The Austin Film Festival is known as the film festival for writers. The festival does an amazing job highlighting and celebrating the art and craft of screenwriting with more than 80 different panels and roundtables throughout the first four days of the festival. Writers from both television and film arrive in Austin, Texas to offer information on such diverse topics as Teenage Dramedies, How to Take a Meeting, and Finding Your Anchor. I attended a number of panels at this year’s Austin Film Festival, and here are the highlights:
- A Conversation with Marti Noxon: Noxon is a well respected TV and film writer with credits such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Man Men,” “Glee” and the feature film, “Fright Night.” Noxon talked about breaking into the business, how she got her start and how she is now working on both feature films and pilots for TV. She talked about her writing habits (she likes to work on two projects at a time, so that if she gets stuck on one, she just switches to the other project) and her strategies for a successful script.
- A Conversation with David Chase: David Chase is a prolific television writer whose writing credits go all the way back to the 1970’s with “The Rockford Files.” Mr. Chase is most known for his groundbreaking HBO series, “The Sopranos.” He was at the Austin Film Fest to screen his feature film debut, “Not Fade Away.” Mr. Chase talked about experiences with pitching projects and bringing them successfully to fruition.
- Television Comedy: The panel was made up of Alec Berg (“Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Kari Lizer (“New Adventures of Old Christine”), Phil Rosenthal (“Everyone Loves Raymond”) and Rob Thomas (“Party Down”, “Veronica Mars”). The four talked, with lots of joking as you would expect, about their experiences with pitching and running TV shows, hitting deadlines and casting the right actors for roles.
- A Conversation with Eric Roth, Chris Carter and Frank Darabont: This was a panel with writers Eric Roth (“Forest Gump”), recipient of the AFF Distinguished Screenwriter Award, Chris Carter (“X-Files”), recipient of the AFF Outstanding Television Writer Award and Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”), recipient of the AFF Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award. The three men talked about their writing styles, how they wrote and the key elements of good storytelling.
- Roundtable: Television: This afforded budding screenwriters a chance to ask questions up close and personal with working screenwriters from both the TV and Film world. I was fortunate to be allowed to ask questions and get advice from scriptwriters Brian McGreevy (“Hemlock Grove”), Jerry Stahl (“Bad Boys II,” “CSI”) and Hilary Winston (“Community”, “My Name is Earl”) in a small and comfortable setting. It was an amazing experience, and to be able to hear hands-on advice from actual working writers is what makes this festival so unique.
If you are thinking about a career as a writer in the TV or Film business or you are an established writer just wanting some pointers, the Austin Film Festival is a great place to get information, get inspired and make valuable contacts.