Presenting the Austin Film Festival

April 27, 2016

What is your film festival’s mission?

Austin Film Festival (AFF) furthers the art and craft of filmmaking by inspiring and championing the work of screenwriters, filmmakers, and all artists who use the language of film and television to tell a story.

Austin Film Festival

A Conversation with the 2015 Awardees Chris Cooper, Brian Helgeland, John Singleton and Norman Lear during the Austin Film Festival in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Oct. 31 2015. (Photo by Jack Plunkett)

What role does your film festival play in supporting your film’s community?

Austin Film Festival is all about bringing people together. We’re firmly against the concept of VIP areas or velvet ropes. Every filmmaker, registrant, panelist, and awardee goes to the same parties, eats at the same restaurants, drinks at the same bars, stays at the same hotels, and waits in the same lines. As a result, our events offer prime opportunities to meet whoever you’d like. This is why it is commonplace to find filmmakers talking shop with Shane Black, eating barbecue with Vince Gilligan, or grabbing drinks with America Ferrera. The panelists come to this event with the same networking intentions as the filmmakers. Distributors, producers, and other industry insiders often take impromptu meetings with accepted filmmakers after watching their premiere. Partnerships are formed here, mentors are introduced, and movies are made. It’s hard to make a movie, but Austin Film Festival works to give filmmakers the opportunity and foothold to take that next step.

"A Conversation with Jason Reitman" during the Austin Film Festival in Austin, Texas on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. (Photo by Jack Plunkett)

“A Conversation with Jason Reitman” during the Austin Film Festival in Austin, Texas on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. (Photo by Jack Plunkett)

What is something people look forward to every year at your film festival?

We like to think our registrants look forward to all of it! That said, possibly the biggest draw and centerpiece of Austin Film Festival is its Screenwriters Conference, the largest convergence of writers in the world. The Conference is an open forum like no other where hundreds of ideas, careers, and collaborations have been catalyzed and launched. The speakers range from A-listers like Ron Howard, Caroline Thompson, Judd Apatow, Larry Wilmore, John Singleton, Jonathan Demme, Charles Burnett, Paul Thomas Anderson, Elaine May, Vince Gilligan, Callie Khouri, John Ridley, and Norman Lear, to fresh voices on the scene, such as Jeff Nichols, Nicole Perlman, Michael H. Weber, Issa Rae, David Lowery, Chris Lowell, and Justin Marks. Panels celebrate the art of writing and filmmaking, drive creative morale, and pass along tested industry secrets and strategies. Topics cover revising your script, finding representation, writing TV pilots, taking meetings, staying true to yourself and your story, harvesting material from real life, tackling a blank page on a bad day, and much, much more.

Last year, we had over 175 panels, conversations, workshops and roundtable sessions designed to help and inspire filmmakers at every stage of their career. These panels were accompanied by 14 different parties throughout all 8 days of the Festival, where filmmakers were able to meet and network with panelists, awardees and industry insiders.

It should also be noted that for our parties and other events, we try to take full advantage of the city in which we’re based. Austin is highly creative, highly collaborate, and highly weird, a place where you can swim in a natural spring, dance at a honkytonk, watch a blues show, and take part in chicken-shit bingo—all in the same day. The culture and environment of Austin is undeniable, infectious, and present throughout our Festival.

Austin Film festival

Austin Film Festival

How long has your film festival been around?

We started in 1993, so coming on 23 years now!

How did your film festival come into being? 

Back in the early ‘90s, our founders Barbara Morgan and Marsha Milam noticed that there wasn’t a space or an event that celebrated the screenwriter, the role they felt was at the heart of the film. In fact, the Festival was originally called the Heart of Film Conference for this very reason. The idea caught on and the Festival quickly grew into what it is today.

Austin Film festival

Austin Film Festival

What do you want audiences to take away from your film festival?

In one form or another, we want our audience to leave inspired. Perhaps they leave inspired from the panels to start their next project. Or inspired from meeting their filmmaking hero to take another stab at their screenplay. Or perhaps they discover stories in the film competition that inspires them to conquer the obstacles in their own life. AFF only lasts 8 days, but the hope is that everyone will leave with something meaningful and longer lasting—a new idea, a new mentor, a new friend, or just a new outlook.

Austin Film Festival runs October 13-20 2016 Check out their website for more info here.

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