Every fall the Austin Film Festival and Conference transforms the Texas capital into the equivalent of a screenwriter’s One Hundred Acre Wood. The elegant ballrooms of the historic downtown venues add ambiance to the learning experience like ivy adds to an eastern university’s mystique.
Enjoy your visit to the lair of local writing group, the Austin Cats! Established June 2008 from a Beat Sheet Workshop, their late mentor, Blake Snyder, believed, “A well written screenplay will sell itself!” The Austin Cats! believe what is learned during this conference may help writers improve their chance at such a success.
Fortunate to have this conference held in their backyard, the Austin Cats! welcome you to share in their experience by considering the following tips when attending.
ON ATTENDING PANELS
Billy Malamon says: If you aren’t sure who the speakers are, make friends at the conference and ask whom they recommend. Pick someone who inspires you. Pick to see someone who has written a film you haven’t seen. You may find it interesting to hear the process of how a film is written, and then see it for the first time.
Alan Barber adds: Ask specific questions so everyone listening can learn from the answer. Do not preface your question with who you are and whatever brilliant project you are working on, a sure-fire audience turn off, and time suck. The panels are not about you. Stay focused, listen, take notes, and thank the panelists for being there.
ON BEING A PANELIST
Alvaro Rodriguez affirms: Say yes. Get ready for some great conversation but don’t forget to bring it back to the writing. Doors you didn’t even know were there will open for you. Take advantage of the opportunity.
ON ATTENDING ROUNDTABLES
Wendy Wheeler forewarns: The Producers’ roundtables get filled up fast. Find the roundtable sign up early in the a.m. and get on the list. It is set up so that you + your table get 20 minutes with each pro, then a bell rings, and you get a new person to chat up and network with!
If waiting outside the roundtable room to do stand-by, do NOT loudly complain about what presentation you’re missing elsewhere — you gambles and you takes what you gets.
Alan Barber joins: The roundtables are fantastic. Even if the person who lands at your table is not your area of focus, listen carefully and BELIEVE the answer. They are very busy professionals in the business and will shoot straight. The information you gain will be invaluable. And you will have a chance to ask a (brief and focused) question about YOUR project.
ON ATTENDING FILMS
Tamara Field cautions: People starting lining up pretty early for the movies at each theatre, especially for the popular ones, be ready to stand in line!
Alan Barber opines: The big Paramount Premieres are fun and you should go at least once. But they have distribution and you can watch them later. While you are in line, ask about the audience buzz, what films are everyone talking about? Ask people of all ages. In those little films you will find a gem and make the festival experience much more memorable.
ON MEETING FAMOUS PEOPLE
Stephanie Harrison shares: Be gracious when you meet famous attendees. Photo ops and autographs are possible. Be sincere with your intention. For example, Ron Howard signed a fan’s photo of a cast of “Happy Days.” His signature nearly completed the set. Assured that the fan would keep the picture, Mr. Howard offered to help him get the one missing signature.
ON PREPARING FOR THE PITCH CONTEST
Melody Lopez suggests:To help alleviate nerves, practice your pitch with anyone who’ll listen. Incorporate their suggestions to improve how and what you pitch. When at the conference, practice some more with fellow writers. You might be given some clever enhancements or a more snappy title. Add to your Karma by sharing your talents too. Good Luck!