You already know that regardless of the genre you write in, the basic elements are the same for a great script: tight structure, interesting, multi-dimensional characters, well-crafted dialogue and, above all, a solid and terrific story. Still, if your focus is comedy, you want to know how to make the comedic moments jump off the page and not just rest on the shoulders of actors. Lucky for you, we’ve programmed several panels around comedy writing, as well as conversations with writers and filmmakers who’ve taken it to new levels.
Comedy writers, here’s your 2011 AFF Conference schedule!
A Conversation with Alec Berg
Driskill Hotel, Ballroom
For over fifteen years, Alec Berg has been one of the leading voices in comedy writing for television and film. He has been nominated for four Emmy awards for his work with Larry David on the NBC series Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm – where he currently serves as a writer, executive producer and director – and he also served as a writer for Late Night with Conan O’Brien for several months. Berg will discuss his storied career as well as the key differences in writing for television and film using examples from his work on THE CAT IN THE HAT (terrible) and EUROTRIP (excellent!), and the upcoming THE DICTATOR, co-written by and starring Sacha Baron Cohen.
Moderated by Pat Hazell, formerly a special consultant on Seinfeld, a regular on The Tonight Show and a critically acclaimed playwright.
Comedy – The Hardest Genre?
Driskill Hotel, Ballroom
Whether going for broad laughs or more subtle humor, comedies walk a razor-thin line between hilarious success and dead-silent failure trying to please their audiences. A discussion on the perils and pratfalls of writing all types comedy, from the sharpest of wits to the dirtiest limericks.
Alec Berg, Jeff Lowell, Craig Mazin
A Conversation with 2011 Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Awardee John Lasseter
Stephen F. Austin Hotel, Ballroom
John Lasseter is Chief Creative Officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, and the Academy Award®-winning director and executive-producer of MONSTERS, INC., FINDING NEMO, THE INCREDIBLES, RATATOUILLE, WALL-E, UP, TANGLED, and TOY STORY 3.
Writing Animation for the Whole Family: A Conversation with Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger
Driskill Hotel, Citadel Room
Join Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (KUNG FU PANDA 1 & 2) as they relate their experience writing for animation in both TV and film. The duo will discuss how to keep your audience broad without sacrificing sophistication and what it takes to entertain the adults as much as the kids.
On the Level
Driskill Hotel, Citadel Room
This panel breaks down TV staffing from intern to showrunner and offers advice on how to get inside a writer’s room . . . and stay there. What does “executive producer” mean, anyway? What’s a “Mid-Level,” and is it a good thing? Donald Todd and Pamela Ribon discuss the politics of pitching jokes, taking notes, and the dangers of being funny while female. Think you’d be strong enough to survive?
Moderated by Monte Williams
Comedy—The Hardest Genre?
Driskill Hotel, Ballroom
Whether going for broad laughs or more subtle humor, comedies walk a razor-thin line between hilarious success and dead-silent failure. Join us for a panel on the perils and pratfalls of writing all types of comedy, from the sharpest of wits to the dirtiest limericks.
Jim Herzfeld, Nancy Pimental, Tim Talbott
Check out the full panel schedule here!
And we’ve got your Film Schedule, too!
Freak Dance (USA, 98 min.)
Writer: Matt Besser
Directors: Matt Besser, Neil Mahoney
Cast: Michael Cassady, Megan Heyn, Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh, Tim Meadows, Andy Daly, Horatio Sanz
Make no mistake, FREAK DANCE is a straight-up musical—a brilliant, musical comedy with dance numbers that rival the very films they are parodying. Adapted by Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder, Matt Besser, from the stage show that ran for more than a year at the UCB Theatre, the comedy skips cheap reference humor and goes right for absurdity. FREAK DANCE tells the story of Cocolonia, a spoiled rich girl who just wants to dance, so she sets out to join the ranks of some local street dancers. Little does she know that this will ultimately involve her in an epic battle of good and evil between two warring dance troupes. Besser and Neil Mahoney have created a sure to be cult classic featuring a cast of new comedic actors and fellow UCB Theatre founders Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts and Horatio Sanz.
Fred & Vinnie (USA, 89 min.)
Writer: Fred Stoller
Director: Steve Skrovan
Cast: Fred Stoller, Angelo Tsarouches, Scott Chernoff, Bill Rutkoski, John Asher, Fred Willard
Writer Fred Stoller stars as Fred Stoller, an actor in Hollywood, playing an assortment of deliverymen, clerks and other oddballs. The rest of the time he wanders the streets researching his book project, Restaurants You Don’t Feel Self-Conscious Eating Alone At. He has a long distance bond with his old friend from back East, Vinnie DAngelo, who hardly ever leaves his rent-free basement apartment. Their relationship is put to the test when Vinnie ventures cross country to stay with Fred to give show business a try. At first, Fred is thrilled to have the company and eager to give Vinnie a live tour of his life, but soon feels trapped when Vinnie quickly reverts to his agoraphobic ways. Stoller and Skrova, both comedy veterans, create a surprisingly touching, but hilarious film about that one friend who everyone has and wants to ignore but ultimately, somehow, can’t.
High Road (USA, 83 min.)
Writers: Matt Walsh, Josh Weiner
Director: Matt Walsh
Cast: James Pumphrey, Abby Elliott, Rob Riggle, Joe Lo Truglio, Dylan O’Brien, Rich Fulcher, Lizzy Caplan, Horation Sanz, Ed Helms, Kyle Gass, Andy Daly
Fitz is about to finish his rock opera about his life philosophy: the triangle theory that describes how any three points or people can make a triangle. But his world crashes around him when his band mates quit to take paying jobs. A despondent Fitz, thinking the cops are also out to bust him for dealing pot, decides to drive to Oakland to visit his estranged stepfather. He reluctantly agrees to let Jimmy, the 16-year-old neighborhood kid, tag along. However, Jimmy’s dad thinks their road trip is a kidnapping and sets off in pursuit of the duo. Naturally, mayhem ensues. The second directorial debut from an Upright Citizens Brigade founder in the program, Matt Walsh delivers a stoner farce from a script he wrote with AFF Alum Weiner.
Treatment (USA, 83 min.)
Writer: Sean Nelson
Directors: Sean Nelson, Steven Schardt
Cast: Joshua Leonard, Sean Nelson, Ross Partridge, Jessica Makinson, Brie Larson, John Hodgman
Sometimes, screenwriters get to a point where they will do anything to get their film made. Leonard (Leonard actually is the character’s name) is no different: All his life he has dreamed of being a famous filmmaker, but he’s better at making excuses than making art. A chance encounter with a wasted A-list movie star could be his lucky break. All he has to do is come up with $15,000 to join the actor at a luxury rehab facility, where their friendship can blossom into wealth and glory. Leonard pressures his writing partner (Nelson) into paying expensive bills while he checks into treatment under false pretenses. Leonard soon discovers that addiction comes in many forms. A daring comedy with serious underpinnings, TREATMENT is about the lies we tell ourselves in order to live, and the price we pay when we start to believe them. Indie film stalwart Joshua Leonard (HUMPDAY, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT) and writer/co-director Sean Nelson portray the doomed writing team—two friends who are both ambitious and desperate to make it.