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Recap: Austin Film Festival

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post and boy has life kept me busy. In addition to recently starting a new job writing for, I also shifted some perspectives around my screenwriting that has led to me really cracking down on it as of late. This was especially timely seeing as I also recently went to the Austin Film Festival! This ended up being a great time despite my initial nerves about traveling so far for a week-long event. Every day was packed to the brim with panels and networking, and as a whole, I'm honestly a little exhausted.

While many of the panels were incredibly interesting and engaging, the highlight for me was easily the panel with Scott Frank being interviewed by David Koepp. For those of you who don't know who these people are, they very much should be your screenwriting idols. Scott Frank wrote greats such as Get Shorty, Logan, and The Queen's Gambit. David Koepp wrote some rather well-known movies such as Jurassic Park, the first Mission Impossible, and my personal favorite: 2002's Spider-Man. These two were old friends, so there were no fanboy nerves or awkwardness. This panel was instead simply two industry pros who had truly worked to earn their spots talking about their history with screenwriting.

While I truly went after the networking opportunities present at the festival, there were still some things that surprised me. I was somewhat expecting a more formal, almost business-like atmosphere (and this stressed me out about what to wear and drink at the parties, but I immediately noticed when I got there that this festival was much more relaxed than that. It was all jeans, button-downs, local breweries, and people just hanging out for the most part. There were certainly people who treated it like an excuse to drink for free all weekend, and I think that helped average out the overall tone of the festival to be fun and professional where you were looking for it.

I met a lot of interesting people over the weekend, and I mean that in the most honest sense of the word. This festival was packed to the brim with passionate people all wanting to share their passion with the world. This was a wonderful world to be wrapped up in and led to pretty much everyone being the friendliest human beings on Earth. Saturday night especially was the big, final hurrah for the festival despite it technically ending on Sunday. Saturday was wall-to-wall panels, parties, and networking. I met several aspiring screenwriters, producers, and filmmakers. Easily the highlight of that night for me came from meandering back to the Driskill after watching the pitch finale.

I had lost track of the group I had been with, and thus just started slowly making my way back while checking out how the streets of Austin, TX come alive at night. After stopping to talk with a few different people about how their nights were going, as well as having a lengthy talk with the guys who pick up all the rentable scooters (which I believe may eventually lead to some late-night reality show ala Cops or Repo-wars), I ended up back at the Driskill bar area. I knew I could charge my phone there at the very least before maybe heading out to a different party with some people I had met earlier.

About one minute after sitting down and plugging in my phone, someone walked up and asked if the seat next to me was open. My eyes went wide as I realized that standing before me was Scott Frank, as in the Scott Frank from my highlight panel. I told him it was absolutely open and he sat down while he waited for his friends to let him know where they were meeting. I leaped over my social barriers and began talking with him about screenwriting, how he felt about people recognizing him or fanboying, and then some general life things. He then recognized another filmmaker he knew and they joined our conversation. In all, we talked for probably close to an hour. This quickly became the new highlight of the festival for me, and one of those moments that makes you realize the value of it: you could run into anyone at any time, you just have to be willing to put yourself out there.

Overall I would say this festival is more than worth your time if you can snag a badge, or even earn one through volunteering with them. If you take the time to truly devote yourself to what's there, you'll likely have a good time. I know I sure did.

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