Year Round Events
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).
05.08.13 | Celina Guerrero Austin Film Festival is excited to partner with ATX Television Festival for “Season Two” of the TV centric celebration this June. In addition to offering AFF followers 15% off any badge level (use code ATXAFF15), we will be co-presenting panels at each festival! First up, AFF presents “Face Off: Movies vs. TV, Presented by Austin Film Festival” on Saturday, June 8th …
05.08.13 | Celina Guerrero
Austin Film Festival is excited to partner with ATX Television Festival for “Season Two” of the TV centric celebration this June. In addition to offering AFF followers 15% off any badge level (use code ATXAFF15), we will be co-presenting panels at each festival! First up, AFF presents “Face Off: Movies vs. TV, Presented by Austin Film Festival” on Saturday, June 8th with AFF alums Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars and the upcoming offshoot film of the series) and Kyle Killen (Awake, THE BEAVER) to be joined by ATX panelist Jonathan Prince (creator of American Dreams and director of the beloved ’90′s Camp Nowhere).
The panel will focus on the demands and benefits of writing both for film and television, the differences between the two mediums, and how to navigate transitioning from one to the other. Feature film screenwriters and successful showrunners will discuss the art, craft and business of their diverse careers, with a special focus on how they have been affected by the changing landscape of television. For more information on panelists and events at ATX, click here.
04.10.13| Bears Fonté On Monday April 15, Austin Film Festival debuts its brand new AFF INDIE SPIRIT SERIES with the film VIRTUALLY HEROES, an action comedy from Executive Producer Roger Corman. AFF Alum G.J. Echternkamp (2011’s CAPTAIN FORK) directed the film, a meta-narrative about two Vietnam War soldiers who realize their never-ending mission is actually a video game that systematically regenerates. Echternkamp will be in …
04.10.13| Bears Fonté
On Monday April 15, Austin Film Festival debuts its brand new AFF INDIE SPIRIT SERIES with the film VIRTUALLY HEROES, an action comedy from Executive Producer Roger Corman. AFF Alum G.J. Echternkamp (2011’s CAPTAIN FORK) directed the film, a meta-narrative about two Vietnam War soldiers who realize their never-ending mission is actually a video game that systematically regenerates. Echternkamp will be in attendance for the screening at the Texas Spirit Theatre at the Bob Bullock, but AFF had a chance to ask him a few questions about the film before his arrival.
Austin Film Festival: Virtually Heroes had a very different path to the cinema. Can you tell us a bit about where the idea came from and how you went about it?
G.J. Echternkamp: Roger Corman has quite a few Vietnam action movies in his vaults from the late 80′s and early 90′s. He approached me with the idea to shoot a new, extremely low-budget picture using as many of the action scenes from those films as possible. Our initial script was a fairly straight-forward thing, but Roger rejected it, wanting a hook that would make the film more relevant to today’s audiences. Somewhere along the way we came up with the idea to make the film set in a video game like “Call of Duty”. Not only would it be more entertaining, it would allow us to re-use the old footage in a more thematic, almost comical way, letting the audience in on the fact we were obviously recycling scenes.
Our writer came up with a script based around the setups in the other movies, and I went ahead and edited them all together, to have a sense of how the new footage would have to be shot to intercut with the stock. Ultimately it was very complicated, as the backdrops, eyelines, color correction, and so on had to be very carefully thought out for the editing to not seem completely jarring (or ridiculous).
The final product is admittedly a little ridiculous! But hopefully in a good way.
AFF: What’s Roger Corman like to work with?
GJE: Roger is intimidating as hell. He’s extremely smart and extremely to the point. But the great part is that once he signed off on the script he trusted me enough to let me shoot it with no interference whatsoever. It’s definitely not easy making an action film with very little money, but having that creative freedom made it all worthwhile.
AFF: We’re you a big Corman fan before? What are some of your favorite films of his and why?
GJE: I was very much a Corman fan. I definitely like the classics; LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, BUCKET OF BLOOD, THE TRIP, etc. But I love the Edgar Allen Poe movies he directed, which less people seem to talk about. THE MASQUE OF RED DEATH really stands out to me as a great film that transcends its B-Movie origins.
AFF: Our Earlybird Film Deadline is coming up (May 1st). You’ve certainly got a lot of experience playing the festival circuit with your films. What sort of advice can you offer a filmmaker starting that journey?
GJE: Well, I guess the biggest advice I could give is to understand that it’s is a very long journey. You have to keep making projects and keep putting them out there for as long as it takes. When I started I had some magical idea that you make a student film and you screen at Sundance and then you get signed and suddenly you’re directing the next STAR WARS. Bottom line, that’s stupid. For every Wes Anderson there’s a thousand other filmmakers who don’t find that level of success until they are much, much older. And that’s fine. Every little thing you do will slowly pay off down the road, even if you can’t see it at the time.
AFF: What are you working on next?
GJE: I’m in pre-production for an adaptation of a documentary I made back in 2008 called Frank & Cindy. We hope to get things off the ground very quickly to shoot in June. If that doesn’t work out, who knows? I’ve been talking to Roger about directing the sequel to Sharktopus….
VIRTUALLY HEROES plays Monday, April 15th at 7 pm at the Texas Spirit Theatre at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum located at 1800 Congress Ave, 78701. Tickets are $5 for AFF Members and $8 for the general public and available here.
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.
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 …
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.
Wednesday, May 9th, Austin Film Festival and Texas Film Commission will present a special retrospective screening of the 1991 cult thriller, TOY SOLDERS, with writer/director Daniel Petrie, Jr. in attendance. For more about the event, visit the event page. In anticipation of the screening, we’ve created the Daniel Petrie, Jr. Trivia Game! We will play the game at the screening, and audience members will have …
Wednesday, May 9th, Austin Film Festival and Texas Film Commission will present a special retrospective screening of the 1991 cult thriller, TOY SOLDERS, with writer/director Daniel Petrie, Jr. in attendance. For more about the event, visit the event page.
In anticipation of the screening, we’ve created the Daniel Petrie, Jr. Trivia Game! We will play the game at the screening, and audience members will have a chance to win a number of prizes, including a Lone Star Badge or several pairs of Film Passes to the 2012 Austin Film Festival, AFF merchandise, and more!
To give you a leg up – we’ve posted the questions below. Come to the screening prepared with your answers and you might be one of the lucky winners!
- 1. Petrie is the former president of what organization?
- 2. Name the production company co-founded by Petrie in 2006 “with an old-fashioned emphasis on storytelling.”
- 3. True or False: Petrie is credited as the writer, director, and producer of TOY SOLDIERS.
- 4. Daniel Petrie Jr. was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars®. In what year and for what screenplay was he recognized?
- 5. For what non-profit has Petrie been an active supporter and volunteer since 1997?
- 6. Petrie was the host at whose memorial service this past weekend?
- 7. What was the estimated revenue that the production of TOY SOLDIERS brought to the city of San Antonio?
- 8. Into what city was part of San Antonio transformed for the production of TOY SOLDIERS?
- 9. Each year at Austin Film Festival, Daniel Petrie Jr. hosts the panel “A Shot of Inspiration with Daniel Petrie, Jr.” What is Petrie’s shot of choice?
- Bonus: What is the name of the stunt woman who was thrown out of the third-story window of the downtown San Antonio post office during the filming of TOY SOLDIERS?
AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES NEW FILM SERIES, AFF AUDIENCE AWARD FILM SERIES, PRESENTED BY ESURANCE
Austin, TX – Austin Film Festival (AFF) is excited to announce its newest screening series, AFF Audience Award Film Series Presented by Esurance, featuring four of the most beloved films from the 2011 Austin Film Festival. The series, screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Village (2700 W Anderson Lane, Austin, TX 78757), will take place every third Monday of the month, beginning on May 21st, 2012 …
Austin, TX – Austin Film Festival (AFF) is excited to announce its newest screening series, AFF Audience Award Film Series Presented by Esurance, featuring four of the most beloved films from the 2011 Austin Film Festival. The series, screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Village (2700 W Anderson Lane, Austin, TX 78757), will take place every third Monday of the month, beginning on May 21st, 2012 at 7:00pm.
Last year during the 2011 Austin Film Festival, audience members were invited to rate the 170+ films that screened at the Festival and vote for their favorites. This year, AFF will bring four of the Esurance Audience Award Winners back to Austin audiences for an encore screening: RESTIVE (writer/director Jeremiah Jones, winner – Narrative Feature Competition); ECSTASY OF ORDER: THE TETRIS MASTERS (director Adam Cornelius, winner (tie) – Documentary Feature Competition); STORIES FROM AN UNDECLARED WAR (director Dennis Rice, winner (tie) – Documentary Feature Competition); and SIRONIA (writer/director Brandon Dickerson, writers Thomas Ward and Wes Cunningham, winner – Texas Independents Category). The award-winning writers and/or directors of each film will be present at the screening to discuss their film, creative process, and future projects.
“There truly is no greater reward for a filmmaker than an Audience Award, which confirms their ability to tell a good story. Every filmmaker is a storyteller at heart, and you can’t receive better validation than the approval of your audience,” says AFF Film Program Director Stephen Jannise.
AFF will kick off the series with SIRONIA on May 21st. Singer/songwriter Wes Cunningham stars as a man who has been chewed up and spit out by the Hollywood music machine. A once ambitious musician, he impulsively moves with his pregnant wife to a small town called Sironia, Texas in search of authenticity and purpose in his life. This poignant film played to two standing-room-only audiences at AFF last year. The writer/director of SIRONIA, Brandon Dickerson, will be present at the screening for a Q&A.
The next entry in the series, screening on Monday June 18th, will be ECSTASY OF ORDER: THE TETRIS MASTERS, co-winner of the AFF Audience Award in the Documentary Feature category. The film follows a group of record-holding Tetris players as they prepare to compete in the 2010 Classic Tetris World Championship. The film gives us an intimate look at the Masters as they reveal their secrets, recount their obsessions with the game, and take us to the transcendental state required to reach the highest level, known as the ‘Ecstasy of Order.’
The series will continue on with RESTIVE, a Southern Gothic tale from promising new writer/director and University of Texas graduate Jeremiah Jones, and STORES FROM AN UNDECLARED WAR, a documentary that follows The Freedom Writers Diary, a collection of journal entries written by 150 at-risk students from Long Beach, CA. The dates of these two screenings are TBD and will be announced on Austin Film Festival’s website.
The AFF Audience Award Film Series is sponsored by Esurance, the direct-to-consumer car insurance company. Esurance has been a longtime supporter of filmmakers and artists who help bring compelling stories to life.
About Austin Film Festival
Austin Film Festival (AFF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the art, craft, and business of filmmakers and screenwriters, and recognizing their contributions to film, television, and new media. AFF champions the work of aspiring and established writers and filmmakers by providing unique cultural events and services, enhancing public awareness and participation, and encouraging dynamic and long-lasting community partnerships.
Austin Film Festival is funded and supported in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division and by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.
For more information on the upcoming 19th Annual Austin Film Festival & Conference, October 18th – 25th, 2012 in Austin, TX, visit www.austinfilmfestival.com, or call 1-800-310-FEST (3378). Badges and Film Passes are currently on sale and can be purchased online. For regular updates, follow AFF on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AustinFilmFestival and Twitter @austinfilmfest.
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