The past four weeks have been exhilarating, exhausting, and very much writer focused. While I was still processing the intensity of the incredible CineStory experience I found myself faced with the Austin Film Festival and Writer’s Conference, which took place this past weekend. It was another whirlwind of panels, parties, and mouth watering Tex-Mex. Like last year, I came away from the conference with writerly enlightenment and some wonderful new connections. The conference offers panels on loglines, pitching, scene transitions, writing comedy, writing action, writing animation, writing as a woman, etc, etc, etc. It’s a navy shipload of information crammed into four full days.
And then there are the parties. Oh, the wine-soaked, ice-clinking, volume-eleven parties. The AFF headquarters is at the historic Driskill Hotel, and the bar there provides a welcome late-night denouement after a vigorous day at the conference. The room has an understated elegance to it – lots of gold and brown tones along with comfy leather couches – but it also plays to its home state in the form of paintings of Old West scenarios and a huge mounted steer head looking down on the bar’s merrymakers. Here is where panelists and attendees would collect at the end of the night for a final cocktail and some more film discussion. In the five nights I stayed in Austin, I don’t think I went to bed before 2:00 a.m., a true lesson in personal endurance since I usually had a 9:00 a.m. panel greeting me the following morning. I guess the passion for cinema and writing is what fuels one to plow onward through the conference.
I will probably need to devote one more post to my experience there (and given that I created a four-part series on the AFF last year this is probably a relief to my bloggy readers), but I thought I’d at least share a few of the resonant comments I jotted down (albeit bleary-eyed) in my trusty notebook during various panels. Here goes…
On LOGLINES: When you define your logline, you’re making a promise that sets up expectations that need to be paid off. Come at them through character, setting, and obstacle.
On PITCHING: Hit the shape of your film in terms of the three-act structure. What is the wish fulfillment for the audience? With more outlandish concepts, sell the familiarity first in terms of characters and then reveal the concept.
Screenwriter Pen Densham on the Writing Process: “Overcoming one’s doubt, one’s inertia is the key to the writing process. Ask yourself, ‘Why do I want to write this?’ You’ve earned the right to make the mistakes in getting the story out of you.”
Screenwriter Terry Rossio on Breaking In: “You have to make JAWS before you make SCHINDLER’S LIST.”
Producer Lindsay Doran on the Psychology of Storytelling: “Positive relationships trump positive accomplishments.”
And now comes the fun part where I put the advice to use!