, cold winter of fishing was coming up; I had saved some decent money, and I cashed it in for the warmth of Los Angeles.

AFF: You’ve said before that you don’t like to call yourself a screenwriter. Why do you prefer the term filmmaker?

BH: I prefer filmmaker because that is what I am. If I wanted to write for a living I’d be a novelist.  But I want to make movies; therefore I am a filmmaker. Screenwriting is just my end of it. I consider film editors to be filmmakers.  Editing is just their end of it.  If only the director is a filmmaker, then what are the cinematographer, the costume designer and the rest of us doing?

AFF: What excites you the most about writing a screenplay?

BH: The best part of writing a screenplay is full immersion. When I am working on a script, I don’t leave the house, I barely speak on the phone, I work seven days a week until it is done. It’s often frustrating and confounding, but I get to make a world, populate it and live in it, as imperfect as it might be.

AFF: How much research do you usually do before writing a screenplay?

BH: I do an inordinate amount of research. I try to read anything and everything I can get my hands on if it relates to what I am doing. There is no substitute. You cannot be smarter or know more than the actual reality of something. The key is when you think you finally know, then read one more book to make sure.  And then another after that. I also interview people if it is appropriate for the story. When I was doing MAN ON FIRE with Tony Scott we spent a week in Mexico City simply interviewing people who had been kidnapped, families of kidnap victims, ransom negotiators, police experts and even former kidnap gang members. When you see the process shown in the film it is all real. On ’42′, besides the plethora of books available that touch upon the Dodgers 1947 season, I had the good fortune of being able to talk with Jackie’s widow Rachel and with former teammate Ralph Branca directly. Research becomes the breadcrumbs others have dropped before you to help lead you where you’re going.

AFF: How does your writing and process differ when you know that someone else will direct your work compared to when you direct the film yourself?

BH: My scripts are longer if I write for another director.  I need to make what I am getting at clearer and easier to understand.  The scripts I write that I direct are always 10 pages shorter.

AFF: 42 is based on a true story. What did you enjoy most about writing this screenplay? What were some of the challenges and benefits in writing something based on true events?

BH: In ‘A Knight’s Tale’ the character of William accuses Chaucer of lying. Chaucer’s reactive response is, “I’m a writer; I give the truth scope!”  The trickiest thing for a screenwriter working on bringing to life a true story is to do their best not to lie.  In ’42′ I tried my absolute best to document every major scene in the film.  In fact, there is only one scene I made up and I felt I had enough circumstantial evidence to do so.  Of course, ‘the truth’ can always be pushed left or right, but I did my best to avoid that as well.  My job was to dramatize and structure so that, hopefully, the truth of two years of a man’s life could be boiled down to two hours.

Favorite moment/experience in making 42?

BH: The day Hank Aaron visited set, watched 20 minutes of footage and told me he thought I got it right.

Who are some screenwriters/filmmakers that have influenced your work?

BH: I am a big admirer of screenwriters who traded in their pen for the director’s chair. John Huston, Richard Brooks, Frank Pierson, Walter Hill.  All bare knuckled directors who started out as bare knuckled screenwriters.

 

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AFF Best of Fest Interview: 10 Questions with JUNK’s Kevin Hamedani

03.26.2013 |  This April Fool’s Day Austin Film Festival is bringing back one of the most talked about films of last year’s fest, the Narrative Feature Audience Award Winner JUNK, a behind-the-scenes satire of the film festival world.  JUNK plays at 7 pm on Monday, April 1st at the Alamo Drafthouse Village.  Two B-movie co-writers, Kaveh and Raul, must reconcile after their long-languishing film, ISLAMA-RAMA …

03.26.2013 | 

This April Fool’s Day Austin Film Festival is bringing back one of the most talked about films of last year’s fest, the Narrative Feature Audience Award Winner JUNK, a behind-the-scenes satire of the film festival world.  JUNK plays at 7 pm on Monday, April 1st at the Alamo Drafthouse Village.  Two B-movie co-writers, Kaveh and Raul, must reconcile after their long-languishing film, ISLAMA-RAMA 2, finally makes its festival debut.  Negotiating their way through pushy agents, brutish bodyguards, cutthroat colleagues, prima donna actors, and overly eager festival volunteers, the former friends piece together absurd horror film pitches for a mysterious speaker keynoting the film festival. JUNK is a ridiculous comedy about friendship, love, and crappy movies. For more information about the screening, and for tickets, click here.

Writer/Director/Star Kevin Hamedani will be in attendance at the screening, but AFF Director of Programming Bears Fonté e-sat down with him to discuss his film and experience making it.

 

AFF:   Junk is about taking a film out on the Film Festival Circuit.  What inspired the idea and how much of the film is based on things you saw happen/heard about?

Kevin Hamedani: After spending a year traveling the country to film festivals with my first feature, ZMD: ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION (2009), I got inspired to make a movie about the crazy, wild and surreal world of film festivals.  It’s a strange, fun and at times, frustrating environment ripe with funny and interesting characters, scenarios, scenes, etc… The film is about 50% based on my own experiences and 50% completely fictionalized.  I never wanted to make an autobiographical movie.  My goal was to make a funny, poignant movie about bromance while capturing the strange world of film festivals.

AFF: You came to Austin Film Festival in 2009 with ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION, how was 2012 different?

KH: Honestly, not that much different.  I had a great time both years.  The main difference was the fact that Bears Fonté wasn’t there in 2009 and he’s a great addition to the festival.  We had a wonderful time together.

I guess the other difference would be the fact that we won the Audience Award which made this year’s experience a bit more sweeter.

AFF: Is there any part of your 2009 AFF Experience in JUNK?  What?

KH: Yes.  There is a particular scene in JUNK when the two leads sneak off into the alley way during the screening of their movie and come up with a new movie pitch.  In JUNK, the pitch is “Gremlins 3″ but in real life, it was actually JUNK.  That’s where we came up with the idea so we decided to write that scene in.

The fun BBQ was very much based on AFF’s awesome BBQ party.  We tried to capture that vibe.

AFF: You and your writing partner live on opposite sides of the country, how does that work?

KH: It’s very hard and I don’t recommend it but we manage.  Lots of long phone calls.

AFF: You co-wrote this script, then directed it and starred in it.  Are you crazy?

KH: Yes and I don’t recommend it.  Only if you MUST play the role yourself.  But doing all three with a low budget isn’t the best way to make an independent movie.

AFF: What was the hardest scene to film as a director/actor?

KH: The hardest scenes to direct were the ones involving a group of extras simply because we couldn’t afford that many so I had to spend time using tricks to make it look like the festival was packed with attendees.

AFF: Brett Davern from MTV’s Awkward is in JUNK.  How did he get involved and how was he to work with?

KH: We actually grew up together and did stage in Seattle together for years.  He starred in the first play I wrote and directed in Seattle.  We’ve been trying to find a project to work together on and Billy is a great character for him.

AFF: OK Go has a bunch of songs and even appears in the film.  How did that come about?

KH: A friend gave me their album while we were writing JUNK and Ramon and I just started listening to it over and over again, while finishing the script.  During this time, we’d take a break and have lunch down the street in North Hollywood at this cafe every day.  One day we realized the gentleman sitting next to us was the drummer for OK Go.  So I approached him and he was kind enough to pass the script along to the rest of the band.

AFF: Our Screenplay deadline is coming up (May 1st, Late Deadline June 1st).  Any advice on how to do one last polish on your screenplay?

KH: Do a live reading if you can.  Get some actors to read parts in front of a small audience (not just your group of friends) but strangers who might be more objective and honest.  Ask the hard questions, take the notes and don’t send off your script unless you are sure that every sentence, every line of dialog, every beat, works.  You can’t polish a turd, and if you don’t have a great script you’ll never have a good movie.

AFF: Your film is full of crazy pitches.  What’s the worst idea you’ve ever come up with?  How far did you get on it?

KH: The worst idea we ever had was to remake Waxwork (1988).  We got really far with it, made a pitch video, look book, the whole deal.  We went to the high ups at Lionsgate and did an in person pitch.  It’s a terrible idea but could actually make for an awesome movie….  if that makes sense.

 

Every first Monday at the Alamo Village, AFF will bring one of its Audience Award-winning films back to town, along with the filmmakers who made them, to showcase the very best in independent filmmaking. From humor to horror, docs to narrative, there will be something for everyone, and, as always, each film represents Austin Film Festival’s mission to emphasize the art and craft of screenwriting and engaging cinematic storytelling.

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AFF Interview: Greg Beal, Franklin Leonard, & Matt Dy

03.20.2013 In anticipation of the Launching Your Writing Career panel in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 30th, we interviewed three of the panelists included in the discussion.  The interview features Greg Beal, Director of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting; Franklin Leonard, Founder of The Black List; and AFF Screenplay Competition Director Matt Dy.  For more information about the upcoming event, click here. Q:  …

03.20.2013

In anticipation of the Launching Your Writing Career panel in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 30th, we interviewed three of the panelists included in the discussion.  The interview features Greg Beal, Director of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting; Franklin Leonard, Founder of The Black List; and AFF Screenplay Competition Director Matt Dy.  For more information about the upcoming event, click here.

Q:  What do you consider a strong story?

GREG: For me, Graham Parker’s song title “Passion Is No Ordinary Word” should apply to every story. If the writer truly cares about her story, her characters and the moments of true feeling she’s conveying, it appears on the page and on screen. If she can make her characters live and laugh and survive, then I have the opportunity to live through them, feel with them and learn from them.

FRANKLIN: A beginning, middle, and end that keeps the audience interested in what happens next, elicits emotion of some sort of emotion (anything from fear to laughter to awe to sadness), and lives the audience viewing some aspect of their lives – no matter how small – differently than they did before being exposed to it.

MATT: A strong story is one that takes you on a journey without realizing it.  When you’re reading a truly engaging script, the words fly off the page and you’re anxious to get to the next scene rather than thumbing through to see how many pages you have left.  It’s easier said than done but it’s what every writer should strive for.

Q:  What common mistakes do you find when you read a script?

GREG: If we’re talking about well written screenplays featuring intriguing characters and strong dialogue, then the missing ingredient is all too often conflict. Solid but inexperienced writers often suffer from following story templates and guru advice too slavishly, which can suck the life out of a script. If you’re referring to weaker scripts, then the problems run the gamut from poor writing to weak craft and execution to a lack of structure to all too little story.

FRANKLIN: The main (and biggest) mistake a writer can make is forgetting the human element. Emotional resonance, regardless of the genre, is the thing that will distinguish a screenplay (or any sort of storytelling or art more generally.)

MATT: I second Greg in that not establishing conflict is the most common problem with a lot of scripts.  Conflict is what drives a story and moves it forward.  Without conflict or greater stakes, there is no story.  Also, a lot of first-time screenwriters will direct too much in their scripts and include long blocks of scene descriptions.  Screenplays are considered the blueprint for a film but it still needs to leave room for the director’s vision.

Q:  What’s the best advice you would give to a writer hoping to advance in a competition or make it on The Black List?

GREG: Submit your best work. Prior to uploading your script and paying the entry fee: Read the rules. Make sure you’re submitting an eligible and appropriate script for a particular competition. If you have questions about a competition, shoot an email to its administrators. Don’t trust everything you hear about competitions from online screenwriting forum “experts.”

FRANKLIN: I’m going to paraphrase Hayao Miyazaki’s definition of a popular movie: write something that is “full of true human emotion, no matter how base. The entrance should be low and wide so that everyone can be welcomed in. The exit should be high and purified. It shouldn’t be something that emphasizes or enlarges the lowness.”

MATT: Write something that truly stands out.  Write the most daring and uninhibited story you can think of and in the most cinematic way that can draw in an audience.  There isn’t a dearth of screenwriters in Hollywood so what the industry needs and is looking for is the next great original voice.  Screenplay competitions hope to infuse the industry with new, exciting talent so you should do whatever you can to stand out.

Q: Could you share some success stories?

GREG: We have plenty, but let’s focus on the immediate. Destin Cretton’s “Short Term 12,” which he directed from his 2010 Nicholl Fellowship-winning script, just premiered at SXSW.  2002 fellow Creighton Rothenberg co-wrote “Olympus Has Fallen,” opening in theaters on March 22. 2012 fellow James DiLapo recently signed a two-script deal with Warner Bros. Jason Micallef wrote “Butter,” which opened theatrically in the fall of 2012 after being the opening night film at the 2011 Austin Film Festival; “Butter” was Jason’s 2008 fellowship-winning script. 1992 fellow Andrew Marlowe is the creator and executive producer of the ABC series “Castle.” 1999 fellow Rebecca Sonnenshine is an executive story editor on the WB series “The Vampire Diaries.” 2003 fellow James Mottern is currently in post-production on “God Only Knows,” which he directed. 1998 fellow Karen Moncrieff is currently in post-production on “The Trials of Cate McCall,” which she wrote and directed.

FRANKLIN: The annual Black List has seen its share of success stories, though it’s important to clarify that those who made the movies deserve the credit for the films themselves. It is worth noting however that over 250 scripts on the first seven years of the Black List have been produced. Those films have made over $16 billion in worldwide box office, been nominated for 159 Academy Awards and won 30 of them. Three of the last five Best Pictures were Black List scripts, as were seven of the last twelve screenwriting Oscars.  As for the new platform, in just over five months, more than a dozen writers have already found representation with major agencies or management companies. I also believe we’re now up to a half a dozen script sales/options, and one writer – whose name I can’t yet reveal – just closed a two script blind deal at a major studio.

MATT:  Several of our top writers placing even in the Second Round (top 10%) have found great success after advancing.  2010 Finalist Christopher Cantwell had his script “Halt & Catch Fire” (co-written with partner Chris Rogers) ordered by AMC as one of four projects this year to go to pilot, with filming slated to begin this year.  Appearing on the 2012 Black List are 2011 Comedy Screenplay Winner Max Taxe for his winning script “Goodbye, Felix Chester” and 2012 Drama Finalist Austin Reynolds for “From New York to Florida”.  2010 Comedy Winner Julie Howe currently has her winning script “Jasper Milliken” in development with Sony-based Zhiv Productions.  Julie will also participate in the panel discussion in LA.  2010 Second Rounder Lee Hoverd had his script “Ex-Men” optioned by Mike Fry (“Over the Hedge”) after hearing Lee’s pitch as a judge in the annual Pitch Competition during the Conference.  Kevin Miller, 2010 Comedy Finalist, signed with manager Peter Meyer through a relationship that began at AFF and his script “Mother’s Day” was quickly optioned after placing in AFF by Sony producer Harry Gittes (About Schmidt).  VJ Boyd, 2008 Teleplay Finalist, is currently a staff writer on the FX show Justified.

Q:  What is the best script you’ve read or best film you’ve seen lately?

GREG: I still have some catching up to do from awards season but I really enjoyed “Argo” and “Lincoln.” Given my daughter’s love of all things animation, I have to mention “Wreck-It Ralph,” which was wonderful and unexpectedly moving. I recently watched four seasons of “Breaking Bad,” two seasons of “Sherlock” and the first season of “House of Lies” and was impressed by those achievements. And whenever I run across “Lawrence of Arabia” on TCM, and I can’t stop watching.

FRANKLIN: Best film I’ve seen lately: THE INTOUCHABLES, if only for Omar Sy’s performance.

MATT: I have two favorite films from last year: “Moonrise Kingdom” for its pure joy and originality and “Perks of Being a Wallflower” for its simple yet eloquent writing.  I also read the scripts for both and I particularly loved the interactive storybook version of the script for “Moonrise Kingdom” released by the studio.

Q:  Screenplay competitions are obviously not the only way a writer can break in.  What other ways can a writer get attention?

GREG: Making short and feature films independently. Working on other filmmakers’ independent shorts and features. Working in Hollywood at an agency, production or managerial company. Working on film and television productions when they shoot in your region. Attending film festivals and screenwriting conferences. Attending film school. Connecting with college alumni in film and television and asking for advice. Targeting well-selected agents and managers with query emails, letters and phone calls. Et cetera. Finally, be persistent – and most importantly, keep writing new screenplays.

FRANKLIN: The Black List (http://www.blcklst.com)

MATT:  Writing is such an isolated craft that the mere sound of the word “networking” can make any recluse screenwriter shudder.  It’s so important though to meet and work with the right people that can help get your script made or get you hired for a project.  I recommend joining a writer’s group and attending screenwriter’s conferences (like AFF of course!) to build a strong network of friends and collaborators.  While it’s not entirely necessary, consider working in LA if you’re not already.  Get a job working at an agency, production company, or TV studio.  In the land of feature films, screenwriters don’t always get their due credit but in the world of TV, the writer is king (or queen).  A lot of TV writers get hired to write features.  And of course, keep writing and stay persistent.

 

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Bears Fonte’s look at the beginning of Austin’s 2013 film festivals

by Bears Fonte | 03.20.2013 The dust has settled and the massive influx of cool hip trendsetters have returned to their various blogs across America (and Europe); SXSW has finished another year of putting Austin at the heart of the entertainment convergence of music, interactive, and film.  I’ve been an avid SXSW Music attendee for years, so really diving into SXSW Film for the first …

by Bears Fonte | 03.20.2013

The dust has settled and the massive influx of cool hip trendsetters have returned to their various blogs across America (and Europe); SXSW has finished another year of putting Austin at the heart of the entertainment convergence of music, interactive, and film.  I’ve been an avid SXSW Music attendee for years, so really diving into SXSW Film for the first time was a blast.  I got a late start, as I was at the Taos Shortz Film Festival the opening weekend, but by Sunday I threw myself full force at the packed schedule.  There are so many films playing, in so many groupings, it can be hard to really master the SXSW schedule.  I decided to focus on a few areas, the Midnighters, because they rarely played against the other films, the Shorts, because they were easily accessible in the giant Vimeo theatre, and the films with Austin/Texas connections.  Of course, I made time to see AFF regular James Franco’s new film SPRING BREAKERS (he steals the film) and the film I had most wanted to see at Sundance but got closed out, THE SPECTACULAR NOW.  James Ponsoldt, an AFF Alum (2004’s JUNEBUG AND HURRICANE), really shines with SPECTACULAR, a simple film about love and growing up that could have felt cliché if it had not been so full of deep characters and heart.

This year SXSW really showcased an excellent selection of Local or Texas films.  Some of them had played Sundance (PRINCE AVALANCHE, UPSTREAM COLOR, MUD, A TEACHER – which I loved) so what I was really looking forward to catching was the new ones, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.  Chris Eska’s THE RETRIEVAL really transports the viewer to another time and pace, slowly creeping through a tension-filled battlefield until it all unravels at the end.  The film features some phenomenal performances from the entire ensemble, although Tishuan Scott brought home the Special Jury Award for Acting as a former slave and fugitive murderer.  The interplay between his character and the Uncle and Nephew team sent behind Union lines to fetch him back really drive the drama.  It was great to see an independent film with limited resources pull off a period (and war) piece.  Another favorite, the beautiful heart-warming documentary BEFORE YOU KNOW IT follows three elderly gay men as they discover their place in the world during the golden years of life.   With three subjects that couldn’t have been more cinematic if they had been written in a script, PJ Ravel’s film acknowledges that you don’t loose your sexuality with age, even if your drive becomes refocused.  Another great film with local roots was Brian Poyser’s THE BOUNCEBACK, a sort of anti-rom com about a guy who returns to Austin to stalk his ex and ends up meeting someone else.  A hilarious film that features an extensive Air-Sex sequence and shot all over Austin, THE BOUNCEBACK is the kind of film that could have been made with someone from the Twilight franchise but thankfully was not.  It should have a nice long run on the festival circuit.  My favorite local film was ZERO CHARISMA, a comedy about a DND Gamemaster whose three-year long campaign gets hijacked when a hipster invades his gaming group and charms his nerdy friends.  Equally funny and touching, Sam Eidson dominates the film with his desperate attempt to remain on the throne of his own carefully crafted world.  This is the kind of quirky comedy that really, despite being made in Austin, could play anywhere and really find an audience.

Looking at the shorts program, a lot of my favorites from SXSW were ones I had already seen at Sundance including SOCIAL BUTTERFLY, SKIN and BLACK METAL.  NECRONOMICA played as sort of the comic side to BLACK METAL and really stood out for its levity in a rather bleak program (Shorts 2).  In sort of an extreme version of Bill and Ted’s, NECRONOMICA finds a band fraught to find a way to be the most evil band in the world (hint: it involves a goat head).  In Shorts 1, SEQUIN RAZE gave the viewer an inside look into the questionable morality of reality television and really stood out.  My favorite new short played during Shorts Program 3, IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME, a disturbing and hilarious tale of things going from bad to worse when a girl tries to break up with her boyfriend and ends up killing him instead (and that’s just the first two minutes).  Although most of the Midnight Shorts were a little un-narrative for me, I loved the fake trailer HELL NO, a series of horror films where smart characters make rational decisions deflating any attempt at typical horror scenarios.  I also loved the music video of a teddy bear killing every other toy in sight in VENGEANCE RHYTHM.

And while I am thinking about staying up late, the Midnighters Section offered some of SXSW’s most consistently entertaining features including the return of YOU’RE NEXT which has become sort of an Austin legend after wowing audiences at its original screening at Fantastic Fest and then being pulled for its final two screenings.  It’s the kind of film that gets people cheering along with each kill and featured a great cameo from (SXSW Midnighter and Sundance director – THE RAMBLER) Calvin Lee Reeder at the end.  My favorite Midnighter was the aptly named BIG ASS SPIDER! (I actually heard someone ask the director what the film about).  A monster movie in the old fashioned sense of the art from director Mike Mendez, BIG ASS SPIDER! isn’t afraid to laugh at itself and ethnic stereotypes.  It was some of the most enjoyable minutes I had in a theater in a long time.  Yeah, it’s silly, but it works.  It even had classic three act structure.

However, my favorite film overall was a documentary A BAND CALLED DEATH.  A perfect example of what SXSW does best, the film was a music doc, about a seldom heard proto-punk band from Detroit.  The band was in attendance, and played shows at SXSW Music.  They also signed merch after the screening.  Formed in 1971 by three African-American brothers who wanted to sound like The Who and MC5, Death recorded a legendary lost album that was rediscovered in a blaze of online mp3 trading.  The band, now reformed although missing one of the original brothers who has sadly since passed, infamously refused to change their name when offered a record contract.  The lost brother told his kin that someday someone was going to come looking for their music, and he turned out to be right.  A BAND OF DEATH was picked up in February by Drafthouse Films so I suspect you will be able to see it shortly at an Alamo near you.

SX is just the first festival in a full year here in Austin, with Cine Las Americas coming up in April, Fantastic Fest in September, and Polari Film Festival and our own Austin Film Festival in October, to name a few.  Austin really is a great town in which to be a filmmaker or film lover.

- Bears Fonte
Austin Film Festival Director of Programming

 

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Staff Picks: Horror – Kristen Washington and THE GRUDGE

by Kristen Washington | 3.14.2013 I’m often told that I am the best person to watch scary movies with. Not because I enjoy them or revel in the horror as it unfolds on screen, but because I am incessantly terrified of almost everything. The slightest movement makes me jump or scream and leaves my friends in a fit of stifled laughs while I try get …

by Kristen Washington | 3.14.2013

I’m often told that I am the best person to watch scary movies with. Not because I enjoy them or revel in the horror as it unfolds on screen, but because I am incessantly terrified of almost everything. The slightest movement makes me jump or scream and leaves my friends in a fit of stifled laughs while I try get my heart rate back to a normal speed.

The list  of horror films that are forever engraved in my mind is a mile long, leaving terrified thoughts that plague my existence. I could pick DARKNESS FALLS, which instilled an irrational fear of the Tooth Fairy (for crying out loud!) at the young age of … 14. I could also write about THIRTEEN GHOSTS, which left me terrified of bathtubs for the better part of 6 months. However, there is one scary movie that has had a lasting terrifying grip on my daily thoughts and nightmares — THE GRUDGE.

THE GRUDGE is about a cursed spirit that kills everyone it comes into contact with. The spirit stems from a woman named Kayako who was brutally murdered by her husband, him being convinced that she was having an affair. The movie opens with an American couple and their elderly mother who move into the house where the spirit lives. The couple is killed by the spirit, leaving the mother to be taken care of by a caretaker. In comes Sarah Michelle Gellar and ensues the never-ending terror that is THE GRUDGE.

Not only did I sleep with my light on for three days after that movie, I didn’t want to sleep in my bed. I was afraid to open cabinets, and I couldn’t even go in my garage where my attic was, all in fear of being sucked into the depths of darkness by Kayako.  Yes, I know, this is all very dramatic.

Thankfully all of these (completely rational, if you ask me) fears ended after more than enough anticlimactic, heart racing moments in the imagined eerie stillness of my parent’s house.

But THE GRUDGE  has left one last mark on me, this one last terror that’s been branded into my fears: that noise. I don’t even know what it is! It’s this gurgling croak that come straight from the pits of hell. My hands are sweating writing this… so.

…Anybody seeing THE CROODS?

 

Interested in checking out our staff picks for yourself? Head over to Vulcan Video where you can find all of our picks labeled as AFF Staff Picks. Go to vulcanvideo.com for location and catalogue information.

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AFF Director of Programming Bears Fonte: Festival Season is Upon Us

by Bears Fonte | 03.13.2013 Festival season is upon us.  As soon as Sundance kicks off the year in all things Indie and Studio-posing as Indie, it seems like avid film goers have their pick of vacations to see great films.  February brings arthouse connoisseurs the Berlin International Film Festival (and its Gold Bear award, maybe the coolest trophy one can win after ours) and …

by Bears Fonte | 03.13.2013

Festival season is upon us.  As soon as Sundance kicks off the year in all things Indie and Studio-posing as Indie, it seems like avid film goers have their pick of vacations to see great films.  February brings arthouse connoisseurs the Berlin International Film Festival (and its Gold Bear award, maybe the coolest trophy one can win after ours) and brings genre-junkies the Boston Science-Fiction Film Festival and Marathon (a 24-hour endurance event) which just celebrated its 38th year.  Of course March brings a rather large Music/Interactive/Film festival to our neighborhood here in Austin, but before I got drawn into that maelstrom of creativity I had the opportunity to attend not one but two festivals that opened on the same weekend.

Omaha Film Festival is young, by festival years, but has proven itself an excellent arbiter of taste with a varied slate of features and shorts each year.  In addition to two of my AFF favorites from last year (Doc Jury Award Winner INFORMANT and Dark Matters Audience Award SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE), the festival featured a few films I loved from screening but hadn’t been able to program such as QWERTY and THE MOST FUN I’VE HAD WITH MY PANTS ON.  Of course, the shorts programming was particular impressive with BLACK METAL, DEATH OF A SHADOW, RECORD/PLAY, and AFF Student Short Jury Award Winner HATCH.  Big congratulations go out to Omaha’s Festival Director Jeremy Decker and Program Director Marc Longbrake.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it up to Omaha this year but I hope to next year.

By now you probably realize I am an avid supporter of the short, so a trip to the 6th annual Taos Shortz Film Fest was a great excuse to escape the hordes of hipsters that descend upon Austin and fill all our restaurants and parking spaces.  Festival Director Anna Cosentine has done a good job building a program that balances local New Mexico artists, Student Filmmakers, and films from all over the world.  I could only be there for the first half of the fest, but saw a number of standout films, including an uplifting film from the Russian province of Bashkortostan, AMBITIOUS, about a boy’s quest to find two eggs to trade for a movie ticket.  I also really enjoyed the highly-stylicized  ZOLTAN: THE HUNGARIAN GANGSTER OF LOVE, a remarkable comedy with a phenomenal soundtrack and a dance-off.  Another great comedy was COCKATOO, about a man who hires a woman to impersonate his ex-girlfriend and insult him.  The cutest comedy was likely FRIEND REQUEST PENDING, featuring an adorable Judi Dench cyber-stalking her new crush (note to self: find way to get Judi Dench in my next short).  Of course, I have to make mention of AFF Jury and Audience Award Winning and Oscar nominated ASAD, which I’ve probably seen near 8 times now and still affects me.

For Doc Shorts, I loved seeing AFF hit UNRAVEL again and unfortunately AFF Audience Award Winner GOOD KARMA $1 played the day after I left.   Another fantastic doc short was the cringe-inducing but still unshakeable BUG PEOPLE, a film that forced the director to face his phobia by meeting with people who interact with insects on a daily basis (including a chef who specializes in Entomophagy – that’s right, eating bugs).  One of my favorites of the whole weekend was an experimental piece SOLO PIANO NYC, a series of still images chronicling the use and abuse of an abandoned piano on a busy New York street.

Shorts festivals really give audience an experience they rarely have in normal viewing, and Taos Shortz is joining the ranks of some of the best (I might point out DC Shorts and Palm Springs as being unquestionably awesome).  Here at Austin Film Festival, we program a lot of shorts.  With 13 programs last year, each short playing twice over the festival, I like to think we have a shorts festival inside the whole festival.  Furthermore, this year all our prizes have increased in size and we award Jury and Audience Awards in four categories (Doc, Narrative, Narrative Student, and Animated).  The Animated and Narrative Shorts winner are Academy-eligible and the last two years in a row have both ended up on either the Nominations or the Shortlist.  The earlybird deadline is fast approaching (May 1st) so get your short (or feature) in before the price goes up.  For more information and for an entry fee discount, check out our website.

- Bears Fonte
AFF Director of Programming

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AFF Interview: On Writing Horror, Mick Garris and Steve Niles

3.13.2013 In anticipation of  this Friday, March 15th’s Conversation in Film in Partnership with Dallas Screenwriters Association: Writing for Horror, with Mick Garris and Steve Niles, AFF e-sat down with Garris and Niles for a preview of  what attracts them to the horror genre and how they broke into the industry. For more information about the upcoming Conversation, click here. Award-winning filmmaker Mick Garris …

3.13.2013

In anticipation of  this Friday, March 15th’s Conversation in Film in Partnership with Dallas Screenwriters Association: Writing for Horror, with Mick Garris and Steve Niles, AFF e-sat down with Garris and Niles for a preview of  what attracts them to the horror genre and how they broke into the industry. For more information about the upcoming Conversation, click here.

Award-winning filmmaker Mick Garris created and Executive Produced the MASTERS OF HORROR series, an anthology series of one-hour horror films written and directed by the most famous names in the fear-film genre.

Steve Niles is best known for works such as 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, CRIMINAL MACABRE AND SIMON DARK. He is a writer of comics, novels and films and is the creator of Bloody Pulp Books Publishing.

 

 

AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL (AFF): What is it that attracts you to the horror genre? When did you know you wanted to write horror movies?

MICK: I started writing seriously when I was 12 years old, and my first stories were horror stories.  I was brought up on the Universal classics on TV, and then the big bug and sci-fi horrors of the 50s and 60s, again on TV.  They stood out from the “normal” stuff that was rife.

STEVE: I’ve never really been able to figure out my attraction to the genre. I wouldn’t even go as far as to say I’m attracted to all horror so much as monsters. I love monsters. They are the outsiders and I’ve always related to that. I think what I love about horror is the same thing I love about comedy, when it works it’s a complete surprise and it’s exhilarating.

MICK: I was attracted to dark fiction and film from my earliest years.  I think much of it has to do with being the outsider, about not being a part of the clique mentality, about not being “popular”, about identifying with those on the fringes.  My family life was not a jolly one in childhood, coming from a bit of a hardscrabble upbringing when my parents split up.  The secrets, the underbelly, was always fascinating to me, especially if I could explore it safely.

 

AFF:  How did you break into the industry? 

STEVE:  I wrote comics for 20 years, then wrote 30 Days of Night and became an overnight success. Same old story.

MICK:   My first opportunity as a writer really was a chance to do a draft for a project they were putting together at Avco Embassy when I was doing specialized genre publicity there, after having done a small interview show on the Z Channel pay-TV show.  But my first real opportunity was when Steven Spielberg asked me to write the first script commissioned for his series, AMAZING STORIES.

 

AFF: Who were some of the writers/which were some of the films that influenced you the most as a writer? What did you learn from them that helped you turn into the successful writer you are today?

STEVE: Richard Matheson had a huge effect on me as both a writer and a person. He was the writer I fell in love with years before I found out his name. So many of the great Twilight Zones were his. Then I read I am Legend and it basically changed my life. I wasn’t much of a reader when I was a kid. I am Legend changed that. Then when I was 19 I wrote Matheson and asked if I could do a comic of I am Legend and he responded asking me for $100 dollars for the rights. Amazing man. I would not be here if not for him.

MICK:  Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Richard Matheson, and even Edgar Allan Poe were huge horror influences, but as fiction authors, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, John Irving, Joseph Heller, lots of other “mainstream authors”.  And as far as screenwriters go, Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, David Cronenberg, the Coen Brothers, and a ton of others certainly lent a guiding hand without knowing it.

 

AFF:   What is one of the most frightening scenes you’ve ever seen on film?

MICK:  There are lots of them.  Perhaps when the Mantle twins are putting their newly-designed surgical implements to work in DEAD RINGERS.  It is so real, so possible, so convincing.

STEVE: The simplest things are always the most frightening. There’s a BBC version of Woman in Black and there’s a scene where she just appears in a graveyard. It’s one of the most chilling shots I’ve seen.

 

AFF:   What is the most challenging part about writing for this genre?

MICK: The drama.  Good horror, in many ways, has to be BETTER than good drama.  Because it not only has to embrace good storytelling, compelling characters, and believable, fascinating drama, it also has to build tension and suspense, and take you to uncomfortable places.  Good drama comes first, and the horror is woven into it.  The same rules apply, but then you have to frighten the audience.

STEVE: It’s always tough trying to scare people because everybody is scared by different things but the hardest thing for me is finding a fresh take on something we’ve seen a million times.

 

AFF: How do you feel the horror genre changed over the years? Where do you think it’s headed?

MICK: Well, it’s enjoying a bit of a creative outburst now because it’s being delivered so ubiquitously via streaming and on-demand and online and every which way.  The tools make it less expensive to produce than ever, and a good horror film does not have to rely as much on highly-paid actors as more mainstream material.  But it is stuck in a gross-out mode, which is getting a bit tiresome.  So many filmmakers, particularly in this genre–which is not a beachhead for telling stories of psychological depth and complexity–make movies based on movies and TV, rather than upon life.  With luck the found-footage sub-genre, which has been so overdone because it’s cheap and easy, is on its way out.  I’m hoping storytelling will replace it.

 


Austin Film Festival’s “Conversations in Film” program was created in 2007 and is sponsored by The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences®.  It is a year-round series of film seminars and script readings that provide the public with the unique experience to meet and work with local and visiting filmmakers.

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Staff Picks: Horror – Matt Dy and THE THING

By Matt Dy | 03.13.2013 What does John Carpenter’s THE THING have in common with Steven Spielberg’s E.T.?  Well, it’s not a cute, cuddly alien that’s for sure.  Both were released at the same time but Carpenter’s film took a beating at the box office while up against Spielberg’s behemoth classic.  However, over the years THE THING has found renewed appreciation as one of the …

By Matt Dy | 03.13.2013

What does John Carpenter’s THE THING have in common with Steven Spielberg’s E.T.?  Well, it’s not a cute, cuddly alien that’s for sure.  Both were released at the same time but Carpenter’s film took a beating at the box office while up against Spielberg’s behemoth classic.  However, over the years THE THING has found renewed appreciation as one of the greatest horror films of all time.

THE THING was written by Bill Lancaster and directed by John Carpenter and is considered a remake of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD.  The title refers to the not-so-cuddly alien creature that assimilates other organisms (humans, dogs, anything is game) and has the unique ability to imitate them.  This serves as an excellent plot device as The Thing terrorizes a research team in the Antarctic and they begin to turn on each other.  The paranoia that develops and the slow burn of tension that builds underneath are what make this film as frightening as the fantastically gory transformations by The Thing.  The best example of this is in the tension filled scene where all the men are having their blood tested to find out if any of them have been assimilated.  In the scene, the men have realized the Thing has an extreme aversion to heat so they all agree to be tied up and have their blood drawn to be tested.  MacReady (Kurt Russell) already passed so he administers the test by applying a hot wire to each man’s blood sample.  One by one, we nervously wait to find out if the Thing lives in one of them.  Suspicions and clues have already been laid throughout the film escalating to this moment.  When we do find out who has been assimilated, The Thing reveals itself in the most horrifying way and we see it in all its gruesome transformations.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s probably best you discover this for yourself.

 

Since it’s release, THE THING still holds up well.  The movie was considered a mindless gorefest by many critics when it first came out.  The perception of the film and horror in general obviously has shifted over the years as it is now embraced as a master class in subtle terror and over-the-top gore and special effects.

 

- Matt

 

Interested in checking out our staff picks for yourself? Head over to Vulcan Video where you can find all of our picks labeled as AFF Staff Picks. Go to vulcanvideo.com for location and catalogue information.

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Staff Picks: Horror – Allison Frady and CHILDREN OF THE CORN

Today’s Staff Pick comes from AFF’s Development Director Allison Frady. Here’s her take on George Goldsmith’s adaptation of CHILDREN OF THE CORN.   When we created the staff blogs for this week I instantly knew the film I was going to write about… THE EXORIST written by William Peter Blatty. It’s THE classic scary movie everyone just has to watch at least once in their …

Today’s Staff Pick comes from AFF’s Development Director Allison Frady. Here’s her take on George Goldsmith’s adaptation of CHILDREN OF THE CORN.

 

When we created the staff blogs for this week I instantly knew the film I was going to write about… THE EXORIST written by William Peter Blatty. It’s THE classic scary movie everyone just has to watch at least once in their lifetime.

However, when I went to re-watch the film to refresh my memory on the details, I got scared. It was then that I decided this was the perfect opportunity to explore other classic horror films. I decided that the perfect film would be adapted from quintessential horror stories and thus started searching through films adapted from Stephen King novels. THE CHILDREN OF THE CORN written by George Goldsmith instantly grabbed my attention for two reasons: 1. It was a short story by Stephen King adapted to a feature film and 2. There is nothing scarier than sadistic children.

The film follows the classic scary story plot line of people being stuck in a town and seemingly going in circles to continuously end up where they just came from, the suspenseful music that plays when something bad is going to happen, and the blank faces of the killers. In addition, the 1984 film has that classic 80’s feel of bad clothes, bad music, bad acting, and that yellow car which ironically made the 80’s so great! AND it stars a young Linda Hamilton pre- SARAH CONNER and TERMINATOR.

All of the above is a recipe for success in horror films and for the first hour it did not disappoint! The opening scene leaves you shocked and on the edge of your seat- children killing adults, all led by Isaac, the master mind behind the theory that anyone over 18 must die. The hate and unresponsiveness in the children’s eyes and the glaze over their faces makes the audience scared at the thought of “How can these kids be capable of this?” As the film continues you realize that Isaac is leading the children to believe that this is right and you must follow his ways to survive in the town- there is no escaping as you’ll be hunted down by Malachai and his group of followers. It feels like a bad religious cult, brainwashing people to drink the kool-aid because it was what HE wants of you and you’ll be better off if you follow in the cults footsteps. As an outsider, you feel like screaming and shaking some sense into them but it is so ingrained in their brains nothing can help. The sadistic nature of the children makes the viewer sad that one individual can cause so much harm to so many people.

As the climax of the film approaches and the children start turning on each other for the power of the cult, the plot takes a left turn to “bad-scary-movie-ending” town. It’s not the children or Isaac creating the assumption that all adults should be killed it’s the corn field- literally. The 1980’s version of CGI graphics to create a “spirit” amongst the corn turns out to look like blob or a smoke cloud coming to kill the crops. On the ground, it has Tremors characteristics, that will suck you into the corn field and hold you hostage by wrapping the crops around you. This great classic horror film that makes you afraid to have children and shows the power in numbers turns into a laughable ending that leaves you feeling dissatisfied and wishing that the kids were the real demons.

In the end, I’m glad I watched it so I can now understand all of the CHILDREN OF THE CORN references in pop-culture and have another horror film checked off my “I need to watch this” list. The film also leaves  you understanding the innocence of children both good and bad and more importantly, not that children are sadistic but red-heads are sadistic. Forever will I look at my red-headed friends and think of Sarah’s face as she mentions “Malachai is the one putting the adults in the corn field.”

- Allison

Interested in checking out our staff picks for yourself? Head over to Vulcan Video where you can find all of our picks labeled as AFF Staff Picks. Go to vulcanvideo.com for location and catalogue information.

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Staff Picks: Favorite Horror Films – Patrick Pryor on Mr. VAMPIRE

This week Austin Film Festival staff talks about their favorite Horror movies to gear up for this Friday’s Conversation in Film in partnership with Dallas Screenwriters Association: Writing for Horror with Mick Garris and Steve Niles. Stay tuned to this weeks Staff Picks blog and Newsletter for an announcement about our NEW Screenplay and Film Competition’s Horror Categories. For more information on this Friday’s Conversation …

This week Austin Film Festival staff talks about their favorite Horror movies to gear up for this Friday’s Conversation in Film in partnership with Dallas Screenwriters Association: Writing for Horror with Mick Garris and Steve Niles. Stay tuned to this weeks Staff Picks blog and Newsletter for an announcement about our NEW Screenplay and Film Competition’s Horror Categories. For more information on this Friday’s Conversation in Film, click here.

 

Today, AFF’s Young Filmmaker Program Director Patrick Pryor kicks off our week of Horror with his pick: MR. VAMPIRE.

 

Like many films near and dear to my heart, Mr. Vampire pulls out all the stops to send audiences howling and hooting into a fist pumping frenzy.  This horror movie has everything:  high flying kung fu battles, lecherous lady-ghosts, slapstick comedy, black magic rituals, Cantonese pop music, a period setting chock full of billowing robes and frilly dresses, and a rotting, rasping, hopping vampire archnemesis.   This film crawls, oozes, and groans to please, and it succeeds wildly with its gleeful mishmash of popular genres.   Jump kicks and dizzying back-flips segue into pants ripping hijinks and boil bursting scares.  The plot of Mr. Vampire, which concerns a Taoist priest and his assistants battling an ancient vampire, keeps butts teetering on the edge of seats, but still finds time to slip in inspired flourishes of supernatural lunacy.  One of my favorite scenes involves a showdown between the priest and a lecherous lady ghost.  Her head detaches, grows spikes, and flies at the priest.  But he delves into his Taoist bag of tricks, including magic basil leaves and a glowing dagger, and tears the ghost a new one.  I even prefer to listen to the English dub.  It sounds like it was recorded by a pizza delivery guy from Compton, complete with  “whoas” and botched Chinese pronunciations.  However, the dub, like the film itself, captures and crystallizes a pure sense of fun.
In China, Mr. Vampire became so popular that it spawned a slew of sequels starring its Taoist priest lead, Lam Ching-Ying.  Vampire vs. Vampire, Crazy Safari, Exorcist Master, Magic Cop, and many more all feature Ying going toe to toe with life sucking, hopping vampires in a variety of time periods and locales.  Back when I stomped around New York City, vendors in Chinatown even hawked li’l jianshi dolls.   Part of what draws me to the Mr. Vampire series, and many supernatural kung-fu films in general, are the different “rules” the vampires follow.  Instead of a seductive blood-sucker, the jiangshi in Mr. Vampire hop around, look festering and lifeless, and suck your soul through your breath.  Mr. Vampire III even introduces a kid jiangshi hero, further endearing the pallid life suckers to our hearts .
Each time I watch Mr. Vampire, I can’t help but smile.  It’s a comfort movie of the highest order — a film I like to play after a brutal day or when I want to clear my  head.  I became so enamored with Mr. Vampire , in fact, that I decided to dress up as the Taoist priest for Halloween.  I even grew out a mustache (not a flattering look for myself) and searched for a Yin Yang robe to mirror the almighty Sifu.  That’s dedication.
The more I think about it, the more Mr. Vampire rises in stock as one of my favorite films.  You can keep your glossy horror yarns about ax murderers, creepy kids, and digital faces flying at the screen.  Mr. Vampire is the real deal that wears its heart on its sleeve. Anyone yawning, watch-checking, or chronically falling down during this barn burner of a film must be as lifeless as the jianshi.  Pity them, and rent this now.

 

- Patrick

Interested in checking out our staff picks for yourself? Head over to Vulcan Video where you can find all of our picks labeled as AFF Staff Picks. Go to vulcanvideo.com for location and catalogue information.
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The First Time I Watched Silence of the Lambs (One Week Ago)

The last scary movie I remember seeing was URBAN LEGEND, the masterpiece starring Jared Leto and Tara Reid. I remember bragging to my friends in 4th grade, because you see, I was brave back then. As time passed, I became more and more of a pansy, I stopped riding roller coasters, learned of the dangers of strangers and absolutely stopped watching scary movies…until a couple …

Linzy Beltran, Assistant to the Executive Director

The last scary movie I remember seeing was URBAN LEGEND, the masterpiece starring Jared Leto and Tara Reid. I remember bragging to my friends in 4th grade, because you see, I was brave back then. As time passed, I became more and more of a pansy, I stopped riding roller coasters, learned of the dangers of strangers and absolutely stopped watching scary movies…until a couple of weeks ago.

After my last post on watching STAR WARS for the first time, I decided to watch a movie that was more acceptable that I hadn’t seen until 2013, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. I watched it with two of my girlfriends, with the lights on, the windows closed on one couch with a gun (okay, no gun, but clothes that tasted gross, in case of a cannibal attack).

My preconceived notions of gory and jumpy scary movies disappeared after watching a world where the thrill came in the mind games. Writer Ted Tally and Director Jonathan Demme create a world where the thrill comes in the mystery of Dr. Lecter, the haunting deep voice of Buffalo Bill and the chase scene seen through night-vision goggles. Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Hannibal, in arguably his best role ever* intrigues in every scene, especially with his psychoanalytical interactions with Jodie Foster’s Clarice.

What makes this movie even more brilliant are those brief moments of humor (Hannibal the Cannibal? Come on!). The best line in the movie is the funniest, where Hannibal tells Clarice he is “having an old friend for dinner” as he preys on Dr. Chilton, his ex-jailer. And, tell me you didn’t laugh every time Clarice said, “yes shir” a result of her upbringing in West Virginia.

I’m glad I overcame my fears and watched this movie, which has given me a newfound appreciation for the horror genre and has encouraged me to lose weight so that a Buffalo Bill won’t kidnap me for my chubby skin. It also gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “having thick skin”.

Liked SILENCE OF THE LAMBS? Check out the episode of On Story where writer Ted Tally discusses the changed ending for the world’s most famous cannibal and where he anticipated Jodie Foster’s Oscar on www.onstory.tv

- Linzy Beltran

 

*My friend, Spencer would disagree. He told me to tell you to go watch Hopkins in THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN.

 

 

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Guest Blog: Julie Howe in Script Development Heaven

Today’s Guest Blog is from writer and AFF Screenplay Comedy Award Winner (2010), Julie Howe who has traveled through the ups and downs of developing a script. Read on for her account of Development’s good, bad and ugly. I know what you’re thinking. “She must be directionally confused, poor thing.” But hear me out because I actually do own a compass and know the difference …

Today’s Guest Blog is from writer and AFF Screenplay Comedy Award Winner (2010), Julie Howe who has traveled through the ups and downs of developing a script. Read on for her account of Development’s good, bad and ugly.

I know what you’re thinking. “She must be directionally confused, poor thing.” But hear
me out because I actually do own a compass and know the difference between north
and south.

When Matt Dy first rang me back in 2010 to say Joyce San Pedro, a producer based at
Sony and an AFF judge and panelist, wanted to meet with me about my script, I was
thinking he must have meant to call someone else – some OTHER writer who may have
had the same last name as me – and he hit my number by mistake. Happens, right?
Thankfully, it wasn’t a butt dial.

I’m one of those lucky writers who caught a break thanks to Austin Film Festival; as
well as to an army of fellow writers who were generous and kind, brutal and honest,
and most of all just plain supportive. As a result, my 2010 AFF comedy script is in
development with Joyce San Pedro and Alex Siskin. It’s not a studio deal; it’s a handmade
independent production deal. And I didn’t leave the baby on the doorstep and
walk away. Instead, I made an arrangement with the producers that included
involvement from start to finish. I wanted to learn, I wanted to know what it was really
like to make a movie, to be part of a team. I didn’t know if I would be chewed up and spit
out like a stale Chiclet or be able to hold my own. Not to mention being able to hold my
tongue when necessary while still holding true to my vision.

As luck would have it, I was taken under the wings of the good guys and I’m thanking
the gods of screenwriting I didn’t end up stuck to the bottom of somebody’s Nike. Those
who championed the script from the beginning, Joyce San Pedro. Michael-Ryan
Fletchall and Alex Siskin, opened the door for me and I ran through it like my hair was
on fire. Let’s face it, I’m not a kid. I’m staring down the point-blank barrel of middle age.
I want my shot before Medicare kicks in or I start thinking my purse belongs in the
refrigerator.

I owe my tenacious attitude not only to the opportunity afforded me by Austin Film
Festival but also to an amazing writer’s group called 5150 whose founder, Max Adams,
won the comedy screenplay award when AFF was a pup. From the beginning of my
tenure in the group, Austin Film Festival was touted as THE festival. Everyone in the group aspired to
place well in the screenplay competition. Needless to say, winning was unbelievable
and surreal. Like I had brought home 5150’s version of the Stanley Cup (yeah, I’m from
a hockey state!). I would not be where I am without the help and guidance of these
wickedly smart, talented peeps.

Although this all sounds like rah-rah cheerleader fluff, the development business is no
bed of roses. There have been some unfortunate bumps in the road that left the project
drifting a bit. Things looked uncertain and bleak and hopeless and all those terrible
words used to describe lost causes. I tried burying St. Jude upside down in my back
yard but apparently that only works if you’re Catholic, and what self-proclaimed pagan
has time for all that catechism stuff?

I’ll be honest. It’s been challenging. When someone asks me what it’s been like, I tell
them it’s agonizingly blissful…like having a root canal and an orgasm at the same time.
Some of the players have changed and we’ve had to take the project down a notch and
steer it in a different direction but that’s all par for the course, I’m told. It’s what
independent filmmaking is all about. It’s getting your hands grimy. It’s a million paper
cuts. It’s organize, then reorganize. It’s the coolest thing on earth! Maybe. Definitely.
The point I’m trying to make here is that regardless of the problems, regardless of the
heartache, I’ve been part of the process. I’m learning how hard it is to make a movie.
It’s giving-birth hard. It’s scaling Half Dome hard. It’s the kind of hard that creates
profound respect for those who have made it happen.

I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. But just when I was about to tell the bad and
the ugly to kiss my ass and never, ever darken my door, something amazing happened:
the good came around again. (Note to self: don’t tempt fate by telling it to kiss your ass
lest it tells you back “You’ll never have another shot, you ingrate!”)
Just like an acceptance speech at the Oscars where the winner thanks their high school
tormentor for making them stronger, I feel compelled to cover all the bases just to be
safe.
Thank you, Fate! I used to think you were an asshole. But now? You’re fucking
awesome!

Now that I have that out of the way, I’ll get serious.

I’m beyond thankful to those who have helped me and continue to help me. I’m thankful
for Austin Film Festival. As writers, AFF is our home. Our living room. The place
where we don’t need coasters and the furniture isn’t covered in plastic. The place we go
to verbalize our dreams. When we descend on the town every October, not only do we
turn every hotel into our own private flophouse, we create a unique, living, breathing
creature. In its chest beats the mighty heart of the screenwriter; and, at its core the soul
and essence of the independent filmmaker.

To hell with conventional wisdom. For me, development is about as far away from hell
as it gets.

That may sound corny, but I don’t care. Matt told me I could say anything I wanted.

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AFF Interview: Best of Fest (Shorts 2012) Filmmakers

Next week at the Alamo Drafthouse Village, Austin Film Festival will present AFF’s Best of Fest (Shorts 2012) as part of our monthly Audience Award Series.  This evening of award-winning shorts from last year’s festival includes two Oscar-nominated films and Animated, Documentary and Narrative shorts all together in one program.  Bears Fonté, Director of Programming, sat down (or e-sat down actually) with a few of …

Next week at the Alamo Drafthouse Village, Austin Film Festival will present AFF’s Best of Fest (Shorts 2012) as part of our monthly Audience Award Series.  This evening of award-winning shorts from last year’s festival includes two Oscar-nominated films and Animated, Documentary and Narrative shorts all together in one program.  Bears Fonté, Director of Programming, sat down (or e-sat down actually) with a few of the filmmakers to discuss their films and their take on being a Shorts Filmmaker.

Bears, AFF: What do you consider a strong story?

Zach Endres, Writer/Director THE TELEPORTED MAN: “The strongest stories are those that make you look at life at a slightly different angle. They provide a unique perspective in a way that makes you feel something, whether it be joy or heartbreak or fury. The best stories lead you to empathize with a new point of view. They broaden your mind, either by allowing you to wear someone else’s shoes or revealing the truth that you’re not the only one wearing your particular shoes. With that knowledge you face your everyday life with a new tilt, hopefully in a positive direction.”

Jason Berger, Director GOOD KARMA $1: “A strong story to me is really just something that pulls an emotion or feeling out of me.  A comedy can have a really strong story the way that a drama or epic period piece can. “

 

Bears, AFF: How long did the writing process take you and when (how) did you know that it was ready for production?

Christoph Kuschnig, Writer/Director HATCH: “It took about six months from the idea to the script that I actually shot. It’s never ready – even rewrites on the day of shooting a scene. There is a point in writing when you know, you’ve done everything possible to make it as strong as you can. Then it is time to bring in your collaborators to ascend it to the next level.”

Zach Endres: “Writing took place over a couple of months, but I would have loved more time. Being my undergraduate thesis film, this entire project had to be completed within one semester, including script revisions. So in all actuality, production just kind of happened whether the script was ready or not. But that pressure kept me vigilant. I wrote draft after draft, squeezing as many revisions into that time as possible. I tweaked the script throughout rehearsals and into production, and oddly enough even well into post-production. It’s impossible for a script to reach perfection, but that doesn’t mean you should settle. Actively critiquing your creation until the end is a way to ensure you’re creating the best product possible, albeit at the expense of your sanity.”

 

Bears, AFF: What was the biggest challenge making the film?

Chelsea Hernandez, Director SEE THE DIRT: “The biggest challenge in making the film was determine how to edit the story together. Erik and I did not have an idea of how the structure of the film would be and there was no event to really cover that would create a narrative arc. We knew we wanted to highlight Scott and allow the audience a peek into his life. So, it was hard to determine how to make a “day in the life” short documentary flow and keep one’s attention. Also, I filmed and edited the movie, it was hard to cut down the film. I was so attached to certain scenes because I was present at the shoot. It was heart wrenching to loose certain scenes, but in the end it worked much better.”

Christoph Kuschnig:“Shooting at an actual baby hatch. We asked for the three nights but only got one. We had to cram in 24 setups in less than 12 hours of shooting with an actual baby on set, heavy traffic outside the baby hatch – and still we were able to make it look quiet.”

 

Bears, AFF:  Working within your budget, what type of compromises did you have to make along the way?  Were there any that were particularly painful to you?

Chelsea Hernandez:“We started shooting “See the Dirt” in standard definition because (co-director) Erik and I both owned Panasonic DVX100s that we just couldn’t let go of yet. I wished we would have filmed it in high definition, but stepping back now, I’m glad we did shoot in SD. Since the movie is about Scott’s unique vintage hobby, it gives it a nostalgic, novelty look. And it leads the audience to focus more on Scott.”

Zach Endres: “Making a science fiction film on a shoestring budget is always a challenge. We had to make compromises with almost every aspect of the film. While these changes seemed painful at first, I’ve found that I make my most creative decisions when the greatest limitations are placed on me. Some of the moments in the film that I’m most happy with are not even close to how I imagined them in the writing process. I’m a firm believer that you must embrace limitations, because they often lead to a better movie if you know how to manipulate them to your benefit.”


Bears, AFF: What advice do you have for shorts filmmakers?

Zach Endres: “Keep it simple. A short doesn’t have to be a compressed feature film. The strongest shorts are often those that tell a story that fits their timeframe. It’s all about efficiency. Start late, leave early, reduce locations, combine characters, simplify simplify simplify. The clarity of brevity allows for even the smallest of stories to leave the biggest of footprints.”

 

Jason Berger: “Just have fun.  If you’re not having fun, then don’t do it.  And do it for yourself.  I think you should submit (your film to film festivals) – you’ve just got to do it. I think it’s a good exercise in getting your film out there. And even if your film doesn’t get in, it’s a learning experience. If you want to be into making films, you can’t really be worried about whether people are going to like it or hate it. You want to get as many eyeballs on it as possible. The goal is to get people to see it.”

Bryan Buckley, Writer/Director ASAD: “There are tons of film festivals out there. Take the time to know the festivals you submit to. Look at their past winners. Look at how they screen. Make sure that they recognize the type of work you’ve created. Traveling 1400 miles to see your film screen in front of eight disinterested people is about as disheartening as watching Mitt Romney trying to explain his take on foreign policy.”


Bears, AFF: What have you learned or do you must appreciate, after working the festival circuit?

Jason Berger: “I really appreciated the audience laughing at the parts that we laughed at!”

 

Bryan Buckley: “If you look at Austin’s track record for picking films that are socially noteworthy, it’s pretty damn ridiculous. As a writer/director I also like that Austin is such a writer’s festival – I mean look at the award – it’s a typewriter! We couldn’t help but put Austin at the top of our festival submission list.  Warhol said ‘in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.’ I wonder if it was his way of predicting the rise of the short.”

Zach Endres: “I’ve learned to not take rejection personally. In fact, rejection is just a challenge to do even better work the next time around. On top of that, I’ve learned that some people actually do want to see my films. Appreciation of that fact is key: focus on the positives, bear the negatives and use them as fodder to build upon your past work.”

 

AFF’s Best of Fest (Shorts 2012) plays Monday, March 4th at the Alamo Drafthouse Village at 7 pm.  Films will include SEE THE DIRT (Doc Short Jury Award Winner), GOOD KARMA, $1 (Doc Short Audience Award Winner), ASAD (Oscar-nominated and Narrative Short Jury and Audience Award Winner), HATCH (Student Short Jury Award Winner), THE TELEPORTED MAN (Student Short Audience Award Winner), and HEAD OVER HEELS (Oscar-nominated and Animated Short Jury and Audience Award Winner).  Filmmakers from SEE THE DIRT and THE TELEPORTED MAN will be in attendance.  For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

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Guest Blog: AFF Intern Extraordinaire Coleman Tharpe On The Road With Oscar

 Our Intern to the Executive Director Coleman Tharpe, pictured below, recently took a trip to Houston for his chance to hold an Oscar, here’s his account:   For the first time in the 85 year history of the Academy Awards, Oscar took a road trip.  He’s been on display before, but this year’s Oscar ROADTRIP is the first opportunity for those whose names aren’t in …

 Our Intern to the Executive Director Coleman Tharpe, pictured below, recently took a trip to Houston for his chance to hold an Oscar, here’s his account:

 

Coleman and OscarFor the first time in the 85 year history of the Academy Awards, Oscar took a road trip.  He’s been on display before, but this year’s Oscar ROADTRIP is the first opportunity for those whose names aren’t in the golden envelope to hold the little man and practice a speech.  Visiting ten cities over the course of February, Oscar and his handlers made two stops in the great state of Texas.  The Academy’s RV stopped Monday in Dallas and the day before I met him and his friends at the Town and Country Village mall in Houston.

My first impression is that the Oscar travels in style: top-of-the-line RV, velvet cushions, and an entourage.  And the folks traveling with him couldn’t be a more welcoming and inviting crew.  The statue himself is as wonderful as anyone could imagine.  Golden in color, eight and a half pounds in weight, and engraved with the historic logo of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Oscar’s presence commands the entire room, whether on stage at the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood and Highland Center in Hollywood, California, or the Sprint Store at a mall in Houston, Texas.

Over the years, the Academy has garnered more than its fair share of criticism for being Socialist, racist, chauvinistic, feudal, out-dated, and exclusionary, among other things.  But the truth of the matter is that the Academy and especially the artists and executives that make up its membership have helped the people of this country through their darkest times: the Great Depression, the Second World War, McCarthyism, Vietnam, countless recessions, and attacks both ideological and militaristic.  Cinema gives us hope for the future by giving us celluloid dreams, so introducing my young cousins to Oscar was the best part of the trip.  The Oscar ROADTRIP is bringing the excellence of the Academy to the people, and reminding us that it’s we who are the most important part of the industry – all the beautiful people out there in the dark.

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Oscars Prediction Post: Matt Dy

    For football fans, the Super Bowl may be over but for me, mine hasn’t started yet.  This Sunday is the Academy Awards and the only playbook in sight is the one Harvey Weinstein is pushing hard for.  Will it be Silver Lining’s night or Argo’s?  This has been the most unpredictable and surprising race in years featuring a stellar line-up of nominees.  AFF …

 

 

OscarFor football fans, the Super Bowl may be over but for me, mine hasn’t started yet.  This Sunday is the Academy Awards and the only playbook in sight is the one Harvey Weinstein is pushing hard for.  Will it be Silver Lining’s night or Argo’s?  This has been the most unpredictable and surprising race in years featuring a stellar line-up of nominees.  AFF is represented well here as our 2012 festival line-up included Silver Linings Playbook, Flight, The Sessions, and short film nominees Asad, Buzkashi Boys, and Head Over Heals.  I’ve included my predictions below in all 24 categories.  I’ll start off with an analysis of my two favorite categories, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay.  Click on each of the titles to download the PDF of the script (Lincoln is not available).

Best Adapted Screenplay

Argo by Chris Terrio

Beasts of the Southern Wild by Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin

Life of Pi by David Magee

Lincoln by Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook

Predicted winner: Argo

Chris Terrio’s tight script never lags and does a phenomenal job of keeping the audience in suspense despite already knowing the outcome.  And with tons of smart, funny one-liners, Chris Terrio could be telling the other nominees “Argof*ckyourself” on Sunday.  Tony Kushner has enough respectability in the industry to pull off a win but I think Argo will continue its winning streak here.

Best Original Screenplay

Amour by Michael Haneke

Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino

Flight by John Gatins

Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola

Zero Dark Thirty by Mark Boal

 

Predicted winner: Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino has already won some key awards so far for original screenplay so I’d say he’s the favorite.  I’m sure some residual love from Inglorious Basterds and the box office success of Django can’t hurt either.  Mark Boal did win the WGA award but Tarantino wasn’t eligible for a nomination and Michael Haneke could surprise here too.

And here is the full list of my predictions:

Best Picture: Argo

Best Director: Steven Spielberg – Lincoln

Best Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio – Argo

Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables

Best Cinematography: Life of Pi

Best Production Design: Anna Karenina

Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina

Best Hair & Makeup: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Best Editing: Argo

Best Sound Mixing: Les Miserables

Best Sound Editing: Life of Pi

Best Original Score: Life of Pi

Best Original Song: Skyfall

Best Animated Feature: Brave

Best Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man

Best Foreign Language Film: Amour

Best Live Action Short: Curfew

Best Animated Short: Paperman

Best Documentary Short: Open Heart

Check back after the show on Sunday and see how I did!

–Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director

If you think you have what it takes to correctly predict the Oscar winners, take a chance at our Oscars Prediction Contest and you could win a Producers Badge or a Film Pass to the 2013 Austin Film Festival! For more information, click here.

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Interview: Conversations in Film: Making Your Feature Film, Panelists

In preparation and excitement for our upcoming MAKING YOUR FEATURE FILM event, panelists Emily Hagins (MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE), Brandon Dickerson (SIRONIA), John Fiege (MISSISSIPPI CHICKEN), and Jeremiah Jones (RESTIVE) reflect on some of their experiences, joys and trials as filmmakers.  Don’t forget to mark your calendars for much more insight and advice during Austin Film Festival’s next Conversation in Film! AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL …

Conversation in Film Panelists

In preparation and excitement for our upcoming MAKING YOUR FEATURE FILM event, panelists Emily Hagins (MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE), Brandon Dickerson (SIRONIA), John Fiege (MISSISSIPPI CHICKEN), and Jeremiah Jones (RESTIVE) reflect on some of their experiences, joys and trials as filmmakers.  Don’t forget to mark your calendars for much more insight and advice during Austin Film Festival’s next Conversation in Film!

AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL (AFF): What do you consider a strong story?

HAGINS: I think a strong story is one that you feel passionate about as a writer, because you’re able to really bring all the details of the world your characters live in to life.

DICKERSON: I gravitate toward true stories I find will translate to screen in an authentic and honest way..

FIEGE:  A strong story portrays the world from a distinctive perspective.

AFF: What were some of the biggest challenges with making your film?

HAGINS: One of the biggest challenges was keeping the narrative concise with a simple, character-driven story.  There were a lot of character moments we could’ve expanded on, and themes we could’ve explored– but it would’ve deviated from what the big picture really was. Understanding what the movie would ultimately feel like in the early stages was definitely a necessary but difficult step for a movie like this.

FIEGE:  Finding the story tends to be the hardest part of production. With documentary, even when you think you’ve found a great story, you’re never sure how it’s going to play out. Following strong documentary stories is, by definition, a risky endeavor; and one of the hardest parts of production is pouring everything you have into such an uncertain process.

DICKERSON:  For SIRONIA, we were pulling crew from Austin+Dallas+Los Angeles as well as working with locals in Waco.  Every one of those cities has its own vibe. Crew from each city has their own unique approach to production.  It was a challenge to be at the helm of those different personalities within an abbreviated 20 day shoot with little prep time.  A film crew needs to work as a passionate family with a unified vision and we had to create that connection on a train that had left the station.  It all worked out in the end.

JONES:  Finding money to make a film is always a big challenge.  I have only made ultra low-budget films, so scheduling and moving efficiently to get what you need with not much time is another big challenge.  When people come into a project and spend a lot of time and resources working, you need to make sure that you are on the same page and have the same expectations.  The indie environment can be kind of all hands on deck, so just talk everything out.

 

AFF: Working on a low-budget, what type of compromises did you have to make along the way? Were there any that were particularly painful to you?

HAGINS: Luckily we had an amazing cast and crew that really went above and beyond when things were tough– like one day we shot 9 pages in a location with 100 extras, and everyone really worked hard to get everything done in the best way possible… I really don’t feel like we had to make compromises, because this story was designed for a budget we would be able to work with.

JONES:  I try to hopefully make the most out of the current situation that we are facing.  I don’t think it’s compromising, it’s problem solving.  Make the most out of what you have in that moment and don’t let one moment bring the movie down.  A lot of challenges can be happening all around the set but you only see what goes into the frame.

FIEGE: Art is a compromise between a vision and the representation of that vision. I have to constantly make difficult choices about how to spend extremely limited resources of time and money. Yet, it is these choices that result in a particular artistic representation of a story. I always wish I had more time and money, but I also believe that when I figure out how to tell a story in a stronger way, more time and money will become available somehow. As Robert Bresson wrote, “One does not create by adding, but by taking away.”

 

AFF: What was one of the most memorable parts of shooting?

JONES: If it is possible and the schedule allows, I like picking up the cast from the airport.  An actor puts a lot of faith into you – they read the work, we talk on the phone about it, the details or business get worked out – but I always find myself still hoping that they get on the plane.  Meeting them at the airport is when I have the realization of” Hey, they actually came.  We have a chance – let’s get this thing done.”

FIEGE: Seeing the story appear before my eyes for the first time.

DICKERSON:  The first day [of SIRONIA] was insane.  I had fallen on my sword that we needed to shoot at an actual rodeo with real Mutton Bustin’ so it moved up our shoot two weeks and became the first day of filming.  It turned out that the time the rodeo had generously given us to film the dialogue sequences was during a pre-concert so we had to shoot between songs.  On top of this, the reality that you were finally doing what you wanted to do since you were eight years old felt like an astronaut taking off for the moon.

HAGINS: The day we shot 9 pages was definitely the most memorable for me. We were working with one of our lead actors for the first time, difficult lighting, 100 teenagers, stunts, and one of the most emotional scenes of the whole movie… I felt like a different person at the end of it, and very grateful for the people involved in the production.

 

Hear more from Emily, Jeremiah, John and Brandon on Saturday, March 2nd at 12PM at the George Washington Carver Museum.  The conversation will continue with panelists offering tangible advice for aspiring filmmakers including creative ways to raise money, find marketing and distribution, and utilize acquired tricks of the trade. Click here to get your tickets.

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Staff Picks – Ryan Darbonne: Bromancing the Stone

Today our Valentine’s Day Staff Picks series comes to a close.  We’ve heard from our staff members about their favorite and least favorite movies on love and we hope you have found the perfect flick to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  If you’re still looking for that last minute movie to watch with your significant other, roommate, or even all by yourself (cue Céline Dion), consider picking …

Today our Valentine’s Day Staff Picks series comes to a close.  We’ve heard from our staff members about their favorite and least favorite movies on love and we hope you have found the perfect flick to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  If you’re still looking for that last minute movie to watch with your significant other, roommate, or even all by yourself (cue Céline Dion), consider picking up Film Department Director Ryan Darbonne’s pick, IN THE SOUP.

 

It’s 2:23 in the morning. Valentine’s Day.  I’m perched in front of my iMac watching buffering vids of iCarly, on mute, as the self-assured stylings of Ms. Nina Simone croon through my iTunes (iKnow…lame joke). You see dear reader, I’ve been assigned (read: forced) to pick a film about love and ‘cha boy ain’t got nothin’…nada…diddlysquat; films overwrought with heterosexual romanticism are a dime a dozen making it hard to narrow my choices down. Suddenly, as if on cue, inspiration hits: The modern bromance. What better way to celebrate V-day than by exploring the platonic, and often complex, relationships between men on the silver screen? My pick is the 90’s independent classic, IN THE SOUP.

Directed by Alexander Rockwell, the film stars Steve Buscemi as aspiring “screenwriter” Aldolpho Rollo whose 500-page opus, and unrequited obsession with his neighbor, serve as points of contention in his, already, pathetic life. Plagued by economic hardship, Aldolpho places a newspaper ad in a desperate attempt to sell his screenplay. As a result he meets Joe (Seymour Cassel): A wily hustler who agrees to finance and produce the film by any means necessary. The two stooges form an unlikely bond resulting in mutual feelings of love and admiration. Even when their plans start to go awry, much to the dismay of Aldolpho, neither one is willing to completely severe ties. Aldolpho sees Joe as a creative savior and Joe views Aldolpho as a short cut to salvation.

Told through a series of interconnected vignettes, and shot in stark black and white, the film co-stars Jennifer Beals, Will Patton and a young Sam Rockwell (no relation). Alexander Rockwell has crafted an offbeat, existential comedy that is a resounding ode to the creative struggle, and the platonic ties that bind, set against the backdrop of  pre-Giuliani Manhattan.

 

To keep up with all Austin Film Festival News, check back daily or subscribe to our RSS News Feed.

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Guest Blog Post: Hunter Oronoa & Marcos Vargas, COOL Week Interns

Career Opportunities On Location Week, or COOL Week was established in 1999 by Leander High School. Students choose an organization to work with for a week to get a glimpse at their future career opportunities. This year, Hunter Orona and Marcos Vargas chose to work for Austin Film Festival with our Young Filmmakers Program. Get a glimpse behind the scenes of AFF’s offices from their …

Career Opportunities On Location Week, or COOL Week was established in 1999 by Leander High School. Students choose an organization to work with for a week to get a glimpse at their future career opportunities. This year, Hunter Orona and Marcos Vargas chose to work for Austin Film Festival with our Young Filmmakers Program. Get a glimpse behind the scenes of AFF’s offices from their Guest Blogs.

 

Hunter Orona: NO NEED TO KNOCK, COME RIGHT IN

There was a sudden piercing thought that over came me as I approached the green house on Salina street. Was this the feeling of anxiety or the feeling of excitement? The mystery inside led me to think the answer lay behind the green, hinged obstacle of sorrow, or maybe even the bridge to enlightenment that only a few more steps could unfold. The sign on the door read “No need to knock, come right in!”. I was apprehensive at first. It seemed welcoming. A little bit too welcoming. . .

As I walked through the door I felt a sense of comfort, as if at home. This might have been due to the fact that this “office” was a home but never the less it was a friendly environment. This was not the typical corporate setting that I had envisioned before my arrival. There were no cubicles dividing the staff. The designated lounge area was actually not designated at all. People were sprawled all about the house. The only sight of a suit or a tie was on a Kiss Kiss Bang Bang poster. Most interesting of all were the staff meetings I was able to sit in on. People said what they wanted. And they meant it. There was no real filter (whether this be good, or bad) that the staff members were expected to use which encouraged all thoughts to be presented. This was eye opening to me. The once uptight business I had in mind was transformed into a place where ideas could freely be traded amongst people who had the same common interests.

The place fascinated me. Everyone seemed to be individually working on their own aspect of the company but at the same time there was a connection between each of them. A sort of cooperation was present that allowed the collaboration of ideas to flow throughout the company to better benefit every individual. There was one common interest that intertwined and held together everything in this green house. Everyone had a love for film.

My experience here at the Austin Film Festival headquarters has, in fact, enlightened me. I now realize how a business can successfully be directed toward a common goal in an efficient and enjoyable manner. To further progress ideas people need to be able come together and collaborate.

 

Marcos Vargas: A WEEK AT THE LITTLE GREEN HOUSE ON THE EAST SIDE

Having lived in Austin for most my life, I had heard of the Austin Film Festival, but never really did anything with the organization. When my transition coordinator called me into her office and asked if I would like to intern with AFF, I was ecstatic. Showing up to this little green house in the East Side of downtown Austin, I knew that this was going to be not only a good week, but a cool week.

I walked in on Monday, a little apprehensive having arrived a few minutes early, I sat down in an office where instead of a sitting at a desk, most interns propped up their computers on their lap.  It was then, that I met Patrick. Patrick is the Young Filmmakers Project Director.  Patrick was very nice and very enthusiastic about his work.  He showed me around the office and told me a little bit about what he does during his normal schedule. Having an abundance of questions I was dying to ask, I was just waiting for the right moment to flood Patrick with questions. When the time came, I was amazed at how open Patrick was to answering my questions, which I felt was very helpful. I learned so much just in the first 30 minutes that I was afraid that the rest of the week I was not going to learn anymore, I was mistaken.

On Tuesday morning, Patrick took me and another student to Anderson High School where he helps teach juniors and seniors screenwriting. Before heading to the school, Patrick had me write up a survey enticing the students to express their feelings about the class and what they had learned so far in the year. After listening to the students read their film, I understood the dedication that Patrick had to his job. After the group reading at Anderson, Patrick had us head to the office for the weekly staff meeting.  This was definitely my favorite part of the day. Listening in on the meeting, I was able to see the structure of a productive office.   I was able to see how, from an unfamiliar point of view, separate departments can come together and efficiently get things done.

I have really enjoyed my time at the Austin Film Festival. I have enjoyed meeting everyone in the office, and I really appreciate them giving up their time so that I may get some experience in the real world. Having learned so much in a week that a book could never teach me, I am sad to leave.  Though I leave sad, I have gained knowledge that will be able to help me for the rest of my life. Like how to create your own schedule for the week and get it done and how to ask good constructive question to get ideas across to other staff members.  I do hope one day I can master all these skills that I learned and work in an office space just like the Austin Film Festival.

To keep up with all Austin Film Festival News, check back daily or subscribe to our RSS News Feed.

For more information on Austin Film Festival’s Young Filmmakers Program click here.

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Staff Picks – Allison Frady and Linzy Beltran: two votes against “classic” love tales

When choosing their “Staff Pick” films,  Development Director Allison Frady and Assistant to the Executive Director Linzy Beltran both jumped at the chance to bring a cynical look at Nora Ephron’s 1998 movie, YOU’VE GOT MAIL. With their shared disdain for cliché endings and unrealistic internet romance, they knew their votes both sat squarely in the Anti-Love ballot box. After much discussion they settled on …

When choosing their “Staff Pick” films,  Development Director Allison Frady and Assistant to the Executive Director Linzy Beltran both jumped at the chance to bring a cynical look at Nora Ephron’s 1998 movie, YOU’VE GOT MAIL. With their shared disdain for cliché endings and unrealistic internet romance, they knew their votes both sat squarely in the Anti-Love ballot box. After much discussion they settled on a comparison of the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks classic with its early predecessor, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER.

Linzy:

ShopAroundtheCornerI think it’s safe to say that most of my generation, whatever we’re called (Z?,Pepsi?) is more likely to have seen Nora Ephron’s YOU’VE GOT MAIL than the 1940 movie it was based on: Ernst Lubitsch’s THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (trust me; I’m an expert in official polls). I’ll admit it; I watched THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER for the first time this weekend and was angry at myself, the world and my parents for not showing me this movie sooner.

Teaming Margaret Sullavan and the precious Jimmy Stewart for the third time as an onscreen duo, the film is based on the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós Lázló. The love story begins with Alfred Kralik (Stewart) answering a newspaper ad in the paper and blossoms via the letters delivered to PO Box 237. Unbeknownst to him, the “most wonderful girl in the world”, Miss Novak (Sullavan) walks into the little shop looking for a job.

Long before Sam and Diane (Cheers) or Jim and Pam (The Office), this love story includes the most sexual of tensions, a cheating scandal, an attempted suicide and a story of success for a man who initially doesn’t see himself worthy of the woman wooing with words. Doesn’t sound like a movie made in the 40s, now does it?

Allison:

TomHanks and MegRyan

Fast forward to 1998 and the idea of love being found through your computer and already you’re light years away from THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, no matter how progressive it seems. The glitch in Nora Ephron’s YOU’VE GOT MAIL is its masquerade as an update to the classic love story when all the while it ends in the same old clichés.

When you study the plot of YOU’VE GOT MAIL you realize it’s already been done not once but twice. The first time in 1940 with THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER and then with the 1993 romance SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. It’s not that YOU’VE GOT MAIL is anti-love just because it’s a remake of two separate movies, it is anti-love because what two people fall in love when they have so much disgust with each other and build a relationship over AOL email? Sure online dating is currently all the rage in finding Mr. or Mrs. Right, but in 1998 the idea seemed farfetched.

The classic love movie plot occurs in YOU’VE GOT MAIL: two people are in current relationships that they can’t stand while interacting (in this case emailing) with their perfect companion. Inevitabily, their relationships die out and now both are single and ready to mingle. Coincidence? I think not. All the while the two email love birds are having a work battle over book store space (one named The Shop Around the Corner), with no idea they’re hating the one they love. In the midst of battle they seem to start falling for each other, but what about NY152?? As if you didn’t know how the movie was going to end, the two decide for the last time to meet face to face. Sure enough with the beautiful, sweet dog running in the background amongst bright colored flowers, beautiful plants in the middle of NYC- they discover that they got the best of both worlds, love in real life and over the internet.

On this day before Valentine’s Day, decide for yourself which film is better… but we think the decision is already made. Sorry YOU’VE GOT MAIL (or SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE 2: THE RETURN OF TEG RYANKS), your creepy love story is solely saved by Tom Hanks’ late 90s charm and Meg Ryan’s normal lips. YOU’VE GOT MAIL has only one thing on THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER and that is the Internet. But even then, it’s just AOL.

 

For all of this week’s Staff Picks, and to keep up with all Austin Film Festival News, check back daily or subscribe to our RSS News Feed.

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Staff Picks – Erin Hallagan on GONE WITH THE WIND, An Unrelenting Love Story

We’re back this week with more AFF Staff Picks for movies to watch on Valentine’s Day. Today we have Conference Director Erin Hallagan’s take on GONE WITH THE WIND, a  love story that fits squarely into the Love and Anti-Love categories. Love it or hate it, GONE WITH THE WIND is a great addition to any Valentine’s Day movie watch list.   In trying to …

We’re back this week with more AFF Staff Picks for movies to watch on Valentine’s Day. Today we have Conference Director Erin Hallagan’s take on GONE WITH THE WIND, a  love story that fits squarely into the Love and Anti-Love categories. Love it or hate it, GONE WITH THE WIND is a great addition to any Valentine’s Day movie watch list.

 

Gone With the WindIn trying to decide a “love” or “anti-love” film, I kept circling back to GONE WITH THE WIND – one I feel truly represents both camps.  Plus, it’s a personal favorite of mine.  Early childhood memories yield many-a-time where friends and family would call me Scarlett O’Hara (I was known for my beautiful curtain-adorned outfits).   Okay, okay – I was a little bossy.  And stubborn…  Over the years, my appreciation of the film has evolved upon each viewing.  In my Scarlett days, it was beautiful and rich and there was a pony in the end.  Later, I saw the depiction of the American Old South as something harsher; an encapsulated culture of those who refused to evolve themselves and embraced a chivalry that was dying.  Most recently, I saw GONE WITH THE WIND as an unrelenting love story.

It’s an unconventional romance, driven by Scarlett’s struggle with lust and her search for deceptive promises of happiness.  Her vanity dominates her destiny and she becomes trapped by the illusion of love.  She lives dangerously on the curtain-tails of ideas that will never come to fruition.  Though Scarlett is blinded, her worthy counterpart Rhett Butler sees everything perfectly clear, and loves her not in spite of it all, but because of it all.

Scarlett’s fabricated feelings for Ashley Wilkes serve as an intoxicating metaphor, as he symbolizes the romanticized Old South stuck in time, nostalgic and bound to fade away.  Scarlett, however, is unconquerable and learns to adapt while still hanging on to the idea of him.  She faces war and loss with ruthless perseverance.  She plows through each adversity with baited breath, still powered by delusion. Yet her triumph does not surface until the film’s last moments – when she finally comes to accept the reality she created.  When all possibility of hope is seemingly lost, she embraces optimism in the reassurance that “tomorrow would be another day.”  All that she had resisted with hate and antipathy was no longer stifled.  Grief and desperation were overcome by a breath of fresh air at last.

I’m of the school that Scarlett did love Rhett, in the end.  But to me, this story is more about finding an acceptance and love for self.  Scarlett was in constant battle for adoration from others, exercising defiance and ignoring compassion at every turn.  Through it all, her lowest points were always rejuvenated by a pilgrimage to her true love: her home.  Scarlett finally chooses a new battle – one that will surely test her equally, but could surrender the peace she searched for for so long.  Her strength stemmed from Tara, and it was here that it could blossom again.

Adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Sidney Howard retold a classic and towering story.  GONE WITH THE WIND is a timeless tale of love and hate, and the epic journey required to comprehend the roots of happiness and concord.  I promise it won’t leave you feeling abandoned or forgotten on your couch this February 14th, but instead in a state of shared mad optimism with Scarlett O’Hara.  After all, February 15th is another day.

 

 For all of this week’s Staff Picks, and to keep up with all Austin Film Festival News, check back daily or subscribe to our RSS News Feed.

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Staff Picks – Bears Fonté: Anthony Minghella’s Ultimate Statement on Love: THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY

Today’s Staff Picks blog comes to us from Bears Fonté, AFF’s Film Department Director of Programming. Bears’ post brings us to the darker side of love, the obsessive, determined, lustful side of love portrayed by Matt Damon as Tom Ripley in Anthony Minghella’s THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.   Anthony Minghella’s got a thing about love so strong it pushes a person to unthinkable extremes. His 2003 …

Today’s Staff Picks blog comes to us from Bears Fonté, AFF’s Film Department Director of Programming. Bears’ post brings us to the darker side of love, the obsessive, determined, lustful side of love portrayed by Matt Damon as Tom Ripley in Anthony Minghella’s THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.

 

Anthony Minghella’s got a thing about love so strong it pushes a person to unthinkable extremes. His 2003 civil war epic COLD MOUNTAIN found Jude Law as a confederate deserter walking for months through near starvation to return to his wife. His first film, TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY centers on a man who comes back as a ghost and tarnishes his girlfriend’s memory of him, just so she’ll move on. His most famous film, THE ENGLISH PATIENT, involves loves and lies and people staying behind during war to care for burn victims. [Admission: I’ve never made it through this movie. My feelings about it were best summarized by Dawson’s Creek’s Pacey who used it time and time again to put babies to sleep.] For me, the ultimate Minghella statement on love is THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.

This film, based on a brilliant Patricia Highsmith novel, follows Tom Ripley as he makes his way to San Reimo, Italy, under the pretence of bringing back playboy Dickie Greenleaf to his conservative shipbuilding father. Matt Damon (in what I consider his finest performance) fills Tom with the perfect amount of jealousy, confidence, lust and cold determination needed to infiltrate this elite set of Princeton grads eternally holidaying on family money. He stays up nights quizzing himself on jazz artists after he hears about Dickie’s love of the ‘new hip sound of the late fifties.’ He models himself after Dickie in his dress and hair, copying his every move.He falls in love with Dickie’s lifestyle and he falls in love with Dickie.There is a moment where he and his idol (played by Jude Law) nearly share a bath, rife with sexual tension, when Tom almost gets what he wants. But like all love-gone-wrong stories, Tom’s obsession (or as Dickie calls it, his constant presence) drives him to commit the most shocking and blood-thirsty acts – first by killing Dickie himself (and that’s not even the movie’s mid point). Moving to Rome, he poses as Dickie to collect the latest check from daddy Greenleaf, creates a relationship between Tom and Dickie by leaving messages at hotels for each other, and then sends himself back to San Reimo to dump Dickie’s girlfriend (played effortlessly Gwyneth Paltrow). What’s most horrific about Tom’s fall is that later in the movie, when he finally stumbles into a relationship that might actually provide the love he so clearly needs, he must sacrifice it to continue to cover up his murder and usurpment of Dickie Greenleaf.

For me, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY perfectly captures that moment when you first learn that your feelings are not reciprocated.It depicts the quiet desperation of being an outsider and grasping for any way in. Beautifully shot on location by John Seale (RAIN MAN, WITNESS), it somehow exists far from the year it was made and really puts you back at a time before there were such things as anti-heroes and every love story had a happy ending. If there is one thing that survives this descent into the darker side of desire, it’s the pure unadulterated devotion to Jazz. The soundtrack and score are both phenomenal and provide the perfect close to this review: there is nothing so chilling as Matt Damon’s under-stated and splendid rendition of “My Funny Valentine.” Cozy up to someone close while you watch this one, and be glad it’s just a movie.

 

For all of this week’s Staff Picks, and to keep up with all Austin Film Festival News, check back daily or subscribe to our RSS News Feed.

 

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Staff Picks – Matt Dy: HAROLD AND MAUDE

Yesterday, Patrick brought us his take on THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN. Today, Screenplay Department Director Matt Dy brings us back to the pro-love side of the spectrum with his favorite movie for Valentine’s Day, HAROLD AND MAUDE.   Considered a flop in the 70’s, HAROLD AND MAUDE has found renewed adoration since its initial release and now sits at #69 on the American Film Institute’s …

Yesterday, Patrick brought us his take on THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN. Today, Screenplay Department Director Matt Dy brings us back to the pro-love side of the spectrum with his favorite movie for Valentine’s Day, HAROLD AND MAUDE.

 

Considered a flop in the 70’s, HAROLD AND MAUDE has found renewed adoration since its initial release and now sits at #69 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time.  However, I didn’t know the film existed until I first saw THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and Cameron Diaz’s titular character cited it as her favorite film.  Leave it to the Farrelly Brothers to introduce me to one of the most unconventional and classic love stories ever.

 

Written by Collin Higgins and directed by Hal Ashby, the film is a darkly comedic yet romantic portrayal of Harold, a young man obsessed with death and suicide, and Maude, an elderly woman he meets at a random funeral they both attended just for fun.  While the setup doesn’t quite seem like the makings of a sweeping Nicholas Sparks romance, the beauty of their love comes from its unconventional and unconditional nature.  I researched that more intimate scenes between the two were cut because the studio was afraid they would scare away audiences.  Instead, their love is displayed through several sweet moments.  The best scene is when Harold gives Maude a souvenir coin that says “Harold Loves Maude” as they sit on the edge of a cliff.  She immediately tosses it into the water and states her reason for doing so: “So I’ll always know where it is.”

 

Harold is an odd fellow who is introduced to us as a young man who goes to extreme lengths to shock his routinely unsurprised mother by staging elaborate suicide attempts including hanging by a noose, drowning as she swims laps around him, and splaying fake blood all over himself.  He even stages these suicides for dates that his mother sets him up for through a computer dating service (they had that even back then?).  Maude is just as eccentric.  At 79 years young, she lives out of a railroad car, enjoys being painted in the nude, has a mission to uproot city trees and return them to nature, and has a penchant for stealing cars.  Together, they have the indomitable spirit of two people against the world.

 

There is an unspoken moment in the film that I won’t give away, but it adds a poignancy that shifts your (and Harold’s) understanding of Maude.  Whether or not you’re in the mood for a May/December romance this Valentine’s Day, HAROLD AND MAUDE is hard not to love.  Even in its old age, the film still holds up well… just like Maude.

 

For all of this week’s Staff Picks, and to keep up with all Austin Film Festival News, check back daily or subscribe to our RSS News Feed.

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Staff Picks – Patrick Pryor’s Ain’t Love Grand: The Agony and the Ecstasy of THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN

Yesterday, Marcie kicked off our week of Love vs. Anti-Love blog posts with one of her favorite Romantic Comedies, BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY. Today, Patrick Pryor, AFF’s Young Filmmaker’s Program Director, is throwing his hat in the ring for the Anti-Love side with his take on THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN.   THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN is the only sex comedy that makes me want to swear …

Yesterday, Marcie kicked off our week of Love vs. Anti-Love blog posts with one of her favorite Romantic Comedies, BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY. Today, Patrick Pryor, AFF’s Young Filmmaker’s Program Director, is throwing his hat in the ring for the Anti-Love side with his take on THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN.

 

THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN is the only sex comedy that makes me want to swear off romance forever and become a monk.  We’ve all been there before, falling hard for someone that barely gives us the time of day, has eyes for someone else, or merely likes us as a friend.   That’s the strange thing about romantic feelings.  For better or worse, they make you do some silly, sappy, and flat-out regrettable things.  You climb out on a limb to squawk and preen and pitch some woo only to land flat on your face and wonder why you became so infatuated in the first place.

Take Gary, for example, the delivery boy hero of THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN.   He spends most of the film slinging pizzas and pining for his classmate, Karen, only to lose her to his horn dog best friend.   Though zany fast motion chasing and bedroom hijinks pepper the film, several scenes cut close to the romantic bone.  Gary gets drunk at a party to work up the courage to talk to Karen, embarrassing himself and his friends in the process.   Too hung up on Karen, Gary ignores the obvious advances of her new-waver best friend, Rose.   Gary even scrapes and scrounges to save up for a birthday present for Karen that, due to the turbulent nature of love, remains undelivered.

That’s the brilliance of THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN.  It allows us to laugh (and maybe cry a little) at the pains, thrills, and misty-eyed longing that go hand-in-hand with that hot mess of a monster called love.  Instead of getting the girl and triumphing over his romantic rival, Gary spends the last moments of the film sobbing in his car, soothed only by the velvet voice of James Ingram.  “I tried my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough.”    Indeed, Mr. Ingram, indeed.

In the world of THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN, much like our less than thrilling reality, people often don’t get they want.  There’s no Hollywood ending where our dream girl or guy drops everything to flock to our side.  Relationships sour, people make poor decisions, and affections remain unrequited   Love is a powerful, but dangerous beast — a bunch of synapses firing in our brains, making our palms sweat, hearts flutter, and pupils dilate in a frenzied fever.   Much like Gary, some of the best and worst (but mostly worst) decisions I’ve ever made have been under the influence of passion.  I’ve chugged whiskey and littered my bed with P. Terry’s double cheeseburger wrappers after a turbulent breakup.  I’ve moved in with a cray beloved.  I even bribed a friend to dress up like a ninja-cat and croon to a misguided high school crush.  But no matter the depths of my romantic folly, THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN will always be there to preach to me and provide comfort like a put upon friend at the end of a bar.  Thanks to a stellar soundtrack, the film becomes an almost transcendent experience for the down-and-out and broken hearted.   This is blind love: the teenage experience distilled into a melancholic celluloid whir of pop music and wry ennui.

 

For all of this week’s Staff Picks, and to keep up with all Austin Film Festival News, check back daily or subscribe to our RSS News Feed.

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Staff Picks – Love vs. Anti-Love, An Ode to Valentine’s Day: Marcie Mayhorn muses on BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY

For this week’s Staff Picks, AFF Staff members found ourselves on opposite sides of the Valentine’s spectrum. On the one hand, it’s a great time of year to revisit your favorite films about love, be it the heart wrenching tearjerkers you sob to alone or the romantic comedies you relive over and over with a great group of friends. To kick off our week of …

For this week’s Staff Picks, AFF Staff members found ourselves on opposite sides of the Valentine’s spectrum. On the one hand, it’s a great time of year to revisit your favorite films about love, be it the heart wrenching tearjerkers you sob to alone or the romantic comedies you relive over and over with a great group of friends. To kick off our week of top Valentine’s Day movies, each staff member first decided whether they were a subscriber to feelings of love or anti-love  and then picked one of their favorites.

Today, Office Manager and 2012 Austin Film Festival Romantic Comedies Panel Moderator Marcie Mayhorn kicks us off with her musings on BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY:

Bridget JonesAs a staff member, I was asked to pick my favorite “love” or “anti-love” film, and I think I got the best pick: the epitome of both. BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY is about Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger), a single, early-30s career girl who has never had much luck with men.  Although she tries desperately, she can never seem to bag a good guy.  Falling for the classic tool (sorry, Hugh Grant), she winds up in a series of embarrassing situations and confusing feelings while the guy she should be going for (Colin Firth) doesn’t give her the time of day.

I used to be like Bridget Jones – always trying to find someone who would like me for the superficial things.  Valentine’s Day used to terrify me.  The idea of going on an intimate date to try and impress someone seemed sad to me, although not as sad as the pep talks all of your non-single friends would give you about maybe finding that special someone – next year.  College was filled with my own renditions of chugging vodka and singing “All By Myself” into my hair brush.  It wasn’t until I saw this film though that I learned a very important lesson: you have to love yourself first before you can find someone who loves you too.  After all, how can someone appreciate you if you don’t know what a great person you are?

I love this film because Bridget ends up being her own hero.  Although she gets the good guy in the end, she ends up even more victorious because she has saved herself from making the same mistakes twice.  She turns her life around and takes responsibility for her own choices instead of feeling sorry for herself.  Above all, she learns and essentially grows up, which is not always easy for people to do.

So although my boozing, single days are behind me, this is still one film that will always ring true to me as a young woman.  If you’re in need of a bit of humor (or maybe some vodka) this Valentine’s Day, I definitely recommend giving it a watch.

 

For the rest of this week’s Staff Picks, and to keep up with all Austin Film Festival News, check back daily or subscribe to our RSS News Feed.

 

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Enter AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest!

You’ve seen all the films, you’ve picked your favorites, and now you’re ready to make your predictions. Try your luck at predicting the 85th Annual Academy Award® winners with AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest! Austin Film Festival is the place to get your Oscars fix in October. Past panelists include Academy Award® Winners Ron Howard, Oliver Stone (pictured right), Sydney Pollack and more!  The top five …

You’ve seen all the films, you’ve picked your favorites, and now you’re ready to make your predictions.

Try your luck at predicting the 85th Annual Academy Award® winners with AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest! Austin Film Festival is the place to get your Oscars fix in October. Past panelists include Academy Award® Winners Ron Howard, Oliver Stone (pictured right), Sydney Pollack and more!  The top five entrants who most closely predict the winners of the categories below will each win one Film Pass to the 2013 Austin Film Festival. All contest entrants will be entered in a drawing to win a  Grand Prize of one Producers Badge for the 2013 Austin Film Festival!  The contest is open as of Wednesday, February 06, 2013 and will close at the start of the Academy Awards® telecast on February 24th at 7pm eastern time | 4pm pacific time.  Ballots limited to one entry per person, many will enter, six will win, see below for full rules and regulations.

The Contest has now closed!

No purchase necessary to enter or win AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest. Entry into this Contest constitutes your acceptance of these Official Rules:

Contest start date and time and end date and time as outlined in AFF Blog post “Enter AFF’s Oscar Prediction Contest!”

Contest is open worldwide to anyone with a valid email address. When entering the Contest, an opportunity to sign up to receive follow-up information from Austin Film Festival may be available. Entrants subject to all notices posted online including but not limited to Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Employees or those living in the same household of Austin Film Festival and their respective parents, affiliates, prize suppliers, and advertising and promotion agencies are not eligible to enter or win. Entrants may need to provide further contact information upon request.

To enter, entrants must fill out entire ballot as provided above along with first and last name, email address, and agree to Austin Film Festivals Terms and Condition as outlined here. All entries must be received by date and time outlined in “Enter AFf’s Oscar Prediction Contest!”. For purposes of these Official Rules, “receipt” of Entry occurs when Austin Film Festival’s servers record the Entry information resulting from contestants’ entry being received in the inbox area. Any automated computer receipt (such as one confirming delivery of email) does not constitute proof of actual receipt by Austin Film Festival for purposes of these Official Rules.

Austin Film Festival reserves the right to disqualify any Entry for any reason, in its sole and absolute discretion.

Top 5 Entries will be judged based on proximity to actual 85th Academy Awards® winners. The top scoring Entries will be declared the Contest winner (“Winner”)Grand Prize winner will be judged based on randomly generated calculation. All Entrants are eligible for Grand Prize.Only one entry per person, duplicate entries will not be counted. In the event of a tie for the Top 5 Entries, winners will be chosen based on timing of entry.

Winners will be determined after the Contest’s end date and will be notified by email. Winners will be required to provide mailing address which will be used to fulfill the prize. At the discretion of the Austin Film Festival, Winner may be disqualified for any of the following reasons: not eligible based on the eligibility requirements set forth above. In the event it is determined within the specified time period, has made false statements or a prize notification is returned as undeliverable, then the Winner will be disqualified at Austin Film Festival’s sole discretion, the Entry with the next highest score may then be declared the alternate Winner.

The Number of prize winners is as listed above. Winner is solely responsible for all expenses, costs or fees associated with transportation and acceptance and/or use of the prize not specified herein as being awarded, including without limitation, and and all taxes (if any). Winner is not a recipient of a prize until they have been verified as the Winner by the Austin Film Festival. Upon fulfilling prize, Austin Film Festival will be deemed to have awarded the prize to the Winners and such Winners assume full responsibility for the prize. All prize details are at Austin Film Festival’s discretion.

Entrants acknowledge that transportation, if applicable, is not included in the prize and that any events are beyond the control of Austin Film Festival and are subject to being rescheduled, modified, or cancelled. In that event, Austin Film Festival reserves the right to, at its discretion, reschedule the events, cancel the Contest, or cancel the awarding of the prizes. Prizes are not redeemable for cash or any other value. Upgrades for Film Pass prizes are available at the cost of the Winner.

Winning constitutes permission (except where prohibited by law) to use Winner’s name, images, hometown, likeness, prize won, and photograph (all at Austin Film Festival’s discretion) for future advertising, publicity in any and all media now or hereafter devised throughout the world in perpetuity, without additional compensation notification or permission. Contest Parties and their respective officers, directors, agents, representatives, and employees (collectively, “Released Parties”) are not responsible for lost, late, misdirected, damaged, stolen, altered, garbled, incorrect, incomplete or delayed Entries; all of which will be void. Released Parties are also not responsible for for problems related to technical malfunctions of electronic equipment, computer online systems, servers, or providers, computer hardware or software failures, phone lines, failure of any Entry to be received by Sponsor on account of technical problems, traffic, congestion on the internet or the website, or for any other technical problems including telecommunication, miscommunication or failure, and failed, lost, delayed, incomplete, garbled, or misdirected communications which may limit a contestant’s ability to participate in this Contest. Released Parties are not responsible for any other errors or malfunctions of any kind, whether network, printing, typographical, human or otherwise relating to or in connection with the Contest, including, without limitation, errors or malfunctions with may occur in connection with the administration of the Contest, the processing or judging of Entries, the announcement of the prize or in any Contest-related materials. Mass entries generated by a script, macro or use of automated devices will be disqualified. Austin Film Festival reserves the right to modify, suspend or terminate the Contest in the event it becomes infected by a computer virus or is otherwise technically impaired, and to cancel or suspend the Contest in its entirety should tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures or other causes corrupt the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper play of the Contest and, if terminated, at Austin Film Festival’s discretion, determine the Winner using all non-suspect, eligible entries received up to time of cancellation using the judging procedure outlined above. In the event of a dispute regarding entries received from multiple users having the same email account, the authorized subscriber of the email account at the time of Entry will be deemed to be the contestant and must comply with these Official Rules. Authorized subscriber is the natural person who is assigned the email address by the Internet Service Provider (ISP), online service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning email addresses. Austin Film Festival reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual (and void his/her Entries)) it finds to be tampering with the Entry process or the operation of this Contest or website, intending to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other contestant, Sponsor, or any of its representatives or to otherwise be acting in violation of these Official Rules. CAUTION: Any attempt by a contestant to deliberately damage any website or undermine the legitimate operations of the Contest is a violation of criminal and civil laws. Should such an attempt be made, the Austin Film Festival reserves the right to seek damages from any such contestant to the fullest extent permitted by the law and to disqualify such contestant from the Contest.

Failure to comply with these Official Rules may result in disqualification from the Contest. Austin Film Festival reserves the right to permanently disqualify any person it believes has intentionally violated these Official Rules. Contest subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited by law.

Winner(s) will be announced in a website blog posting.

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