Welcome to week six of AFF at Home! For those of you just joining us – AFF at Home is Austin Film Festival’s way of promoting a sense of community, engagement, and creativity even in a time of distance and restrictions. Each week we’ll guide you through content and stories in hopes to inspire and motivate you to take your next creative step.
This week we’re focusing on comedy. Check out this week’s five actions to help you master writing the hardest genre. We encourage you to go at your own pace and keep us updated on Twitter using #AFFatHome.
– Colin Hyer, Creative Director
We want to hear from you!
Viewer Testimonial: “As the social distancing started, I realized that the quarantine would be a perfect opportunity to focus on writing, and I could think of it more like a ‘writer’s retreat.’ AFF at Home helps provide that community feeling and helps me keep myself accountable.”
Let us know what you think! What do you like? What additional resources can we provide to support you on your writing journey?
Email us: AFFatHome@AustinFilmFestival.com
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Comedy writing is no joke. Whether you’re navigating the worlds of sketch and stand-up or developing a scripted film or television series, good comedy relies on mastering your voice and using it to forge a connection with your audience. In this week’s podcast masters of comedy David Mandel and Daniel Petrie, Jr. will discuss writing comedy classics VEEP and Beverly Hills Cop.
- A Spoonful of Sugar Comedy Writing: Not Just for Comedies Part 1 (1999) featuring Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), Scott Frank (Get Shorty), Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise)
- A Spoonful of Sugar Comedy Writing: Not Just for Comedies Part 2 (1999) featuring Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), Scott Frank (Get Shorty), Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise)
- Kings of Comedy Part 1 (1999) featuring James L. Brooks (Broadcast News), Buck Henry (Get Smart)
- Kings of Comedy Part 2 (1999) featuring James L. Brooks (Broadcast News), Buck Henry (Get Smart)
- Kings of Comedy Part 3 (1999) featuring James L. Brooks (Broadcast News), Buck Henry (Get Smart)
CONNECT WITH US
How will you apply this advice on writing comedy to your work this week? Tell us on Twitter using #AFFatHome or in the forum below.
Q&A with Herschel Weingrod
What’s the process behind writing comedic moments that stand the test of time? We’re doing a virtual Q&A with Herschel Weingrod so you can find out! Herschel’s credits include Trading Places, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, and Space Jam. Submit your questions here or on Twitter using #AFFatHome before 11:59pm on Thursday 4/30 and we’ll publish his selected responses here on Monday 5/4.
MORE ABOUT HERSCHEL WEINGROD
Herschel Weingrod has been a working screenwriter and producer for over twenty-five years. His credits include Trading Places, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Brewster’s Millions, Falling Down, Space Jam, Pure Luck, and The Final Season. He is an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin and the London Film School, and a member of the Writers Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Mr. Weingrod resides in Los Angeles, California.
CHECK OUT MORE OF OUR Q&A'S FROM PREVIOUS WEEKS
- Q&A with Wendy Calhoun (writer/producer Nashville, Justified, Empire) from Week 1 of AFF at Home: Sparking Your Story
- Q&A with Brian Helgeland (writer/director A Knights Tale, L.A. Confidential) from Week 2 of AFF at Home: Character
- Q&A with Amy Talkington (writer/director Little Fires Everywhere) from Week 3 of of AFF at Home: Dialogue
- Virtual Q&A with Chris Sparling (writer Buried) from Week 4 of AFF at Home: Setting
- Q&A with Jeb Stuart (writer Die Hard, The Fugitive) from Week 5 of AFF at Home: Action & Description.
Student Screenwriting Corner
How do you write something funny? Sometimes all it takes is re-imagining something right in front of you. Check out Ping from our 2016 shorts programming, written and directed by Phil Traill.
Ping (AFF 2016 Shorts)
Watch to see how Traill took an everyday kitchen appliance and turned it into a comedic character. Try turning something near you into a character! Would it be a hero or a villain? Give it a try and write the first scene.
Interested in our kids programming?
Take a look at our upcoming Summer Camps and Classes
“The constant refrain around AFF is the mirror-shattering trumpeting of writing and storytelling. Through AFF at Home we intend to showcase every extension of what Austin Film Festival aims to champion in its community, including our vaunted film competition alumni. We are delighted to represent the legacy of our alumni base through the WATCH section of the AFF at Home campaign; by curating incredible titles that are now available to stream in your living room, shower, wherever. Come join us in celebrating some Festival competition favorites, and marquee film titles from our Writers Conference heavyweights.”
-Casey Baron, Senior Film Program Director
AFF FEATURE Now Streaming Pick:
Hand-picked past competition films from the AFF Film Department
In Reality (2018)
Comedy is important. It helps balance and measure the mundane and un-fun in life. It can be drastically over-the-top or very real and down-to-earth. Either way, the funnies get us. Now that we’ve acknowledged the wide array of what is funny, I’d like to pigeon-hole the entire genre into one competition category. AFF’s Comedy Vanguard Category. As a programmer (and a person who just likes laughing), I recognize that the definition of a “comedy” film can mean a great many things to a great many people. So I’m going to cop-out and talk about what our audience loved in 2018. In Reality, written by Ann Lupo, Esteban Pedraza, and Aaron Pryka, tackles both the real and the unreal in its laughs. Ann (who not only wrote and directed the film, but also stars) is consumed by fantasy. Her daydreams and wonderings eclipse normalcy into some truly hilarious outcomes. You get the humor we can all relate to in every day life, and you get some truly out of this world scenarios and happenings that make you transition from that quiet chuckle, to an out loud guffaw. So if you’re sitting at home and thinking about wanting something funny to watch, but you’re thinking more of a chill funny instead of a blast off into space funny, but then actually you also do want to become a joke-stronaut (jo-stronaut? Joke-naut?) and laugh sky-high, then In Reality is perfect for you because Ann (the writer and the character) refuses to be constrained by something as simple as a genre and is going to have you rebounding between the real and the unreal.
– Rob Gonzales, Film Competition Director
Ann is consumed by the fantasy of finding true love, but just when she thinks she’s found it, she is friend-zoned. The disappointment of rejection sends her into an obsessive downward spiral that tests the limits of her sanity and the strength of her closest friendship. In order to reclaim her bearing on reality, she confronts her overgrown fantasies by making a film about the experience. The result is a vulnerable, hilarious, and vibrantly stylized investigation of love.
AFF Short Pick:
Hand-picked past competition films from the AFF Film Department
Must Kill Karl (2016)
Many comedians turn negative experiences and feelings into laughing gold. However you are feeling, let’s try to laugh about it. Who do you hate and how do they keep besting you? That’s what Karen and Joe explore in their comedic short Must Kill Karl. Writing your craziest inhibitions can be the comedic relief you are looking for (and probably won’t result in a felony).
-Alexandra Mitchell, Shorts Programmer
Must Kill Karl
WANT TO SEE YOUR MOVIE HERE?
SUBMIT YOUR FILM OR SCREENPLAY – You might be the next award-winning filmmaker we feature
On Story Movie Night Pick:
Screening with a postshow On Story conversation
With Saturday Night Live and the movies Sisters and This is 40 in her credits, Paula Pell is the queen of comedy. Watch Paula’s On Story interview to learn about her background in theater, creating characters that stick, and drawing from a funny family.
On Story: A conversation with Paula Pell
Something Comedians fear, but learn to use to their advantage, is silence after a punchline. Luckily as writers of scripts, we don’t have to be in the same room to witness that soul-sinking, blank stare. But, like stand-up comedy, the sparks of great humor in a script often come from accidents. Though stand-up is wildly different in delivery, the essence of the practice can be useful in uncovering great humor for our writing. This weekend, take two or three of your scenes and reimagine them with a brighter glint of improv. Intentionally funny scenes can often miss their mark when they aren’t loose enough, so the goal here is to step outside of your comfort zone. And who knows, in that vulnerability you may just find your punchline!
Another good way to ease into this exercise is to give yourself the freedom to shout curse words or absurdities, just to let your brain know that you’re moving into a looser state of consciousness where anything goes.
After you’ve dropped your final f-bomb, try to keep some of these points/questions in mind:
- Even if something doesn’t quite make sense, don’t worry about it. Editing will come later.
- When writing character reactions, is there a way to contrast them in a way that’s unexpected?
- What choices/directions do your characters currently take in the scene? Once identified, see what happens if they go in a different direction.
- Are there any absurd elements you’ve thought about, but haven’t included?
- How do your characters interact with one another? What about their environment? Are they oblivious to their surroundings, or too aware?
Even if you’re not writing a comedy, humor within dramatic stories is a great tool to get through to your audience. So, while most dramatic scenes might not have punchlines, this exercise will still be useful in identifying ways to find the humor in the hardships.
– Sage Kosiorek, Script Competitions Director
Finished with your script?
Submit it for our competition!
After a week of mastering the skill of comedy writing, you’re probably still laughing at some of your favorite funny bits. During our On Story Movie Night, we took you inside the mind of comedic genius, Paula Pell, who’s nearly 20 years at Saturday Night Live created some of the most beloved characters, including the Spartan Cheerleaders.