The 2011 Austin Film Festival: A Recap

Subtitled: “In Which Ditty Disappoints Everyone By Failing to Find Words to Describe How Amazing It Was.”

Everything that follows can really be summed up in the following bit of advice: If you have the opportunity to attend the Austin Film Festival, DO IT. (Especially if you are a writer.)

If you need more convincing, perhaps this crappy cell phone picture will help.

Five measly rows back from Johnny Depp & Caroline Thompson (AMAZING screenwriter) in the flesh before the retrospective screening of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS at the Paramount Theatre.

Not your type? What’s wrong with you? Fine. What about this?

The gorgeous and gracious Alexis Bledel, flanked by the lovely Jessica von Schramm (who offers wonderful screenwriting advice at jessvs.tumblr.com) and the barely-standing me (having been up more hours in a row than is generally recommended for optimal health) at the Film + Food Gala that kicked off the festival. (Courtesy of incredibly talented photographer Dieter von Schramm -- see more of his work at http://www.overprocessed.com.)

Still not doing it for you? Again, I have to ask, what is wrong with you?!

How about the opportunity to see big-league films like THE RUM DIARY? Sure-to-have-people-talking films like BUTTER? Destined-to-become-a-desperately-adored-cult-hit films like JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME? And that’s not even to mention the hundreds of documentaries, indie-level and local films, and shorts you’ll find very few other places and perhaps nowhere else at all.  It is a cinematic feast of grand eclectic proportions.

“I need more!” you say? Oy vey! But all right! I have more! How about the chance to hobnob with amazingly talented writers, filmmakers, producers, managers, agents and beyond? The opportunity to learn from the best of the best, like Shane Black, Terry Rossio, Michael Arndt, Caroline Thompson to name just a few? The writers’ conference will educate and inspire you in ways you’ve never imagined. And if you have even the smallest smidge of luck on your side, you might find yourself talking to folks who can help you on this slightly insane path we’re on to become working writers.

Hopefully by now I’ve offered some pretty good evidence for why you should attend, but I’m saving the most important bit for last. Are you ready? Here it is: There is no feeling in the world quite like finding yourself in the midst of hundreds of people who get it. The Austin Film Festival is special because it honors the writer, and because of that, writers flock to this festival. And if you’ve ever felt like a bit of a weirdo or an outcast because you’re pursuing this insane dream, you will feel at home at this festival because everyone there is pursuing that dream, or a variation of it, too. You will very likely make friends for life because everyone gets it. Everyone gets you, and you get everyone, and it is a magical and glorious thing.

And then you have to go home, and you will feel really strange not having a gargantuan badge hanging around your neck all the time.

You will be so excited to be there that you will not even care about the typo in your screenplay title on your badge (but you will still feel the need to mention it on occasion, just so people know it's a typo and that it should say 'TIL DEATH PARTS US, thus hopefully proving that you have a fairly decent grasp on most verb conjugations.)

But you’ll have the memories and the business cards to help you foster those connections you made during the rest of the year, and those relationships you cultivate will make subsequent trips to the Austin Film Festival — because I’m pretty sure that once you go, you’ll always want to go back — even more amazing.

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