The skinny on Austin

Man!  Tempus really does fugit, don’t it?

I can’t believe it’s just a week till the start of the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference.  It seems like the last one was, like, a month ago.

I am truly looking forward to this year’s conference.  When the AFF contacted me about being a panelist this year, I told them that I would love to and that I would also be happy (and in some respects more happy) moderating some panels.  They really took that message to heart, and I am involved in some really cool panel discussions.

I think it’s a really good idea, having actual screenwriters moderating some of the panels.  Being that the participants are, you know, screenwriters, guys like me know the questions they’re burning to get answered.  Because they’re same same one I want answered.

I notice there are a number of other screenwriters moderating panels this year (one of them being my good friend, Karl Williams, who is one of the most intelligent, articulate, AND funny guys I know.  And the guy can write, too).  It’s a good thing.  I believe it will make for a fuller, more engaging, and educational experience for the participants.

Okay…enough babbling.  Here’s the lowdown on the panels I’m on during the conference:

THURS. 10/16, 1:00 PMGETTING THE MOST OUT OF COMPETITIONS: What can competitions do for writers? Attending the Austin Film
Festival is only the first step in having your work progress in the
industry. Learn how to make your work stand out from the rest and get
the best experience possible from the festival.

This is the third year I have served on this panel, and I have to say I absolutely love it.  For one thing, the room is always packed, and the energy and excitement from the audience is palpable.  It’s great being in a room with so many passionate people, and it’s an honor to be a part of their writerly journey.  Another cool aspect is, though we do talk about competitions, we can’t help but speak to the whole picture–the entire spectrum of things serious amateurs should do to help make their first break.

And it’s always a pleasure to serve on a panel with Greg Beal of the Nicholl Fellowship.  That guy…he’s not only very bright and always has some entertaining and pertinent story that perfectly models the point we’re trying to make, but I swear he remembers every script that funnels through the competition.  In a contest, by the way, that receives upward of 6,000 entries each year.  It’s uncanny.

SAT. 10/18, 3:45 PMKNOW YOUR RIGHTS: POST PRODUCTION: You have the right to know if you are getting a fair deal on your
screenplay or film. From distribution and financial responsibilities to
maintaining the rights to your own work, How do you get your film seen
by its audience while protecting your own future? Come hear from
lawyers and filmmakers in the know about how to preserve your own
intellectual property.

Funny…I was checking this one out because I thought it sounded kinda interesting.  As a guy who’s been there AND who’s also been dipping his toes into the producing pond, I wanted to hear what the Hollywood brain trust had to say on the subject.  Then I noticed my name in the moderator spot.  Cool!  I guess it’s a lock, then.  I’m goin’!

Seriously, especially considering the current state of the industry, understanding the rights game and distinguishing fact from fiction is of paramount importance to fledgling writers.  It’s the first step to avoiding being the main character in a cautionary tale people talk about at future screenwriting conferences.

SUN. 10/19, 11:30 AMTHE ONLINE WORLD: Writing, creating and exploring content for the web. The interweb
provides infinite options for reaching new audiences. How does that
access translate into making a living from producing content for the

One needs to look any further than this very articulate and more-than-slightly disturbing commentary by Mark Gill in IndieWire to know at the very least the Internets are THE (to use a little Presidential campaignspeak) game-changer in out industry.  It’s the new talkies, the new color, new TV, the new cable, the new VHS, and the new DVD.  In some respects, it’s all of those all rolled up in one.

In fact, when I talk about its impact on the movies, I equate its significance to the invention of movies, themselves, and how that impacted legit theatre.  I believe it’s going to fundamentally change the way people look at entertainment.  And, oh yeah…it already has.

Sun. 10/19, 2:30 PMNICHE PROJECTS — With an ever-expanding landscape of independent film, how you get your
film seen by its demographic? Learn from independent filmmakers who
have successfully found their audience and had an impact.

First off, what I just said about Mark Gill’s commentary in IndieWire.

Second, this is such an intriguing concept for a panel.  I have to admit, at first blush I would’ve been tempted to pass over it.  I didn’t really get it until I read the description.  But think about it.  In today’s world, the distribution channels are favoring movies that can find a niche–over mainstream ones, even. 

In reality, this is probably one of the most important panels that anyone could attend at this year’s conference, and I feel quite fortunate to be trusted to moderate it.  As evidence of its importance, I will refer to Peter Broderick’s excellent article in the 9/15/08 issue of IndieWire, titled "Welcome to the New World of Distribution".  In it, he outlined 10 things filmmakers and distributors need to realize in today’s movie marketplace.  Here are the two that I think apply here:

"4. CORE AUDIENCES – Filmmakers target core audiences. Their
priority is to reach them effectively, and then hopefully cross over to
a wider public. They reach core audiences directly both online and
offline, through websites, mailing lists, organizations, and
publications. In the OW, many distributors market to a general
audience, which is highly inefficient and more and more expensive."


"10. TRUE FANS – Filmmakers connect with viewers online and at
screenings, establish direct relationships with them, and build core
personal audiences. They ask for their support, making it clear that
DVD purchases from the website will help them break even and make more
movies. Every filmmaker with a website has the chance to turn visitors
into subscribers, subscribers into purchasers, and purchasers into true
fans who can contribute to new productions. In the OW, filmmakers do
not have direct access to viewers."

Okay…  So there you have it.  Very exciting.  I am happy that they’re using me so much this year and that I am going to be quite the busy boy next week.

I am also, by the way, going to be judging the pitch competition again this year.  That’s always a blast and a real highlight for me.

Not certain what’s going to happen with the Filmcatcher commentary.  The project kind of fell through, which was a bummer.  The Filmcatcher folks really wanted to do it, but they have tons of festivals they’re trying to cover this year.  In the end, they felt like they simply couldn’t put the resources into covering the AFF they would need to in order to do it justice.  They’re hoping next year…We’ll see what happens.

I may still do some blogging for Filmcatcher on the AFF.  With the lack of a laptop, I am not certain how feasible that will be.  I am trying to figure that out this week.

Meanwhile, I am also excited because Robbye and I will be road-tripping it down there like we did last year.  We had such a blast.  I’m quite psyched for the sequel.  Sans our car getting towed, that is.

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