Welcome to week ten of AFF at Home! We’ve reached the end of Austin Film Festival’s AFF at Home project but, like any writer knows, it can be difficult to tell when a project is truly done. Typing ‘FADE OUT’ opens a whole new cycle of notes and revisions and notes and revisions. This week we’ll bring you resources on taking notes without taking them personally, what to keep and what to leave behind, and how to continue moving forward with your project.
Just like last week, we have five actions to help you through this process. We encourage you to go at your own pace and keep us updated on Twitter with #AFFatHome.
Recently finished a script or film and unsure of what to do next? Submit your work to our competitions! Script competition deadline is Monday, June 1.
Let’s get going!
-Colin Hyer, Creative Director
Want to support Austin Film Festival?
There are plenty of ways you can help.
Finding Your “Fade to Black”
Want a compliment? Call your mom. Want to make your screenplay better? Learn to accept and implement honest feedback. This week Scott Rosenberg (writer Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Victoria Strouse (writer Finding Dory), and Jeffrey Lieber (writer Lost) discuss finishing scripts, trusting your gut, and finding your ‘FADE TO BLACK’.
- The Craft Room Ends With…Craft Session #8 – Rewriting Pt. 1 (1999) Nick Kazan (writer Reversal of Fortune)
- The Craft Room Ends With…Craft Session #8 – Rewriting Pt. 2 (1999) Nick Kazan (writer Reversal of Fortune)
CONNECT WITH US
How will you apply this advice to your work this week? Tell us on Twitter using #AFFatHome or in the forum below.
Student Screenwriting Corner
Completing a first draft of any script is only the first step! You never know the journey a creative project will take you on until you take the next steps. Watch On Story season 8 episode with Greta Gerwig and learn from her journey that lead to Lady Bird.
-Sally Seitz, Young Filmmaker’s Program Director
On Story: A CONVERSATION WITH GRETA GERWIG
Interested in our kids programming?
We’re offering Virtual Summer Film Camp classes for 2020 – Register your future filmmaker now!
“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 Now Streaming Pick:
Hand-picked past competition films from the AFF Film Department
Exactly what comes next for a society on the brink of inexorable change? Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse doesn’t attempt to answer such questions in a heady philosophical way, but instead chooses to bring a voice full of wit and comedic bent to the table. It’s with this in mind that we invite you to join us for an adventure through screenwriters’ Gabriel Diani & Etta Devine’s unique lens. From the hilarious dialogue and interactions between our protagonists to the incredible purviews on moments which seem to run parallel to our current global situation, it’s with great pride that we highlight Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse. And if it wasn’t enough to enjoy this subverted take on the apocalypse, we’ve also asked writers/directors Gabriel Diani & Etta Devine to answer some questions for us on wrapping up not only the final cut of their film, but also their shoot and screenplay stages. Take the deep dive below to hear from them.”
– Casey Baron, Senior Film Program Director
Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse
Writers/Directors: Etta Devine, Gabriel Diani
When all power and communication systems mysteriously shut off, couple and performing comedy duo Gabe and Etta pack up their troubles and hit the road with their trusty dog, Watson and their miserable cat Mrs. Peel in search of a safe haven to wait out the possible extinction event
Read more from the writers of "Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse"
Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions, Gabe & Etta. To get us started, I’m curious how you all have been coping and working in our current climate? Considering Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse, you all may just be the pros we need for 2020.
GABE: Thanks for having us. It’s a strange time for DDMTA to come out. People are responding to it and saying it has provided them some comfort, which is great. But also, we would prefer if the movie were a little less relevant right now. As to our working/coping situation, it’s been an adjustment but not as much as probably most people. We’ve been living and working together for years and specifically working from home as writers for the last couple years which was sort of a pre-isolation isolation experience. The big difference now is we can’t go to coffee shops to work. Oh, man. I miss coffee shops.
ETTA: Like Gabe said our day to day has been disturbingly similar. More masks less coffee shops. But we did have a hard time concentrating the first few weeks or so of isolation. Figuring out how we wanted to get food and spending all day keeping up with the news ate up the day. But now that my sourdough game is strong and I found a great CSA box we’ve been able to get back to a good writing schedule.
So you completed the supposed final draft of your script DDMTA, or at least got things to a stage where you felt ready to move forward. How did you all wrap up the development process of the script, and begin preparing for production?
GABE: This script came together faster than I think any other script we’ve worked on. Probably because the characters in the movie were based on us so there were less blind alleys to explore in terms of things we thought these fictional versions of ourselves wouldn’t do. Normally, we would do a draft, have a table read, get really depressed about how terrible the draft was, go back to the drawing board, and do that over and over again before locking the script. But the first table read we did really resonated with people, especially couples. We did a couple more drafts after that and as with our sketch comedy we tend to rewrite as we’re memorizing and rehearsing, saying, “Oh, it’s more natural if I say it like this,” or, “It’s funnier if we overlap the lines at this point,” or whatever. But it was actually very scary to trust that it was okay to wrap up the development process.
ETTA: Because of the extremely low budget, small crew, and the fact that we were doing a lot of jobs the production was spaced out over several months and shot mostly in order. This is VERY weird! But it allowed us to concentrate on it in chunks. The producers and directors didn’t have to worry about the stunts and travel to Big Bear while the lead actors were doing the comedy club scenes in LA. All those people were us so that really helped.
It’s one thing to wrap up a script, but another entirely to wrap up a shoot. Every film journey is different, but tell us what your procedural steps were to create the final cut of the film?
GABE: We are relentless editors. We pour over the takes looking for the best bits and reaction shots to use of every actor’s performance to try and build the best possible version of the scene. And it’s three of us in the editing room including producer/editor Chad Meserve so we’re all pitching ideas and trying things out to see what works. And we test a lot. We had some Kickstarter backers who were our first test audiences and we would take their feedback and do another cut. And then we’d invite friends and colleagues over and do the same thing. Get as many fresh takes on a new cut as possible. And just keep going until the things that bother you about the cut are fixed or you learn to live with them.
Etta: Yeah… Relentless. Why move on when you can scrub all the raw footage again?
We love seeing our alum go on to achieve further success with their projects and careers, so congratulations on securing the deal to bring DDMTA to Amazon Prime. Can you provide any insight on what that process was like?
GABE: This movie had a rocky road to distribution. We had a distributer early on but eventually ended up taking the film back. And by then it was considered an “old title” and ultimately we decided if no one was going to invest money in marketing or pay us a meaningful Minimum Guarantee so that we could invest money in marketing we might as well put it out ourselves. There are no investors to repay because we raised $100k on Kickstarter to fund the film which was essentially like pre-sales. So from that perspective the film had already done well. And then when the lockdown hit we decided to speed up our timeline and eschew doing a VOD window and get the movie streaming for Prime members as soon as possible. It seemed like it was a movie that spoke to the moment we were in and we didn’t want financial hardship to be a barrier for people to watch. If people like it and want to buy a copy when they aren’t worrying about rent or how they’re going to feed their family then great.
ETTA: We really just wanted as many eyeballs as possible on it.
The concept of “deliverables and distribution” once a distribution deal is secured is a complicated one. can you provide any insight on your experience and working through that?
GABE: Ugh. Deliverables. Every platform and outlet has different requirements. Different number of audio channels and what order they want them in. We’re lucky enough to have help from our Digital Intermediate/Associate Producer/Assistant Editor Rob Schultz who has been kind enough to export different versions of the movie to conform to all the requirements. It’s tedious work and you need to QC (Quality Control) every output of the movie to look for any problems.
ETTA: Sometimes I think they’re just f**king with us.
Is there anything you would like to impart to other indie filmmakers which you maybe wished you were aware of before wrapping up a script, shoot, or distribution deal?
GABE: We learned our biggest lessons on our first film THE SELLING, which we applied to DDMTA. Be careful who you trust, be honest with yourself about what your goals for the film are, and remember that no one is going to care as much about your film as you.
ETTA: You might be stuck with this project for YEARS. Make sure the script is good. Don’t shoot something that’s just okay because the money or the actor is ready. Because you’re going to be hearing that bad line in editing 1000 times, at 100 festival screenings and 100 more times QCing who knows what deliverable. That bad line is FOREVER. Do a reading. Give it a few weeks and do another rewrite. It’s a lot of work for a lot of people. Take the time.
So everyone is seemingly alluding to our current global situation as signs of an impending apocalypse, so let’s have some fun with that. What 3 items are you definitely securing or stocking up on to prep? And who’s one person fictional or real, you want in a safe house with you?
GABE: Well, the second question is easy. Etta Devine. Not only is she my favorite person but she’s much more useful to have in an apocalypse than I am. She knows which disgusting plants are safe to eat and she has been baking us bread which I didn’t realize would be so important during the end times. But if she wasn’t available I think the obvious answer is Tom Hanks. I think he’d work really hard in the bunker to maintain his nicest-guy-in-the-world mythos, he could teach me how to use a type-writer which will be helpful in the new order, and he’s probably got antibodies so I can send him out of the bunker to barter for supplies. Which, let’s face it, people would give him good deals on stuff. In terms of the three items we’ve been stock-piling, we’ve got a couple toilet paper jokes in our movie that seem especially prescient now. We definitely stocked up early on paper products but even we’ve been surprised at the shortage. I love a good scramble so eggs are an in demand item that’s been important for us to get. And I got a flat tire right as lockdown hit so we went in and got that repaired in case we need to hit the road like in the movie. Remember to drive your car every once in a while so your battery doesn’t die!
ETTA: Well I guess I have to say Gabe or I’m a jerk. So. Gabe. We’re both a little better than our characters at taking care of ourselves. He may not know what rosemary is if you ask for it even though it’s right outside the back door, but he has his uses. I’m going for lentils, Red Fife flour for sourdough, and cans of sparkling water. If we’re wasting resources on packaging anyway I want some carbonation.
Always appreciate the opportunity to catch up with members of the AFF family, so thanks again. Last question to close us out, what new projects are you all working on in this moment, and is there anything our community should be keeping an eye out for in the near future?
GABE: Thank you truly for having us! We are so proud and happy to be a part of the AFF community and look forward to a time when we can all hang out at the Driskill bar again. We’ve got couple things as writers that we’re not at liberty to discuss yet. But I’ve been writing some silly sketches about a time-traveling Mark Twain trying to become a social media star during lockdown that I hope to shoot in the apartment over the next couple weeks. We also have some short films we’d like to make once it’s safe to go into production again.
ETTA: There are some things we’re super excited about! I wish we could tell you. I also can’t wait to get back to AFF.
AFF SHORT PICK:
Hand-picked past competition films from the AFF film department
You finished your short film, now what? Submit to Austin Film Festival’s film competition! We’d love to watch your film. We’ve also recently launched the Enderby Entertainment Filmmaking Fellowship for filmmakers submitting to the Narrative Short or Narrative Student Short categories.
Ok, but what about after your Festival run? What’s next? Some short filmmakers turn their short into a feature or a series. Some start over again with another short film. Your short could even find distribution! Your original short can be your way to your next step.”
-Alexandra Mitchell, Shorts Programmer
Together (AFF 2019)
Writer/Director: Ryan Oksenberg
Together was picked up by Gunpowder & Sky’s horror platform ALTER
A biohazard remediation cleaner finds the integrity of her business threatened after hiring a technician with an insatiable appetite for his work.
Pepito (AFF 2018)
Writer: Isaac Garza
Director: Eman Esfandi
Pepito was one of three winners of the inaugural HBO Latinx Short Film Competition after premiering at AFF as a Texas short film.
While being lovingly coerced by his mom to go to confession, Pepito is infantilized to the point of suffocation in this bilingual comedy.
Watch Pepito now streaming on HBO Max.
HAVE A FILM?
Submit it to our Film Competition. Our late deadline is June 26.
On Story Movie Night Pick:
Screening with a postshow On Story conversation
Juno (2007 Austin Film Festival Marquee Screening)
A film doesn’t end when a director yells ‘cut’ or when an editor hits export. People make movies so they can be seen. This week check out writer/director and AFF alum Jason Reitman’s debut feature film Juno and then watch his On Story interview. In it Reitman discusses the benefits of film festivals and how competitions can act as a launchpad for your finished film.
Take it from Jason, submit your film or script to Austin Film Festival today.
A CONVERSATION WITH JASON REITMAN
A difficult but relieving part of the writing process is when we’ve reached the point where our story is on the page, but we’re unsure of when to stop. We’ve read our script over and over, continuing to refine it because either something is still missing or we really just don’t know when to call it quits. In the former case, we might try letting someone else read it and provide feedback so that we gain a new perspective, which could help us to find the missing pieces. If we’re unsure of when to stop, it helps to methodically comb through with some key aspects in mind just to confirm we’ve polished all the elements we need. This weekend, take some time to read through your script from beginning to end with the following in mind:
- Concept: Is the set-up strong? Are there points where the concept oversteps and takes away moments of real drama or comedy? Is the concept fully formed by the end?
- Plot: Are all the points hit from beginning to end?
- Structure: Are there any weak parts? Should any scenes be rearranged to help with structure?
- Setting: Within each scene, is it clear where we are?
- Characters: By the end of your story, are your characters fully formed? Should any aspects of character be further explored in a particular scene?
- Dialogue: Are there any lines that provide too much exposition? Is there anything that should be seen rather than said?
- Grammar: I’m including this because it’s very important but often forgotten.
Intuition is also a great gauge but, if you’re still finding yourself stuck after having combed through your script, it may be time to let go and release it into the wild. While this may go against your intuition, it’s helpful to keep in mind that there have been countless success stories which caught the writer(s) off guard, after finally saying “why not?”
– Sage Kosiorek, Script Competitions Director
Finished with your script?
Submit it for our competition! Final day to submit to our script competition is June 1.
THAT’S A WRAP.
Congratulations! You’ve wrapped up a successful round of AFF at Home. We hope you’ve enjoyed the journey – we’ve enjoyed taking you on one. While this virtual storytelling experience has been quite different from our usual adventures, it’s taught us about the importance of connection. We can’t let a time of uncertainty bring us apart. So tell us your story – let’s stay connected. Let us know how you’ve enjoyed this experience or what we can do better next time. Share your thoughts on social media using #AFFatHome.