I recently told someone that the Austin Film Festival was like a wonderful, supportive summer camp that, sadly, came to an inevitable end. And now it’s back to reality. I think what makes the 18-year-old festival so special is that it is truly focused on writers and writing; the actual tagline for AFF is “the writer’s festival” and after attending it I can understand why. I cannot emphasize enough how valuable it was, and I’m still stunned that I only just learned about the annual writer’s conference this year. (Guess I have to thank the social networking Gods for putting it on my radar.) I’ve been singing its praises to every writer I know – if you love movies, television, and the writing that goes with them, then you should attend AFF at least once in your life. You will come away from it feeling inspired and energized.
The panels I sat in on offered a wide variety of insight and information. The very first one I went to was called “How to Work the Festival” and it featured two AFF alums, producer Richard Bever and screenwriter Tom O’Connor. Both offered advice on how to get the most out of the festival experience. The key takeway from this panel was “Don’t be shy.” You don’t get a lot of opportunities to be in a relaxed (i.e. non-LA) environment that is swarming with working and aspiring writers, so make the most of these potential connections. I’ve always considered myself to be fairly social (anyone who has partied with the Brenner family knows we can be a lively, outgoing bunch), but it’s still good to remember that you should take advantage of the common ground you share with your peers and simply strike up a conversation. You never know where that discussion could lead.
And Richard Bever said something that really struck a chord with me: “No one will work as hard for you as YOU.” Amen to that. I find myself repeating that mantra every day as I tackle another e-mail or craft another query letter. There wasn’t anyone I talked to at AFF who was rude or off-putting – after all, we’re each chasing the same dream. And, in fact, I feel like I established some wonderful new friendships thanks to AFF.
I also appreciated Tom O’Connor’s reminder that being at AFF isn’t just about newtorking “up” with the Lawrence Kasdans and John Lasseters who might be milling about. (Although did I mention how cool it was to have a brief exhcange with Lawrence Kasdan at a party? I’m not worthy!) Taking part in the conference is also about networking laterally. Get to know your fellow writers. These are the people who will be future showrunners and producers some day and we all should be looking out for one another.
I’m realizing that my AFF experience will probably require two or three entries on ye olde bloggy, so strap yourselves in, dear readers. Yep, it was just that significant!