This week’s Guest Blog is from Terrible Love director and co-writer Christopher Thomas! See an encore presentation of Terrible Love as a part of our Audience Award Series! Click here for more information and tickets.
Christopher Thomas | 1.21.2015
In 2011, I set out to direct my first feature film with the help of an incredible team.
The film was called Terrible Love, and was a romantic drama about an Iraq war veteran returning to his family, with one catch- all the dialog was improvised. This was an ambitious storytelling endeavor for a first-timer, and it took until the summer of 2014 to complete the film and to begin entertaining options for the festival circuit.
This is an intense scenario for an artist. After spending multiple years crafting a story, there is a lot of pressure to play at the right festivals, and to play at the best festivals, and to not undersell- or oversell- your product. It is your introduction to the world, and you only have one shot at it. Who are you going to trust with that responsibility?
Ultimately, our debut feature film found an excellent home in the Austin Film Festival, and we decided to World Premiere at AFF in 2014. I realized very quickly that this was the best decision we could have made.
It was clear that Austin Film Festival was interested in connecting with artists on a deeper level than I had experienced anywhere else. My conversations with fellow filmmakers at the festival also echoed this sentiment.
I felt safe- and supported- from the very beginning of the relationship. My first phone call with the programming staff was not about logistics or politics; it was about story. That was a huge indication to my team: Austin Film Festival is the place to be.
In the weeks leading up to the event, the staff worked hard for us, lost sleep over us, and most importantly, they took the time to get to know us. With 100+ films on their slate, I don’t know how the AFF Staff knew everyone on my team by name. But they did.
All the extra effort from the Austin Film Festival made it apparent that they were not only dedicated to promoting the craft of storytelling, but also to cultivating the careers of storytellers. I remember the Creative Director telling me, “We’ve got your back.” That is perhaps the most comforting statement for a budding filmmaker to hear.
The festival itself was a career-changer. The whole week was an excellent opportunity to interface with both up-and-coming artists as well as seasoned veterans in the most low-key and open environments. Somehow Austin Film Festival has managed to curate all the best parts of a festival experience, and cut out the yucky bits. It’s kind of funny, occasionally I’ll see someone’s headshot on Deadline and realize: oh, that was Cary Fukunaga I was chatting with at the Driskill in October.
Overall, from a filmmaker’s perspective, the festival circuit is a lot like dating. You are feeling out different options, trying to find a partner that shares your values and ideals. If as a filmmaker you treasure the importance of story and substance, I think you are going to find a diligent and rewarding partner in the Austin Film Festival. What a beautiful oasis of substance and craftsmanship in the industry.
Director of Terrible Love
World Premiere, Austin Film Festival 2014
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